For some riders, the kapote (poncho / raincoat) serves as cheap and readily available rain gear, vital now that the rainy season has already begun. They may be easy to buy, put on, and store, but are they really safe for motorcycle riders?
Just last Tuesday, while on my way to Quezon City, a sudden and heavy downpour caught me along EDSA corner White Plains Avenue. It was so sudden, I wasn't able to put on my rain gear in time. With the traffic quickly getting bad and me already soaking wet, I decided to just head back home and call it a day.
Don't just keep yourself dry, stay highly visible during a heavy downpour by wearing brightly-colored rain gear or your reflectorized vest on top of the rain gear.
Upon reaching Green Meadows Avenue, I saw two motorcycles ahead of me just fall down for no apparent reason. As it turns out, one of the pillion (back) riders was wearing a poncho raincoat (kapote) that got caught in the rear chain and sprocket. The other motorcycle who was tailing him tried to swerve to avoid a collision, but lost control and also fell down.
Minutes later, upon reaching C5 in Taguig, I passed another rider who was just picking his bike up from the asphalt. Turns out that he too, fell down from his bike because his poncho raincoat got tangled in the bike's rear chain and sprocket. Good thing that these riders were riding slowly because of the heavy traffic and they walked away with just bruised egos. With two incidents in just a matter of minutes, it begs the question, are poncho-type raincoats dangerous for us riders?
Standard two-piece raincoats/rain gear are much safer to use when riding motorcycles.
Ponchos were actually used as topical garments, worn by the South American people of the Andes, since the pre-colonial era; from what are now known as the countries of Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Ecuador. In fact, the Mapuche poncho was once highly valued in the 19th century and a piece of it could be traded for several horses or up to seventy kilos of yerba mate (a type of South American beverage). It was so valuable, it would be like swapping a piece of garment for a car or even a motorcycle. Ponchos were even issued to US troops during the Philippine-American War, serving as their rain gear, ground sheet for sleeping, or even as a roofing material for their makeshift shelters in the frontlines.
The right gear
Though the poncho raincoat is very versatile, it was not, by design intended for motorcycle use. The poncho was made to be loose and airy to grant the wearer freedom of movement. While these are desireable qualities, particularly with our hot climate (even when it rains), the loose material can easily get caught in a motorcycle's chain, wheel and sprocket. The safest rain gear for riders are those that fit snuggly to the body with no loose material that can easily get caught in a drive chain / belt, wheels, or sprocket, or even from the side mirror of a car when filtering through heavy traffic. Booties are also widely available that easily slip over your shoes to keep your feet dry. Wearing slippers while riding a motorcycle is against the law by the way, even when it's raining.
There are many places where you can buy quality rain gear suitable for motorcycle use. I, for example, bought mine from a friend (Jvhan Accel, through Facebook) who sells a “green kapote” rain suit. Another place to look at for an affordable rain gear would be in the vicinity of Camp Crame in Quezon City as the sellers there sell police and military-grade raincoats. Quiapo would also be a nice place to buy a motorcycle rain gear at an affordable price.
If budget is not a concern, there's Bikerbox in Paranaque where you can buy branded, motorcycle-specific rain gear imported from the US and Europe. Motoworld also has an extensive selection of similar equipment.
Avoid dark-colored or camouflage-themed raincoats and opt for the ones with reflector strips and high-visibility color schemes. If there aren't much to choose from for now, wear your motorcycle club's reflective vest over it to remain highly VISIBLE during heavy rains. Read our guide here on how to ride in the rain. These can mean the difference between surviving a fall and getting run over by a car. If you don't have the right rain gear, look for a safe place to just wait out the rain.
Video courtesy of GMA News
Just browse Facebook or Youtube and you will find a lot of videos of riders who, unfortunately, crashed their motorcycles because their poncho got caught on the rear chain and sprocket.
Some may have escaped with just bruises, but some can suffer more serious injuries like lacerations to their neck and body, choking from a caught poncho, or even more severe scrapes from falling down and being dragged behind the bike.
Don't be another statistic. Invest in better rain gear.