Letters To The Editor

by

Donna Warren

August, 2005

This month's question came from a relatively new rider named Marcia from WV . She has asked,

" What are the best actions to take when you get caught in a bad thunderstorm with lightening and hail?"

From Laura J: "When it first starts raining on a dry road, oil tends to surface and make the road slippery. I recall the MSF recommending that riders pull over, perhaps under an overpass or a diner, for ten minutes or so to allow the oil to wash away. I'm not sure I've ever actually done that, though I have pulled under an overpass when the rain came down so hard I could barely see the road.

I recall coming back from the Women In Motorcycling conference in Ohio that it was pouring and we were getting pelted with hail. A driver coming the other way warned us there was a TORNADO up ahead. Ha, I never thought of that even though the sky was a weird orange color. We waited a bit in a gas station then headed to a roadside motel for the night to wait it out. The tornado missed us, but if we had stayed on the road we may have run right into it."

I agree with everything Laura said. Also, one of the biggest problems most people have is difficulty in seeing and being seen in heavy rain. Many goggles and visors will steam up and windshields, while great for deflecting all sorts of debris, suck when it comes to visibility in the rain. Personally, I hate looking through a windshield rain or shine.

If you can't see, you can't avoid the car driver who is also having trouble seeing you. I was taught (oh those many years ago) to always ride as though I am invisible. If I'm invisible, I damn well better be able to see everything else on the road. So, folks, if can't see when riding during a downpour, please do like Laura advised, pull over somewhere. You might be late getting somewhere, but at least you'll get there in one piece.

Several of us rode took a little 300 mile ride home in 2004 in a Nor 'easter. That's new jerseyan for monsoon. Click Here to read that story. I have penoptix goggles that I love. They just don't fog up. They are also great sun glasses and a night vision enhancer. They are a bit pricey, but worth every penny.

Lightening and hail are an entirely different matter. For lightening, I count the seconds between the flash and the thunder. If it's close I look for somewhere to get off the road and into shelter such as an underpass on the open highway. The probability of getting hit by lightening is infinitesimal but why take the risk?

At the first sign of hail, find shelter..anything available...underpass, gas station canopy, large bushy tree, whatever. If you think rain stings when riding, get caught in hail. The little ice balls sting like crazy and the bigger ones really hurt. Not to mention the potential damage to your bike. Just find the nearest shelter and wait the storm out like Laura did coming back from Ohio.

Most thunderstorms have accompanying high winds. High winds usually have to be really severe to require pulling over, but if you are having difficulty controlling the bike or staying in your lane, pull over and wait it out. And, as Laura mentioned, don't forget the most dangerous time to be riding in the rain is during the first fifteen minutes after it starts. The rain causes the oil on the road to literally float and wash off the road. The roadway is extremely slippery during that time. Please, always exercise additional caution on newly wet roads.

Also, I recommend you avoid going through roadway puddles because of the possibility of glass, nails or other sharpe objects lying under the water. Flat tires are never fun.

Bottom Line: Know your limitations. When the rain, hail, lightening or high winds becomes dangerous, pull off the road and wait for the storm to pass. After all, most thunderstorms only last about 30 or 40 minutes.

Remember, if you want share information, have a questions or if there is anything else you'd like to say, Click Here and say it.

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