Wet weather motorcycle gear - What you need to know
It’s extremely hard to make something 100% waterproof. If you’re stuck riding in a huge downpour of rain, no matter what your wearing you will get wet to some degree. Different types of waterproof motorcycle gear will protect you to different degrees, depending on what kind of protection you want and need. The main ingredients of water proof motorcycle gear is a jacket and pants combo or a full suit for extreme protection (both made out of laminated material layers), plastic rain coating (made from polyurethane or polyvinyl-chloride materials) , gore-tex or sympatex material gloves and a good quality helmet with a waterproof seal around the visor. Be sure not to overlook your easily forgettable hands and feet as a dry body is no good with puddles of water in your boots and soaked gloves stuck to your hands.
The more miles you do, the more chance you have of being caught out in the rain. I would advise every rider to have a pair of raincoat pants/jacket tucked away in your bikes storage compartment as it is cheap and should roll up relatively small.
There are 3 kinds of main water protection (besides your general textile/leather motorcycle gear which will provide a small amount of protection from wet weather)
1. Rain coating
Rain coating is usually made from plastic (polyurethane or polyvinyl-chloride) and comes in the form of pants, jacket, or full suit. You can buy boot rain coating as well although for myself I just made sure my pant rain coating was long enough to cover most of my boots. These garments are designed to be worn over the top of your normal motorcycle gear. The only protection it provides is from the rain or elements, which makes it the cheapest and most efficient form of rain protection. As this gear is basically made from plastic, it will not let air or water in or out. This is great in a freezing cold downpour of rain, but take note that rain coating will not breathe. With no breathability you will warm up quickly and potentially start to sweat.
For me personally if I’m riding in the rain its almost always cold, so perspiration or breathability isn’t an issue. If its warm and raining, I just think of it as air-conditioning and always have my raincoats rolled up tight in the back of my supersport motorcycle for the extremes. Because its made super thin, its very easy to roll up tightly and store in a small space for when your surprised by a huge downpour of rain.
2. Laminated gear
Laminated motorcycle gear comes in 3 options, jacket, pants of a suit. This gear is the top tier more expensive option when it comes to water protection. This material usually comes with a 3 layer construction with a waterproof membrane laminated to the inner layers or the underside of the top protective layer. It is usually designed to keep you dry during rain, but also is made with strong cordura or ballistic nylon and added armour for crash protection with potential air vents built in for when the weather eases up. The jackets usually come with some kind of removable thermal liner to keep you warm in the winter when its more likely to rain. This gear is basically designed for adventure type riders who are spending hours at a time on their motorcycles riding through a large range of different conditions, or just riding in a country with a harsher environment.
Because this is top end gear and expensive, it usually comes with a wide range of options when it comes to adjustment and fitting options. When buying expensive gear its very important to get fitted in person and make sure the fit is perfect, especially when spending lots of time on the road.
There are many different types of textile motorcycle gear around and most of it is designed with protection as the top priority. Although lots of textiles will protect you from a light rain, when your in the thick of it, a good waterproof textile jacket or pants will have layers built in. The top layer is the protection and the other layers usually contain some type of gore-text or sympatex material to help stop the water from getting in. This type of textile gear is heavier and more expensive than you usual protective, cheaper and usually more breathable textile gear. This type of weatherproofing is the middle man between raincoating (no breathability) and laminated gear (very waterproof and expensive).
The usually overlooked gloves and boots
When buying jacket and pants combos for wet weather riding, its easy to overlook a good pair of gloves and boots. These areas is where water will leak in slowly wetting you from the inside out. My advice when it comes to wet weather gloves is to buy a size up, as wet gloves are almost impossible to take off. Wet weather gloves are usually made from gore-tex or sympatex materials, making them less breathable, bulkier but much more waterproof. When looking for motorcycle boots, regardless of whether they are waterproof or not, you should be buying boots that at a minimum protect your ankles. When searching for waterproof boots, a stitched on sole will eventually leak water, so a full sole/boot made from one piece of material will provide the most protection. As mentioned above you can purchase boot raincoating gear or make sure your pants raincoat covers the majority of your boots for extra waterproofing.
Most good quality helmets are waterproof, so buying a specific helmet for wet weather riding is not usually needed. Obviously the cheaper you go, the less likely it is to be waterproof…cheaper helmets can have small leaks through the air vents or the visor. If your worried about you new helmet purchase leaking water, look for protected air vents placed in positions unlikely to leak water, and make sure the visor is touching the seal the whole way around. Helmets have an inner layer that will also help protect against any water leaks, although it will need to be dried out if it gets water in it. Your helmet is the most important protective part of your motorcycle gear so make sure you buy a well known, good quality brand you can trust. That will definitely aid in waterproofing your head.
When looking for wet weather motorcycle gear and armed with the information from this article, make sure to check out specific brand reviews to see what people have to say after owning and using the gear. At the end of the day if your riding in the rain for extended periods of time, you will get wet to some degree, its just impossible to keep the water out 100% especially travelling at high speeds with wind resistance. The aim of the game is to not be completely soaked from head to toe when you arrive at your destination, and this should be achieved with whatever direction you decide to go with in terms of wet weather motorcycle gear.