Thoughts On Riding In The Rain

I know of may riders who prepare their motorcycles for the monsoons. By prepare, I mean they wash their motorcycle and put it some place safe till the rains go away. They don’t ride their motorcycles in the rain for a number of reasons and I have absolutely no problem with that. It’s their motorcycle bought using their hard earned money and they are free to do they want with it. Ride it, let it idle in a garage or throw it off a cliff. Not my problem.

However, I do have a problem with people who tell me that I shouldn’t be riding a motorcycle in the rain. They proceed to impart wisdom on the topic, citing many reasons from “it will get dirty” to “you will die” and everything in between. As with most things I happen to have some thoughts about riding a motorcycle in the rain.

The presence or absence of rain doesn’t make that huge a difference as some people made it out to be. If you respect the power of the motorcycle and have the adequate skill to negotiate it along a straight or curved path then I think you are good. All you need to do is factor for the road being wet or dry and ride accordingly. This is no different than how you would factor for the road being smooth or bumpy and ride accordingly. To me the safety issue of riding in the rain is of little significance. What is of huge significance to me is the reason why I ride in the rain. Or more generally, why I ride a motorcycle at all.

This past weekend I rode a rented Suzuki V-Strom 650 adventure motorcycle 1,500 kms across North Carolina and Virginia. Severe thunderstorms were predicted in the region I was about to pass and I stopped at roadside restaurant to grab a cup of coffee, because I still can’t bring myself to drink what Americans call tea. 🙂

The elderly man serving me the coffee noticed my riding gear and said to me, “Son, you better find a place to hide. The weather’s going to get pretty bad out there pretty soon“. I smiled back at him and proceeded sip on my coffee looking up at the dark clouds gathering above me.

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After having the coffee I started riding and as expected it started to rain, first slowly and then everything that was up came down. All at once. In the distance I would see streaks of lightening followed by loud claps of thunder. Visibility reduced to a few meters and I had to slow down. I was wearing a water resistant riding gear. But the rain was just too much. To make it worse I was wearing a half face helmet and rain water started seeping through the collar of the jacket. For a while it stopped and then started all over again, almost mocking me. This went on for a hour, by the end of which I was drenched so many times, I lost count.

It was a little uncomfortable, to put it mildly. But I had a smile on my face all the time, much to the amazement of other riders who had stopped by the side of the road under whatever shelter they could find. I waved at them as I passed them by.

So why did I not stop riding and look for cover? The reason goes to the very heart of why I ride. I ride to experience Mother Nature. As with all mothers, she happens to have a good side as well as a bad side. I want to experience both. I want to experience her beauty as well as her fury. If I was only interested in her beauty I would have not parked my rental car, a comfortable Mitsubishi Lancer, at the motorcycle rental company and rented a motorcycle. I could have easily watched the beautiful sights from the comfort of my climate controlled car whose innards were guaranteed by the manufacturer to remain dry in a thunderstorm like the one i was riding through. I would not have spent good money on water resistant Harley-Davidson riding jacket, pant and gloves (their stuff is quite expensive, by the way) if I wanted to hide under a shed when the rain decided to show up. I would not have spent good money on Alpine Stars waterproof riding boots (I kept them in a bucket of water overnight to verify that they are indeed quite waterproof) if the first sight of rain made me look for cover. I guess I’m just not the kind of person who spends good money on things and then shies away from using them for their intended purpose.

This is not to say that I looked down on the other riders who stopped their motorcycles and stood under a shelter. It their choice to do so. It’s their choice to sit tight at home and not ride at all. Similarly it’s my choice as well to ride straight through a thunderstorm and live to tell the story. I know what I’m getting myself into. I know my threshold of pain and discomfort, and above all, I fully understand my mind and body and respect what they are both capable of doing.

I’m not suggesting that you do stuff you can’t handle. There are people waiting for you at home. There is a line between adventure and stupidity and you need to know where that line is and you need to respect it.