Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Riding Gear

To call my interest in motorcycles and the sport of motorcycle riding an obsession is an understatement. This is no joke; I am constantly thinking about ways to improve my riding, what can I get to make things easier, how can I increase my range, how can I reduce the amount of time needed for stops, how can I be more comfortable, how can I lessen fatigue, how can I improve my route, how can I mitigate my exposure to risk, how can I deal with the time/distance constraints within my trip, what foods can I consume to better my abilities, and on and on and on. I have a fairly rigid physical fitness plan and diet and the only reason I have such a thing is to be in top physical health in order to maximize my riding capabilities. I enjoy being healthy, but really I just want to be in shape in order to ride hard for days and days and days at a time. Whenever I meet other like-minded people, I usually walk away from the conversation with a list of books to read or products to research in order to determine whether or not to incorporate them into my world. I get a lot of ideas from bulletin boards and of course all the magazines I subscribe to. As I re-read the beginning of this post it really looks ridiculous and this interest may wane in the future, but for now I am just being honest and trying to explain this obsession. Ok, so…back to riding gear. The basic piece of gear starts with my fully armored grey on grey one-piece Aerostich Roadcrafter riding suit. Aerostich is a company headquartered in Duluth MN and since I am from that area, I try to use them for any gear and accessories. Also, they have a very strong reputation in the riding gear commercial space, particularly within the BMW owners’ community. I have been there a couple times and once I set my sights on the Roadcrafter, I decided to ride there to get a custom fit and besides, you get a 10% discount if you purchase from them directly in Duluth. I did a Bun-Burner Gold (BBG) ride there last summer. The BBG is an Iron Butt Association (IBA) certified ride of 1500 miles in 24 hours. I actually went 1500 miles in 23 hours. I think the IBA will be the topic of a later post. Anyway, I got fitted for my Roadcrafter and they sent it to me a couple weeks later. I love the suit. It really is worth every penny (~$900). What do I wear under the suit? There is so much protection on this suit that you could wear nothing underneath if you wanted and you would still be very well protected from any road rash if you find yourself skidding down the highway. I have been experimenting with several different “base layers” and undergarments. On short day trips I usually just wear normal street clothes underneath, but on long distance (LD) trips I need to wear the most comfortable stuff possible. I have tried several Under Armour, Nike, Addidas, Rukka, and Alpinestars products for shirts. All of them have been decent. Under Armour has worked best for winter riding and the others have been adequate for summer riding. You really just need something that is close to the skin and “wicks” the sweat from your body. For underwear, you can not go wrong with LD Comfort underwear. An excellent product and will give any LD rider the ability to go an extra couple hundred miles on any given day without crotch rash. I recently purchased a few pair of the long LD Comfort underwear in preparation for next month’s trip. My plan is to wear the long underwear and a wicking shirt under the Roadcrafter and that’s it. I have a nice Aerostich Kanetsu electric vest for the winter, but it won’t be necessary on this trip. I am not bringing it, but I am aware that the temps will drop so I am bringing a couple sweatshirts and they should be adequate. Boots and gloves. Last year, I read a blog from a woman who rode across Europe and she had some recommendations which I adopted. Two of which are boots and gloves. For boots, I have the TCX Airtech Gore-Tex boots. This boot is marketed as a summer boot with “breathable” waterproofing features. However, I wear the boot year round and have had no problems with varying temperatures. They are very comfortable, but you need to tuck your pants into the boot because if you don’t, the top of the boot will rub your shin and irritate your skin. For summer gloves, I use the REV’IT! Zenith H2O Gloves. REV’IT! makes a bunch of summer gloves, but I needed the waterproofing because I actually love to ride in the rain, but I like to stay dry as I do it. These gloves are comfortable and perform in the rain as advertised; they also have some knuckle armor. However, when it is extremely hot and you get sweaty, they are very difficult to take off and put back on which increases your stopping time and (to me) that’s unacceptable. I have some cheap cloth liner gloves that I wear underneath and they have helped tremendously. I wear them for a day and throw them out. They are perfect for this purpose and you can find them at any Home Depot and they are cheap. In the winter and cold months I have a couple options for gloves. I have the Tourmaster Winter Elite glove which is very comfortable and they have a nice rain cover attached to them. These gloves are great for the cold spring and fall rides. When you get deep into the winter though, you need to break out the electrics. In November 2009, I purchased the Gerbing’s 12V Hybrid Heated Glove. The gloves have a battery so you can wear them without being tethered to your bike’s electrical system. However, the battery will only last about an hour at the full level. If you are on a long trip, you need to connect them to the electrical system for constant use. I bought the Hybrid model because my commuter bike is a 2002 Piaggio Vespa PX150 and I didn’t want to get it all wired for accessories. My commute is only about 15 minutes so I can use the gloves for about a week on a single charge. They are very warm and I have been quite happy with them. They have no armor protection and they say they are waterproof, but I’m not sure I would trust them in really heavy rain. Who’s riding in the rain in the winter though? I will ride in any weather except freezing rain unless I’m stuck and I have to. Wow…this is a long post and I still have my complicated helmet to write about… I am going to save that for another post.

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