Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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Riding In The Rain

Guest Post received 27 March 2021

By John Franklin

In 36 years of riding I can probably count the number of times I have almost enjoyed riding in the wet on one hand. Yes, there can be some kind of perverse pleasure in overcoming really poor conditions and entering into some kind of Zen state where everything flows and you pass smoothly through the tempest like some kind of two wheeled ninja. I can almost never do this. Normally I get distracted by the fact that I’m cold, wet and miserable, unable to see anything properly and more convinced than ever that most other road users are doing their best to kill me.

2 supermotard style motorcycles park by the road on a wet day
If you go down in the woods today...(XT125X and CRF250)

I’ve tried a wide variety of reasonably priced kit over the years and ultimately nothing has been waterproof. True, I've never had the money to spend thousands of pounds on a jacket and trousers... and maybe there is some dry Nirvana out there just beyond my financial reach. In my reality it’s usually a case of sticking my feet in carrier bags and resigning myself to sitting in a cold puddle. Whilst everyone else tries to kill me. So what’s the answer?

  • Try and relax. Tricky when you’re feeling paranoid and your nether regions are damp.
  • If you’re riding an MT-09 then don’t use Standard or A Mode. These are primarily designed for unicycling/admiring how blue the sky is.
  • Stick your important kit in something that really is waterproof. For me that’s a Kriega drypack (I know there are lots of other good manufacturers out there). Or a house
  • When it first starts to rain (or when it refuses to actually rain properly) it’s probably worst. Once it has actually washed the majority of poop off the road surface then all you need to worry about are the 57 varieties of slippery things knocking about, and the puddles hiding enormous potholes. (Oh, and all the people who are clearly trying to kill you).
  • Stand under a bridge and have a smoke/vape/have a cup of tea until it stops raining. Not very practical in a county where it rains for long periods of time. Also means that one of the complacent, myopic would be assassins referred to previously may be distracted by a target that isn’t moving and crash into your parked pride and joy.
  • Move to a better climate. Very tempting, but somewhat impractical.
  • Practice. A lot. Do the very strange thing of deliberately going out for a ride in the rain when you don’t need to be anywhere. 

A rider on his motorcycle under heavy skies getting very wet
Mad Orange Thing (and me) contemplate the Wicklow Mountains.

Oh, and the times when I have almost enjoyed it? On my BMW R1100RT – (the most confidence I have ever felt on a motorcycle in poor conditions), and chasing my friend Ian on my MT-09 through Wales during a Sunday where the Monsoon had clearly misidentified the country to fall on. 

An old style triumph tiger and newer MT09 in the rain
MT admiring the rear of a Tiger.

Check out John's own blog on https://shinyharley.wixsite.com/website

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Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Riding in the rain? No good will come from it.
When I was paid to ride I had no choice. But rain, snow, hail and sleet is no blummin fun.
I've spent reasonable money on kit, in short, it leaks. I believe it all does but if someone has just spent £1K on the latest waterproof (?) jacket they're hardly likely to admit it leaks, I mean they'd look foolish.
I like others will get caught out when it rains unexpectedly but I wouldn't venture out on a day ride in the wet. Why wud ya. I think we're back to foolish.
I clearly remember one ride into Francais, we'd just had lunch at a Belgium motorway roadside establishment and had pulled back onto the god awful Autoroute towards Lille when what appeared to be hell appeared in our path, my thought process was a bit like this.....
Pull off the motorway?
No it'll just be a quick shower?
Are you sure pillock?
Yes it'll be fine.
Oooohhhhhh that's wet and who thought a thunder storm could last for 1 hour. I'm back to foolish.
How Madame laughed when we turned up at the Silent Picket B and B, we were quite a water feature in her garden.
It's sun and warmth for me thanks.
01/04/2021 14:12:00 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Too true Upt'. I've had more than my share of being wet and miserable. Most of my wet weather riding was done because I had no alternative, and mostly when I couldn't afford decent kit. Now that I can I find I don't need it.....
01/04/2021 15:23:50 UTC
Bill said :-
Or you can go out on a perfectly dry sunny day and deliberately seek a way of getting wet
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01/04/2021 16:20:16 UTC
Bill said :-

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01/04/2021 16:36:08 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I can see the fun in that, hot weather, nice trials bike, no place to go.
It ain't exactly riding up the M6 in January at minus 10 in a sleet storm......that is never fun.

