Foul Weather Riding

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff
Here's a good piece on the coexistance of motorcycles and bad weather. Thanks Sarnali!

A "normal winter", said the weatherman. After a few years of el nino's and la nana's it looks like 45' and raining for the next 6 mo's.

Up here in the pacific northwest winter means it's raining, it just got done raining or it's getting ready to rain. That leaves your average motorcyclist with 3 choices, 1).Move somewhere warm, 2).Park the bike and drive like all the other lemmings or 3).Gear up and ride anyway.


The key to safe rain riding is visibility and traction. Forget the stylin' black leather and go with a textile suit. It really doesn't matter what you do to leather it's not going to keep you dry in anything more than sprinkles. SnowSeal(tm) works about the best, but ultimately the seams and zippers leak.

At best being cold and wet affects your concentration, at worst you get hypothermic and croak. Neither option is much fun.

There's a wide range of foul weather gear that works, from a rain coat and pants over leathers to a full on Aerostitch suit. A good compromise is something like a Joe Rocket Ballistic series or Belstaff suit. I've had good luck with the JR. Though they're not the best, they have pretty good armor, bright color options with reflective piping. . I've also used a Dutch Harbor rain coat and pants that I wear over my leathers. It's day-glo lime green with reflective bands. Not the most stylish but affective. What ever you get go with the brightest colors you can find.

A place that specializes in work wear is a good source for reflective rain gear

While motorcylce specific suits work best there are cheaper alternatives available if you're on a buget.

The best boots I've found are Sidi on-road sympatek's, I've used everything from wellies and felt-lined pack boots to leather work boots smeared with Hubbards Boot Grease, and I've found the Sidi's about the warmest and driest. Plus they've got some padding in the shin and ankle. Alpinstars makes a gore-tex lined boot as does BMW and a few others. What you want is something with a gore-tex or sympatek lining and no zippers.

For gloves I've found the Tour-master leather winter gloves with a gore-tex lining, kevlar padding in the fingers and palms and a waterproof cover work well. They've got a reflective band down the side and a little wiper blade along the left forefinger as well. After ten years of almost daily use they've held up well, however the gauntlet has an elastic nylon dam that seals the sleeve area. When the elastic wears out water can trickle down the lowside of the glove into the palm area.

Helmet venting is another issue in wet weather. While there's a number of products that keep your shield clear such as drops and impregnated cloths, what I do in the winter is grow a chin-beard, crack my faceshield open and wear earplugs.

Wet traction can be a problem, so it's best not to be scrapeing the pegs. The key is to be as smooth as possible with acceleration and braking, though to be honest it's fun to slide around when there's no traffic.

Lane position is another thing to consider. The old saw about not stopping in the middle of the lane because of oil is true, also beware of white painted lane markers, those things are incredibly slick, as are train tracks and metal bridge grates.

Once you get out of town though, and especially on the freeway the center of the lane is often the best because with asphalt roads traffic tends to wear down the wheel tracks, which in turn fill up with water leaving the centers of the lane with better traction.

If you can avoid the first half hour or so of rain most of the oil, sand, leaves and crap will be washed to the side of the road so with a little caution and increased concentration you'll be fine

Tire choice is important as well, I've had the best luck with Dunlop D220's in the rain, they wear well and really do stick like glue. I've also used Michilin Macadam 90's with some success. For bias ply tires the Metzler ME88 rear ME33 front combo works well in the rain.

Rain is hard on chains and easy on tires. After each good soaking I spray my chain with WD40, wipe it down , then then lube it with Honda chain lube. The Honda lube goes on clear so it doesn't make a mess and sticks pretty well. As the temps drop so will your tire pressure, remember to check it once in awhile. Also if the tires are getting down there nows the time to replace them, winter is the time you want good tread.

A little WD40 in the ignition switch, turn signal switches and horn switch will keep corrosion from forming. Also a little white lithium grease will keep clutch and brake pivot points smooth.

Modern bikes with sealed ignitions, disc brakes and radial tires can handle the rain with out too much trouble, with the right gear and technique you can ride all year if you want to.

Beats the hell out of driving.

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Motorcycle.com Staff
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