Any way you look at it, this has been a miserable year for spring riding. Days of rain, punctuated by cracking thunderstorms and dangerously high winds, have kept even the most dedicated riders indoors. As one rider put it, “Once I’m out there, I’ll tough it out through a patch of bad weather. But if I look out the window and see 10 hours of rain ahead, I’m not going out.” Riders who normally put thousands of miles on the odometer by Memorial Day are logging just a few hundred this year.
Even when the weather clears for a bit, the flooding has left some favorite destinations off limits. Burlington’s waterfront flooded, and Red Rocks and North Beach are still closed. Lakeside roads in Colchester are barely passable. The Champlain Islands have been particularly hard hit. St. Anne’s shrine in North Hero, a favorite spring destination, was flooded through much of May. Sand Bar State Park, Vermont’s original “hawgs and hot dawgs” destination, may not open by July 4.
But we can’t just stay home and wait for the perfect day to ride—this is Vermont after all, and the riding season just isn’t that long. Some thoughts on riding despite the weather:
- Take an inventory of your gear. If you haven’t invested in a rain suit and proper gloves, this is a good time. A good rain suit can stuff into a sack not much bigger than an oil can. Or (using the weather as an excuse) upgrade to a motorcycle touring outfit. These are a fantastic alternative to leather; lightweight, waterproof, breathable in the heat, and most have removable thermal liners and built-in armor.
- Clean your helmet visor before each trip. The more grease and grime on your visor, the more it will fog up in wet conditions. Consider using an anti-fog treatment—there are several to choose from, including Itech, Vari-Clear, and even one with the dubious name Cat Crap. If you’re considering a new helmet, look at one that accepts the Pinlock system–you can see them at Roadside Marine. Pinlock is an insert that creates a sealed airspace over your visor like a double-paned window. It’s extremely good at preventing fog.
- Watch the roads. All this rain has left the road surface in bad shape. Shoulders are washed out, there are potholes that should be called sinkholes, and there’s a lot of loose gravel and asphalt. There’s unusual debris too, like flotsam traffic cones, entire railroad ties, wooden pallets and tires—basically, anything that can float. But nothing you can’t handle if you are alert.
- Head for the hills. If you normally ride in the valleys, why not use this as an opportunity to explore higher country? Spring for a nice big map for your tank bag, or plot a course on the GPS and go someplace you haven’t before.
- Bring a camera. Burlington Free Press readers have taken some awe-inspiring photos of the flood. Up in the hills, there are still uprooted trees and upended buildings from this winter’s phenomenal windstorms (remember those?).
- Remember, it could be worse. In 2003, a motorcycle enthusiast named Filatova Elena Vladimirovna, equipped with a camera and a geiger counter, toured the area around Chernobyl. Her photojournal is called “Ghost Town and the Land of Wolves.” A 2008 sequel, “Pluto’s Realm,” documents the increasing difficulty of exploring this lost land as roads crumble and become overgrown. Her stunning photos are a reminder that motorcycle riding is about adventure. Go where the adventure is.