Rain has decided to visit Texas after taking nearly a year of vacation. Considering how much I enjoy being outdoors, rain is hardly something about which I am going to complain. We need the rain, and we need it in a bad way. Many of the places I enjoy visiting, as well as many of my hobbies, are directly threatened by the lack of rainfall over Texas in 2009. There is one thing, however, that is rather soured by the rain. That one thing happens to be my primary mode of transportation to and from UH. Motorcycles and rain just do not get along very well.
A rain cloud loitering in downtown Houston, TX
When I made the decision to move back to Houston and attend UH, I assumed I would move into a place closer to the school. This assumption was based on the ridiculous hope that the change in the G.I. Bill would provide me with sufficient funds to get a place without the need to be employed while finishing my engineering degree. No payments have been made thus far, so I stay with my parents and commute 360 miles per week to and from school. Parking permits for four-wheeled vehicles (to be referred to as “cages” henceforth) are so expensive I would not even remotely consider their purchase. As a result I get rained on, and I get rained on for many miles.
Ask any experienced motorcyclist what one must do to maximize one’s safety when riding amongst the cages, and the likely response will be something along the lines of “Ride as if everyone is trying to kill you.” Sage advice indeed. Today, no attempts were made on my life. I should likely purchase a lottery ticket, as days such as today are a rarity. Yesterday, on relatively dry concrete, I was forced to use the healthy application of both steering and throttle to avoid the absent-minded drifting of a woman in a late-model Nissan Armada more focused on painting her nails and talking on her phone than she was with driving her large automobile. Had the same thing occurred today, on a wet road, things might not have turned out so well.
Rarely do cagers see you on a motorcycle even on the clearest of days. Motorcyclists concerned with safety tend to deal with this by wearing bright colors and emitting (directly, or by reflection) as much light as possible. When it rains and visibility goes down the effectiveness of these tactics are, in my experience, reduced greatly. Things can get downright scary when riding in the rain.
Fortunately, a good riding suit, or even your regular riding apparel covered with a decent rain suit, can keep you reasonably comfortable and dry. This gives you the freedom to pay attention to the added dangers of riding in the rain. As an example the many on-ramps in the Houston area that are, for whatever reason, several feet below the level of both the freeway and the access road, happen to turn into mini-lakes when it rains for more than five minutes at a time. In a truck, you can just plow through these puddles and reasonably expect all to be well. On a motorcycle, you could quite literally kill yourself if you fail to traverse the pond slowly. Even then, as many of these ramps have lovely road paintings (that just so happen to get slick as ice when wet) to tell you exactly which freeway you have just entered, you are not sure to make it through without a mishap.
If you do not ride, or maybe even if you do, you are probably thinking I am insane by now. If you know me, there is a good chance you already thought so anyway. I love to ride, even if it is mostly limited to commuting on the super-slab of I-10. The risks are understood, and I do everything I can to mitigate those risks. If you plan accordingly, most weather you can handle comfortably in a cage does not present too insurmountable a problem on a motorcycle. Besides, I can ride the HOV by myself, go from 0-60 in a hair more than 4 seconds, and still get better fuel economy than a Prius (henceforth “smugmobile”, courtesy of @wildbill). Rain or shine, if I’m not already on it, I probably wish I was on my motorcycle.
My FJR covered in water drops