“If you don’t pack it, you’re going to need it.”
And, of course: “By the time you realize it’s time to put it on, it’s too late!”
Ahh, rain gear. Despite the helpful proverbs, it remains one of motorcycling’s biggest quandaries. Yes, it’s better to have it and not need it than vice-versa - but it sure takes up a lot of space in the saddlebag.
There are also some inescapable truths that need to be considered when dark clouds gather. First: accept the profound difference between “waterproof” and “water-resistant.” A water-resistant garment will be fine for a damp ride, but once raindrops start to fall, 'resistant' is futile (sorry). Gear classified as water-resistant will eventually soak through after prolonged exposure. Waterproof garments, however, should never let in any moisture. Lots of companies will tout their rain gear as “100 percent waterproof,” but the bottom line is, either it keeps 100 percent of moisture out, or it isn’t waterproof.
Next, the old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here perhaps more than with any other motorcycle gear. Because much of it is designed to be lightweight, rain gear is more susceptible to getting snagged, burned, and gashed. Inexpensive suits or lightweight covers may work for occasional downpours, but if you’re planning a long tour, or expect your gear to last for years, don’t be afraid to get your money’s worth. Pricier rain gear tends to offer more amenities, like lined collars, under-helmet hoods, ventilation that doesn’t leak, waterproof pockets, leg openings that allow pants to be donned while wearing boots, etc.
Those features are part of the reason you see such a vast range of price points in the gear listed below. The bigger reason, though, is that in an effort to demonstrate the wide variety of options available, we went beyond just the full rain suit.
Alpinestars Equinox X-Trafit Gloves: $189.95
A durable lightweight leather and advanced poly-fabric glove constructed of waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex, the Equinox offers commuters, cruisers, and touring riders enhanced sensitivity of the bike’s controls thanks to an innovative triple-layer X-Trafit construction. A knuckle protector and poly-foam padding boost this glove’s protective features, as does A-stars’ patented third and fourth finger-bridge, which prevents separation of the fingers in the event of an impact slide. The Velcro cuff ensures weathertight closure while reflective detailing improves your visibility.
Firstgear Overgloves/Overboots: $17.99 / $24.95
These waterproof, seamless overgloves and overboots offer serious protection without busting your budget. The rubber construction locks out moisture, keeping your hands and feet dry while preserving the life of your pricey leather boots and gloves. The overgloves fit over normal riding gloves and feature a non-slip pattern on the fingers and palm, while the boots stretch over your riding boots, and offer a non-slip sole.
Firstgear: (866) 302-5676, for the website, click here
FLY Street Gear Rain Covers: Glove, $24.95 / boot, $29.95
Constructed of lightweight but heavy-duty waterproof nylon, FLYs Glove Covers have a silicon grip area for improved hand control feel, and a cinch cord that seals over the jacket cuff to lock out wind and rain. The Boot Covers feature a half-sole design for a better grip on the pegs, a Velcro adjuster strap, and Velcro back for easy on and off. Both have reflective material for nighttime visibility.
FLY Street Gear: (208) 319-3079, to go to the website, click here
Frogg Toggs Highway Toadz Jacket: $79.95
Known more for its outdoor hunting gear, Frogg Toggs makes fine rain gear for motorcyclists as well. Their new Toadz jacket combines the original Highway jacket with the company’s new, improved ToadSkinz waterproof material, said to be tough on the outside but soft inside. The result is a jacket that’s a terrific blend of function and accessibility, combined with light weight, waterproof performance and breathability. And it’s good looking, too.
Harley-Davidson Women’s Illumination 360° Gear: Jacket, $260 (pant, $200)
Constructed from waterproof polyester, the Illumination 360° Functional Jacket and Pant for women feature extensive 3M Scotchlite reflective material, piping, and graphics for enhanced visibility. The jacket has a waterproof shell with a removable Thinsulate vest liner, front and back vents, and removable shoulder and elbow armor. The pant features zippered vents, removable knee and hip armor; pre-curved legs and stretch inserts; heat-resistant shields; and zippered leg openings. Men’s styles are also available.
Harley-Davidson: The website is here
ICON Patrol Jacket / PDX Bib: $250 / $120
Headquartered in Oregon, ICON knows its rain gear. The nylon chassis on its armored Patrol gear is seam-sealed and includes waterproof YKK zippers, a magnetic storm flap, and reflective material. The Patrol jacket is outfitted with intake and exhaust vents and a Thermolite liner, and comes with Field Armor, standard. Don't want a dedicated all-weather riding suit? ICON’s PDX bib ($120, below) can be slipped on over your regular riding gear.
ICON: (608) 758-1111, surf over to the website
Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 Jacket: $259.99 - $274.99
The Alter Ego 3.0 jacket features a triple-layer moisture protection system, comprised of a C.E. armored mesh inner jacket that transitions to a fully waterproof zip-on outer layer, and a removable fleece vest liner. Other features include a high-density back protector, hand warmer pockets, inner face shield storage pocket, reflective striping, loops for jacket-to-pant attachment, and a storage pouch for the outer layer.
Nelson-Rigg AS-3000 Aston Rain suit: $89.95
The Aston features a waterproof polyester outer shell with PVC backing. The jacket has a Velcro storm flap, breathable mesh lining with nylon-lined sleeves, three large outer pockets, a full length zipped back vent, and a corduroy inner collar with hood, stretch waist belt adjusters, and adjustable cuffs with Velcro tabs. The pants have zipper gussets and elasticized ankle cuffs and stirrups, a waterproof thigh pocket, heat-resistant leg inners, reinforced seat, and suspenders.