01/04/2021 17:57:55 UTC
John said :-
Bill - wet on purpose too!

(Me on an Enfield Himalayan in Dorset)
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01/04/2021 18:59:39 UTC
Bill said :-
But upt that's what the car is for and bike on the trailer if needed when the sun comes out.
The one with the shirt and no helmet was trying to cool down in the Picos Spain.
Remember on a trip to Italy on ZZR the rain was so bad it was wheel spinning and aquaplaning on the motorway.
01/04/2021 19:08:06 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Appeared on the interweb thingymabob yesterday......cant think why they picked that date to release it?
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02/04/2021 09:12:37 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Oh OK then - in my pre-65 trial days....

Sorry about the quality -scanned from a colour print.
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02/04/2021 11:30:15 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
'Tis but but a mere sprinkling of water!

There's pros and cons to rain. I've spent so many winters freezing my fingers off and/or bathing my nether regions in a mire of cold wet rainwater. I'll sit there shivering at the lights, painfully yearning for a dry, warm sunny day. And then "LO!" we get one. Only to find that every road and lane is jammed full of wannabe Rossis fighting with traffic and cyclists and the beauty spot is now a litter laden throng of semi naked sunburners. Then I wish for the rain and the cold once more.

I gain pleasure from riding in the rain - when I'm ready for it. If I'm dressed accordingly and psychologically prepared it can be an enchanting experience. I also find if I have a house or hotel to stop at afterwards this is better than facing a night in an equally damp tent. I've had many bad rain rides, and many good ones too. It just depends.
02/04/2021 13:20:28 UTC
Keith m said :-
Come on Ian you can’t just leave that picture. What is the bike? Some of us where brought up on Japanese two strokes. Love the bicycle horn.
02/04/2021 20:31:58 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Like everybody else, I've ridden my fair share of cold, wet and miserable miles. Not to be forgotten highlights include a fortnight touring Scotland in tents when it rained every day, and a trip back from the Lake District when the dye in my new gloves left me with lack hands for 3 or 4 days afterwards. These days, I'll not ride in the rain unless I absolutely have to. Modern gear is much much better than what we had back in the day, but I think torrential rain will find a way in through pretty well anything in a couple of hours...
03/04/2021 08:30:49 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Hi Keith. It's a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 (a proper Redditch one) converted by my own fair hands to resemble a Trials Replica.

Very heavy but great for rocky climbs and stream beds. Here it is again - another trial, another stream. It looks as though I've just bashed my head on that low branch......

As for the horn - necessary to pass the MoT!
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03/04/2021 10:27:07 UTC
Bill said :-
No such thing as bad biking weather only wrong reason to be out in it :-)
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03/04/2021 11:00:51 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Modern gear is much better CrazyFrog, I concur. I still won't spend a fortune on branded GoreTex stuff (Kilm, Helly Hansen etc) because even that stuff must give up at some point. I'm sticking to my cheap "fell walker" type overkit that does for me 99% of the time.

It's the gaps though innit. In a perfect world there'd be a one piece suit that includes the gloves and boots, I'm thinking of a deep sea diver's drysuit. BUT... Imagine arriving at the petrol station and trying to get your wallet out while wearing a jacket-glove combo! Divers need help to get into/out of a full on drysuit and as I live on my own I'd just have to wear it all the time. Oh no, what would I do when I need the loo?

