In the end, Femmoto '06 was an undeniable success. The participants appreciated the changed dynamic on the track, and Bonnie noticed it as well, saying, "Women seem to be more relaxed with all women on the track." She's planning on the same basic structure for '07, adding cruiser demos on the street and a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course for beginners who want to learn how to ride. So if you're a woman rider or a woman who wants to learn how to ride, mark October 6-7 on your calendar. There is no easier way to transition into the sport of motorcycling, and you might even meet some new friends while you're there. I met one of my best friends there. I'm just glad she gave me a second chance.
Zinging In The Rain
It's so painful a pun I'll apologize in advance, but if there's one thing that can dampen your spirits during a ride, it's rain. Not only does precipitation reduce traction, it hinders your vision and can hide potentially dangerous road hazards, too.
That said, being dressed for the conditions is no less important than having the right technique. First and foremost is a clear (as in un-tinted) face shield that doesn't fog when it's closed; if you have to crack it open to defog, water droplets will run down the inside. Water-shedding chemicals such as Rain-X on the outside of the shield and an antifog treatment on the inside work wonders, and now would be a good time to reinstall that breath deflector you tore out of your helmet because it rubbed on your nose.
Second to clear vision is a warm, dry torso. Water-resistant riding suits can help for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how hard the rain is falling, but any longer than that and you'll need a proper rainsuit. Being cold and wet makes you tense, which can damp out your bike's natural self-centering steering movements and cause instability. Waterproof boots and gloves are a good idea, too, but avoid rain mittens unless they're the lobster-claw type that separates your first and second fingers from your third and fourth; otherwise, you won't be able to brake and blip the throttle while downshifting. Spray-on chemicals such as Scotchgard can lend a degree of waterproofing to most textile garments. And whatever you do, be sure to wear proper protective gear under your rain togs. You'll need it if you'll fall down.
Now that you're outfitted for inclement weather, let's talk about riding in it. The golden rule is: Don't do anything sudden. Be smooth with your steering, throttle and brake inputs so you don't exceed available traction. Short-shift and ride a gear higher than normal to reduce wheelspin. Let the clutch out slowly when downshifting, or engine braking could cause the rear tire to skid or the front to wash out. Allow longer stopping distances. Squeeze the front brake lever lightly at first to transfer weight and then increase pressure. And use the rear brake: Conventional wisdom says up to 100 percent of braking is accomplished via the front brake, but that figure varies in accordance with the percentage of vehicle weight on each tire. In the wet, the rear brake could account for up to 40 percent of stopping power.
Modern streetbike tires work surprisingly well in the wet, but they're not magic. They still need heat in them to work, which takes longer in the wet, particularly if it's cold outside. Don't worry about the slick edges on your supersport tires, either; you'll never lean over that far on the street.
As for the road itself, avoid riding during the first hour after it begins to rain, and longer if it hasn't rained in a few weeks or months. This is the period when oil and gas are washed away, which makes the pavement that much more treacerous. Steer clear of slippery Bott's dots, manhole covers and paint stripes, and don't ride in the center of the lane, particularly at stoplights, because that's where poorly maintained cars and trucks drip oil. Try not to ride in the spray from other vehicles or through puddles, because you won't be able to see road hazards such as drainage grates, seams or potholes. And be mindful of the temperature; if the mercury drops below freezing, park the bike and take the car. There's no safe way to ride on ice.
Heed this advice, practice these techniques and the next time it rains, you won't be half as stressed out about it. You might even learn to like it.