The Pacific Northwest in the Winter
Yep, you know what they say…If you don’t like the weather in the PNW, wait five minutes; it will still be raining! Where we live on the central Oregon coast, this is a fact from November to April; the temperatures are usually not too cold (today it’s 54) but rain is a likelihood! So, as riders, how do we enjoy riding in wet, sometimes stormy weather. The following are some of my musings on the subject…
Know your Limits
As Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Isn’t that true for all riders, woman or man? I think it is, but as motorcyclists we have a tendency to push those limits for thrills or time constraints, or we may let fatigue drive our riding habits. So, a wise rider knows when to ride, and when to grab a cup of coffee or a motel for the evening.
So, what are your limits? When do you call it a day, or even more importantly, decide it might be better to stay home and binge-watch MASH or something…Comment below and tell me your thoughts.
I don’t ride when the temps are below 42f. Around here, any elevation gain may mean snow, and I definitely don’t want to plow the BMW through that. Likewise, when the rain forecast calls for more than a half inch of rain for the day, and/or the wind is predicted to blow over 15 mph. That’s a pretty high wind velocity if it’s traveling across large open areas, or the beach, especially if I’m loaded down with my Brooks AutoSports panniers and other gear. A final consideration is fog; I ride with extreme care if fog is closing down the local coastal passes; if it’s night time and rainy, I don’t ride!
Equipment and the Rain
Quality riding gear and some moto accessories can make the difference between a successful, reasonably warm ride, and a miserable, cold, and wet experience. Personally, I’ve never skimped on cold weather apparel or gear that helps me be warmer, safer, and more visible to traffic. Fortunately there are many companies that build good-to-great cold weather apparel. Olympia makes a reasonably priced suit that in my opinion works very well. Of course, you can spend more money; KLIM, BMW, and MotoPort all make excellent gear.
In my riding career, I’ve worn most every high end riding, and for me nothing comes close to my Darien Jacket and AD1 riding pants. Superb protection, completely waterproof, and loads of pockets make this apparel excellent, especially when I am riding through different climate zones! You can find their stuff at Aerostich. Add a good pair of waterproof boots and you are good to go!
Think about the riding gear your bike wears. Hi intensity driving lights such as those made by Clearwater may save your life. LED lights that increase the brightness of your turn signals and brake light are beneficial by making you more conspicuous; to a motorcyclist, conspicuity is the name of the game! Clearwater installs at their shop, or are happy to sell the the systems for you to install. Yes, they are spendy, but so is the hospital, or a funeral!
The Most Important Gear is Between your Ears
Do an attitude check…Yes, you can spend a fortune and watch the weather, but if your brain is not up to the task of riding in stormy weather, you should stay home. And, that is perfectly fine; it all goes back to knowing your limits, right? Many of us, including me, in most cases, are fair weather riders. Neither you nor I have anything to prove. Remember risk v rewards? If riding isn’t pleasurable, then don’t go.
If you are riding in the rain, your brain is working even harder than it would on a sunny day. Adjust your speed according to traffic and visibility. Slow down, and don’t even think about tailgating. Make sure at stop lights you have an escape route in case a distracted driver cannot stop behind you!
Riding the Motorcycle in the Rain-Final Thoughts
I hope you are enjoying your personal motorcycle journey. I know I have; with 310,000 accident free miles on several BMW motorcycle, I continue to enjoy riding very much. I hope you will consider your riding style when the sunshine turns liquid. With some preparation, riding in the rain can be enjoyable and relatively safe.