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MC Dispatch

Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories

The right gear

by Alison Green

Tags: gear, touring, riding,

Alison and BMWs 

This is the season that we have been longing for — the riding season; complete with rain, scorching sun, wind, bugs, construction gravel… During the off-season, I tend to forget about the details of staying comfortable while riding. —Alison 

Saturday is ride day! The forecast is good, the bike has been checked over, ready and waiting, the more pressing household chores are under control. Things are looking good. 

Helmet and boots, they’re a given. But the stuff in between? Now I have to actually make some decisions. This can use up valuable time when the bike is waiting. What to wear? Not the “how do I look” what to wear — this is more of a “how do I keep comfortable?” question. Decisions, decisions… 

Granted, I’ve been riding motorcycles of one sort or another for many years and miles, so the fact that there is quite a collection of stuff in the closet is no surprise. Unlike street clothes, the darned stuff just doesn’t wear out — and I can’t bring myself to chuck old favourites. So the closet becomes more stuffed seasonally. The fact that I am a sucker for End-of-Season sales doesn’t help either. 

Take gloves for instance. I started my riding career with black leather, insulated gloves (now 30+ years old) with nifty zippered pockets on the back. Inside each pocket lurks a folded nylon overmitten that is advertised as waterproof. It isn’t and never was, and is a terrible nuisance to secure over the glove. On the plus side, the gloves are really comfortable and still sort-of warm. I have at least three pairs of leather palmed, nylon, heavily insulated ‘winter’ gloves that are too stiff to wear comfortably on any all-day ride. But they are toasty. I have one pair that is advertised as ‘guaranteed waterproof.” They are, but only for a limited time (like some warrantees). Once wet, they take literally days to dry! There is a newish pair of lightly insulated, gorgeous soft elkskin riding gauntlets (purchased from Aerostitch in a week moment). They are for midsummer riding only, but I don’t want to get them dirty so they are seldom used. There is an old pair of white – now light grey - TIG welding gloves that have been worn as summer gloves for so long that the index fingers of both hands have worn through. Extremely comfortable and well broken in. See what I mean? Just getting ready for the ride can be slightly stressful, long before I start the bike. It should not be so… 

My solution? Very large saddlebags that are always mounted on the bike.  Lets see now, rain pants just in case, and a spare pair of warmer gloves, and maybe a second fleece vest, and I had better bring my waterproof overboots too. Oh right, there should be room for the thermos and sandwich in there somewhere. And I must not forget my regular jeans in case I want to get out of riding gear for a while, likewise my running shoes.  I don’t like walking any distance in my riding boots. These boots were NOT made for walking! Lets see, there must be something that I’ve forgotten, the left pannier is not quite full… 

I am mystified by those I see sailing down the highway with narry a pannier or tankbag or knapsack.  How do they do it?  Mind you, the helmet, tee-shirt, jeans and runners code definitely doesn’t cut it for me either. Maybe they are better weather judges than I am, or maybe they don’t wander too far from home…  I suppose my waffling about gear has something to do with where I live. Central Ontario can experience everything from frost to scorching heat to thunderstorms  all in the same day. One learns not to become too comfortable (bad pun) with the conditions: things can, and probably will change before the end of the ride. My motto – pack it all on the bike, just in case! 

Not for me the sleek, naked bike; but I’m almost always warm and dry and sometimes (I like to think) the envy of the cruiser set.