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All wet

February 27, 2009


“Isn’t it kind of wet for one of those?” asked the yellow slicker-wearing man on Delridge. I was on the GTS, stopped behind a Metro bus. It was raining. “Oh, no,” I said. Of course, I had once again forgotten the rain pants.

Monday was a long day. I needed to be in Burien at 9:00 am sharp. My business there concluded early, but I’d need to return in the afternoon. Then a trip to Everett suddenly became necessary.

The morning rain had given way to mostly cloudy skies and sunbreaks as I took to the Viaducts. I suppose I could’ve hopped on I-5, but there are trucks going 70. Aurora will be fine. It was getting warmer.

Mid-afternoon, business done in Everett, I’m headed south on 99. The temperature’s dropped, the sky’s a smeary gray. It’s raining ahead, and I’m heading straight into it.

Many people call themselves fair-weather riders, avoiding rain studiously. I admit, many is the time I’ve asked myself what the hell I’m doing riding through some dreadful downpour when I could be in a nice, warm car.

But lots of people either don’t pay attention to weather forecasts or assume said forecasts are wrong. If these people happen to be fair-weather riders, there’s a chance they could find themselves getting rained on.

In this case, the weather was doing as exactly as had been forecast, rain moving from the south due to an area of low pressure. The commute would be wet, the weather people said, and it was.

Seattle is the place where it rains all the time, right? As I tell people, if you won’t do something because it might rain, you won’t do much of anything. If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t get comfortable riding in the rain.

You could always wait it out, but sometimes it rains continuously, for days on end. It brings to mind images of search parties finding the remains of a fair-weather rider next to a deteriorated scooter. A bicycle can be put on a bus.

I’m a native, and I’ve lived in other places where it rains a lot. Rain doesn’t bother me. Not that much, anyway. Except for the dreadful downpours.

Luckily, the GTS feels securely planted as the pavement gets wetter. As David Hough writes in Proficient Motorcycling, put your wheels on the driest part of the pavement. As the rain starts falling, that’ll be the middle, due to the heat from cars’ engines. Once the pavement is thoroughly soaked, cars’ tires will squeegee drier paths. Slow down, stay upright, and be aware of what’s going on around you.

Traffic is moving about 40 mph, and the GTS feels fine at this speed. I’d planned to take the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but it’s quite slippery when wet, so I’ll go through Ravenna and Eastlake to get back to Burien.

My pants are soaked as I pass I-5 and see that traffic is moving quite slowly. Hmm. It would be easier than going through downtown Seattle, even if I jump off at James Street. Go for it, I say.

WSDOT has spent the past few weekends repairing the road surface through Seattle. However, rather than lay new asphalt, they’ve ground the surface. It’s smooth, but full of little grooves. The GTS’ tires nibble fiercely at 35 mph. Yes, the nibbling might decrease at higher speeds, but I’m not inclined to test this theory in the rain. I jump off at James Street.

I’d never ridden on Ambaum Boulevard in the rain, so it was a pleasant surprise to find the pavement grippy in the wet. Again, the GTS could run comfortably with traffic. The Sava tires’ tread design works well in the wet. I wish they weren’t so darn noisy.

I’m a bit of a drowned rat when I arrive back in Burien, but not as drowned as I could’ve been. Corazzo’s 5.0 jacket is not water-proof, but is quite water-resistant. The parts of my track jacket and sweater that aren’t exposed remain dry.

And there’s a patch of blue sky to the west. No, it doesn’t rain in Seattle all the time. Favicon


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