Scared of riding in the wet stuff? There’s no need; with a little know-how and a little preparation, riding in the rain can be just as safe and just as fun as riding on a nice, sunny day. Here’s how to ride a motorcycle in the rain.
The heavens have opened and it’s pouring. You can’t see very far down the road thanks to the spray coming off other vehicles. Your visor is misting up and you’re not entirely sure how you and your bike are going to handle the rain. Slow down a bit. Relax. Pay attention. After all, it’s only water.
The Right Equipment
Riding in the rain for a long period of time? You’re going to get wet. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on rain gear or what exaggerated claims the manufacturer makes, it’s just going to happen. Period. But, there are steps you can take to stay comfortable, warm, mostly dry and, most importantly, safe.
The thing is, that when it rains, you’re going to get cold. And getting cold will decrease your ability to concentrate and your ability to control the motorcycle. So, riding in the rain shouldn’t simply be an effort at gritting your teeth and sticking with it, you need to prepare.
The first thing to consider is likely visor fogging. With moisture in the air, every helmet we’ve ever tested has fogged up. Well, with the exception of Icon helmets, which are designed in rainy Portland and somehow gifted with magical anti-fog properties. Your more expensive helmet can be, too, simply by fitting a Pinlock, Fog City or similar insert. These really do work perfectly so, even though it’s dry today, go ahead and order one and install it in your clear visor. You’ll thank us when you’re caught in a storm.
Also on the subject of vision: ditch the dark visor for a clear one, and if you’re regularly riding in the wet, consider a yellow (clear yellow, not gold iridium) shield. These increase contrast and therefore vision in bad conditions. Endurance racers swear by them.
Every helmet maker ever will tell you not to apply Rain-X or something similar to your visor. However, we’ve been doing it for years with no ill effects. It causes water to quickly bead up and run off, aiding vision. It’s said to reduce the effective life of your shield, but we’re replacing our clear visors once a year anyway due to scratches and whatnot. So it’s definitely worth considering if you’re regularly riding in wet road conditions.
The next thing to consider is your hands. They are the first things to get cold, and you need their fine control to delicately operate the controls. If your hands go numb, you aren’t able to ride safely. Period. So keep them warm and dry. Look for a pair of gloves with a name brand waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex or eVent. Because you want to retain control, gloves get bonus points for laminating that membrane to the outer shell, thereby eliminating one layer of stuff moving around between you and the levers. Gore-Tex X-TRAFIT has just such a lamination process and is used on the latest waterproof gloves from Alpinestars and Dainese.
Now you want to consider your bike’s riding position. If your arms sit level on the bars (such as on an ADV or Standard bike) or sit higher (as on a Cruiser) you’ll want gauntlets that go over your jacket, then cinch tight. If you’re riding a Sport Bike, Sport Tourer or performance Naked and your arms slope down, you’ll want gloves that fit under your jacket, so rain running down your sleeves doesn’t enter your gloves.
In a pinch, a pair of nitrile shop gloves or those cheesy plastic mitts gas stations give out at the Diesel pumps will help keep you dry and warm. Heck, even Marigolds have been known to help; that’s what Barry Sheene would wear under his leather race gauntlets.
That same name-brand waterproof membrane advice goes for your jacket and pants or suit. Make sure zippers come with rain flaps so moisture doesn’t pass right through and look for a neck and cluffs that cinch tightly to keep out the water. One-piece suits like the Aerostich Roadcrafter do a better job of keeping you dry than two-pieces, simply because the rain can’t sneak in around your lower back. A regular application of NikWax or Scotch Guard can help keep out the water, too.
Then there’s the tricky subject of boots. For some reason, manufacturers have yet to find a way to make a decent pair of waterproof motorcycle boots that also provide good feel and safety. Part of the reason is probably that boots sit in the spray coming off the front tire, so are essentially being powerwashed the entire time you’re riding. Look for boots that include a waterproof gusset in the entry flap that goes nearly as high as the boot itself, keep that name brand membrane in mind and regularly apply a silicone boot spray or similar around the sole/body stitching and any other hardware and you might get away with only damp feet. Wear wool socks, they’ll keep you warm even when they get wet. And they will get wet.
Which brings us to the subject of what you wear under all that. Because rain is, absolutely, no argument, going to get inside your outer layer, your inner layer(s) also need to work to keep your warm and dry. A good ol’ fleece jacket works well at that, as do wool sweaters. You’ll also want a balaclava or scarf that doesn’t soak up water to protect your neck. Seal Skinz socks do a great job of keeping your feet dry, even in ventilated race boots.
And, on top of all that, consider the reduced vision everyone on the road is sharing. Wear bright, reflective items to help drivers see you through the spray.