I’m Not Made of Sugar
The weather was beautiful this morning. 12-ish degrees, no wind, bright but not really sunny. But it was going to rain. I knew it was going to rain because Ryan Snodden said so and I could see it on the radar – not the Holyrood radar, which would mean rain in the very near future – the Atlantic radar, which means that the rain will start at some point in the more distant future (when I started riding, I became intimately acquainted with Environment Canada’s radar system. I don’t think there’s a meteorologist in the province that spends more time studying the trajectory of those green/blue blobs than I do).
I decided to take the bike anyways. I have good rain gear that fits neatly into my tank bag and I set off for work. I’m not made of sugar and neither is my bike, but motorcycle commuting in less-than-ideal weather conditions is almost unheard of here, which I guess is why I got such strange looks on my way home in the light rain/heavy drizzle. I’m used to getting strange looks, but it’s usually because I ride a very…um…*distinctive* bike. That’s a topic for another post.
I sometimes read motorcycle magazines from the UK. Notice I said “read”, not “buy”. Those things are EXPENSIVE! Anyways, in the UK motorcycle-riding is a year-round thing. Folks use them for daily commuters, grocery-getters and general errand runners. Now, I realize that our winter is not conducive to motorcycling (or any other activity that involves stepping out of your house) but you’d think that with the number of motorcyclists in this city there would be a fair number of people who try to use them as much as possible, rain or shine. Afterall, using your bike for commuting will save on gas, save wear and tear on your vehicle, and you’ll arrive at work in a great mood!
Perhaps people don’t commute on bike because a large percentage of bikers here have expensive cruisers with custom paint jobs and lots of chrome and they don’t want to chance getting them wet and dirty. Fair enough. When it’s threatening rain I do NOT take my Harley out of the garage, it’s just too major a pain in the arse to have to clean it. This is one of the many reasons I have two bikes. The Yamaha doesn’t look half as bad when she’s dirty as the Harley does…and she’s way easier to clean.
Another reason could be that people consider riding in the rain to be overly dangerous. Wet riding IS trickier than dry riding, but the dangers can be mitigated. First of all, make sure you’re prepared! The Scandinavians have a saying: “there’s no such things as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. Rain gear is a MUST, and waterproof boots are great too. If your boots aren’t waterproof, tie Sobey’s bags around your feet. It’ll keep your feet from getting cold, but you’ll still have to dry out your boots. Warm, waterproof gloves are a lifesaver, literally. If your hands are wet and cold, your ability to handle the controls is greatly reduced. I have a pair of Olympia touring gloves with Thinsulate lining, they’re fantastic. They even have a tiny rubber “wiper” on the left thumb so you can wipe water off your visor.
The key to safe riding in wet conditions is “take it easy”. No sudden stops or accelerations, and take the turns very gingerly. Your tires don’t have the traction you’re used to when the road is wet. Try to avoid large painted sections of pavement, like the white rectangles at crosswalks. These areas get very slippery when wet, as do manhole covers. In the fall, be very wary of leaves, as wet leaves can feel just like ice under your tires. Maybe this goes without saying, but stay out of the ruts! The highways surrounding St. John’s are brutally rutted, and motorcycles can hydroplane too. Luckily it’s easier to avoid them on a single-track vehicle.
I plan to get the most out of this riding season, including commuting every day that it’s somewhat fit to do so. If you see me, don’t look at me like I’m crazy, I’m enjoying my commute a lot more than you are.