It's not a perfect world. Looks like Ian could have done with a drysuit as most of his off-road images seem to suggest he'd have been better off with a jet ski. Deep down I think he's a closet sea fairer but he's not ready to come out yet.
03/04/2021 11:08:06 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Ren - The Ed¹

“Oh no, what would I do when I need the loo?”
Knowing you there would be a bodged catheter system installed, venting out one ankle and wrapped around your lower leg several times so it would act as a waste heat recovery unit as well.
03/04/2021 17:44:45 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Fort9 did a good video about rain protection.
The main gist was have 2 layers. The second layer doesn't need to be fantastic as all it is doing is blocking the dribbles. In the UK I have my normal armoured biking jacket and trousers, the trousers I know leak since the second time I wore them., and I carry a set of ex-army breathable waterproofs that i put on top when it looks like its going to start chucking it down.
In Spain I have a Richa waterproof jacket I got in a sale for on top of my biking jacket, For the legs I have a cheap set of Decathlon breathable soft over trousers for the top layer and my biking jeans I sprayed with Nikwax water repellent. Thats good enough to stop dribbles. I find Decathlon makes a lot of good cheap kit. I have several of their cheap £3 wicking T shirts as under layers and working gear and their thermals are not a bad price.
I signed up to a Nikwax newsletter thing a few years ago and every six months or so they send me a free sample bottle or 2 of their products. Usually big enough to wash a set of technical gear or if its a protection product to treat an item of clothing. So the cleaning and reproofing of my gear is free.
I used to use the same system in my hillwalking days, spray my fleece with repellent to stop any drips from areas of my Gortex jacket that had started leaking, mostly the the shoulder areas and armpit seams where the rucksack chafed. The jacket I got when 19 , it was one of the first Berghaus Goretex jackets and cost me a months wages as an apprentice. Lasted me 25 years used as my normal jacket and my hillwalking jacket. My kids hated it. It was plain and ugly.
05/04/2021 11:51:49 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Hmmmm, got me thinking there. I'm not quite so sure about catheterising myself but with the stated advantage of using my unwanted bodily fluids to act as a waste heat recovery system I may have cause to try this. Luckily for the BAT readers the weather is improving at present but next winter???
05/04/2021 14:20:14 UTC
Borsuk said :-
My apologies everyone. I may have created a monster.
05/04/2021 21:19:53 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Borsuk old chap.
I fear he was well and truly created before now but one shouldn't encourage him.
Admonish yourself severely young man.
05/04/2021 22:59:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
No it's best not to give me silly ideas because I may try them out. When you're next following a dirty CB500X along the motorway on a cold winter's evening and you get a yellowy mist across your windscreen you'll know who is in front of you and what has just landed on your screen.
06/04/2021 10:47:34 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
What about a wet suit? For years I have used Neoprene socks and gloves on the bicycle and thinking of it a neoprene hood under my helmet. You accept you are going to get wet, so how do you stay warm and wet? Neoprene. My buddy Dan has started donning a wet suit on ice climbing trips.

I have a neoprene farmer John/dungarees must give them a go.

Has anyone tried this extreme route?
09/08/2021 09:30:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have considered the neoprene route, but never seen anything suitable. I figure a close fitting neoprene wet suit under the protective layers of regular motorcycle kit. But never having worn a neoprene wet suit I do wonder how it would feel on the bike. Especially if it DOESN'T rain when you thought it would.

Neoprene gloves might be an accessible and interesting start point.
09/08/2021 13:07:52 UTC
Bogger said :-
Ren have you been looking at those ' specialist' websites again.

09/08/2021 15:50:51 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
No Bogger, those are rubber suits. Very waterproof indeed but they get a little "clammy" after a short while.
10/08/2021 19:26:49 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Attending a fancy dress party as "a diver" a guy I know donned wet suit, mask etc. With in ten minutes of hitting the crowded dance floor it was round his waist. Then round his ankles. He took on the colour of a freshly cooked lobster even under UV.

Think we're you wearing one under motorcycle gear and the sun came out (unlikely sometimes I know) it might end up as some sort of odd road side burlesque show.Once again a bit of a specialist thing
12/08/2021 09:40:10 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
The Most Reverend Mick.
What kind of parties do you go to?
Ban him Ed, ban him!
12/08/2021 09:47:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I imagine in the sun you'd be wetter through sweat than you would from any rain.

Upt', if Rev. Mick! attends some "unusual" parties then as long as everyone is a consenting adult it's no business of ours. Anyhow you're only envious that a Man of God gets invited to such events whereas you sip champers and dine on canapés while making dull conversation about the state of the economy.

