On Rain Suits...

A while ago, I read an article in Rider Magazine (02 November 2015), entitled “Rainsuits 101: Staying Dry At Speed“. I posted a link to the article on my Facebook group of ‘Motorcycle Trip Planning’; a subscriber there had the following comment on the article:

The problem with rain gear is if it starts raining and you haven’t got it on you get wet. If you have it on and it’s not raining you look like a dork. If it isn’t raining and you don’t want to look like a dork you have to store it somewhere and space is always at a premium on a trip. None of this seems very practical. The Aerostitch Roadcrafter suit seems the best all-around choice. I recently did a lap around Lake Superior on the Canadian side from St. Louis. It rained six out of seven days. Temps ranged from 40s to high 80s. That thing does the trick without needing to store it or stop and change into something else. (The dork problem persist in some opinions.)

I have reviewed my current (and previous) gear elsewhere, but I think the article, and the response above, warrant another look at the issue.

Looking at my riding buddies, it seems we fall into two distinct categories. Those who wear suits like the OP commenting on the rain gear post, i.e. essentially rainproof gear, which enables them to ‘just keep riding’ when the skies open up, and those who wear non-rainproof gear, but carry some sort of “rain suit” to put on over their standard gear.

As you might have read the review of my own gear, I am in the former category, although some would call my gear a ‘hybrid.’ Way back, I used to wear different gear during Spring/Fall and Summer. While my Spring/Fall gear was waterproof (Olympia Phantom suit), my Summer gear – mesh, Olympia Airglide jacket and pants – was obviously not. Instead of keeping a rain suit in my panniers, I tried to gauge the weather and use my waterproof gear when the weather looked like rain; otherwise, I’d wear my mesh. This worked fine when riding “locally,” but it was not a good approach to touring. So, regardless of the time of year, I would always wear my Phantom suit when touring. This worked well, but depending on the area of the country I was riding in, it was very hot, even with all the vents open. From what I have seen with some of my riding partners wearing the Aerostich Roadcrafter, I would put it into the same category as my Phantom.

That is why I started looking at other options, and eventually came to the Rukka Airman/Airvision line of gear (Note: There are other manufacturers, which now make similar type suits…) What I like about my Rukka is its ‘mesh-like’ material, while being waterproof with the liners, and having the highly safety rated D3O Air protectors. This is giving me the best of both worlds, “cool” mesh in the heat, but rain proof when needed. My only compromise with this suit, as I explain in my gear review as well, is that I only take the pants liner out when riding locally (or when I am 150% sure there won’t be rain where I’m riding). Even in 95+F weather in Monument Valley, this has not been a problem for me – using the windshield on the fairing to get a nice breeze through my jacket keeps me cool enough. I should also mention that I believe (and I’ll write a blog post about that in the future, with references…), as soon as the air temperature goes above 98.6F/37C, I prefer to ride with the liners in to keep fluid loss at a minimum so as to keep my dehydration at bay…

The liner(s) are light and ‘stuffable’ enough to easily fit into the pannier, even when filled for a 7-10 day tour. In addition, the jacket liner can be placed into the large back pocket on the Airmen jacket, making it easily accessible in case of need.

With my current suit, I very rarely need to do an unplanned stop to put on or take off the rain proofing (i.e. liner) of the suit. And when I’m wearing the liner, my suit looks no different than when I don’t wear the liner (i.e. no “dorkiness”). In all my years of riding with the Rukka jacket/pants combination (since early 2012,) I have only needed to ‘prematurely’ stop and put the liner in once – during this year’s Summer Tour riding up towards Independence Pass, and it was completely my fault. I saw the storm clouds hanging over the pass, and decided that I could make it up there, since I was going to stop at the top anyhow, and then put the liner back in. I made it almost to the top – two switchbacks short in fact, when a moderate shower let loose. That’s when I decided to just stop and put the liner in. Not too big a deal, really, since the liner is easily accessible. While I did get a little bit wet, it was a pretty quick switch, which could have been avoided easily, if I had just stopped after Aspen (when I saw the storm clouds ahead) and put the liner in…

Since most rain suits are one-piece suits, besides the room they require in the pannier, they are also a PITA to put on when needed. Remember – you wear them over your regular riding gear! This is why most people buy them too large: it’s much easier to put an oversized suit over your standard riding suit than it is a properly fitting one. Add to that you don’t have the option to just start out rain proof, unless you don’t mind wearing the rain suit over your regular riding period for an expended period of time. The reason this is a problem is because most such rain suits don’t breathe, so you will pretty quickly be miserable and sweaty wearing that thing… I definitely don’t recommend using rain suits as “over suits.”

It is my opinion riders who are serious about riding in all weather purchase a waterproof system, which is either light enough to be worn 3 seasons as is, or can be easily modified to be comfortable 3 seasons. Clearly, this may depend on where the rider typically rides during these seasons! I recommend the Aerostitch Roadcrafter, especially for folks riding outside of desert areas a lot (although some of my friends have no problem riding in AZ or Texas during the Summer in the Roadcrafter suit); or a jacket/pants combination like my Rukka Airman.


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