Surviving Vancouver weather on a motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle in Vancouver year-round.

Riding a motorcycle is fun, IMO way more fun that driving a car. But with the weather, a lot of riders will ride only during the warmer season. I learned to cope with the rain, it does not bother me as much as it used to, I even enjoy it on some days. There were two occasions when I got soaking wet under the most extreme conditions; but, overall, it was not as bad as most people think of it.

If you are wearing layers of clothing, you can adapt to changing weather. If it’s getting warm, take a layer or two off, if it’s starting to rain, put your rain gear on. Try to keep your warm/rain gear on top of the saddlebag or the top case, or make it easy to reach otherwise.

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Things you will need.

1. Good rain gear. Make sure to get waterproof, not just water-resistant outerwear. If there is waterproof rating, the higher the number is, the better. 11,000+ is optimal. It needs to be able to breath but still not allow water to creep in.

2. Buy a helmet with an anti-fog lens/insert. If you need glasses to ride, this is a must – having moisture on your helmet visor and/or glasses is not only annoying, but is very dangerous. If you are on a limited budget, you can get an anti-fog spray, but it needs to be re-applied from time to time; plus some chemical compounds may damage the visor.

I suggest HJC CL-17 Mission (or whatever their latest version is) for under $150. It is DOT and SNELL approved (which is pretty rare for a helmet under $300). Icon Alliance is ECE-approved, so it also is a very good choice, albeit a tiny bit more pricey (~$165).

Keep in mind, that DOT merely posts the requirements, and it is up to the manufacturer to test them and make sure that they follow these requirements. I tried to find the agency with the most precise testing method, and my research led me to SHARP. They test helmets in a variety of ways (see the link, it’s actually pretty neat), and post their findings. A safe helmet is not always the most expensive helmet, sometimes you pay more for the comfort and light materials, which do not necessarily hold damage as good as cheaper and heavier, but more solid alternatives.

3. Waterproof gloves and/or heated grips. If possible, get heated motorcycle gloves. It’s not the most pleasant situation to have your fingers so cold that you can’t move them when you need them so much.

I use winter gloves from the link above. They are reasonably waterproof and warm. You can buy them locally from this dude.

4. Heavier chain lube. Routinely lubricate the chain once a week during the rain season. It’s the least difficult thing to do to keep it running for the longest time. I recommend using dry lube, it’s way less messy than the spray-on, albeit a little trickier to put on.

Things you may need.

1. Rain/mud tiresMichelin Pilot Power 3Bridgestone BATTLAX BT-45Pirelli Angel ST, Shinko Advance 005 are all very good choices, if available in your size. They MUST be DOT-certified!

2. Motorcycle boots. Keep in mind, that rain decreases handling, and,therefore, increases the chance of an accident. I’d much rather spend $100-400 on a good pair of boots, which will likely  work forever, and will give me a much better chance of keeping my feet safe. If you are on a budget, getting dirt-bike boots ($150-250), or good hiking boots ($100+) is still much better than riding in your everyday DC sneakers. I would rather spend an extra even $400 to have my legs safe. Be smart, guys, learn from others’ mistakes. At the end of the day, being able to walk is more important than an extra few hundreds in your bank account.

3. If you park outside, invest in a good rain cover ($50+). I park in the garage overnight, but there is no covered parking where I work. I also found that covers draw attention away and prevent people from messing with your bike. Cheap rain covers will allow water through during heavy rain, and will prevent water from evaporating when it gets warmer, thus creating rust, which will cost you much more in the long-run.

These are quite good choices for the waterproof rain covers:

1) JMT® Waterproof UV Resistant Camouflage Motorcycle Cover – $28.35 w/ free shipping;
2) Bosmere C900 Bicycle/Motorcycle Cover – $39.99 w/ free shipping;
3) Vega X-Large Waterproof and Flame Retardant Motorcycle Cover – $87.38 + shipping;

4. Tire pressure gauge. I’d opt for the digital ones, as it’s easier to see the precise measurement. Michelin Vigil tire gauge needs no batteries to run, and it has a nice solid case to keep it safe. It will work with the bike you have now and any bike you get in the future, so it’s a worthwhile investment. Check your tire pressure roughly once a week. It takes very little time, and keeps you safe. The appropriate tire pressure for your bike should be listed in the Owner’s Manual.

5. If you wear glasses, get ones with the plastic frame. The metallic frames get cold, and it is uncomfortable.

6. Balaclava. You may look like a rapist while wearing it, but it beats having a permanent brain-freeze feeling while riding (more for winter months).

Here you can buy one for $4.38 CAD w/ free shipping. I’m sure you can find them locally, too, for a little more.

7. High-visibility gear. As bright as you can imagine. Acid-yellow, acid-orange, with thick reflective stripes. Most drivers do not expect a motorcycle rider on the road outside of Summer months, and it’s always a good idea to be as visible as possible.

A reflective vest is an easy way to turn to any gear into high-visibility gear. Cheap vests from Walmart (about $7 +tax) and Canadian Tire ($19.99 +tax) do not look pretty, but they do the job.

Here you can buy an acid-green Nerve vest for $27.59 CAD w/ free shipping.

Extra safety tips.

1. Stay away from the road markings and manhole covers. They are very slippery, when wet, and can cause your wheels to skid.

2. Keep away from puddles and gas leaks (those coloured puddles). You never know, how deep they are. Also, a lot of sport or sport-touring bikes have wider rear tires, which may hydroplane.

3. The first 15 minutes are the most dangerous, because during that time all the grease, oil and grime from the road gets washed off, and it may be very slippery. If possible, get off the road when the rain just started, and wait for at least 10-15 minutes. There is a Russian proverb, which reads “The slower you ride, the further you get.”

4. Don’t ride during snow or icy conditions.

5. Downshift before you get to the turn.

6. Engage the front brake first, then, if necessary, add some rear brake. Be careful not to lock it, otherwise it will skid.

7. Keep your speed lower and the following distance longer than usual.

8. Lower your RPM shift points and delay gas on afterwards.

9. Place your bum further back on the seat, as it will add extra weight to the rear wheel, thus making the motorcycle more stable. 

10. Be very, VERY careful cornering on fallen leaves during the Fall and Spring. 

11. ICBC guide suggests to ride in the mid-portion of the lane, if you are in the middle or the very left lane on a multi-lane street/highway. This way you are more visible to others, and careless cagers are less likely to merge into you.

ICBC manual has a few tips on riding during the adverse conditions. Read it, then read it again, if needed.
Keep warm, safe and sound. After all, you are riding a motorcycle, and it is fun!

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