US-1 Florida Keys

Riding in Rain

November 2005

After two weeks of riding across the country, and another two doing what little I could to aid bikers hit by Hurricane Katrina, my web business backlog precluded participation in this year’s Key West Poker Run. I did manage to break away for a ride south to Islamorada, however, on the Sunday when everyone else was riding back north to nurse their hangovers.

As I passed through the Card Sound toll booth heading east, I could see the dark gray wall of a summer squall in the skies just ahead. Having long ago accepted that riding in rain is just part of a biker’s life, I breezed on over the bridge. I felt the first few raindrops splash my cheeks as I rounded a bend and rolled into some backed up traffic. When the road straightened out, the cause of the queue came clearly into view:

Just ahead, the westbound lane was completely blocked by half a dozen new-looking Geezer Glides–stands down, lids up, in the middle of the road–as the flock of Rolex Riders who owned (or rented) them took their own sweet time adorning their brightly-colored matching top-and-bottom raingear.

Want to know what’s wrong with that picture? JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Whenever you stop to put on raingear, or for any other reason, don’t stop in the middle of the road! Especially on a two lane road, and especially if there’s a curve or other obstruction causing limited visibility. If you need to pull over, do just that: Pull over to the side of the road, and park your bike as far out of harm’s way as you can. I don’t know if those Rolex Riders were being arrogant or just ignorant, but either way they were damned fortunate some big truck didn’t come lumbering around the bend and flatten the lot of them.

Why suit up for a summer shower anyway? Experienced distance riders watch the weather and read the skies, and so can you. If you expect to be riding in hard rain for an extended period, consider donning your raingear before you leave. It’s safer than suiting up roadside, and saves time as well. If, on the other hand, all you have to deal with is a little South Florida sprinkle, why pull over? By the time you get your gear on, the rain may be gone. If, for example, those Rolex Riders could’ve coped with a few raindrops for just one mile more, they would’ve been in the clear. And Frogg Toggs or not, I bet they ended up getting wetter from their pause and perspiration than I did from just riding on through.

Riding in the rain may be unpleasant, but pulling over is not always desirable. If you want or need to keep going, remember that there are increased risks due to decreased visibility (yours and the other guy’s), less traction and longer braking distances. The hazards are even greater at night or in fog, and the ride can be absolutely miserable if you are cold as well as wet. I know: I once rode through unrelenting rain for over 350 miles–from Mobile to Huntsville Alabama–on a cold winter’s night, through an endless blanket of fog.

I shivered, but I survived. Ride safe, and so will you.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!