Saturday, August 17, 2013

Motorcycling in the rain

It is cold and rainy here in Atlanta, and so I thought it would be a good idea to get out and ride in the rain.  I mean, you'll find yourself riding in the rain sometime, and so you may as well plan it and get used to it.  Besides, I don't want to be one of those yuppie fair weather riders.

I was surprised how well the full face helmet shed the rain.  After all, there's no windshield wiper - but it doesn't need it (at least, if you're not in a downpour).  I was glad for the facemask, which did a great job keeping my face dry.  I expect it would have been a less pleasant experience without the full face coverage.

My jacket was a nice surprise.  I got it for the kevlar weave and CE rated armor inserts in case I ever got up close and personal with the pavement.  It turns out that it also keeps out all the rain,  Once again, it wasn't a downpour, but it was a steady rain.  Warm and dry is a Very Good Thing indeed.

But my jeans were a different story.  After 15 minutes it reminded me of the days when I'd ski in jeans - wet and cold legs.  Oh, bother.  Fortunately (well, by clever planning) my route took me past the local Cycle Gear store.  They had pants to go with my jacket, marked down by 40%.  Win.  I zipped them into the jacket, and went back out into the elements.

It was like when I went skiing wearing a ski suit.  Warm and dry.  Plus, it has that kevlar weave, just in case. I need to get some saddle bags for the Honda, so I can carry the pants without having to wear them.

My leather gloves started soaking through, and cold fingers would have been the result if I had kept riding.  I expect that I will upgrade to something with kevlar and armor plating.  My Tony Lamas are great motorcycle boots when the weather is nice, but were soaking through after 40 minutes or so.  I either need to treat them with mink oil (probably a good idea anyway) or look at more weather proof boots.  Anyone with recommendations for all weather motorcycle boots, please leave a comment.

I do think I should add some reflective tape on the jacket, just to up the visibility.  But once geared up, it was actually fun to ride in the rain.  Not a lot of guys on two wheels is part of the allure, if you're warm and dry there's really no reason to get off the bike.


Eagle said...

Timberland makes great riding boots. Oil-resistant, non-slip, non-marking, thermally insulated (keeps your feet cooler on a hot day), and WATERPROOF. I bought two identical pairs: one black, one buff. I use the black ones when I commute to work on the bike (I wear jeans so I don't have to change my shoes), and the buff ones on the weekend.

Re. gloves: hit your local Harbor Freight or Home Depot and get yourself a set of those rubber-dipped cloth gloves. Not rubber insulated gloves, but the kind that look like they were dipped in a vat of rubber. These make GREAT wet-weather gloves.

OR, you can bring along a few sets of latex or nitrile gloves and use them as liners in your leather gloves. Yes, the leather will get wet, but your hands will stay dry. I prefer the leather-inside-rubber

Get some eyeglass-silicon treatment for your visor. It does a great job of keeping the water off the visor and reducing steam inside the visor.

I know how you feel about saddlebags, but I keep a set of rain gear in mine. The kind that has a jacket that folds up into its own zipper case, with room to hold the pants. I also keep a set of rubber gloves in the bag as well. Yep - you may have seen me putting on the rain gear under an overpass... LOL!

One last thing to remember: roads become coated with oils and residues from vehicle exhaust. When it rains, the first 10 minutes are probably the most treacherous time for a motorcyclist: the water becomes super-slippery on the oils and even the stickiest of tires can't grip the road! Give it about 15-20 minutes of a good rain before getting back on the road.

Anonymous said...

Depending on what you want to do with the boots afterward, painting the seams and surfaces with melted Sno-Seal works great for keeping the water out. It will stain the leather, and after two treatments (two will be necessary to fully waterproof) they'll stop breathing so your feet will get sweaty. Pro tip: heat the boots in the oven to about 120 F before painting. Warm boots allow the Sno Seal to flow into the seams better.

The Old Man said...

I remember when I bought my first new scoot... Rode it for 15 months straight, weather be damned.

That was 40 years ago. Now I'm one of the fair-weather riders with good reason.
You'll get there...

B said...

Second the recommendation for Sno-Seal. As stated, heat the boots to 120 or so, let heat soak for 20 minutes, then apply. Place back in warm oven (Now off!) and let cool slowly overnight. I cover the whole boot surface, not just the seams. You can polish them after drying and cooling an apply polish if needed to make 'em pretty afterwards.

THis will keep the boots from breathing as well as they did before, but any waterproof boot will be sealed in a similar manner.

B said...

P.S. Works for your leather gloves as well, just not as well.

Bradley said...

re visor, might want to put on some rainx on the outside, it works just like on a windshield, some air on the visor and the water runs right off.

if your helmet has vents open them up, it will help fight the fogging.

Eagle said...

Bradley: be VERY CAREFUL with RainX! It will permanently cloud some visors.

