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Checking weather before a ride


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I ask, how much to you check and consider weather conditions when you depart on a ride?



Let me share a ride tale first.


Was a Sunday morning and I needed to attend a party about 100Miles away, a nice 2 hour ride. So I checked the weather and it was forecast to be decent except for a small chance of an isolated late day thunder shower. (Hmmm, not bad) I have no problem with rain and besides, I am not going to arrange my schedule around some speculative late day shower.


So, I roll out the ST and am on my way. It was a beautiful morning ride and I arrive at my destination around 10:30am. Around 4pm, the get together was winding down and I wanted to leave. But I was delayed because at the last minute, my brother wanted too have me help him on some computer problem he was having. So I left a little later than planned with no thoughts on checking the weather.


So on the way back, I ran into a few light scattered showers in the first 40miles, no big deal. But soon the rain was getting steady and somewhat heavy, not a problem. I just have to keep my speed in check so as to not hydroplane on the standing water on the road. Then I start seeing distant flashes of lightning. There are places that I could stop and wait this out, but it seems not too threatening so I press on, anxious to get back.


Now, the rain is coming down pretty good. I have cars behind and in front of me. It's getting quite dark and the flashes and coming more often. The opportunities to pull over and wait this out, under cover are well behind my now. In looking forward, I see a couple streaks within a few miles. NOW, I am concerned. As, I climb a long hill to an exposed high spot of my route, I continue to press on (like a dope). I can detect the distinctive punk smell in the air that could be of local lightning activity. As soon as I crest the hill, I see the shoulder of the road turns white and there is a two inch ridge of marble sized hail stones covering all but the tire track of the travel lanes. I momentarily think I should just stop and pull over, but, under the reduced visibly of the heavy rain, traffic behind me and the possibility steering the bike into those ice marbles, I decide to pucker up and stay in the tire track. Soon the conditions start improving and in 20minutes, I roll into my drive way.


Later, in the news, I find out that there was a surprise line of thunderstorms that cropped up. Unbeknownst to me, they have been blasting emergency weather warnings in the afternoon. Fortuitously, it looked like the heart of the storm had just rolled through before I came through. Had I left on time, I would have been in the thick of it. Fifty miles south of where I was, a pickup was thrown fifty feet by a funnel cloud. We simply don’t get tornadic activity up here in New Hampshire.




Now I know many of you ride in areas where the weather can be much more unpredictable and severe than up here in the Northeast. What sort of preparations do you do before a ride to either prepare or avoid dangerous weather conditions?

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I do not check the weather often.


But I do check.


I pastor a church that is about 50 miles away. That 50 miles is up the mountain. I have left home before in moderate gear only to be confronted by a snowstorm down the road. On Sundays I always check the weather. 50 miles and drastically different elevation makes for a big difference in weather.


For trips - I do not pay much attention to weather forecasts. If I have to stop partway fine, but its not going to change my mode of transportation.


For commuting (my other job - the fulltime one) I do not check carefully, but remain generally aware. Threat of snow or ice I drive. Other than that I ride.

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Checking weather reports is usually more a liability than a benefit up here, mainly because they're not very reliable. After too many trips delayed for incoming bad weather, only to be at home looking at blue skies, I've learned to ignore weather reports except on the shoulder seasons, and then more for icing reports than rain or shine.

I must admit that I'd be more interested in electrical storm or tornado forecasts if we ever had any up here.

Take care,


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skinny_tom (aka boney)

I use the National Weather Service as reference. On an optional ride, like one originating from home where I have the option of taking the car, I take the bike at 40% chance of rain or less, regardless of the current conditions. If I'm headed home or already out, then I don't even check the weather, I just ride and play it by ear.


Stopping on the side of the road is the last place you'll ever find me. I feel like a sitting duck out there and won't stop until I find a place to get well out of the way.

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I'll get a rough idea, mainly with respect to temperature. My jacket is an air jacket with a liner, so I want to know whether to bring the liner or not. Same with glove choice and rain jacket. All are easily stowed in the top case.

LA doesn't get the radical changes in weather that other parts of the country can get.

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I'll do a check with NOAA before an extended ride, mostly looking for cold spots at this time of the year.


I never leave home without rain suit and gloves and ride with waterproof boots on as well. Mostly the decision is whether or not to pack the heated gear. A light windbreaker worn over my Airflow jacket usually is all I need.


I have only been caught out by hail twice, once about 20 years ago in West Texas and once last fall around Albuquerque. Not fun to ride through and the lightening in the latter case was flat scary. The road I was on offered no shelter other than the occasional roadside tree and no shoulders to speak of, I wasn't getting under a tree in a thunderstorm and there was not enough room on the shoulder to safely park the bike. Luckily, the storm only lasted about 20 miles worth and I was down to about 20 mph through most of it. Scary, to say the least.

