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If Weather Turned You Around - WHY?

A rainy day last spring was an eye opener about riding in inclement weather.

The plan was to ride from Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass and meet another rider who would be coming from the south sound over Tiger Mountain and then over Snoq. We'd meet in Ellensberg.

It was cold and rainy. Heated gear made all the difference in being able to hold my concentration through a downpour and wind. I pulled into North Bend for a coffee break and to regain my composure before heading up over the pass. A warm beverage does a nice job of warming the body from the inside out, coupled with wearing heated gear, having a heated seat and heated grips; it does make a crappy day go by a lot better.

Arriving at Snoqualmie Pass, I took another break, checked my phone and found the text. "Turned around at Tiger Mountain. Too much rain, I won't be seeing you today."

That got me thinking of all the reasons why riders turn around in bad weather. Even seasoned riders.

Gear failure

There's lots of reasons why gear fails. Leaky gloves, boots and rain gear lead a long list. In most of these cases, it's the seams that fail. Getting your skin wet on a cold day will send you seeking warm shelter and a way to dry out.

The advent of the one-piece motorcycle suit was intended to be used for short-run commuting making it simpler for the working class to wear their work clothes underneath and make a superman change once they reach the workplace. But some riders purchased these suits with the intention of wearing them for long-range riding. We have yet to see a one-piece riding suit come to market that does not leak after an extended period of riding in a down pour.

Figure out where you need to fill the gaps and upgrade your gear.

No external heat

It's simply not possible for the body to generate enough heat on a cold day to maintain normal internal body temperature during a long-range highway speed ride. So, you need to add in an external heat source. The options are many, including iron oxide heat packs, heated grips, a heated seat, or electric clothing such as a vest, pants, gloves and socks. Dropping the core temp below the 98 degree mark will give you the feeling of having the flu, and that will tear your concentration away from maintaining awareness of what's happening around you. Not good.

If you're getting to cold on cold rides, upgrade to some external heat.

Lack of experience

Seasoned riders remember their first encounter with heavy winds. Keeping a bike up as the wind rips around you can really be an interesting time to learn how to lean into it. And just like crossing a grated bridge, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Lack of knowledge

Riders fighting wind, pelting rain, crossing a grated bridge or working a bike through light snow have the propensity to tighten their shoulders. At that point you're controlling the steering with locked arms and frozen shoulders. Not a conducive way to ride a bike. Keeping the upper body relaxed will allow you better control of the bike in these conditions. But how would you learn that?

Reading articles like this provide the answers. Determine what your actions and apprehensions are that you'd like to move beyond, and do some internet searches and, by all means, take an intermediate or advanced rider course and ask away.

Lack of confidence

There are riders who have ridden for years, taken all the classes and still have a lack of confidence when they get out in the tough stuff. Every time you come through a downpour, windstorm or otherwise, slow down, trust your knowledge and understanding of what you and your bike are capable of, then pat yourself on the back when you come out the other side.

Take breaks

Iron Butt riders despise taking breaks. But, since you're probably not participating in an iron butt event, take more breaks than usual so you keep that inner body temp balanced and your mind from wearing down beyond the point of total control. A personal preference is to take a break hourly.

Eat more

When it's cold out, your brain and body are burning a lot of calories to stay warm. You'll need to add more calories in to keep stoking that fire. Hot unsweetened liquids and high protein choices will ensure you don't whack your system with a sugar crash from eating fast carbs.

Ditch the minutia

Trying to dial in your favorite podcast or playlist and getting it to link with your Bluetooth headset is a distraction. You're gonna need all your mental power to focus on your ride, so today may not be the day to clutter your mind with extraneous input.

Lack of tread

Riding a motorcycle in the rain with less than 2/32's of tread is not advisable. In a strong downpour, your bike may not be able to wick water from the center to the edges of the tread. What happens next is hydroplaning and that's not a place you want to go.

Patrick Thomas/December 2017


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