Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

About On The Mark

Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us.

Name: Mark Byers

Current Rides: 'Honestly, his stable is in such a constant flux that we can't keep track of it. If you need to know, just ask him.

Favorite quote:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

- Winston Churchill


There was no sun. Rain fell sporadically from a lead sky and clouds lined the ridges, fingernails of mist clinging to the trees to keep the relentless wind from tearing them away. The spray kicked up by traffic made the windshield of the big, gray bike more translucent than clear and droplets collected on my visor. Thanks to the insert, the visor stayed blissfully clear of fog, unlike the outside world, where fog appeared and disappeared with no apparent foggy logic. Some places, the road was nearly dry, showing vestiges of previous showers, but on others, the road was a shallow pond with pockmarks of fresh rain beating down upon it. It wasn’t cold, but the lack of sun and the damp from the rain made the heated seat and grips most welcome accessories.

We were an oddity: there weren’t any people afield on touring motorcycles where we were riding. Our rally colleagues left long ago to head in other directions before we began the slog home. People in cars looked at us quizzically, with the slight headshake that said, “Boy, those people are crazy to be riding in this weather - glad I’m in a car.” It wasn’t a storm, but one of those widespread fall fronts that you can tell is an “all-dayer” when there’s no sense waiting for it to pass: you must gear up, mount up, and ride, so ride we did.

Thank goodness for our gear. Unlike the days of waxed cotton, or struggling into one-piece coated nylon rainsuits and rubber overboots, today’s riding gear is a minor miracle. Rubberized zippers close tightly and this magical fabric that is breathable, yet waterproof turns away the tide of droplets constantly seeking to invade our spaces. The same fabric lines our boots and gloves, keeping our extremities dry and warm against the onslaught of the mist. Periodic checks with my passenger were met with “I’m dry and I’m warm.” That’s always a good thing, because there is one immutable truth about the magic fabric: it keeps water IN just as fervently as it keeps water out.

After riding a couple hours, we took advantage of another important rainy-day staple: a hot meal. There is just nothing in the world that helps defray the gray of a rainy day like a steaming bowl of homemade soup in a warm, bright diner. Chances are, if they have a good soup, then they have a good sandwich and it’s even money there’s pie to go with hot coffee or tea. Nothing warms your outside like a warm inside. We got the same quizzical or even incredulous looks from other diners and as we left, one woman said she’d pray for us. Hey, I’ll take whatever protection I can get.

Unlike the prayer, our fabric protection took a while to reassemble into a waterproof ensemble, as jackets and pants were zipped up – and together - and collars were secured around balaclavas (or baklavas as we deliciously misname them). Glove cuffs were tucked inside jacket sleeves and secured tightly with Velcro lest we feel the creeping icicles of invading moisture. There is nothing worse than feeling that first icy intrusion of water, especially in your nether regions, and knowing that you’re doomed to several hours of being a member of the “Soggy Bottom Boys.” Fortunately, the liquid invader never found a way into our Cordura fortresses.

Our route choice spared us the Roman gladiatorial circus of the Washington beltway in favor of a more sedate route through rural Virginia. Drivers were even mildly considerate, perhaps out of pity for what they perceived was our rainy plight, but for us was merely an inconvenience. Either way, like the lady’s prayer, I’ll take what I can OTMget. We crossed the high, arching bridge over the wide Potomac. The river was high and muddy, swollen with the dual effects of high tide and rainfall, marking the last thirty miles of our journey. The rain was relentless, coming in squally spasms to remind us that even close to home, nature would have her way. Soon we were home, our gear was hung, boots were shed, a pizza baked, and hot mugs of honeyed tea were in hand. Fed and enveloped in comfy clothes, we retired to our family room, where we enjoyed the other things that are a sure balm for a long, rainy ride: the warmth of a beloved dog and a real, wood-fueled fire. There’s nothing like a rainy ride, including the appreciation of a safe, warm, dry arrival.