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Riding in the Rain: How to Protect Yourself (and Enjoy the Ride)

Riding in the Rain: How to Protect Yourself (and Enjoy the Ride)

I’m not going to tell you “don’t ride in the rain.” (That would be very hypocritical!) While most riders don’t purposely choose to ride in the rain, you can’t be sure that a trip that starts with sunny skies will end that way. Heck, in Minnesota the weather can change by the moment!

But let’s be honest: rain makes riding a motorcycle more complex and yes, dangerous. But there are things you can do to increase your safety and make riding in the rain an enjoyable, rewarding experience.

In this article, I’ll address Comfort.

Let me be really straightforward: Anything that distracts you when you’re riding is potentially dangerous. In rainy weather that could be a trickle of cold water that leaks down your neck, chilling your whole body.

So it’s important to take some time (and spend some money) to get proper waterproof clothing and gear.

Head

In rainy weather, there’s no way to get around the most common-sense item: a full-face helmet. You can keep your half-helmet or 'beanie' helmet for sunnier weather, but make the investment in a full-face helmet if you expect to ride in the rain. Our advice: get one with good venting.

For those who argue that their full-face helmet fogs up in the rain or cold, we have a solution for that (and it's less than $20): get yourself an Anti-Fog insert. Problem solved.

Hands

Today’s riding gloves are amazing, and we recommend you have at least two pair with you while riding, a lighter weight and a ‘workhorse’ rainproof pair. Still, there are drawbacks to gloves. The biggest one (in my opinion) is that gloves add bulk, which can make it more difficult to grip and definitely more difficult to shift gears.

So, recently I’ve been experimenting with Hand Guards. These are basically a "fairing" for each hand that allows you to adjust the area of protection for each hand.

One of the better ones we've found is the WingShields by Brukus, which are made of a tough polycarbonate which makes them extremely difficult to break, yet light (and clear, which we like). You clamp them to the handlebar or mirror stem and align the curved shield ahead of your hands.

Not only will they protect you from rain, but airflow over your hands will be reduced, making your gripping area warmer.

Body (Core)

Get yourself a quality rainsuit, preferably one that incorporates a breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex or similar material. Don’t ‘cheap out’ on this!

Keep your rainsuit with you (I’ve been guilty of violating this one because I like the “naked” bike look); and pack it on top, not at the bottom, of your saddlebag. Or better yet, put it on before you ride.

Use a windshield. Nothing else is more effective at protecting your body, and yet there is much confusion about correct windshield height. Your windshield should be low enough to look over, not just through. Read more about windshield height here.

Legs & Feet

I’ve found it takes some experimentation to find the right pair of waterproof boots, but they really make a difference if you get caught in the rain.

I hate to say it, but I wear a men’s boot. It’s changing, but for a very long time the only options for women’s boots didn’t have nearly the traction and waterproof qualities of mens (so they think all we care about is fashion, not safety!?).

Another great idea is the Desert Dawgs Rain Guards/Wind Deflectors. These soft lowers slip onto your engine guard bar like a glove on a hand and will keep rain off your legs and feet.

Most riders say they experience significant rain protection; many of our customers swear by their Dawgs (some going so far as to claim they saved their life during a downpour or even snow). Read more and watch the video here.


BONUS TIPS

  1. Make sure your rain gear fits properly and is in good shape.
  2. Choose bright colors for increased visibility.
  3. Transfer wallet, keys, and other essentials to waterproof outside pockets.
  4. Watch windshield wipers of oncoming cars to see if it’s raining ahead.
  5. Put on all your waterproof gear and have someone turn the hose on you to check for leaks!
  • Tracey Cramer
Phones on Motorcycles: Seven Tips for Choosing the Right Mount

Phones on Motorcycles: Seven Tips for Choosing the Right Mount

I'm not going to tell you not to use your phone while riding. I think that goes without saying (unlike the guy below!) and if you're old enough to ride a motorcycle, you're old enough to make your own decision about phones and motorcycles!

I will just say this: do it the safest way you can! By that I mean, mount your phone securely (you don't want to be worrying about it falling off!) in a location (handlebar, brake/clutch, mirror, windshield, etc) that doesn't interfere with driving - and where you can easily glance at it.

To that end, we've tried to make mounting a phone on a motorcycle simple (in fact, it's less complicated than learning how to USE some of these phones!) by designing secure and classy phone mounts.

But how do you know which motorcycle phone mount is best for you? It's a good idea to decide what functions of the phone you are most likely to use when riding (this can help you narrow down your mounting preferences).

