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Four Wheeling on A Rainy Day

Only a few weeks ago the western states were ablaze with conflagrations that popped up so frequently they forced suppression crews into a deadly game of firefighting whack-a-mole. Who can forget the images of orange flames towering over the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs?

Now, only a short time later, rain is falling nearly every day. It rained all day long today alone, something rarely experienced here in the arid West. As a result, there are a lot of wet and muddy ATV riders walking into my office looking for a place to dry off and to wait out the storm.

All of this got me thinking about precautions and equipment riders can take before hitting the trail when rain is in the forecast.

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Helmet

You shouldn't be 50 miles from the nearest umbrella when you finally realize that it's going to rain. Just as you'd never leave home without checking the pressure in your ATV tires, you should always check the weather before you ride, especially if you're headed into the mountains where conditions can change unexpectedly.

If you know that it’s going to be a wet ride, check out a map for potential shelter areas like buildings, rock overhangs, bridges and underpasses, parks, or secret military installations—whatever works.

Never ride in slot canyons or areas prone to flooding. Rivers and streams that you can easily cross during normal conditions can become swifter, deeper, and more dangerous during a storm. Avoid entering any water when you cannot see the bottom or if it appears to be flowing rapidly. If you must cross, do so by pointing your ATV tires on a downstream angle and work with the current, not against it.

Raining, Pouring

Once you see that there is a 90% chance of precipitation, be sure to dig a little deeper and find out what kind of rain you might be dealing with. It could be any of the following:

  • Mist, Sprinkles, Drizzle Usually nothing to worry about and they sound really tantalizing when on a banana split.
  • Cloudburst Showers If sustained, these are going to get you pretty soaked but may not effect riding conditions too badly.
  • Downpour This might be a good reason to get those Carlisle Mud Wolfs you've been eyeballing down at the tire store. Ground conditions are likely to get really slick.
  • Gully Washer Bring a winch on days like this or, better yet, don't be foolish and just stay home and putt golf balls into the Frankie Says Relax coffee mug you got for Christmas in 1984.
  • Lightning This is no joking matter. It's dangerous. Stay home. Just last week an ATV trail worker in Utah was killed by lightning while sheltering beneath a tree during a storm.

The most important thing is that you know what is coming so you can make good decisions before getting into difficult situations. That last thing you want to do is try to descend a steep, slick mountain road with DOT approved highway tires when you could have easily switched to a more suitable set of Maxxis Bighorns already mounted on rims and setting in your garage.

Avoiding SBS (Soggy Butt Syndrome)

Here are a few things to bring to keep your booty dry:

  • Rain Poncho The cheap ones cost about $1 and fold down to the size of a deck of cards. A large trash bag will also work, just remember to cut out a hole to stick your head through, or the ride is going to end in a bad way.
  • Jacket and Gloves Most riders bring these with them no matter what. Jackets made of nylon or Gore-Tex, materials that repel water, are much better than cotton hoodies.
  • Dry Clothes Sometimes SBS gets you so a fresh pair of pants and a clean shirt are always helpful.
  • Towel or Bandana Anything you can use to dry yourself off with can also be used to wipe your seat dry.
  • Zip Lock Bags or Water Proof Container There's nothing worse than opening up your storage box to find that your camera, GPS, or cell phone have been swimming in a puddle of water for the past hour and a half.
  • Two of Every Animal on Earth This only applies if your name is Noah and you know what a cubit is.

It's Raining, Men. Hallelujah!

Sometimes rain can make the trail treacherous, so I practice what I preach by making sure that everyone in my group is outfitted with ATV tires that fit the conditions, and that they all have towels to wipe off the mud I plan on accidentally splashing all over them.

Personally, I enjoy the rain and riding my ATV in it. There's something calm and refreshing about rain, and it brings with it a sort of renewal to everything it touches. It even smells good to me.

Ryan Richards

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