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I live in the English midlands. It is going to rain, its just a question of when.


The serious answer is that we do not get severe weather here. Hail is infrequent and light, thunderstorms similar. In the last two years we have had a couple of tornados which did a fair amount of damage but were small as these things go. Being an island our weather is also far less predicitable than a continental land mass so there is little point in checking. All this in a country where the number one topic of converstion is the weather. confused.gif


Andy thumbsup.gif

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That's part of the reason I've got the radio on all the time and am pretty adamant about seeing the weather forcast on the news for the day ahead.


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Yeeha! Stephen

"the lightening in the latter case was flat scary."


Little story about my childhood fear of Lightning & that I've never been able to shake it. Almost brings this big ole' Texas boy to tears sometimes.


I was 8, my brother was 5 and we were playing in a tree unaware of an approaching thunderstorm. Several of us neighborhood kids were swinging on an old horse hair rope high up in a huge oak tree. Lightning hit the upper part of the tree. It explode the fork that 3 friends and I were on, and threw us over a fence into the next backyard. No injuries, just scared to death.

My brother was on the rope, and lightning came down the tree, down the rope, hit him in the back of the head, traveled across his body and out his toes. Burned him up pretty good. He lived but the lightning changed him forever.

Before the strike, my brother was super shy, very chubby and had a speech impediment. He stuttered and could not pronounce the letter "s" ( or soft "c" ) in any word.

That lightning screwed him up. As soon as he woke up in the hospital, his speech was corrected, he became highly aggressive and short tempered (still is today and has caused him some jail time) and his weight problem went away.


Ever since then, and dealing with him for the last 45 years, I am still afraid of lightning. Very afraid. bncry.gif


Some of my local riding buds give me grief for checking the Weather Channel so often. And for heading for cover at the slightest hint of a storm.


They never have felt my heart rate when I'm faced with riding into the teeth of the monster. Agghhh!


Rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind... they are just a pain in the rear. Lightning though...


I'd still be spooked if I had to ride where you just did! crazy.gif


Better thee than me!


Good luck and have FUN next time!

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I have never found the weather reports to be acurate at all and therefore ignore them. I pay attention to what I see and feel and when the weather get's real bad, such as the hail I hit last year, I pull off. Riding in MN I always have gear for rain, hot and cold weather riding.

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I keep loose tabs on the general weather for the next few days. I have a GMRS radio that picks up the weather frequencies and would probably start listening to it if I got caught in a storm to figure out how long it will last or how much worse it will get.

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I have never found the weather reports to be acurate at all and therefore ignore them.


Hey John! thumbsup.gif


I rarely trust the reports, but I sure do trust what I see on radar loops before a day on the road. If you watch the radar, it is usually pretty accurate up here to predict the daily "trend".


That, along with a check of cold/warm fronts in the area, is pretty good information for the days weather to come.

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I find that Weather is a hugely important factor in my Riding. Beyond the pop-up thunerstorm, Rain, Wind, Ice, Fog, Cold, Heat, and the variations between those across the areas I ride all pose challenges to success and enjoyment of ride.


Here in Southern California, very contray to popular opinion, unless one stays in the LA Basin, and even there, Weather is going to vary. The prevailing westerly flow, with either north or south components is going to be blocked by mountains, or the atmospherice contents juggled or enhanced by them, and Weather is going to vary, sometimes into 5 zones that can be crossed in a hundred miles. At the very least, the choices of what riding gear to carry is a challenge.


I monitor Weather in a gradient form. To keep abreast of the big picture and have my own base for prediction, perhaps 5 out of 7 days I read the NOAA NWS Forecast Synopsis. It protrays the preditions of the qualities like temps and moisture content, and the flow directions of the pressure systems and airmasses from the various computer Weather Modeling systems. They also give the pressure gradients (which influence wind) and the progress of precitation through the area in their about 4 times daily updates.


When I know I'll be riding, though that can be continuously at times, a few days ahead I also begin monitoring the Unisys enhanced IR satellite loops. I cross check how they and the sysopsis match.


I'll also begin to monitor the NextRad radar loop, comparing it to what I see from the IR sat.


By that point, there really aren't surprises - at least not so far. Likelihood, and Possibilty, even of "freak" weather goes away with good monitoring. I've become so well convinced of this that I carry a laptop on longer trips, or trips to volatile areas, like The Gulf Coast, The Great Plains, The Ohio River Valley, and always The Mountains.


Our Western Deserts and Mountains are dangerous places when rain is present. To the greatest extent possible, I stay out of them during rain events, and for at least one to two days afterward because of the outfall that results. If I must travel them after an event, I choose the main roads in the mountains. I choose the High Ground of deserts but proceed at a much slower pace.


