Weather is a constant consideration when riding though the precise nature of the weather affects how much attention I give it. Even during the warm months the local weather can change dramatically during the day. More than once I’ve been caught without adequate protection when a hot day turned remarkably cool after the sun went down. Or tree lined roads winding along cold water creeks were far cooler than the open road under full sun. Move into the cooler months and on into winter and at times I feel like a meteorologist.
To think about all this I divide riding weather into seven categories to help physically and mentally prepare for a ride. It’s almost instinctual now but the mental checklists help avoid being caught in circumstances that are uncomfortable or dangerous.
Made this photograph on my way home from a BMW rally in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. A bright summer day with brutal temperatures at and above 100F. I soaked myself thoroughly from heat to foot with water before leaving the rally for the 90 mile ride home. Less than 10 miles out I was bone dry, parched and sweating profusely. The wind blast at 55 mph was hot and miserable and had me stopping every ten miles to down another bottle of water.
When I see the forecast indicating temperatures above 80F I make sure I have lots of water and wear fully vented riding gear including gloves. I also make sure to stop often regardless of my desire to tough it out. Dehydration comes on fast in high heat.
And remember, all of these weather accounts are unique to me. Every rider will have a different level of physical and mental tolerance. What’s important, I think, is for you to find yours.
Riding weather that calls for rain has me thinking of gear, temperature and the estimate of rainfall (intensity). Staying dry is more critical in the rain at 35F than it is at 80F but both can fell an unprepared rider when fingers and joints get cold and cease to function as expected. And if my core gets cold that spells danger because I’ll be focused on trying to fight the cold rather than pay attention to the road.
Riding in the rain can be pleasant if there’s not a lot of traffic to content with. Estimating what will be encountered on the road is an important consideration for me. And like most bad weather or situations that impair visibility — I have to slow down. Easy for me but seemingly difficult for other riders and most drivers. That mismatch in speed on the road is something to think about.
I love riding in fog because of the visual mystery and magic in presents. I also realize the risk is greater that other drivers won’t see me. Or me them. As with rain, I consider where I’ll be riding, the amount and speed of traffic, and the density of the fog. There have been a few rides where I should have stayed home because I couldn’t see 50 feet in front of me. That’s not a common fog here in central Pennsylvania.
I consider cold weather to be anything below 40F down to -15F. That’s the cold weather riding range for central Pennsylvania. Physically it’s easily managed with the right gear. Mentally it’s more difficult and fraught with myth, fear and demands on expertise and behavior.
Cold affects a body. If you can’t keep the cold air out and your body warm best stay at home. It also affects traction. Tires that are nice and sticky in warm weather can be surprisingly slippery on cold bare pavement. It requires an adjustment in riding approach, even with a scooter.
All of this holds down below zero. The only thing I’ll add is that I worry about the battery in real cold weather, especially if the scooter is sitting while I stop to eat. To be sure I always have enough starting power I always carry an AntiGravity battery in the topcase.
Snow is generally, for me at least, the unfortunate occurrence when you ride in the cold. I don’t often venture out when it’s snowing unless I’m absolutely convinced the nature of the snow and the amount is manageable. Wet snow around the freezing mark is more treacherous than dry snow at 20F. Having snow tires on the scooter makes a big difference as well.
My advice on riding in the snow?
This is just plain unpleasant but like snow something that can occur when riding in the cold. Personally, I prefer snow over ice but that’s just me. This scene appeared the morning after a warm thaw on the previous day with lots of water running across the road in lots of places. During the night that water froze solid creating awful challenges to navigate walking over let alone riding.
I had to flat foot a step at a time with the engine off to get the Vespa across these hazards. Can’t imagine doing it with a tall or heavy motorcycle.
If you’re riding, especially on a long trip in the winter, you’ll likely encounter things like this. If you whip around a curve and encounter this, well, you’ll probably meet the pavement.
This is my physical sweet spot for riding – 40F through 80F. I can deal with any typical weather presented short of a tornado or lightning storm with two sets of gear — warm weather and cold. The expertise has been honed from slow and deliberate experimentation and with it the requisite mindset to keep myself safe.
If you’re a Memorial to Labor Day rider you’ll likely only have to deal with heat and rain. Push far before or after those dates and you’ll need to think about a lot more potential situations.
I have my own taxonomy and definition of riding weather conditions.
Do you do something like this too?