Want to ditch your car? How will you get groceries? What happens when it rains? Don't worry, here's how to become an all-weather motorcyclist.
I don’t own a car anymore. A few years ago, I made the decision to become a year-round, all-weather motorcyclist. Mentioning this inevitably surprises most people and instigates a few questions on how I go grocery shopping. My transition to this lifestyle came about mostly by trial and error. Whether it was for commuting, errand running, or weekend rides, there was a lot to adjust to, but I eventually found my way. These tips will help you make that transition to a car-less lifestyle too.
Prepare Your Body
This is a factor most do not consider. Wear earplugs every day. Riding weekdays and weekends (especially with a highway commute) can exacerbate hearing loss, which is both cumulative and nonreversible. Take a few extra seconds to sunscreen or protect exposed skin on your wrists and your neck. Wearing short gloves and a low collar jacket in southern Florida left me with never-ending, mild sunburn until I wised up to SPF35. Also, if you’re a sport bike rider, work on having adequate core strength to maintain good riding posture for your daily ride.
Prepare Your Mind
One of the quickest lessons to internalize is a willingness to accept some discomfort as part of the process. Every ride will no longer be on a lovely summer day with perfect temperatures and ideal road conditions. Some days will end up being downright miserable. When the ride turns less than brilliant, change your attitude and defy the weather. Sing as loudly as possible inside your helmet. Curse the rain gods. Change the route to your work/school/house if only to find new roads and keep from becoming complacent while riding. This has the added bonus of giving your brain something fresh so your attention stays sharp.
Prepare Your Bike
Heated Coax/SAE connections are cheap and easy to install for when they’re needed down the road. A powered USB line has multiple uses all in its own right; it can provide charging for phones, cameras, battery packs, and more. Luggage will help you out immensely in your day in, day out riding. Start tailoring a real tool kit to your bike’s needs. If you want to really go crazy on bike preparedness, you could even spring for an automatic tire pressure monitoring system, revise the ergonomics with a better seat/rearsets/handlebars, or in some cases buy a larger gas tank. There are so many modifications that are useful for year round riding it would take up several articles just to cover the basics.
Prepare Your Gear
Properly designed motorcycle winter gear makes all the difference in the world when the temperatures drop. Summer gear with liners and some thermal underwear still lets cold air in and robs you of warmth. Rain riding can end up being an absolute blast even with inexpensive Frogg Toggs. Most winter gear that you can purchase does double duty keeping you warm and dry. When you’re on extended trips in the cold, nothing works quite as well as heated liners. For any season of riding, consider wearing ATGATT. It may end up requiring extra time, money, and inconvenience, but it’s worth the alternative.
Prepare To T-CLOCS Frequently
We all know how often we should be going through some form of T-CLOCS inspection checklist on our bikes. How often that falls in line with reality is another matter. With a bike as your main form of transportation, one cannot afford to skip T-CLOCS. I’ll often go through an abbreviated checklist if time is short, but I try to go through a full T-CLOCS at least twice a week. Out of all that is listed here, this is one of the more difficult habits to form. It’s one of the few routines that don’t show an immediate payoff until the first time you find a sizable nail in your rear tire before setting off.
Prepare For The Work Environment
Dress codes for most jobs can cause concerns for the commuting motorcyclist. As I’m sure you’ve read on RideApart, an Aerostitch Roadcrafter or similar can give you the full protection you need while being easy to take off when you get to work. All that’s left is changing from motorcycle boots to office shoes. If the initial cost of a Roadcrafter is too high, some piecemeal options are available. Various brands of motorcycle pants can offer protection and still meet the code for business casual. Depending on the work environment, some of the more subtly designed motorcycle boots can work in an office setting. Consider keeping a grooming kit at the office to take care of whatever the helmet does to your head and/or facial hair.
Prepare For Fancy Events or A Night Out On The Town
This one is similar to preparing for the work environment but comes with it’s own unique solutions. Riding jeans can be had with kevlar panels and protective inserts that still retain a smart and stylish look. Find a nice leather jacket that works on and off the bike. Boots are harder to find, but there are designs out there that don’t look either boring or ridiculous. Think Dainese Cafe Boots or the crazy cool Icon 1000 Elsinore Boots. Have a plan on how or where to stash your gear (with a friend, at the coat check, or securely on the bike) when you get to the event.
Prepare To Budget Your Time
Being a daily motorcyclist comes with numerous advantages, but the time required before setting off is not one of them. Spare morning time can get eaten up with getting on gear, running through a quick T-CLOCS, hooking up heated liners, fiddling with your GPS, waiting for the engine to warm up, and getting what you need packed away for the day. Budget more time than you think you need. Cutting it close works fine until you have last minute problems. This approach helps avoid careless mistakes whether you’re heading to work or starting a week-long ride.
Prepare To Find Your Limits
Learn to become acutely aware of your physical and mental limits and how approaching them affects your riding. Avoid riding when you’re exhausted. Getting into a routine and imposing a responsible sleep routine keeps you from feeling groggy and losing mental clarity when you start that early morning commute. Avoid large, heavy lunches that might make you feel tired and impair your reflexes or critical thinking. This holds especially true on long road trips where you’re unfamiliar with the route conditions. Riding every day significantly increases your risk, so you need to step up the awareness of your limits to mitigate it.
Prepare To Have Fun
The first time riding in a torrential, downright biblical rainstorm can make you as giddy as a ride on the perfect road on the perfect day. Enjoy the biting cold and the stinging rain. Enjoy waving to little kids in cars that act like they’ve just seen a superhero. Remember that whether we want to or not, we are daily ambassadors for our collective passion.
Are you an all-weather rider? Have any additional tips to share?