Here are seven things to consider:
  • Do you use the phone to see who is calling? Or do you wait until you’ve stopped to check? The answer to this question can affect your choice of case/cover as well as mount.
  • Do you play music via your phone? If so, you may need to look into speakers or Bluetooth.
  • Do you want to be able to take pictures with your phone as you ride? Then you’ll need a mount that doesn’t cover or obscure your phone’s photo screen.
  • Do you use a GPS (navigation) feature on your phone? If you do, you might want to be able to mount the phone horizontally as well as vertically (which all our phone mounts can do).
  • How often do you need to touch the phone’s screen? If you need to touch it often, you’ll want to make sure whatever mount you use makes it easy (and safe) to do so.
  • Would you like to be able to tilt or turn your phone ‘on the fly’ if you get sun glare?
  • Do you prefer to mount your phone in the ‘typical’ vertical fashion? Or is it easier for you to view features (such as GPS) in a horizontal position? Will you need to be able to change it from vertical to horizontal depending on how you’re using it that day?

I hope this helps get you started on safe and convenient phone use while riding!

  • Tracey Cramer
Eight Tips for Defensive Riding

Eight Tips for Defensive Riding

The best defenses when riding a motorcycle are training, caution and anticipation. Here are some general tips for everyday riding:

  1. Understand what constitutes a road hazard. Some bikers are unaware that certain things are hazardous for motorcycles. Don’t assume that you know all the dangers because you’ve been driving a car for years.
  2. Avoid heavy traffic. When possible, travel when traffic is light. That way, if you encounter a road hazard, you’ll have more room and time to maneuver. Look for less-traveled routes where vision is unobstructed.
  3. Don’t tail the vehicle in front. Follow vehicles at a safe distance (at least two seconds behind). Slow down if you see (or even anticipate) a hazard. Don’t ride in a car’s ‘blind spot’. It’s bad enough when a car driver doesn't turn and look when changing lanes in front of another car; worse when it’s in front of your motorcycle!
  4. Constantly survey the road and the surrounding area. Keep your eyes up and take note of everything: other cars, children playing, trees that might house small animals, painted surfaces. Change your speed or path accordingly.
  5. Plan escape routes. As you ride, think of ways you could evade a potential road hazard. For example, can you safely travel on a shoulder to avoid a large gravel patch? Be aware of what cars are around you in case you must swerve to avoid a squirrel or debris.
  6. Note hazards on roads you use. Make mental notes of hazards that you encounter on roads you travel. That way, you can anticipate problems or even avoid some routes at certain times or during bad weather.
  7. When it rains, wait. If possible, wait until the rain has stopped before you ride a motorcycle. If you must travel in the rain, try to wait until it has been raining for at least a half hour before you hit the road.
  8. Get skills. Motorcycle handling skills are often the key to safely navigating a road hazard (or surviving a skid, wobble, or dicey situation caused by a hazard). Get training on how to safely handle your bike, navigate gravel and ridges in the road, and what to do if your tires skid on slippery surfaces.
Also see the article NINE Common Riding Hazards and what to do about them.
  • Tracey Cramer
How to Tell a Story with Your Motorcycle Video

How to Tell a Story with Your Motorcycle Video

Have you ever thought about sharing your motorcycle “adventure vacation” video with others? Not sure how to make it interesting? (After all, after a minute or two, an unchanging view from the saddle becomes… well… boring.)

The answer? A little creativity while you ride, plus a little editing time at the computer later.

Here are some tips to make your video into a Story that others will want to watch.

SHOOTING TIPS

  • More than scenery. Capture the unplanned, such as a flat tire, a navigational oops, or your friend spilling his drink all over his bike at a rest stop (yep - seen it!).
  • Multiple cameras and/or angles. Use the Swivel-CAM to place one camera up front, one to the side, and maybe a helmet camera (horrors!). Ride ahead and get off the bike to shoot the others coming toward you.
  • Utilize a passenger. There's no limit to what you can shoot if you don't have to throttle, grip, brake, etc. (I'm not often the passenger on a motorcycle, but on this particular day we wanted to shoot some footage over hubby's shoulder.)
  • Interview. Video others in your group talking about their experience or sharing their thoughts about your travels.
EDITING TIPS
  • Software. Use something simple and straightforward; after all, you’re not making a documentary for the Travel Channel.
  • Shorter is better. Experts say today’s internet viewers have a max attention span of two minutes.
  • Change it up often. No one scene should be more than 10 seconds long.
  • Narration. You don’t have to be a professional voice-over artist. Just tell the viewer what you’re thinking and feeling.
  • Use still images. Mix your video with photos you took on the trip (or find royalty-free images online).
  • Add a little music. Google “royalty free music” to avoid any rights infringement. There’s plenty out there.
Drop us an email (zoom (at) leadermotorcycle.com) if you use our tips to make a video and we'll share it on our Facebook page!
  • Tracey Cramer
The Secret to Enjoying Cold Weather Rides