You'd be better off getting the same ski goggle anti-fog rub-on compound and using it each time you go out. Yes, it's a bit of prep, but it's a lot less harmful to plastics.

+1 on Sno-Seal... but why not just get a set of waterproof riding boots?

Mark/GreyLocke said...

My visor trick was for the inside to keep it from fogging. Clean inside of visor with ammonia windex, wiped clean with a piece of dry flannel cloth. 2 drops of dawn dishwashing liquid in a cup with 1/4 cup of warm water, mist the inside of the visor and wipe dry with the flannel cloth again. Did that once a month and it never fogged up on me.

For the front I just kept it clean with the ammonia windex and used clean dry flannel cloth only to wipe it with. As long as I kept it clean I never had a problem with water on the outside.

For my boots I just wore a pair of Wellington work boots that I mink oiled every two to three months.

Laughingdog said...

Timberland riding boots?? Really?!?!

Why even bother having riding gear then. Hell, just go buy a leather jacket at the mall and work gloves from Lowes too while you're at it.

Get real riding gear, or save your damn money. Stuff that is not designed specifically for riding frequently either doesn't protect you very well overall from injury, or flat out comes apart when it impacts the ground. The difference between real gear and crap isn't the material. Anyone can use cordura and other things in a riding suit. The difference is in the way the seams are constructed.

As someone who has laid a bike down at 120mph, and only had some bruises to show for it, I can say that good gear is worth every penny. With helmets, you can go middle of the road and be fine. With expensive helmets (unless you're buying a flip-up model), you're just paying for comfort over cheaper models. But good gear is worth every penny, and most motorcycle insurance pays replacement value if you do crash. $1000+ for a good jacket and pants costs them FAR LESS than skin graft surgery.

It's not that hard to figure out what will actually hold up in a crash well enough to keep you intact. Just go see the brands they carry at, and you're pretty much set. Or just ride in jeans and a t-shirt and stop pretending you care about safety gear.

Laughingdog said...

As far as your visor goes, two tips.

One: buy some Plexus Plastic Polish. It's basically rain-x for plastic. It's fantastic, and does a great job of cleaning off the bugs that build up as well.

Two: There are anti-fog visor inserts you can buy. I prefer the Shoei Pinlock variety because I have horrible luck getting the adhesive ones to set right. Or if your helmet will work with one, Respro Foggy Masks do a great job of forcing your breath out the bottom of the helmet.

Best advice for any gear is to just spend some time on the ADVrider forum to see what guys who put 10k-50k miles on a bike in a year have found actually works.

R.K. Brumbelow said...

Give a thought to Diamond Gusset's defender jeans. Creaper than a skin graft and a darn sight more comfortable. Aside from that buy some rain pants and trow then in your saddle bags. When I was a daily rider it was the only thing I had to add to my leathers in wet weather.

Laura said...

the other half wears Oxtar boots in the winter and Sidi in the summer. the Sidis aren't quite waterproof but they're good enough. the Oxtars are completely waterproof. neither brand is cheap, but both have full ankle protection and are well worth the money spent.

The Big Guy said...

"But once geared up, it was actually fun to ride in the rain"

mas·och·ist [mas-uh-kist]

2. a person who is gratified by pain, degradation, etc., that is self-imposed or imposed by others.

Sounds about right...


Sevesteen said...

I've got an HJC helmet with the Pinlock insert--makes a huge, huge difference in visor fogging. (Doesn't keep my glasses from fogging though...but I've had decent luck with various fog reducing treatments)

I read an article about an Australian study of motorcycle accidents in the ER--they found that wearing ankle-covering boots reduced injury, but motorcycle-specific boots were not any better than ordinary boots. My brand-new Timberland work boots were advertised as waterproof, but after less than 10 minutes on a rainy interstate were soaked through.

I keep several different sets of gloves for different weather--Minimalist plain leather for hot weather, slightly thicker ones for cool to warm weather, and winter motorcycle gloves for cold weather. I've had no luck wearing non-motorcycle gloves for even relatively short rides, they just aren't comfortable. If at all possible, try gloves on and grab a handlebar--many have some stupid gel padding that adds an uncomfortable lump.

I keep a pair of cheap Walmart rain pants from their camping section on my bike. No extra fall protection, but good for rain and cold, and not very bulky.

Eagle said...

Sevesteen: My Timberland work boots never soaked thru in the rain. Odd... but not unexpected, I guess. Were you wearing rain gear that kept your jeans dry? I once ended up on the slab wearing jeans and my boots ended up wet 'cuz the water dripped from my jeans into my boots.

If there's no handlebar available where you're trying on gloves... grab a broom handle.

Zooke silicon treatment keeps my eyeglasses fog-free.

kx59 said...

cold and rainy in Atlanta in August.
phbbbt. that can't be.
Oh, wait, my bad.
it's global worming.