In my last article I made a mistake ... ouch. I said that the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Mount Mitchell. Actually, Mount Mitchell is north of Asheville and is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet near Burnsville. The highest point on the Blue Ridge is Richland Balsam Overlook at milepost 431 and is 6,047 feet. So, having gotten a little wet with that mistake, I though I’d tackle what you need when it really is raining outside.
If you ride you will eventually get wet. Riding in the rain brings a new perspective to your riding experience. The better prepared for rain you are, the better off you will be. Finding the right gear is a very personal endeavor. I will tell you from experience that I have found a nice setup, but it was from trial and error. So let’s break it down from top to bottom.
The helmet. Some helmets are better than others in the rain. Obviously, an opened face helmet will do nothing for you in the rain. Every drop of water feels like a bee sting until your face becomes numb. First option for the open face helmet is to carry a face shield for your helmet. Full-face helmets are the safest; however, they may leak. They usually leak through the vents or around the shield but they will protect your face. Fog is another problem with full face helmets so make sure you have good vents. There are helmets that do not leak or fog up but you have to do some research.
Next is the face. Of course if you do not have a face shield you should always have eye protection. A bandana or scarf will help cut down the stinging of the rain as it hits your face.
The jacket. I have three different jackets for different seasons. All have elbow, shoulder and back padding for additional safety in the event of an accident. One is fully waterproof and the other two, not so much. For them I carry a yellow rain jacket. I choose yellow to increase my visibility. You should also make sure your jacket has a reflector. When you get a jacket you might want to get one with a hood. This is handy in the event of a heavy rain. Put the hood on under your helmet to prevent the rain from running down your back.
Gloves. I have several pairs of gloves for different seasons and some are waterproof and others not. Make sure that your gloves are waterproof by reading the tag.
Pants. The most protection is from a pair of waterproof pants with pads in them. If you don’t have them you will want to have a pair of waterproof pants that will slip over your pants. Make sure the pants go down far enough to cover your boots.
Boots. It is hard to find a pair of riding boots. I have not found the perfect pair that is waterproof, comfortable for walking and stylish. Be sure to get a boot that will cover your ankles and fit under your rain pants. Also, make sure the soles have the traction to hold you and your bike up at stops. Nothing is worse than putting your foot down and dropping your bike because the pavement is slick. Remember that at red lights or at the check points at the base, those areas are especially slippery because of cars dripping oil.
I think the hardest part about rain gear is storage. If space is a problem consider getting some compression bags to shrink the gear as small as possible. Even on a summer day being wet plus wind will turn a pleasant drive into survival trip. If you get caught in the rain with no rain gear, just pull over under an overpass or at a safe space for cover. Most heavy downpours will pass within 20 minutes. So stay dry and stay safe.
Contact Jim Jones at [email protected]