Vancouver Island is one of the few places in Canada where it’s (in theorey) warm enough to ride year round. In reality, the dream of all-winter riding is tempered by our coastal rainforest winter: pouring rain for weeks on end…
I’m still learning how to ride… at all, so I haven’t ventured out onto any wet roads by myself yet – but I have always truly enjoyed riding two-up or pillion. I had an excellent friend who I rode with for many years in Ontario who taught me the basics of how to behave on a moving machine. I started touring with my current partner Synkt before I even started to learn to ride by myself. When you’re touring 2-up with an experienced rider you learn a lot about being a good motorcycle passenger. I once rode ~3400km on the back of Synkt‘s KTM Adventure990 from Calgary, AB to Vancouver Island, BC and then back to Red Deer, AB in a 4 day weekend! We don’t let rain stop us, either – this picture was actually taken in July just before we left on that ride through the mountains, but it might as well have been December. The temperature that day was hovering around freezing while the skies alternated between dumping water, slush and snow – similar to what we’re getting on Vancouver Island now. We were dressed moderately well but not for that much weather and I was miserable for the first leg of that journey. (I’ll tell you the related story of Canmore Thigh-highs another day) I have to admit, I’ve since learned to embrace and even love inclement weather riding cause you kinda have to, living on the Wet Coast!
Circulating later in September – just as the wet riding weather hit – was this viral video:
So, as Synkt and I headed into wet weather adventure season,
my safety as a passenger was y’know… on my mind?
Before you even set off – the above video illustrates the absolute need for both the rider AND the passenger to wear proper gear anytime out on the road, but especially when riding in the rain. Necessary gear includes helmets with full face and eye protection and leather or otherwise road-worthy gloves, boots, jacket and pants.
GEAR in the rainy season – waterproof gauntlet gloves and gaiters turned out to be a great investment, extending the use of regular protective gloves and boots, but in a pinch nitrile shop gloves can be worn under your regular gloves to keep your hands dry. Boots with a waterproof gusset that covers the ankles and calf are also a good all-purpose option. Synkt has heated grips on the bike but I have reusable hand warmer inserts for inside my gloves. We alternate wearing his one heated vest depending on who’s coldest! (usually me) Waterproof jackets and pants (Frogg Toggs are serving us well, as is my GoreTex shell) can be worn over your regular protective jacket and pants. You will, inevitably, get damp – wool sweaters and base layers will at least keep you warm when they get wet. A clear or yellow helmet visor, with a fog insert, can make the ride all that more enjoyable… and visible! All in all, the ride will be a far better experience with proper gear as you won’t be focused on being cold or wet.
Working with your rider to be a great motorcycle passenger:
- Communicate! Helmet radio communication systems are available using bluetooth or wireless but good old fashioned hand signals certainly work as well. Either way – establish a form of communication with your rider and communicate clearly before, during, and after the ride.
- Pay Attention! One of the benefits to riding pillion is the chance to take in the scenery, but the passenger does still have to pay attention to the road. Anytime your rider is accelerating, turning or braking the passenger should be aware of a potential for changes in the motorcycle’s movement.
- Sit as still as possible – especially while the motorcycle is moving slowly or stopped.
- Check with your rider – before getting on or off the bike and before making any major movements. Sudden changes or shifts in weight can drop the bike and that’s no fun for anyone.
Sit with good posture, facing the front of the bike at an angle similar to your rider’s. Depending on that angle and both of your comfort either wrap your arms around your rider’s torso or brace your hands on the gas tank. When moving straight, look in either direction but don’t lean too far out. When turning into a curve, look over your rider’s shoulder in the direction you are turning. Don’t fight your rider as they turn into the curve, but don’t lean too far yourself as you can offset the bike’s balance. Whether going straight or turning, try not to hit your helmet into the back of the rider’s!
In the rain,
Relax – this goes for always, but particularly inclement conditions. Sitting tensely, clenching and clinging onto your rider or ‘fighting’ against their riding is both tiring and dangerous. Your rider is on the same moving vehicle as you – trust that especially if the conditions are bad, your rider also wants to remain safe, just as much as you do – let them safely control and guide the motorcycle.
Hang On Securely – depending on the motorcycle the back seat can be slippery. I know I said above to relax, so don’t cling your rider to or impede their ability to maneuver the bike but do hold on more securely when things get slick. Brace your hands against the gas tank instead of your rider and place your feet firmly on the foot pegs.
Pay More Attention – in the rain, traction and visibility are reduced. Your rider may have to make sudden moves reacting to slippery roads, other motorists or changing weather conditions.
Be Visible – it is particularly difficult for trucks and cars to see motorcyclists through rain or fog, so this is one time in particular to be wearing reflective or high visibility clothing. As the passenger, you are on the back of the motorcycle, so what you are wearing is particularly important.
& a Last Laugh: Murphy’s Laws of Riding in the Rain