Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Post Trip Review 2: Riding Gear

It's been a while since my last post, during which time I've been suffering Route 66 withdrawal symptoms. Not uncommon I hear.

But anyway, this post is about the riding gear I took with me and how it stood up to the task. Remember, I did the trip in April-May. Later in the year the weather would tend to be much hotter.
On my trip I rode though all sorts of weather, everything from snow, rain, hail and strong winds through to fine warm sunny days, and blistering dessert heat over 100F. Someone once said to me that there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad riding gear - I tend to agree!

Over the years my gear has been refined and purchased primarily for riding in British weather, so I know it would be OK for the cold and damp, but I wondered how it would fair in the varying types of climate I would encounter on Route 66?
The kit I took consisted of:

Jackets: I took two, both made by Hein Gerecke. The first was a heavy waterproof textile jacket, complete with shoulder elbow and back armour, although I had taken out the winter lining. On the coldest days I wore a base layer, t-shirt and micro-fleece under it, and was perfectly warm, especially behind the Harley's big protective screen and fairing. As it warmed up, I could remove layers to stay comfortable, and unzip vents in the jacket to let some air through.

The other jacket was lighter and has panels that are made of a mesh material. It is designed for those hot days when you need to get some ventilation going and is far from waterproof, for obvious reasons! It still offers plenty of protection though, with armour in all the vulnerable places. At home, this jacket only gets used about twice per year! On this trip it was the jacket of choice once the temperatures started to rise.

Boots: Altberg motorcycle boots, made to measure at their factory in Richmond, North Yorkshire. These are great boots, comfortable to walk in, have proven to be 100% waterproof to date, and should offer good protection in the case of an accident. Altberg will also repair and refurbish as required, so they should last for life. I wore these every day on the bike, with thermal socks underneath on the cold days!

Trousers: I only took one pair of motorcycle trousers, these are by Hein Gerecke and match the heavier jacket. They can be zipped together to keep the drafts down when riding (and hold the trousers up when walking!) The trousers also have vents which can be unzipped for some ventilation when the temperatures start to rise. Additional protection is provided by built in armour around the hips and knees.  I wore these everyday, with a base layer underneath on the colder days. I had no problem with the cold; the only time there was an issue was in-town riding in the warmer temperatures, when, combined with the heat from the engine, things became quite uncomfortable. I almost took a pair of Kevlar jeans with me (for example Draggin' Jeans), and if I had been travelling any later in the year, these probably would have been required due to the heat. As it was, it was bearable, and worth the occasional discomfort to know that I had good protection should the worst happen.

Gloves: I took some all-season gloves, again made by Hein Gerecke. They offer extra knuckle protection, and are made from kangaroo leather. These are the gloves that I use all year round in the UK. On this trip however I bought a lighter pair of leather gloves from Biker Shak, opposite the Round Barn, for when the temperature started to rise. From the same place I also bought some fingerless gloves. To be honest, these weren't really required on the grounds of the temperature, but turned out to be really good when riding through the National Parks. In these places you're jumping on and off the bike every few minutes to take pictures - having fingerless gloves meant that you could leave them on and still use the camera, and so save some time, but at the same time ensuring that the backs of my hands didn't get sun burnt!

Crash Helmet: Before the trip I agonised about what to do about the crash helmet. At home I always ride with a full face helmet, but didn't want one of those for the trip. I looked at buying an open face lid (three quarter helmet as the Americans call them), or a flip-front lid before I went, but in the end decided not to take one at all, as I believed that I would get something suitable from EagleRiders.
As it turned out all they had at the shop were half helmets (piss-pot lids, as we call them in the UK!) with no visors. And they were all huge and minging inside! They had nothing suitable for me. Luckily there is a Harley Davidson dealer right next door, so I went there and found a helmet that fitted, had a visor, and was more substantial that those they had in EagleRiders, so I bought that. Luckily I never had to find out how much protection it would provide! I brought the lid home with me as a souvenir - it would not be legal to use in this country though.

That was the main gear I used, and it all worked well, and layers were the key to managing body temperature. Later in the year I would have been too hot in all this gear, but for the spring it was fine.

I also took with me a one piece rain suit. This was never used, took up a lot of precious space in my pannier, and if I were doing this again, I wouldn't bother taking it with me.

In my next post-trip update I'll be looking at the techie gear I took.

1 comment:

  1. And road trips are going to be a richer experience with friends at the helm. You drive and fly together, eat and doze together, see and feel the wonders of the places together. But it can be just as fun hitting th road alone. There will be no drama and you only have to take care of yourself. As Darleene said above, traveling is a medicine. A long trip down the road with your good trusty car is an awesome experience in its own.