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Motorcycle Riding in the Rain

Ricardo Perez

My Harley After 600 Mile Ride
This weekend we rode to Boerne, Texas for some service work on a couple of 2010 BMW RTs at the Alamo BMW Motorcycle dealer. It's about a 300 mile ride each way and on our way up we rode most of the way through fog, mist, and/or rain with temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s . We actually left Friday morning about 5am so the first hour and half was before sunrise, but once daylight arrived it still looked fairly gloomy with low hanging clouds and fog and rain. Our ride was fairly uneventful except for the time I got a chuck of Javelina meat on my helmet. It was fresh road kill which a car in front of me kicked up while we were doing about 70mph. The driver in front of us ran right over it and we were able to maneuver in-between carcass parts. I cleaned my helmet at the next gas stop.
Since two of the guys had service appointments we rode up taking the fast route up Highway 281/37/&10.  I used a two piece Tour Master rain gear which is about eight years old and discovered on our arrival in Boerne that the pant's inner lining was beginning to flake off so I was wet from my knees to my ankles, not a good thing in cool weather. I ended up buying new rain gear from BMW and I'll report on that in another posting.
Coming back down to the Rio Grande Valley we had more time and chose to travel via Highway 16, running from San Antonio through Jourdanton, Freer, Hebbronville and San Isidro. Traffic on this once peaceful route is now congested with oil rigs working on the new oil fracking business. As we pulled into Jourdanton's only gas stop and convenience store we entered a crazy hectic scene of trucks and pickups of mostly roughnecks and a few hunters. Those Fracking boys have literally swarmed all over South and Southwest Texas and taken hold of every gas stop, motel, and restaurant. The parking lot in Jourdanton's gas station was filled with mud from both the vehicles and the worker's boots. A temporary boot cleaning station was setup in front of the store's entrance to minimize the amount of mud workers tracked inside. The scene was surreal and our fellow rider Marcos Gutierrez said, this is how it must have looked like during the Gold Rush Days. What a fitting analogy. This fracking business is really keeping our Texas economy going, but it sure lessens some of the beauty of our rides. Now its not uncommon to see endless lines of trucks, pipelines hugging the highways and oil rig patches where once was bluebonnets. And that's not to mention the amount of debris on the road ranging from simple trash to oil pipelines, that makes for a risky ride. The price of progress!
As you can see from the photo, it's not too smart to get too close to one of those big rigs. Most of those rigs are coming onto the highway from dirt roads so their tires are loaded with mud and even if you give them a wide berth as you're passing them you'll get some mud. My bike ended up about as dirty as its ever been.
In San Isidro we saw a guy win $10,000 on a scratch-off card! Marco promptly bought a scratch-off card and asked the winner to touch his card. No Luck! I also had the misfortune of hitting a Road-Runner as it flew in front me. I was doing 78mph when it collided with me. The feathers in the above picture show them as they were stuck to the head light trim. It was a big bird and I was surprised to see it flying instead of running as they usually do. So on this short ride I had Javelina and Road-Runner either on me or the bike.
On the return ride it only rained for about 50 miles or less and my new rain gear worked perfectly. The clouds and rain were blown away by a stiff northern that reportedly had gusts up to 56mph at times. The wind was hitting us diagonally between our backs and right side as we headed South.
Here's my tips on riding in the rain:
1. If it's a heavy rain use your rain gear's head hood if you've got one. It'll keep rain from running down your helmet and onto your back.
2. Close your helmet vents.
3. Wear gloves that allow you to wipe your face shield like the BMW Motorrad All Season gloves that are water proof and also have a handy squeegee on the left hand's forefinger. It's a life saver.
4. Spray your inside face shield with some type of anti-fog agent if it's wet and cold or use the double layer shield that's made to avoid face shield fogging.
5. Take enough time to make sure your rain jacket is zipped up all the way, collar is fully closed as well as sleeve openings.
6. Close rain pants well at waist and especially on the lower leg openings.
7. Wear water proof boots. I normally use Red Wings, but when it's raining I'll use my Sidi Boots that always keep out moisture. Nothing worse than riding with wet feet.
8. Take time to check your mobility ranges. If it's cold and your layered up with shirts and jackets underneath your rain gear you may have trouble moving and turning your head as you normally do so check out how much limitations you have with everything on.
9. Careful on the road. Trust your tires if they're in good condition. A tire in the rain will still have about 80% of its normal grip so don't be afraid to lean into your turns just don't overdo it. I've seen guys taking curves in the rain and drifting into the other lane because they're trying to stay upright instead of taking the turn with a normal lean angle.
10. Watch that middle of the lane section. It can be the last part of the highway to get oil and mud completely washed off so I usually avoid that part of the lane and stick to the well marked auto tire trails.
11. Watch those big rigs when you're passing them. They can really shower you with dirty rain water, sometimes in an instant and making your vision almost zero. I'll usually speed up when passing a big rig just to be safe.
12. Keep yourself well spaced between vehicles and other fellow riders so you've increased your margin of error.
13. Try to minimize the amount of time you ride in the rain after sunset.
14. Enjoy the ride, don't let a little rain spoil your plans. We only stop if its raining so hard that you can't see, but then everyone is usually pulling over.

