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Ride Reviews

Filtering by Category: "Rain Gear"

Riding The Storm

Tomas Perez

It has happened to everyone that has done any type of touring regardless of the season.  We all plan for it and if you have any experience with motorcycle touring you can read the signs and you have the equipment to handle almost anything nature can throw at you baring any major or catastrophic storms.  But in my case, I have no excuse.  I was caught unprepared for one of the worst rain storms that I have ever ridden through.

I had been visiting both of my local BMW dealers plus doing a little riding in the Texas Hill Country.  I use the term local rather loosely.  I wanted to take advantage of my ride to the dealer since it is 265 miles each way by extending my ride.  Dealer #2 is 327 miles each way but even more miles if I go via dealer #1.  A simple dealer visit is not a leisurely daily ride for many of us not living close to a major metropolitan area. It calls for a very long day of riding or a multi day trip.  Any day trip or longer and I pack for bad weather.  I always carry rain gear and in any weather other than the middle of Summer I will include some cold weather gear.

Looking back North towards the storm
 My wet weather riding gear consists of the following: Tourmaster Sentinel Rain Jacket, Olympia rain pants, Corbin seat cover, shower cap for XM radio, and BMW All Round gloves.  My current boots are BMW Touring Pro 2 (at times I also use Sidi Way boots) and they are totally waterproof.  My helmet is a Schuberth C3.  My head and feet are always covered (no pun intended) in case of rain.  More - both good and bad - on these two items later later on.  By the way, unless it's the middle of winter I use my BMW AirFlow 4 jacket for Texas riding.
(This Blog contains reviews on most of these items.)

During my visit to Lone Star BMW in Austin, Texas I purchased a Rev'It Wind Barrier jacket because a) it's very good and b) it was on sale.  I also purchased a cooling vest called Hyperkewl because a) it was hot as nearly always is in Texas and I was headed south where it's even hotter and b) it was relatively cheap at $39.95.  The sales lady kept telling me that she would soak the vest for me in the toilet for free as part of my purchase.  I soaked it in the sink in the men's restroom instead and left the dealer in the early afternoon.  The weather was hot but other than that it was very nice for a motorcycle ride.  In addition, I had called home and got a report of "it's sunny and a beautiful day".

Traveling through central Texas I almost always take back roads or secondary roads instead of the Interstates.  In this case I choose highway 123 and 72 to I 37 to I 59 for a short 8 mile run to 281.  I like highway 16 down the middle of south Texas brush country but not after dark.  That part of South Texas just has too many wild animals out after dark and even cows and horses seem to find their way out to the warmth of the road beds.  Once on 281 South I consider it smooth sailing for the last leg of my ride home.

Normally I'm OCD when it comes to riding or coming into bad weather.  Not to the point of stopping or outrunning a storm but more to preparing for the ride.  I tell my friends that I do not mind riding in cold weather nor rain (but not freezing rain!) since I have the gear for both including a bike that has excellent weather protection.  You learn to see the signs; dark clouds, oncoming traffic showing signs of rain or worse, any column of darkness from the clouds down to the ground are all signs that you are about to run into something big.  The column is a sure sign of rain or worse and the wider the column the larger the storm with little to no chance of riding out of it.

As I turn south on 281 in George West I see the columns.  Not one but two of them.  They appear to the east and west of my direction of travel but still a ways south of my position.  The thought comes into my head to stop at the DQ in George West to see what happens.  In any account I have not eaten lunch and it is mid afternoon.  I could use a meal and some caffeine.  But I decide to push on.

Within 10 or 15 miles I start to see little water droplets on my windshield.  They are so light that I don't even feel them on my helmet.  I ride through stuff like this often without doing any riding gear change.  This presents zero cause for alarm but there is a warning sign... I don't see the columns anymore.  I continue and it's only a few miles and I get a light shower but my only concern is my XM radio being exposed to water.  I think about my friend that says he does not put on rain gear in the summer and simply uses the opportunity to wash his riding jacket and sometimes riding pants.  I tell myself that I will wash the AirFlow jacket - it could use a cleaning anyway.  By this time I am in a heavy but otherwise normal rain.  I start my preparation.

Ok... I can do this.  Tuck in behind the fairing, raise windshield to just below eye sight, close helmet visor (make sure it's snug), and close both helmet vents (it matters).  It's important to close your visor before you get water on the inside and if you wear glasses you have another two surfaces that can get wet.  That's a total of four surfaces that can have water and limits your vision severely.  Add a windshield to that and you can consider yourself nearly blind if you continue riding.  But I'm good!  As a matter of fact only my arms are getting wet.  Even my radio, GPS and dash were only a little wet with slight spray.  I'm thinking: awesome bike, awesome fairing.  I'm actually enjoying the ride and keep in mind that I did not put on any of my rain gear.

