Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: My Perspective on Riding Conditions

3.22.2011

My Perspective on Riding Conditions

I've often heard from motorcyclists here in Ohio that they are "fair-weather" riders. The definition of "fair-weather" is usually temps no colder than 45°F, little to no wind, and somewhat sunny. Their bikes have never seen rain because they look "horrible" with dirt and dust on them. These are also the same people where, like clockwork, the motorcycle gets "put-up" for the winter right after the twilight ride during Labor Day weekend, regardless of how nice the conditions are outside. It is here in Ohio that the motorcycle "season" is truly one at that.

If I decided to be that kind of rider I'd only be riding for maybe a couple months during the year. (I don't think Eleanor would be very pleased about that, especially with all those places we still need to visit together.)

The best example of the flaws in this riding mentality was our exceptionally warm fall season in 2010. There were days when temperatures were well over 70°F and even surprisingly warmer. I did see more bikes than usual in October and November but when temps began to drop just below 40 I found myself alone on the road with my two-wheeled vehicle. By not suiting oneself up properly in insulating gear or even simply changing out the gloves worn (or wearing any at all) a rider can easily deny himself/herself of at least an additional two months of riding time.

From my experience in riding in inclement and non-ideal weather all over the United States, these are the personal boundaries I set for myself when deciding whether or not to ride in certain weather.

Dry and cold weather (defined as 32°F and below): Rideable as long as it's clear. For longer rides there must be no possibility for precipitation because anything coming down at this point can mean snow. Equipping oneself with proper insulation (layers or heated gear) can keep you riding indefinitely in these conditions. When taking twistier routes, take more time to let your bike's tires warm up to improve grip on the road.

Wet and cold (defined as 40°F and below with precipitation): I often use the "10 degree over rule" when riding in wet conditions. The ground is slowest to freeze and is on average ten degrees warmer than the air temperature. I would, however, be weary about wet bridges when riding close to freezing temps because, like the sign says, bridges are the first places where ice forms when the ground is wet. In extremely mild snowfall, air temperatures just at freezing (32°F) are similar to that of rain because snowflakes will melt instantly upon contact with the ground. The bike will get put away when snow flurries start to stick.

Are you the kind of person that will ride in not-so-ideal weather? It does come down to a personal decision. How cold do I want to go? How much do I want to invest in cold weather gear? What is my tolerance level to extreme cold? How confident am I in controlling my motorcycle when the ground is colder? I am an anomaly to the sport of motorcycling and know it. I resign myself to the fact that during the months of January, February, and half of March I will probably be one of the only active motorcyclists in Ohio. But out here, every possible day to ride is a gift that I don't like to waste.