First Rain

Apr 24, 2013 View Comments by

First RainI wait for the first rain of spring, or at least what passes for spring around here. It’s not because it brings May flowers, which are nice, or that it raises our lake levels and waters our crops—also good things. No, it’s because it washes the salt and sand from the roadways, and most importantly, the intersections, and this has to be a real “gully washer” before I will even think of taking my bike out of storage. I believe most of my readers understand the reason for this, because by now you have enough riding experience. But for beginners or the lucky Sun Belt suckers…it’s so you don’t fall on your assets! Every year as soon as the snow melts, I will see some “newbie” out there on his/her bike blasting around the corners. By evening, they are on the news for wiping out. There are plenty of dangers on the road without going out there and looking for them! Just let Mother Nature do her thing and rinse the world clean; you will ride longer and safer too.

If you are unlucky enough to get caught in the rain, as I have on numerous road trips, there are a few things to keep in mind: Leave extra “living room” between you and the rest of traffic, even your buddies on their bikes. Stay in your track and out of the centerline where all the grease is—water and oil don’t mix. Keep a relaxed but firm grip on the handlebar, it doesn’t need to be white knuckle. Set yourself up for “side wash,” particularly from passing trucks, lean into the wind and the wave. Remember it takes longer to stop, especially if you want to stay upright.

Most importantly: You can’t spend too much for rain gear! I have two sets, both official Harley-Davidson suits, not cheap dates, but man do they work. I had a discount store suit that I religiously carried with me (unused) for three years, then one day I was caught in a downpour and needed it. The wind tore its flimsy plastic snaps to bits, and of course, it leaked right down to the crotch—delightful. That was the day I bought a real HD rain suit. I may be frugal, but I do learn. Everyone is different but I prefer a full-face helmet with a tight shield (leave it cracked so it doesn’t fog), waterproof boots, and for gloves, I like to use rubberized diving gloves, both warm and dry.

With enough patience and preparedness rain may not be fun, but it won’t ruin your day. Ride on.

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About the author

A Wisconsin farm boy, I learned how to ride a cow, before a horse and way before a motorcycle. I first started riding on my 16th birthday and I took my first real ride at my party: I pulled a wheelie and dug a trench in the lawn, which sent the bike in one direction and me in another. I was irrevocably hooked!