Today I left work early to beat the coming rain, which I didn't do, so I was glad to have my rain gear and I completely underestimated the need to actually use the pants as well as the rain jacket. My bad for not expecting that a rain shower is more than just God spitting at motorcyclists to see what s/he can hit.
I've never ridden long in the rain. I think maybe 20 minutes was the most (across town or on the highway). I also don't have rain gear yet, and generally wouldn't go far if the weather threatened to bring it, and don't know where I'd store rain gear in case **** if I were to. So the times that I did ride in rain I had no rain gear on.
In general, my leather jacket kept my upper body dry except for the bottom of my shirt since my sport jacket is about as short as it can be without being a belly jacket.. My riding pants have been Kevlar-lined jeans so there's no protection from the elements (I got fat and the laundry shrunk them so I have to replace my riding pants this season). If I know I'm riding in rain I will pack a change of clothes for when I get to my destination so I can be comfortable all day long no matter how wet the ride is (e.g., work). I just stuff them in my rucksack. If I get caught in rain there's no much I can do, but on a short ride my pants don't seem to get wet enough to bother me unless it's pouring, but again I tend to plan for where I'm going. If I'm going home I don't much care if my pants are wet because I can change when I get there.
Two observations: I am more cautious in the rain. How cautious is too cautious? I ride about 5-10 mph slower depending on the curvature of the road and use the lean much less relying on counter steering with as little lean as possible.
It really depends on your environment. If there isn't any traffic around you (especially behind/beside) then go as slow as you want. If there is then you have to judge based on their behavior. If they're riding your ass out of impatience let them pass, and if it happens again and again and you don't feel comfortable going faster then it's time to pull over. There's no shame in stopping. If you need, call for help to bring you a warm place to take shelter or whatever you need. Or if it's safe and you're comfortable just wait the rain out. It is definitely an uncomfortable feeling riding in the wet at first, but you don't lose all traction. For the most part, you want to be easier on the brakes and lean less. You can lean less by slowing down, and in theory by leaning your body weight off
of the bike (but slowing down is probably both more comfortable and easier). If you don't do anything abrupt to disrupt traction you should be fine.
I want to miss manhole covers because I heard they can are slippery in the wet, but they are hard to see so I just look ahead for what looks like a puddle and hope I can see it or that if I don't, I am not in the middle of a turn when I discover I am directly on top of it (or not if that happens).
Manhole covers can actually be slippery even when they're dry! I generally try to avoid them even when it's dry out, but in my first few years I honestly was too focused on everything else and didn't have any focus to spare. I hit hundreds of them in both dry and wet conditions. They won't suddenly throw the bike down, but again they are a low-traction surface so you don't want to be relying on traction when you cross them. Try to avoid hard braking or cornering over them. If you're cornering and get surprised by one there isn't a lot you can do so just remain calm and trust the bike. Avoid brakes that might lock and reduce you to a skid. Where I'm from I think it's unlikely to find them in corners anyway. In perfectly dry conditions if I'm being naughty accelerating from a stoplight I have skidded on them. Be careful of that.
Puddles are a larger threat because you don't know what's in them. It could be a 30 cm deep pothole or a piece of angle iron or anything. Avoid puddles if you can safely do so, but otherwise pass over them with as much caution as you can. Avoid any kind of sudden movements, like braking or turning over them, if you can. Otherwise, odds are you, you'll pass over them just fine. Don't panic.
What do others think? Am I too cautious or does that seem about right?
Sounds like you have a head on your shoulders. Rely on that and you should be good. Don't let other people scare you into taking unnecessary risks. There's no such thing as "too cautious" unless your caution is making matters worse. If you're being so cautious that you're making other traffic threaten you then it's time to pull over. Otherwise, granny that sucker like a boss! There's no substitute for experience. It can't be coached either.
It goes without saying that you don't feel comfortable riding then pull over. Weather exists where you really do need to pull over and there's no shame doing it. Guys that have been riding 30 years will pull over when it becomes too much. The limit is unique to every rider at any given time. There's no standard. It's up to you to decide.
Also when I pulled into my "driveway", I noticed some steam coming off the front underside which smelled a bit like melty wires or velcro. Could it have been the burn off from my bike cover which I melted the strap on earlier today, or something else more sinister?
I doubt it was anything serious. As I recall steam is pretty normal if you have the engine hot in the rain. I wouldn't be surprised to find an associated smell either. Worst case, if you melted a belt cover strap that's probably all it was. I wouldn't be worried. I too avoid throwing the cover on it until it has had a chance to cool (at least 30 minutes). To be fair, my bike cover appears to be made of a material that is explicitly not meant for heat (it's a Honda cover, straight from the dealership). I think covers exist that you can throw on without them melting, but I'm not sure. If they do I sure would like one. My bike often braves the elements because by the time it's cool I'm comfortable on the 4th floor and don't much feel like walking my ass back down to cover it. Most of the time. That said, it seems to handle it fine.
Bonus points: Now I'm super tired because it takes more concentration and a bit longer to get home when you're wiping the rain off your visor and paying painstaking attention to every detail. I need to work the rest of the day, but I have had two cups of coffee, a cup of tea, a 12 ounce coke and I am still flagged. More coffee or a nap, food?
It's a very different experience riding a motorcycle in rain versus driving a car. I don't think people can understand it without doing it. Reduced visibility, having to wipe your visor, added fatigue on top of the already additional fatigue of riding a motorcycle... It takes a lot out of you. It's probably too late, but if a nap is an option I say go for it (maybe that's just 30 years old talking)! I would say you've had enough caffeine. I have found myself in an almost "high" state from consuming too much when I'm tired/exhausted. There's a limit to coffee's magic. If you're too tired you should just rest. Food is a good idea too. It's a judgment thing, like how long after you drink alcohol that you can drive/ride, but there are some rules to go by. You should probably avoid riding if you "need" coffee at all, but if even a cup isn't enough to make you feel good about it I'd say call for a ride.
Bonus: My rule for alcohol is one standard-size drink per hour (a 365 ml beer, a normal size mixed drink, a shot, etc.), plus generally an extra hour for good measure to metabolize all of the alcohol. I don't care how much "tolerance" I think I've built (don't think I could build more to be honest
), I live by that rule. I don't mind riding in the passenger seat sober if I means I avoid driving in the pilot seat with a buzz. Again, that's probably just 31 talking. I'm sure 41 thinks I'm a *****.
Obligatory "motovlog" (without vlogging) in the rain: