Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wet Weather Motorcycling and How To Get Over It

I've got a little secret to admit. I used to hate riding in the wet.

I used to pretend I liked it so everyone would think I was tough, but secretly I was actually mostly shit scared of riding in the rain.

That is not to say that I did not do it, but I didn't really like it.
I'd tip in like a pansy, tip toe around corners, slow right down all the time, freeze up my shoulders and try to steer the bike with the bars instead of leaning.

Oh yeah, and speaking of leaning, I never used to lean in the wet. It was my worst fear, and I think probably responsible for one of my crappy offs back on the Hypermotard. But I did it.
Corryong Hotel after a particularly heavy drenching one year during the ADR

You see, freezing up and not tipping in, is actually really good way to fall off, as it turns out. I think I realised this watching motoGP and the wet races in particular, noting how batshit crazy they are and how far they can lean over IN POURING RAIN. I thought, well shit, if they can do it, so can I, right?

So now, I am of a different opinion entirely about riding in the rain, and I think it comes down to one thing in particular.

The bike that you ride, and how it makes you feel.

Now I am not talking about being off road or dirt riding because that is entirely different. I couldn't give two shits about a bit of water on a dirt bike, but specifically here I am talking about the urban jungle, the daily grind, the commute, the touring cross country, the boring f*cking freeway ride of 700kms between here and SA, the drudgery of getting caught in the wrong gear in the shit weather that is Melbourne for you.
Bike get dirty in the rain and dirt

The weather is really shit here, lets not get all fancy and use twenty dollar words like 'inclement' because f*ck that, a spade is a spade unless it is a shovel, and the weather here is just SHIT really.

Take this morning for example. Nothing special about it but a very nice looking outlook, some might even say it appeared overly pleasant. I had an appointment in the nearby hovel of a town known as Footscray, then a need to visit a bank in person (a seriously annoying necessity in a world without molecular transporters yet invented) carrying the cumbersome currency known as 'cash', without so much of a thought jumped on the bike in jeans and a jacket, to make my merry way through this world, as per normal.
Fog, rain, snow, whatever.

Full of vim after a successful medical appraisal for a potential new paid gig I am hanging to tell you about but will just keep under my collar until all is confirmed, I left said hovel making my way merrily into the wonderful city of Melbourne via any back road I could find.

I am easily lost I must add when making my own way anywhere and will just keep pointing myself in the general direction of skyscrapers while I still try to find that fulsome number 10,000 kilometres on my clock (it must be 10 if no 20 kms away by now, surely?).

Distracted by bustling people and a very pretty city I found my way lured to the waters edge at Southbank listening to the hustle and bustle of people from every origin swanning past me importantly. I canned my lunch date as he was too busy being important at his own new gig and I had decided to go home and draw the afternoon away on some new bikes I had printed out, when suddenly like the demented bitch she is, the sky just opened up on me.

Out of nowhere cats and dogs started descending from the heavens and wreathing pouring rain down upon me. Heavy, big wet rain.
Slight Postie Visibility Issues

Entirely unsuitably clothed for this wretched turn of events in denim jeans, a non waterproof jacket, summer gloves and Rossi Ripples on me feet, I headed shelter to see if it was a short drenching, or indeed a monsoon.

It seemed after 20 mins that the latter was indeed the case and so there was no point delaying, I made my way back to the beast that lurked ahead, and unabated by the bad weather I mounted and tried my best to get airborne off the gutter in front of me, as you do.

As I swathed my way through at least 2 feet of water I tipped in at Southbank Avenue with aplomb and a sense of almost recklessness when it occurred to me, I really LIKE riding this bike in the wet!
Just after I took this shot, it got really, really wet

It doesn't bother me AT ALL. Occasionally I have to double take at my decisions to throw myself into that uneasy looking corner ahead with a negative berm and in a why-the-f*ck-am-I-doing-80-in-the-60-zone kinda way, but not often does such silly occur. In fact, faster in the wet, can be better.

I thought back to riding from SA to VIC when the weather did this exact same thing on me but threw in gale force winds to test me out on the plains as well.

While I was much more suitably dressed for the occasion, the speed limit was 110 and trucks were barreling down the freeway with no regard for water or bikers making it even more fun, and I remember thinking I've never felt more alive.

Sideways, tucking into the bike, literally leaning sideways into the wind with rain reducing visibility to mere feet ahead, holding the bike at 110 - 120 even trying to cut through the rain a bit more forcefully, this kept up for at least an hour until I pierced through the other side into Horsham where it was drive and the sun was out, confirming I was indeed in Victoria again, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Sometimes you gotta push harder, sometimes if you slow down the forces of nature can affect you more. You don't wanna slow down massively to go through a few cms of water, it might make you off more than if you just attack it with gusto and ride right through it.

Today though, it really hit home. The downpour was intense and the water was everywhere. I took sharp left then right under Flinders street bridge and a Taxivan to my right drove straight through a river that washed up at me and tipped its entire contents into my boot, yet the bike didn't budge.

As I cut through feet of water as if it were dry land, it occurred to me that this is the best damned bike I have ever owned. Never before has any set of two wheels inspired me to ride so confidently in the wet and not feel a bit hesitant about it. The bloody thing rides like it's on the proverbial rails.

And so it was, and always will be that riding the GS has given me the confidence to ride like a maniac in the rain, and I am filled with joy. I have never ridden a bike that is so technically advanced, and have never ridden a bike in the wet that didn't have me a little nervous about tipping in, confirming this bike is the bike for me, the four year bike for sure, perhaps for life bike, who knows.

As to the title and question asked in this post, how to get over it, well isn't that obvious? Buy a BMW GS. Still need that stinking hot riot machine XR 1200X though….gotta save some pennies. Until next time, get wet, don’t be scared. It’s just water.

*I am in no way shape or form endorsed, sponsored by anyone to write this shit

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