On September 10, 2018 I left Gilford, NH on the F650 bound for Alabama. I put on my rain gear west of Hartford, CT just before the patch of blue and green and yellow (yes, yellow heavy rain!) on the radar.
Boot covers, rain pants and jacket. The handlebar muffs and 20″ Clearview windshield were already on the bike.
I could see on the radar that I would have to ride through a band of rain. Couple of hours. No problem.
Except I didn’t realize what was going to happen on the 11th. It doesn’t really show up on the radar, but you can get a dense, foggy mist with the air saturated with water. Not much of it hits the roadway. The road is wet, but there are no standing layers of water on it. No hydroplaning worries. But riding through that wet air will soak you just as much as a light rain. And it lasted most of the day.
I had a bunch of ink-jet printed maps in my tank bag. They were right where the water dripped off my helmet onto the front of my jacket and then onto the bag. Totally ruined. Threw them out. The maps were gone before they were ever used. I didn’t even get into unknown territory.
Quite a bit of other stuff in the tank bag was in plastic bags and was okay.
I had a few new rags to use to clean up things but they got soaked before I could use them. I knew I wouldn’t get them dry so I tossed them. Brand new.
Most of my clothes in the rear bag were in plastic bags and were fine.
My top box will admit water also, so really all three of my storage spaces got wet and only the secondary waterproofing saved things.
The boot covers worked well enough except the soles were slippery on wet pavement (you could drop the bike) and they are a bit awkward to wear into a convenience store to buy something or use the restroom after fueling the bike. But they are cheap, don’t take up much room and will keep your feet dry.
So I learned a few things:
- If you don’t want something to get wet, keep it in a plastic bag.
- Your feet are the first thing to get soaked. Spray off the front wheel, I guess. Boot covers take care of it.
- The bottom of your helmet liner is going to absorb water and you will be sliding this cold, wet thing over your head when you put the helmet on.
- Rain jacket and pants help, but where the water continually hits the fabric, it will saturate and pass some water through.
- The Oxford RainSeal Handlebar Muffs help, but some water is still going to get on your gloves or mittens. Enough to eventually soak through.
- I think $300 waterproof motorcycle boots would be better in the rain than boot covers. On the other hand, the covers will get you through a little rain just fine.
- A good riding suit or pants/jacket set would be ideal for extended travel in the rain.. The fewer separate items to deal with the better.
- A couple hours of light rain is one thing, but a whole day or multiple days of rain will get you pretty wet.
- The helmet clear outer faceshield gets wet, but you can see fine in the daylight. At night, the light refracts off the droplets and makes it hard to see. Don’t ride at night in the rain.
- Use radar to minimize your exposure.
- Traffic on the interstate will kick up a spray that will soak you.
- You have less traction in the rain, especially on the painted lines.
- Carrying extra weight on the bike is more dangerous in the rain.
- Run tires that are decent on wet pavement. Less to worry about.
- The windshield does generally keep the water off things behind it. The iPhone navigator is okay on the handlebars in a light rain or mist. It’s dry when moving but will get sprinkled on when stopped.
- Your face shield will fog up when stopped in cooler weather, but will clear out when moving. Opening the vents will help. You might need to flip it up until you get moving.
- How are you going to pay a toll in the rain? My EasyPass didn’t work reliably. In one case there was a bar in front of me that would’t lift until I backed up and took a ticket. Where are you going to put a ticket in the rain?
It’s possible to let the rain get you down, but an alternative attitude is to decide to get really good at it. Solve the problems. Plan better for it. Gear up for it.
And if you own a BMW, there is a de facto expectation that you are a competent rain rider. I don’t know why.