The Secret to Enjoying Cold Weather Rides

I saw a motorcyclist out riding this weekend. It was 42 degrees at the time.

It made me think about riding. More specifically, it made me think about riding in cold weather. Doing so can be less than enjoyable if you're not prepared. So what is the secret to enjoying cool weather rides?

Controlling wind chill!

When it's 40 degrees F and you're riding at 60mph (with no wind), the effective temp is only 25 degrees Fahrenheit (danger of frostbite in 30 minutes!). Check out the chart below showing just how much wind affects the ambient temperature.

Bundle up all you want, but if you can't get the wind off you, it's not a fun ride. Bundling up also makes it hard to operate the controls and isn't really all that effective if the wind is still getting through key spots on your body.

There is so much to say about this topic that we’ve broken it into several parts. In this post we’ll get started – from the top down (that would be your noggin for you southerners)…

Head

In cold weather, there’s no way to get around the most common-sense item: a full-face helmet. You can keep your half-helmet or 'beanie' helmet for warmer weather, but make the investment in a full-face helmet if you expect to ride in cold or wet weather. Our advice: get one with good venting.

For those who argue that their full-face helmet fogs up in the rain or cold, we have a solution for that (and it's less than $20): get yourself an Anti-Fog insert. Problem solved.

Neck

Yep, this deserves its own category. Because when it gets down into the 40’s and you're going 70 mph, you don't want ANY skin showing. A neck warmer or balaclava is just the ticket. It will also keep rain water from sneaking down your neck. Simple but effective!

  • Tracey Cramer
'Extreme' Winter Motorcycle Riding

'Extreme' Winter Motorcycle Riding

I’ve lived in MinneSNOWta all my life, 35 years as a biker. Winter motorcycling isn’t particularly fun for me, even with crazy PMS (“Parked Motorcycle Syndrome”) right about now. But if you simply MUST ride a motorcycle in the winter, here are our top tips for doing so.

Clothing

Layer. Start with a long-sleeve base (such as Under Armor) that wicks moisture away from your body. Add an insulating layer (like fleece) and/or a heated vest with controller.

Your jacket is no place to skimp; get the best. Gore-Tex is popular for its breathability and waterproof features. Same with boots and gloves; add a neck warmer and a full-face helmet. Think like a snowmobiler but buy like a biker!

Motorcycle Prep

A motorcycle windshield goes without saying here, and extras like the Desert Dawgs Rain/Wind Guards and motorcycle hand guards or muffs are a huge help as well. If you’re able to install heated grips, they’ll go a long way toward keeping your hands warmer.

If your bike is water-cooled, make sure the antifreeze is fresh and mixed properly and that all hoses are in good shape.

Tires: make sure you have awesome tread if you plan to ride in snow. Check your tire pressure, as it can change with temperature swings. Also, be aware that cold motorcycle tires offer less traction.

Road Hazards

First, the obvious: if it even remotely looks like ice, stay away! If you live in an area that uses salt on the roads (like we do), be very cautious; it can cause you to lose traction (just like snow can).

Also remember that snow, salt, fluctuating temps and equipment like plows can really do a number on road surfaces. I swear some of the cracks and pot holes around here are big enough to swallow a motorcycle!

Visibility and Following Distance

During winter riding, look further down the road so you can recognize hazards before they occur, and/or react to a potential problem more quickly. And give the vehicle in front of you plenty of space. You might not have the same space available for stopping (or avoiding) due to less traction.

SNOW

Keep an eye on the forecast; if the weather folks are calling for multiple inches of snow, leave the motorcycle at home. And if you’re out riding and it starts snowing, get home. The white stuff can accumulate quickly and make for some seriously slippery conditions (even in a car).

If you’re really into winter riding, consider a snowmobile. Just kidding! (But you can buy studded snow tire kits here in the northland.) Riding a motorcycle in the winter can be challenging, but it can be done with the right attitude!

  • Tracey Cramer