And then it happened... I hit what appears to be a wall of rain... and high winds!  A little panic sets in plus sensory overload from the walls of water hitting me.  First thing that comes to mind is to pull over.  This is brush country and only a shoulder exists along the route.  In addition, stopping will result in a total soak within seconds but my main concern was for the bike.  The winds were too high and I thought that I would not be able to hold the bike upright during any sudden gusts.  I also was concerned about getting run over by some driver that could not see well which I knew was the case as that was happening to me.  Phase 2 kicked in right away.  First I lowered the windshield so as not to be kicked around so much by the winds and I turn on my 4 way flashers.  I have one car behind me and way ahead was an 18 wheeler that I no longer can see.  Not bad... the trailer has plenty of lights that are much more visible than car lights but at this point I don't see him ahead.  The car passes me up but within a mile he is slowing down to the point that I pass him.  While this is happening I feel my chest and legs get totally wet and then my crotch went from dry to wet within seconds.  I don't know why wet crotch feels like an insult when you are riding a motorcycle.  Your torso can dry and your legs can dry once you get out of a rain storm.  This is especially true in the Texas heat where a wet jacket can dry in minutes of riding.  But a wet crotch seems to stay wet forever and I always seem to get to the next gas stop and feeling like I wet my pants.

I can't see much but I see the trailer lights ahead.  At first I think that's good - something like my own personal lighthouse ahead of me but I find myself downshifting to 5th and then to 4th.  I'm shifting based on feel because I cannot read my gauges - not even the gear indicator.  I'm thinking this is too slow and thus dangerous and I could see where he was being pushed around by the winds.  I pull over to the passing lane with no indication of my intent because I have my 4 ways on.  I notice one of the reasons that he may have slowed down for was that there was a row of cars pulled over on to the shoulder.  I think about stopping myself but decide not to since the bike is handling the wind so well. I don't want to make this a BMW report but at this time I am gushing for the brand.  Since I saw columns before I hit the rain I figured that this was a storm within limited boundaries.  I continued for about 10 or 15 miles before the rain and wind let up to a normal shower.  The road ahead cleared up but I could not see any cars ahead of me.  Weird feeling being all alone on a highway that is normally busy.

Soon after the rain it was these things
 I stopped at a Whataburger in the next town so that I could take off my cool vest.  Didn't need it any more - as a matter of fact I felt cold.  Several people came up to me and advised me not to ride north.  Too late - would tell them I was just there.  When I told one man that I had just ridden through the storm he said "No way!  Otherwise your bike would be full of bugs.".  I didn't say anything but when he walked over to me and looked at the bike he apologized to me.  I guess because he was calling me a lair but I thought nothing of it.  I never found out how bad the storm was but part of Alice had no power, a gas station sign (the tall type) was blown over, entire crop fields were flooded and the Whataburger was full of cars.

I don't know how much of a lesson this was for me.  At my age, I mean experience, I should have known better.  Observations... I was impressed with my bike with the way it handled in such a storm.  And the other thing was that the only thing dry on me was my feet - totally dry!  I got home 2.5 hours later and I was still wet except for my feet.  The Rev'It jacket kept me warm even when my shirt and jacket were soaked.  I wore it under my AirFlow jacket.  I found it strange that I felt no cold yet my shirt was still very wet when I got home.  I was disappointed with my helmet.  In case you don't know it is expensive but it let in too much water.  In the past I've had a drop of water run down the front on the inside of the shield.  Then another drop and so on every few minutes while riding in a normal heavy rain.  On this ride I first felt a fine spray or mist inside the helmet (recall that I shut everything off before the heavy rain hit me but did not use the chin cover normally used in the winter).  Then the water droplets continued to get bigger to the point that I had as much water on the inside of the shield as I did on the outside.  Perhaps it was the wind forcing the rain in but it should not happen.  It's a safety issue IMO.  On a plus note I never got fogging inside the helmet.

My helmet didn't do much better

And what are these bugs that are out by the millions immediately following the rain?  They look like termites.  They are rather sticky since it was still raining when they start to come out yet don't get washed off the bike.  They would hit my helmet and stick and when I moved my head into the air stream to try to blow them off it only got worse with many more hits.

Thanks for reading,