The ’60s Beatles song captures the wish of all traveling motorcyclists, to ride only under the smiling sun. If only this were true reality often paints a different picture. On a recent two-week ride into Central Mexico, it rained on our group every single day. I appreciated my Frogg Toggs rain suit more than ever as the incessant rain continued and the temperatures dropped as we climbed into the mountains. I was both warm and dry, but I knew without the rain suit I wouldn’t have been able to continue.
The bottom line is that my rain suit was not an option, it was a necessity. The best advice is to avoid riding in the rain, but unless you live in Egypt or another desert nation, rain is inevitable. When the show must go on, riders have to be prepared to make a bad situation as good as possible. Rain gear is the answer. There are two problems caused by rain that can be addressed by proper rain gear: one is physical discomfort and the other is reduced visibility.
Rain typically comes with a weather front and is accompanied by a drop in temperature. Riding a motorcycle in cool temperatures while wet is conducive to the development of hypothermia. A rain suit performs the dual purpose of keeping the rider dry and keeping body heat trapped. This is a good argument for making a rain suit part of a standard motorcyclist gear along with a helmet, jacket, gloves and boots. Your staff should be familiar with rain gear options, so they can make informed recommendations. There are many types of rain suits at different prices. You may even have rain suits in inventory that you don’t know are rain suits. There are some clever new convertible jacket "systems" that render obsolete the plastic, decontamination-gear style rain suit, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Nine Rain Suit Basics
1. One-Piece Vinyl Rain Suit: A one-piece rain suit will always be more watertight than a two-piece rain suit, but let’s be honest, they look goofy and they’re a real pain to get into and out of. Less expensive vinyl versions are also susceptible to ripping at the seams, especially after that bacon double cheeseburger. They also tend to experience the dreaded pocket blow-out (see "pockets are stupid"). Packing size is relatively large, but they’re cheap. Some have reflective markings. Good for your cost-conscious customer.
2. Two-Piece Vinyl Rain Suit: A two-piece rain suit is more convenient to use and riders can just wear the jacket if it looks like the rain will be fairly light. It is always good to have options. When both pieces are worn as a set, unless the rider stands on his or her head, the water will probably not creep up from the bottom, flow upwards inside the jacket and over the top of the rain pants. I say "probably" because I’d bet this has happened to someone out there!
3. High-Tech, Lightweight Rain Suit: These are made of paper-like material, they’re extremely lightweight and pack down into a small volume. Recommended for motorcycle travelers, they’re more durable than they appear. Expensive, but from my experience, well worth the extra cost. Fashionable, they’re not think Omar, the tent maker, and you’ll get the picture.
4. Treated Fabric Rain Suit (Cordura, and other nylons): Many of the Cordura fabric jackets are waterproof and most textile jackets come with something like 45 tags attached. Check and see if "Waterproof" is listed on one of them. You may have more rain gear options on your floor right now that you knew about. This is an added benefit of some jackets that could be used to close the gear sale.
5. Jacket Systems/Mesh Jacket With Rain-Proof Liner: Your hot weather customers will be well-suited by the combination of a mesh suit with rain-proof liner. Olympia and FirstGear both offer these types of jackets. This jacket system is cost-effective because it combines the standard riding jacket with a zip-in rain jacket. Many of these systems also offer riding pants with a rain-proof liner it’s the total solution.
6. Zippers: Look for heavy-duty zippers and make sure the zippers have a flap backing so that rain can’t penetrate the zipper. Otherwise you’ll have a wet, unhappy customer.
7. Pockets Are Stupid: Every rain suit I’ve ever owned started to leak at the pockets, which I didn’t need anyway. We all have pockets on the clothes under the rain suit. Beware of pockets! If your customer wants pockets, mention that the fewer places where water can intrude, the better.
8. Waterproof Boot Covers: Rubber sleeves for boots. They sound like a good idea, but I’ve owned a pair for 10 years and haven’t used them even once, nor have I ever seen anyone else wearing them.
9. Waterproof Glove Covers: See "waterproof boot covers."
Vision can be severely impaired by rain while riding. Riders are handicapped because helmets don’t come with windshield wipers. Dealing with the rain itself, coupled with road grime being slung onto the visor, while the inside of the visor slowly fogs over is a significant challenge. Proper gear and gear preparation can help. Here are a couple cool ideas that work that you can share with your customers.
Gloves With Attached Squeegee: Some manufacturers offer gloves with a mini-squeegee on the thumb. This can be used as a miniature windshield wiper on the visor, simple and effective. As with the waterproof textile jackets, you may have these gloves already in stock. This feature is a selling point, but only if your customers are aware of its value.
Visor Anti-Fog Treatments: It’s a critical problem when a rider’s face shield fogs up on the inside. A simple anti-fog treatment applied before heading out will help immeasurably.
Weather Radio: Weather radio broadcasts come directly from the National Weather Service with no frills, just the weather facts. Because there are sub-stations across the country, they work everywhere in the U.S. broadcasting minute-by-minute weather updates. Most weather radios have an alarm feature triggered by emergencies, like tornado or flood warnings. In areas with dangerous weather, like the Great Plains, a weather radio is a lifesaver, but a weather radio is also essential gear for anyone who travels exposed to the elements. It’s cheap insurance. I always use one on long distance trips. If you don’t stock weather radios, it may be an interesting product to test with your customer base.
Preparing for bad weather isn’t exciting or glamorous, but failing to prepare can have dramatic results. April showers are upon us, it’s time to be prepared to assist your customers in riding farther, drier and safer.