Anytime you are traveling on your motorcycle; it is incredibly important to be fully aware of the weather conditions during the duration of your time riding. I’m going to outline some simple guidelines and basic gear that keep me out of trouble.
If you’ve never been in the rain on your motorcycle, I highly recommend it. Not for the fun of it, but for the pure experience of knowing how to handle it when it happens. There are times when you are riding, you start to feel the rain come, and you can stay ahead of it, or maybe it starts to downpour and there is no shelter. Whatever it might be, know your limitations when riding through rough weather conditions.
Let’s start by going over what you can or should always have on you for any long rides. Your helmet is your first line of defense for keeping you safe, dry, and hopefully, maintain visibility through any bad weather. Most riders prefer a full face helmet with a range of visors to keep from the weather. When it rains, and you have an open faced helmet, it can feel like you are getting whipped in the face with a wire brush going 60 miles an hour. Find a helmet that makes sense for all scenarios, just like any piece of equipment, it’s important that its function meets its requirement.
Pick out a reliable rain suit to have on you at all times when on long rides. Your rain gear will compliment your riding jacket and other riding gear and keep you dry/warm. The key to having these crucial items is to keep you focused on the machine and navigating through rough weather. If there is a moment you get too cold from the rain, or you’re in too much pain from the open face helmet, you can get distracted, and unfortunate circumstances occur. So remember, this is about maintaining your focus and pushing through some of the hardest riding conditions you might experience.
I’ve driven past tornadoes forming in South Dakota, freezing rain in Montana, extremely cold temperatures in Idaho, and blinding fog in Oregon. You can handle this if prepared with the right gear, and the right tools to help predict the weather changes to make smart decisions.
Your most important tool with the weather is your senses. Anyone who rides knows that you feel the weather change when the pressure drops. One of the perks of being on a motorcycle is you truly experience all of your surroundings. Pay attention to this and perfect sensing it when it happens. Your senses will help you make decisions on the road without any hesitation.
I always keep my Midland HH50 Pocket Weather Radio in my riding jacket. It receives NOAA broadcasts from around-the-clock and provides severe weather information. This pocket radio is one of the most reliable pieces of gear I have. Before I head out for the day and when I take breaks, I listen to these weather reports. They are accurate and to the point.
If you are lucky enough to have cell phone service, I also recommend Weather Underground, Hi –Def Radar, and My Radar. These apps are accurate, their radar and predictions have helped me avoid the unavoidable when navigating.
The last piece of advice is to talk to the locals when you are stopping for gas or food. Tell them where you are headed and ask questions about your route. With a GPS, map, and smartphone you might think you're set, but there are still plenty of updates you will not be aware of on the road. They will help give you advice on any known construction or insight into the weather.
This type of information from locals saved me from poor decisions plenty of times, and you can’t go wrong with starting a good conversation that leads to helpful tips. Besides, that’s part of the reason for getting out there. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, practice riding in poor weather, and know your limitations.