It’s that time of the year again. The monsoon, or what is masquerading for the monsoon, is in. The weather promises to be unstable this year, with snow coming down on the passes through most of June and now there’s a heat wave in Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh! Rain comes down in either light showers or a positive deluge - there is no in-between and even if there was, how would you prepare for it when out on two wheels?
Think about it. The rainy season in the Indian hinterland will last the better part of three months and you need to prepare for it. The monsoon is a part of our lives, has been and will be. Then why is it that the traffic roadblocks in the monsoons are under flyovers and overhead railway bridges? The moment a drizzle picks up, the underpasses are choked with soaked motorcycle and scooter riders, without any rain gear whatsoever, trying to stay dry! Paradoxically enough, these very same underpasses are inundated with water in about half an hour, with the trapped water rising to dangerous levels. Some underpasses in New Delhi have even been equipped with a scale on the side of the bridge pillar which reads out the water depth. The scale goes to 8ft! Do not take refuge in a depression that will fill up with water. Once the water is filling up, read the scale, if there is one, to see whether the water is shallow enough for a crossing. Carry light waterproof rain gear. Even if you are merely commuting!
Most ADV riders will have rain gear. But to use the gear, which is mostly non-breathable, when it is merely threatening to rain is a royal pain in the posterior. You tend to overheat, then sweat, with no airflow. Most riders will leave the donning of the gear till the last minute, if not later. The result is that one gets soaked and then puts non-breathable gear on top, ensuring that you will remain wet on the inside for a long, long time! The first drops are the indicator to put on rain gear, and checking the weather report before riding out is invaluable. An oversized jacket made of thin material is the easiest to go on. Ensure that the hood is deployed and covers your head. Then, slip the helmet on. This easy fix prevents water running off the helmet’s lower edge and down your neck, defeating the entire effort in one easy stroke! The trousers come on next. Choose those which have Velcro down the entire side of the pant leg so you don’t have to take off your motorcycling adventure boots. The rain pants must have enough room to go over and outside your boots. If they are too narrow at the ankle, they will have to be fed into your boot tops and that is self defeating again. Water will be channelled into your boots and not over them! Make sure the trousers are the right length, long enough to keep them from riding above your boot tops when seated.
Adventure boots are normally fairly waterproof if covered by the rain trousers till the ankle. However, dabbing a foot down in a deep puddle is likely to cause them to take in some water. So how do you gauge the depth of a rain pool. Skirting the pool is the best option. If not possible, wait for another vehicle to cross and find out. Watch for a sudden dip or a sudden rising of the suspension to tell you whether there is a pothole or rock lurking unseen in the water. If smooth, follow the tyre tracks into the pool taken by the car that just crossed. Hold the handlebars loosely and allow the bike its own head. Standing is great, but only if you can stay relaxed. Most riders will cross a pool with their legs raised high off the pegs and seated. Bad idea. Keep your feet on the pegs. Wet feet are better than a fall in the water, wetting you entirely, maybe injuring you, and definitely damaging the bike!
If the water-logging is deep, you need to know how much water your bike can be submerged in before the air intake sucks water. Knowing this is critical. Measure the lower mouth of the air intake from the ground with the rider on board. Reduce about five inches from the total and you come up with the maximum submersible limit of your machine, Provided you can keep it upright! Once fallen, the air intake of a running engine will suck in water immediately. Solution – kill the engine while falling! You cannot do this by instinct – you have to consciously have your mind thinking “Kill switch”. Practise. It’ll pay off. Water is deadlier than it looks. Respect it. Always.