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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.

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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

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