April 1, 2014
For fans of old Hollywood reruns on TMC there’s a particular song by Gene Kelly that might come to mind when the weather turns against us: Singin’ in the rain. While the prospect of riding in the rain doesn’t always keep us home, it’s hard to get excited to go ride when the streets are turning to rivers and you’re getting smacked in the face with raindrops that feel like they were shot out of a BB gun.
A little preparation may not put the fun back into a rain-ride but it will help to keep you safe, warm, and relatively dry. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Most of us who have been riding for a few years have learned this lesson the hard way, sometimes more than once. The first time a bright and balmy day was washed away by sudden and seemingly meteorologically impossible thunderstorms it will be an uncomfortable reminder of why you should never leave home unprepared – but many of us have done just that, again and again. Here are a few tips and suggestions on how to make riding in the rain a little less dreary and a lot safer.
Even if it is a sunshiny day with no rain in the forecast for 200 miles, never leave home without good quality raingear stuffed in your saddlebag, back pack or tank bag. Standard gear includes raincoat and pants, rubber gloves or glove covers, boot covers, some kind of waterproof ski mask and maybe a kerchief to help keep water from running down your neck. This same gear can be used to insulate you if the weather turns suddenly cold so it serves more than one purpose. Truth is, even the best raingear can leak if you spend enough time trolling through heavy rain so get ready to be cold. If that doesn’t appeal to you then find shelter, even an underpass if you have to and wait it out.
If that’s not an option, then here’s our top tips for riding in the rain. There are a variety of rain gear available so it is important to gear-up according to your particular needs. All rain gear is intended to be worn over your riding gear so it is usually oversized and lightweight in construction. There are a number of options available but as a general rule they come in either one- or two-piece options. One piece suits often have a large entry that allows you to step into them quickly with your boots on and zip it up nice and tight. The two piece suits generally require you to take off your helmet and put the top on like a pull over unless it zips up like a jacket. The pull-over style seems to be more resistant to water but they are less convenient. A one-piece takes up way more room but are usually more durable while the two-piece tend to come in smaller packages and are made from much lighter materials. If you have a very small area to stow this valuable gear then you should go with the lightest stuff you can get your hands on. If you have some room to spare and you know you will be riding for a long time in the rain during your trip then get the best rain gear money can buy. Here are a few examples of each.
With your core body protected from the deluge you should also consider a few other exposed areas, starting with your face and neck. A neoprene ski or face mask is a must have for anyone who prefers to ride with an open face helmet. Neck gaiters are a nice way to keep rain and cold weather off you neck too. Without the face shield to protect you, it is nice to be able to slap on a mask and that layer of protection from the elements. Even if you have a full face helmet your visor can quickly be covered with rain so a good rain-repellant wipe will help you keep your hands on the controls and your vision clear. Cheap Tricks: Products like Plexus and PJ-1 Fog Blocker are an excellent way to keep your visor clear in the cold and wet weather. You might consider Scott No Fog Cloth as this simple product will help keep the fog from clouding your view from the inside.
Fabric or leather gloves will get wet and soggy real quick so a pair of waterproof gloves can come in handy. If you don’t have an alternate glove then here’s a trick we’ve learned over the years. Keep a pair of surgical or cleaning gloves in your rain kit because they will not only trap in some heat but they’ll keep the precipitation off your skin.
Most riders will wear what they want, when they want regardless of the weather. In the case of the long distance or touring riders your best bet is to be prepared for the worst case scenario. For that reason, a good set of waterproof riding boots is a great way to protect your feet when the weather takes a turn for the worse. A variety of boots are designed specifically to rain riding and they are worth a look if you live in the wetter parts of the world. Not all boots are created equal and in some cases even waterproof gear could use some help. As long as the manufacturer approves, it is always a good move to apply your own water proofing to your jacket, pants, gloves and of course, your boots.
Cheap Tricks: It may sound like a trashy solution but a few garbage bags go a long way to saving the day if you have nothing else between you and the rain. Slip your foot into a smaller kitchen garbage bag and then slide it into your boot. That thin layer will provide protection from the wet and the bags take up very little space. You can even cut a hole in the top of a big bag and some slits in the sides for your arms and wear it like a rain poncho. This is a great tip for off-road riders who have space limited to a hydration pack or other small back pack.
Once you have the gear you are halfway to being prepared for a motorcycle ride in the wet conditions. It doesn’t have to miserable and as you can see, a little preparation will go a long ways toward making your rain day a little more bearable.
For more information on riding in inclement weather, check out our Rain Riding Tips.