It Can Be Good To Be High And Dry

motorcycle in rain

As they say, if you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride.

John and Bill and I were pretty na├»ve in the early days of the OFMC. We would strap bags, tents, and sleeping bags on our bikes with bungee cords and just head out. It took a few “learning experiences” for us to recognize that rain suits are among the most important motorcycle accessories you can carry.

It was just the second year of our annual summer week-long trip, and we were headed for Denver from Santa Fe on our way home. It was July, we were in northern New Mexico and then southern Colorado, so it was a hot day. We were wearing jeans and T-shirts. A little south of Alamosa, coming up U.S. 285, we ran into a cloudburst. Now, we live in Colorado, we’re used to this kind of thing, and we knew that if we just kept riding we would quickly get out the rain. We also figured that we would dry off once we got back into the sunshine. So we kept riding.

We did indeed get out of the rain and dry off as anticipated, and it wasn’t long after that that we reached Alamosa. Pulling up to the stop sign at the main intersection in town we all readily agreed that we would really like to find a coffee shop and get something hot to drink.

Grabbing a table in the place we found we ordered coffee and soon found ourselves shaking with a chill. We poured the coffee down, had them bring another pot, drank it and called for more and more and more until we had drunk about 10 pots. As the shaking continued uncontrollably we eventually realized we were suffering from hypothermia. Yes, the sunshine and the wind had wicked away the wetness, but along with it our body heat had been stolen as well.

Now, hypothermia is always dangerous, and can even be fatal, but it’s especially dangerous on a motorcycle. As your blood retreats to your body core it can leave your brain dulled, which can lead to errors in judgment, which can be extremely dangerous when you’re on two wheels at speed. We agreed that we each needed to carry a rain suit.

Of course, the thing about motorcycling is that nothing is cheap. Good, motorcycle-specific rain suits cost around $150, we discovered. So on the next year’s trip I showed up with an everyday rain suit a roommate had left behind, John had an inexpensive suit he probably paid $25 for, and Bill had picked up something really cheap at Target, for perhaps $8. And it wasn’t long before we needed to use them.

The sky was very threatening as we come down Red Mountain Pass into Silverton, and we pushed on toward Durango with every expectation that we’d be stopping to suit up. Sure enough, about 15 miles out of Durango it started raining and out came the gear. That was when we discovered why motorcycle rain suits cost what they do.

My everyday suit did the best. The big, open sleeves caught the wind and my forearms got wet but other than that I was OK. John’s suit kept him dry until water ran down the front and collected on the seat in his crotch. Then the water soaked through the seams, getting him very wet in that one spot.

Bill’s super-cheapo was an amazing thing to see. He was in the lead and as we rode along John and I started noticing bits of plastic flying by us. Then we realized these shreds were the same color as Bill’s suit, and sure enough, when we got to Durango and pulled over, his rain suit was half gone. Flapping in the breeze, it had simply disintegrated.

So we’ve learned our lesson. Every one of us has a good motorcycle rain suit with sleeves and collars that seal to keep out the wet, that don’t leak at the seams, and keep us dry. In fact, topped off with a good helmet and rain-proof gloves to keep your hands warm and dry, riding in the rain is not an unpleasant thing to do. At times we’ve been hit by the waves thrown up by passing cars and trucks and just shrugged them off.

We may not be super fast learners but we’re not idiots, either.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you only ride on weekends, when you can.

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