Rev. Mick! - where are these parties you attend? Just asking for a friend.
13/08/2021 09:55:07 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
The party in question was in the swinging seventies. We all had hair, long hair.As a class mate of mine who retired recently said " Nowadays after a couple of hours at an orgy, I have to have a nap".

I suppose Up't'North that's is southerners for you. All vicars and divers parties.

Any how, oil changed, service done, ferry booked,I am off on my "Farewell to England Tour" next Thursday. I am hoping no rain gear needed in the sunny southern counties.
13/08/2021 10:39:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
He's using the politician's excuse Upt' - "it was a long time ago, things were different then...". I would ban him Upt' but I want to know about his forthcoming trip now.

"Farewell to England Tour"? Are you planning to never return? I accept I'm not pleasant company and I smell but there's no need to avoid a whole country due to one person's hygiene failure.
14/08/2021 07:25:52 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Farewell to England Tour. I thought I would do a B road tour of England, more precisely Southern England. I thought of mates I'd made over the years and felt a bit of visiting was in order.

I am in my sixties so it did strike me that some of these guys I went to school/college with, expeditions with etc I might well never see again. Also places that I remember as beautiful but when would you go to them again.

So the route between mates who can put me up. Thus no need for camping gear, freeloading I believe the style I referred to. It is turning in an interesting one. First the hard leg ( or maybe derrière) from West Coast Kerry to East coast Rosslare. The legs get a bit shorter after that, technically two are in South Wales.
15/08/2021 10:21:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Sounds like an excellent UK adventure Rev. Mick!. I'm not sure I know enough gentlefolks well enough to organise a random journey around the UK. Do keep us informed and if you so desire I'd be happy to publish your sojourn be it a short summary or a detailed description. Bon Voyage.
15/08/2021 13:28:29 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Expedition nerves now. It was a great idea looked good on the screen now it's 2 days to go and no packing yet. I have never read so many weather forecasts.
100m up the road I'm on my way an I stop worrying I am concentrating on this now, all the way to Rosslare.

16/08/2021 00:18:14 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
The Right Reverend Mick.....
Weather forecasts will drive/ride you bonkers. Ignore em, they'll be wrong anyway. Didn't they say a heatwave was coming..........presently 49 in North Northumberland, although I suppose that does pass as a heatwave in these parts. I'll break out me shorts.......
Good luck, enjoy and don't forget WE NEED PICCIES!
16/08/2021 08:48:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Nerves Rev. Mick!? I'm glad it's not just me then. Seriously, I thought it was just me that got nervous about a forthcoming trip. As you say, once you're out there it'll all wash away. Enjoy it squire, whatever the weather.
16/08/2021 20:04:32 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
Right Upt, will try my best to take pictures. I will try to ignore all weather forecasts.
The problem with is idea is now that things happen and this changes the route. My good friends Mother just died and her funeral in Thursday and several other of my friends are going so route already altered.
Will send you day1 trip report by email Ed. Then if you want you can give me a heading in trip reports.
Upt I love Northumberland, my mother went to school in Leadgate near Consett in County Durham. We used to regularly go to Bamburgh.
16/08/2021 21:39:51 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
R.Rev Mick.
Bamburgh, nice indeed. And the walk down the beach to Seahouses is is not to be missed.
Unfortunately the Pandemic and Staycations means it's out of bounds until probably October. We rode through the week before the English school hols and we couldn't believe how busy the whole coast was but from Beadnell to Bamburgh you had to see the damn Emmets to believe it.
16/08/2021 23:34:22 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-

Emmets is a Devon word applied to me tourists nowadays but means ants in Devon vernacular.
17/08/2021 00:10:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll look forward to your report Rev. Mick!. Sad to hear about your pal's mother. It appears you are flexible enough in your plans to accommodate this though.

As for Emmets. You should all live in Bolton where the notion of someone, anyone, arriving for a holiday is way way beyond our understanding or indeed experience. At best we may endure the odd day tripper visiting family and perhaps taking a walk but otherwise the few hotels here will be populated by business types and trade folks, enduring our wonderful weather.
17/08/2021 12:52:56 UTC

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