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What I Carry on Motorcycle Trips

Tomas Perez

Updated: 2012/11/17

I know there are hundreds of postings on what to carry on motorcycle rides and this posting is just one more opinion. My concept is to keep it simple (and light) but carry what you must. My joke to friends is "if you got your cell phone and a credit card that is all you need"... but of course I add a few items to that list.

My list:
1 - Windshield cleaner, micro cloths and regular shop rag (in fairing pocket).
2 - Multi tool.
3 - Flash light.
4 - Torx tools.
5 - Plug kit and air compressor.
6 - A couple of straps in case I have to strap something on the bike.
7 - Zip ties.
8 - Pocket knife and a micro multi tool.

I need to add a couple of notes at this time. I'm older now... maybe wiser... when I was very young my list included bungee cords and chain lube... and none of the items listed above. Point #2 - I recently added the items in #5 above. I purchased a new bike less than two years ago and got a flat at 612 miles. I had not even gotten home yet. It happened on the way home from the dealer. I had two more flats before the 3,000 mile mark. Just bad luck. I now have 23,000 miles on the bike without any more flats (I know I shouldn't have said that... knocking on wood...).

These items are in addition to my normal riding gear including rain gear. I got light and heavy rain gear. That also includes rain covers for the seat and tankbag.

I'm not recommending any particular product but I'll include photos of some of the items that I use.

This is the tire plug kit and compressor that I carry. I used it to plug the last flat that I got and rode the bike for a few hundred miles without any problems. The plug kit is in the tail section of my bike (R1200RT). Compressor is in a saddle bag.  Update: I now carry the compressor in the tail section also.  I now have both items with me at all times.  I moved things around and still have plenty of room left over in the tail section.

I like these Torx wrenches (Star Pro). At home I have the 3/8 inch drive types but I almost always use these to work on the bike. They are handy and pack small. I carry them in the existing tool pouch under the seat. Note: I'm currently riding a BMW motorcycle that uses mostly Torx fasteners. I did not have this tool set on my Honda.

I used to carry the Leatherman 300 but found it a bit heavy for carrying in a tank bag. I found the flashlight and Leatherman Fuse on sale at Academy for I think $25.88 for both items. The flashlight is very good. It's the Leatherman Monarch 400. It shoots a beam of light a long ways thus not the best type for road side repairs where a flood type is best but great for campground or search type use.  These I now carry in the fairing pocket.

Update 07/23/2012 - I am adding another flashlight to my touring package.  I purchased a FourSevens Quark Pro QP2L-X flashlight.  The Leatherman 400 is rated at 45 Lumens for 1 hour on one AA battery.  The Quark runs on 2 CR123A batteries and has 8 operating modes - moonlight, low, medium, high, max, strobe, SOS, and beacon.  Moonlight is 0.3 lumens and runs for 25 days!  The other settings for regular light functions are 3.0 (5 days), 65 (11 hours), 160 (4 hours), and 360 (1.7 hours).  This is a much better flashlight for long term use (for example camping).  FYI: There is also a MiniX that is about half the size and uses only 1 CR123A battery.
I also ordered a Preon 1 from the same company to use as an EDC.  That unit uses a single AAA battery.

FourSevens Quark Flashlight

Leatherman and SOG Aegis

I always carry these on the road and whenever I'm in casual wear. I have a few knives that I use but the SOG Aegis (about $70) is one of my favorites. I now carry the Leatherman Micra (about $20) also because I have used it so much recently. Not just for bike stuff but everyday stuff. Matter of fact someone borrowed it a few days ago to install batteries in their kid's Christmas toys. My tool box was out in the garage but the Micra did the job.
Update 2012/11/17 - Why the SOG Aegis?  It's large enough to get most cutting jobs done yet not so large not to fit in any size pocket.  The blade opens very easily and only one hand is require to open the blade.  By the way, you can also lock the blade in the closed position if you want.  It's very light for the size of the knife.  I think it is 3.1 oz.  The lock blade mechanism is very solid.  The clip is located very high so that when you have the knife in your pocket very little of it shows.  BTW, this is a tip up only carry.  That is not a problem with me - I prefer tip up carry.  The clip can be switched to the other side so that it becomes a left hand carry.

I probably forgot an item or two but these are the main items I carry. Like I said, the older I get the more items I carry. And I still want to add a few items like siphon tube, jumper cables, more tools, trail mix, etc. At any rate, this is my list - some carry more, others carry less. This past summer I met a guy riding from South America to the USA, then Canada, and finally Alaska. Not sure of all that he had on board but we did learn that he had two helmets and a final drive for his GS.

I'm still considering two items that I've never carried before - a small siphon hose and jumper cables (motorcycle type of course).  I would go with the siphon hose before the cables.  One of the guys that I often ride with carries jumper cables which he once used to help start another bike.  Both of these items sure are handy when you need them.