Rain can strike at any time of the year, but as the temperature continues to drop, you’ll want to be ready to find the rain and the cold at the same time. Keep in mind that when you’re traveling at high speeds, the wind-chill factor you’ll experience is much worse. As much as we’d like you to stay off the roads when it’s wet out, we know that sometimes you can be caught off guard. So make sure you’re ready if the weather turns sour. Here at Hellbender Harley-Davidson®, we’ve provided some of the basics for riding in cold rain so you can better prepare yourself, but you’ll want to make sure your bike is ready for any kind of riding. For regular maintenance and repairs, stop by our location in Marietta near Atlanta serving the areas of Smyrna, Kennesaw, and Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Start by making sure you have all the proper equipment. This goes beyond safety, although things like a helmet and pads are always important. Make sure the gear you’re wearing is suited for the rain. Plastic outerwear is okay, but it doesn’t provide a lot of insulation. If you don’t expect to encounter a lot of rain, then a waterproof jacket and waterproof pants will probably suffice for the occasional emergency. However, if you know you’ll be riding in the rain on a regular basis, we highly recommend a one-piece waterproof riding suit. These provide seamless coverage and are often better insulated. Also make sure you have waterproof boots to protect your feet, and waterproof gloves that are insulated to protect your hands. Try to fit as much of this in your motorcycle’s cargo storage as you can so it’s on hand and ready to use if it starts to rain.
You’ll want to consider how you can best keep yourself warm as well. Remember, when you’re riding at highway speeds, the air can feel as much as 20 degrees cooler from wind chill alone. The key to staying warm is layers. Layering keeps you better insulated than one heavy coat does, and if you get too hot, you can just remove a layer or two. As we mentioned before, your gloves should be insulated as your dexterity is very essential for your bike’s controls. You can also look into getting handles with heated grips for added warmth. If your boots don’t provide proper insulation, try wearing layers of socks, preferably a normal sock first and then a thicker, warmer sock on top.
For particularly cold days, you can get clothing with heaters built into them. This can be particularly useful for your hands and feet, since they’re most susceptible to the cold. But it can be a little much for the rest of your body, especially if it’s only a little cold out. Layering should do the trick most of the time, but if you find you’re still too cold, consider looking for heated jackets.
Now that you’re wearing warm and waterproof layers, make sure you’re exercising safe riding practices for road conditions. Defensive riding is more important during hazardous road conditions than any other time. Keep your eyes peeled for potential problems, like sudden slowdowns, obstacles, and overly-aggressive drivers. You’ll need to anticipate these problems rather than reacting to them.
You’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for high-risk areas or low traction areas. Metal construction plates are a great example of a road hazard that loses traction as it gets wet. Piles of leaves can also cause a problem as they tend to form a slippery paste when wet. Places where cars can idle and drop oil, like intersections, can make for slick roads when the oil mixes with water. If you can’t avoid a low traction area, just be careful as you pass over it, either coasting through it without any changes or making direction and speed changes slowly and carefully. Suddenly shifting course can cause you to slide.
Instead, look for dry areas. Many roads form a “W” shape over time with two trenches forming where many commuter vehicle tires wear down the road. Water tends to gather in these trenches, creating a hydroplaning risk. Instead, try to stay in the center hump where it’s usually drier and there’s more better traction.
Riding in the rain and the cold may not be completely avoidable, but no matter where you are, if conditions get really bad, stay off the road. There’s no reason to put yourself at risk if you recognize better conditions are soon to follow. And don’t forget that your bike will need regular maintenance and repairs to make sure it’s ready for the road. When it’s time to visit the mechanic, contact your friends at Hellbender Harley-Davidson® in Marietta, near Atlanta, Georgia. We proudly serve the areas of Smyrna, Kennesaw, and Sandy Springs, Georgia.