Olympia Moto Sports Horizon Suit: Jacket $89.99 / pant $79.99
Olympia owners Kevin and Karilea Rhea personally tested their Horizon rain gear, and we trust them when they say “it works.” The jacket offers a stow-away hood with a rubberized barrier front and back. Other features include front storage pockets, arm adjuster straps, lined collar, and reflective piping. The pant has large openings with Velcro closures and heat shields on the lower legs; the elasticized waist plus side buckles provide a custom fit. Both feature self-storage compartments.
REV’IT! Pacific H2O Rain Suit: $119.99
By the time you struggle into your rain gear, chances are you’re already soaked. Combine a long, diagonal front zippered closure with a non-stick, PVC-free coating on the inside of a nylon shell, however, and you’ve got a slick one-piece suit that slips on in seconds. Waterproof and breathable, it includes: adjustment tabs at upper arm, cuffs, and ankles; storage pocket on the upper leg; and reflection panels to ensure visibility. Available in black and hi-vis yellow. REV’IT: (888) 681-0180,
River Road Tempest Rain Suit: $79.95
A waterproof heavy-duty PVC rain suit with a hood and dual storm flaps, the Tempest features reflective piping on the shoulders, back, and legs to improve visibility, while the adjustable waist strap offers a great fit for any body. Storm-proof pockets on both pieces protect your valuables. Heat-resistant panels on the legs prevent dreaded meltage; the reinforced seat panel offers even more durability. The Tempest even comes with a storage pouch and one-year warranty.
Triumph Rain Jacket/Jeans: $49.99 / $39.99
These lightweight overgarments can be easily stowed in a saddlebag or tossed in a backpack. Available in fluorescent yellow or black, each features a coated outer fabric and tape-sealed seams. The jacket has reflective printing, elastic cuffs, a waist with a rubber grip, and a storm flap to repel rain; the jeans feature elastic ankles and a handy ankle-to-knee zipper for easy on/easy off, even while wearing boots.
TourMaster Sentinel Rain Suit: Jacket, $94.99; pant, $64.99
Sized to be worn over your riding apparel, the waterproof and breathable Sentinel jacket and pant are constructed of rip-stop nylon with sealed seams. The jacket’s main closure has a full wind flap, while the elastic cuffs have Velcro closures. An Aqua-Barrier under-the-helmet hood stows in a collar pocket; and the jacket stuffs into itself for storage. The pant has mesh lining, stretch panels, a high-density seat panel, and two zippered pockets.
Sidi Traffic Rain Boots: $215
Sidi's Traffic is made of Lorica, a leather-like composite material, with a YKK zipper on the inside of the leg and a small Velcro flap at the top. Hardened internal armor protects your inner ankle, outer ankle and heel area, and a breathable membrane system (much like Gore-Tex) shuns outside moisture while allowing the boot to breathe. Double-stitching in impact areas and a sturdy, chunky lug sole reinforce the stout construction.
Aerostich Transit Jacket/Pants: $847 / $897
Still want to wear leather in the rain? Your best bet is probably Aerostich's Transit gear, available as separate jacket and pant garments. Both are made from an entirely new material, called GORE-TEX® Pro Shell Leather , which is said to provide higher levels of protection and comfort, is completely waterproof (no rain suit needed!) and wears cooler under a hot sun. The suit also contains a complete set of easily removable TF armor systems.
Riding In the Wet
Good gear plays a big part in enjoying a ride in rain, but a pre-ride inspection should come well before you even hit the start button. At the very least, check your tires, controls, lighting and brakes.
Now you can slide your rain gear on. Waterproofness and breathability top the list of most desirable qualities, but ease of entry, comfort, and conspicuous colors should also be considered. After all, you don’t want to blend into that wet, grey world.
Also remember that riding in the wet is about managing exposure to the elements. Spending a day cruising in soggy weather can take its toll on your body's exposed areas, particularly the neck and hand regions, where gravity can force moisture right next to your skin. Riding position matters too: the way you sit on a cruiser can often mean that water will be funneled toward your crotch area (especially if you're wearing a one-piece suit). Ouch. A two-piece suit with a longer jacket is a good solution, and big gauntlets and storm flaps can also deflect weather, with a combination of outer and inner flaps giving optimal protection. And consider hand position when deciding how to situate glove gauntlets. On higher cruiser bars, put the gauntlet outside your jacket sleeve; if you have low bars, tuck the gauntlet inside if possible.
There's nothing like a hard storm to make you opt for a full-face helmet, but you still have to manage drops on the outside, as well as fogging within. We've found that an application of Rain-X (www.rainx.com) or Rain Zip to the outside of the visor helps sheet away moisture. The same applies to windshields, too. For the interior, a Fog City shield insert is a good ant-fogging choice. Even if you don't have a commercial anti-fog solution, a thin layer of dish soap will usually do the trick temporarily.
Out on the road, traction and vision should be your primary concerns. Premium aftermarket tires will improve wet-road grip over original-equipment tires, and even increasing tire pressure a bit can boost wet-weather traction; just five psi can help you cut through water better. Some surfaces, like railroad tracks, can be sketchy when wet, so cross them at a right angle. Bridge grates, manhole covers or cattle guards can also contribute to tires slipping, and painted surfaces can be just as bad. Be especially wary in places where oil and fluids pool up, like toll booths, tunnels and parking garages.
Turning on a slick surface requires a smooth approach; slow down before you go in and keep the throttle neutral all the way through. That same fluid style is the key to negotiating any wet road; initiate turns more gradually, downshift smoothly, engage the clutch more deliberately, and avoid abrupt throttle changes. Use a taller gear to reduce the force reaching the rear tire. Apply brakes smoothly. Give yourself a buffer to stop or slow down, and make sure drivers around you can react too.