Thursday, July 1, 2010

Riding in the Rain

Riding in the Rain

For the ease of writing this blog post I will refer to anyone who pilots a motorized two or three wheeled vehicle as a “rider”. This will include; scooterists, bikers, motorcyclists, motorcyclists with sidecars, trikes or three wheelers such as the Can-Am Spyder. If I left anyone out I apologize in advance. We all ride, so I group us all together as riders.

I have been commuting by motorcycle now for a couple of years and have noticed some interesting trends. One of these is that a lot of riders are fair weather riders. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bringing this up to tease or condemn you. I am just stating what I have observed commuting every day.

When it is freezing cold outside I usually do not see other riders on the road to wave or nod to. I remember one Saturday that I had to work last winter when it was 15 degrees out, (cold for us Texans) and I did not see one other idiot, I mean rider, out on the road. However, the first day of fair warm weather of Spring I see riders out everywhere and I wonder, where have they all been? It gets lonely out on the road by myself; get some cold weather gear riders.

The fact is I miss you all when you are not out there. I think the cagers miss them too and because of this they tend to start to forget that we are out there at all. This lethargic attitude is not good for us. I would much prefer cagers to always be on the alert for us riders.

It seems that only a very few riders like to ride when it is wet out or raining. I feel there are several reasons for this. One of these reasons is that they are not prepared to ride in the rain. They may not have rain gear which includes waterproof; jacket and pants or a one piece, anti-fog spray, boots, gloves, waterproof storage for other items, and a full-face helmet. Bright and reflective gear also helps visibility so people can spot you. Honestly, good gear is hard to come by and you tend to get what you pay for.

Another reason is that they may not be confident enough in their riding skills or in the capabilities of the machine on which they ride. When I took the MSF Basic Riding Course most of the riding part of the course was in the rain. I was a new rider, still am really, and one of the most memorable things I learned was just how amazing the motorcycles could grip the road surface leaning for turns, taking off, and when braking. That really bolstered my confidence in what motorcycles could do. I am still learning and I know the bike can handle a lot more than I am capable to do as a rider.

Still, one of the most common responses I get when asking fellow riders why they did not ride when it is wet out is that it is too slippery. I disagree, there may be less traction, but it is not too slippery to ride. Ever watch a MotoGP, AMA Superbike, World Superbike or similar race being run in the rain?

Another excuse I hear a lot is that, “I just washed my bike.” So let me go ahead and say this, a clean bike is not a ridden bike. There, I said it. Now I have an excuse for my Mistress not always looking like a Garage Queen. I feel much better now, thank you.

Here is some wet weather riding tips:

  • Remember that it is going to be slicker when it first starts to rain, especially if it has not rained in a while.

  • Avoid the center section of the road where most of the oil leaks are going to wind up.

  • Watch out for road snakes, metal grates or covers, and painted lines or road markings because they are all slick when wet.

  • Plan ahead where you are going to plant your feet, they can slip too.

  • Try not to make any sudden moves taking off, stopping or turning.

  •  Stay prepared and brace for strong wind gusts.

  • Leave more of a buffer space when traveling behind other vehicles.

  • Watch out for the spray from larger vehicles which can cause your vision to temporarily go away.

  • Wait for any lightning to pass.

  • Find cover if you encounter hail.

  • Pay even more attention to what is going on around you.

  •  Do not outride the view of the road in the rain; it is just like out-riding your headlamps at night.

  • Lastly, and most importantly, just slow down!

How does one get proficient at riding in the rain any way? Get the gear and get out and practice. Yes, it is a little more slippery and you just have to adjust how you ride for it. Yes, it is more inconvenient, but the ride is always worth it. The sky is crying so I’ve got to go. See you out there. Have a safe Fourth of July and Happy Birthday America.

Ride on,