Motorcycle Classics

Vintage Gear

Reader Contribution by Alison Green

In this part of the world the riding season is over for all but the most hardy (or foolhardy) and it is long past due for a sorting effort in my motorcycle gear cupboard. Stuff keeps falling out! Upon inspection, my gear storage is crammed ridiculously full and finding specific items has become increasingly frustrating. Time to purge! I buy new stuff, and sometimes even fancy stuff, but nothing gets tossed!

I took a good long look at my favourite full-face helmet and was horrified to discover that the Snell sticker said 90! (1990). I know that it was purchased new in ’95 – and consequently for a very good price as the ’95 Snell units were available by then –  but still, that was too many years ago. The helmet has been dropped, scuffed, scratched and generally rather abused. I can no longer get replacement face-shields for it and the existing one is almost opaque. The lining looks rather moth-eaten and frayed about the edges. Why have I kept it for so long?  Like a comfortable pair of slippers that are out at the toes –  it fits and I am accustomed to it…  

With courage firmly in hand I snip off the chinstraps and consign it to the waste-bin. Done!  Likewise the ancient ¾ helmet that tries to lift me off the bike at speeds over 60kph. It is at least one size too large now as the liner seems to have compacted – and it is easily 20 years old. Gone! Whew!

The next layer to be sorted is the contents of the glove shelf. Tired, split, separated linings, too small, too big –  and I have kept them all.  I think that there must be fond memories with each pair: why else would I keep them knowing full well that they will not be worn again? It is somehow cathartic to look at the shelf now with just the three pairs of current handwear – cold weather, summer, and waterproof. (plus my old summer gloves that are just too comfortable to part with even though the Velcro cuff no longer fastens).

In the box with the miscellaneous stuff, I sort through memories and more memories and very little truly useful stuff – neck warmers that don’t stay put, scarves that are too bulky, rain overboots that only a contortionist could get into, a back support belt that I have never worn – gone, all gone! Now I have a tidy assortment of useful extras.  

Over the years I have collected so many pieces of rain-wear that one might think I lived in Oregon!  After a merciless sorting, the collection is pared down to two pairs of waterproof pants (insulated and un-insulated) and one very useful rainjacket that fits over my regular gear without causing me to struggle.

Why has this stuff sat in the cupboard for so long?  Inertia, I suppose, and the thought that someday, just maybe I would find a use for these items. Besides, they seemed far too good to just toss.

I might ride a vintage motorcycle, but my gear doesn’t have to be vintage! New armoured synthetic gear is way ahead of leather in my books and it never leaves me dyed purple/black when it gets wet. My good raingear actually keeps out the wet and I have a modern, modular helmet which gives me the best of both a full-face and the convenience of a ¾ helmet. My secret is out – I’m a pack rat at heart!

I suspect that I am not the only rider who harbours a collection of somewhat motley gear that is past due for retirement. Especially helmets. They do not last forever and the old comfortable ones have probably ceased to provide the protection that they should. Do yourself and your loved ones a favour and ditch the ancient favourite lid for a new, uncompromised one. And no, don’t keep it ‘just in case.’ Even the occasional passenger deserves good head protection. It really is money well spent – and trust me, the new one will smell a lot better!

Now if I can just apply this rigorous sorting and chucking effort to my dresser drawers… Nah, that would be far too painful a process… maybe next year. — Alison Green

  • Published on Jan 2, 2009
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