If you ride long enough, you will get caught in the rain at some point. You can try to plan your ride around the forecast as much as possible, but we all know that the weather doesn't always like to adhere to the weatherman's predictions. Riding in the rain doesn't have to be so terrible, though. Being prepared with the right rain gear can make riding in wet weather more tolerable. In fact, some riders cherish the days that they get to ride in those conditions.
Before you purchase riding gear for the rain, it's important to know all of your options. Certain gear may fit your riding styles and preferences much better than others. When you know what to look for, you can make the best decision on what rain gear is right for you. Below are the things that you should take into consideration.
Rain Gear vs. Waterproof Riding Gear
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to motorcycle apparel for riding in the rain. There is the designated rain gear side and the waterproof riding gear side. Each side has valid points, but each also has their drawbacks. For the best results, match up the advantages and disadvantages to your riding preferences to find which side you are best suited for.
Rain gear is meant to only be worn when it is raining. When not being used, you will need to store the gear in your luggage. The downside of this is that you will need to pull over to throw on your gear when you encounter wet weather. Because rain gear is often designed to be worn over your normal riding apparel, you are not dependent on just one style of gear. You can switch between leathers and textiles and warm and cold weather gear.
Riders who encounter wet weather riding often benefit the most from riding gear that is waterproof. Adventure touring and dual sport riders have become the biggest supporters for waterproof motorcycle apparel because of the constant changing conditions that they encounter. There is no need to pull over to throw on extra rain gear. You have the ability to continue riding once you hit wet weather. While most waterproof gear is fairly versatile, you are limited to that piece of apparel if you want to ride prepared.
Summary: Dedicated rain gear allows you to be more versatile with your normal riding gear, but it will need to be stored in your luggage until it is needed. Waterproof riding gear will have you covered at all times for wet weather riding, but you are limited to wearing only that gear.
Not all motorcycle rain gear is created equally. A simple suit or a poncho may get you by in a pinch, but they are certainly not suitable for comfortably putting on the miles. With rain suits, you typically do get what you pay for. Generally, the higher priced gear will keep you more dry and comfortable. Certain materials and construction techniques work far better to accomplish this better than others. Here's some of the materials and construction techniques that you should look for.
Waterproof Breathable textiles
Waterproof breathable textiles are designed to have tiny pores that are smaller than water droplets, yet larger than water vapor. This keeps water out, while allowing evaporated water to escape, which keeps you dry. Gore-Tex® is the leading name in waterproof breathable textiles, but many companies are coming up with their own versions that accomplish the same thing. Some others to look for are DriPore®, RockTex®, Drystar®, Hypertex® and Exkin Air®.
Many rain jackets and pants are made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This is a polymer that is completely waterproof and easy to work with. The downside of PVC in rain gear is that it is not breathable.
Stitching seams together makes tiny holes in the garment, which leaves it susceptible to water entry. Sealed seams or taped seams are either chemically sealed, welded or taped to make the seam waterproof.
Durable Water Repellent. Most rain gear is treated with a DWR to prevent water from building up on the exterior of the garment. Excess water can weigh the garment down and make it cling to your body. The DWR beads the water so it can be shed from the garment easily. Over time, the DWR treatment can wear off. If this happens, there are sprays that you can apply for a new coating.
A good pair of rain pants will have heat-resistant panels on the insides of the lower legs to prevent melting caused by the exhaust and motor.
Storm Flap/Rain Gutter
Uncovered zippers can be susceptible to water entry due to the force of it hitting at riding speed. A storm flap is a cover for the zipper to prevent water from directly hitting it. Some rain jackets will have a rain gutter on the inside of the zipper to funnel any water that does enter down and out the bottom of the jacket.
Your rain gear needs to have adequate venting and breathability to prevent moisture buildup on the inside. Without good air movement, you might be just as wet after a ride with the rain gear on as you would have been without it. PVC rain gear can cause a lot of moisture to build up through sweat and condensation because it is not breathable. If you do choose PVC rain gear, be sure that there is adequate venting in all of the hot zones on your body. There needs to be good intake in the front and good exhaust out the back. Rain gear with waterproof breathable textiles are very good at keeping the rider dry by actually wicking away moisture from the inside. This is the preferred material by many riders, but it does tend to cost quite a bit more.
Visibility becomes a major concern when riding motorcycle in the rain. It's hard enough to get other motorists to notice you when it's clear out, but the rain brings it to a whole new level. When it's raining, motorists become more focused on what's directly in front of them and less on what's around them. Add that to the loss of visibility and you could be totally overlooked.
Make sure that your rain gear has a large amount of reflective patches and striping. Also, make sure that they are located on your body in places that are visible to motorists. Your riding position and body shape could throw off the position of the reflective material on some rain gear. For even more visibility, many rain gear manufacturers are now offering their gear in Hi-Viz color options. These intense colors are very hard for other motorists to miss.
Gloves & Boots
Don't forget about your hands and feet. Keeping them dry can make a huge difference in your riding comfort. There are many gloves and boots made with materials like Gore-Tex® to make them waterproof and breathable. If you do not want to pay for the extra expense of these materials, there are other options available for boots. Rain overboots or rain gators are designed to slip over your boots for water protection. An elastic band at the top will hold them up and keep the water from coming in through the top. These are commonly used when just the rider's legs are getting wet from road spray as well in conjunction with a rain suit when it is raining.
As mentioned above, most motorcycle rain gear is meant to be worn over your normal riding gear. This can make sizing a little difficult. In the event that you cannot physically try on the rain gear that you want, make sure that you take measurements with your normal riding gear on. If you have more than one set of riding gear, use the set with the larger measurements to ensure that the rain gear will fit over everything.
Adjustability and mobility are very important. You should look for rain gear that can be adjusted to fit snugly for two reasons. The first is because you do not want your jacket and pants to be constantly flapping in the wind. This can be very annoying and it will also put extra and unnecessary wear on the gear. The second reason is that the tighter you can get the openings, the less likely it is that water can find its way underneath your rain gear.