As for The South, hurricanes mean Get The Hell Out Of Dodge. In the Plains, a cold front means "Go SOUTH young, man. Go SOUTH". In fact, ANYWHERE, just as in Aviation, a cold front in the area prompts me to take extreme caution, and carefully monitor the weather's progress... Or keep the bike parked.


Best wishes

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Lightning though...


I've been a bit spooked about lightning ever since reading about the guy who was killed by lightning in Rocky Mountain National Park during Cycle World's H-D 100th anniversary ride to Milwaukee.


Sorry about your brother. But hey, two out of three ain't bad! grin.gif

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Here in England it's all so much easier.

I look out of the window,

If I can see the Malvern Hills, it's going to rain,

If I can't, it's because it's already raining.......

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I'm with Andy.... it often rains, more often we have hard winds.... in Holland.


The weather forecast is one of the few programs I watch and keep track of. World news is way down my list of interesting things these days.


I also check out traffic news.... we live in a congested part of the world and you will want to know any traffic problems TOGETHER with the weather forecast ;-)


Francois thumbsup.gif

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I always check. Usually more than one source, and watch radar loops. While weather prediction is definitely not super reliable, it helps a great deal in the planning.

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On long trips I check the National Weather Service web site and pay special attention to the radar. I find it gives me a very good idea of what I might be riding into.


Mostly if it's just rain I go. If it's likely to be heavy rain with wind then I might choose to take the car. I use the 50% chance as my usual cut off.


I also always have my rain suit, water proof gloves an electric vest and extra layers with me, just in case.


Ice or snow; I don't go.


As for commuting, if the weather is bad when I'm ready to leave I take the car. If it gets bad when I'm at work, I might wait for rush hour to pass and just go home late.


If it's bad enough I leave the bike and get a ride home.


Rush hour traffic is no time to be dealing with bad weather.


If I'm already on my way under most circumstances I'll usually try to ride it out. If it was bad enough though I'd pull over and wait it out. How do I know it is bad enough?


When I no longer feel confident in my ability to cope with the conditions.

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I check with Nat'l Weather also. I look for simple things - highs are good & lows aren't. Never start winter mountainroads after 4pm.


If it starts to hail, I stop. I think hail showers don't last long (but I have no proof of that.


Rains OK, but I don't respect lightening as much as I should.


I don't like night Tully fog (heavy). In CA they drive at 70-80 in the fog and I'm afraid they will run me over.


Doing LD riding in winter and the shoulder months, you will run into the full weather spectrum.


So, its nice to have a hint of what you'll run into.


Hell, with the surprize storms you had; the radio may not have had the update of the current conditions. Good you made it home.

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Oh, the second one was not really a surprise. I was riding South along US 12 in New Mexico with the continental divide to my right and a huge valley to my left. Living inside the valley was a monster of a thunderstorm that I had watched developing for miles. Actually I could see it before I entered the zone and could see the approaching intersection of my route on the GPS and the storm filling the sky ahead. I just lost the race. The hail was an interesting adventure, small enough to keep the tires plowing through it, kinda like riding on loose gravel. Large enough to be painful, especially on my hands as I was riding my 1100S which offers very little protection in that area. The rounded profile of a motorcycle tire will pretty much cut through loose stuff and get down to the pavement beneath which was warm enough to avoid loss of traction. Not so the pickup truck that got up on the marbles and nearly spun into me coming from the opposite direction. He crossed the center line and was heading right for me at one point, got it back and stuffed himself into a ditch right after I passed. That puckered me up pretty good.

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Nope don't check it, at least not when riding in the soggy PNW. I just plan on it raining at least some time during the ride and pack appropriatly. In the inter mountain west I plan on afternoon thunderstoms. In the Midwest, East and South I usually just keep an eye on frontal system movements. The apparoach has worked pretty well over the years.

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Thanks for all the input guys.thumbsup.gif


With the benefit of hindsight in my instance above, I could have avoided the dangerous conditions if I had gotten a weather update. But, I would never be able to entirely avoid spur of the moment bad conditions by keeping tabs on the weather. I could have been more adaptive during the ride and made the decision to turn around during the small window of time when it was clear that the conditions were deteriorating fast.

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I check it all the time, riding or not, at the MX track on an iffy day I check it on the cell phone.


Often I'll debate how fast the storm is moving and its direction and make a guestimate of when it will hit, if i had time i ride, 9 times out of 10. I never get wet. grin.gif


It's also apart of the fun for me. SO many times I've pulled into the garage, and it starts raining, sometimes a few minutes after, others right as I get in the driveway. And I think to myself, "Damn I'm good" grin.gif

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