Monday, October 25, 2010
If happiness is a longer riding season, then money can indeed buy happiness.
For many years I have ridden in all four seasons, not always an easy, or enviable task in New England. Bit by bit, I have collected the many pieces of gear I need to accomplish this task. So if you find this list daunting, don't fret. Slow and steady wins the motorcycle gear race!
Let's start from the bottom up.
If you have not found a reason to upgrade to motorcycle riding boots, extending your riding season might just be the motivation you were looking for. Still wearing work boots or hiking boots? I know where you are coming from. I wore hiking boots my first 5 seasons. I finally learned my lesson while riding in pelting rain in the Alps. It really put a damper on my enjoyment. Not only are proper riding boots safer, but comfortable feet mean a comfortable ride. Good riding boots will keep your feet and ankles warm and dry. Skip the short shafted shoe/go for the boot that tucks under your pants. Who wants to look at your white socks when you are riding!
Along with good boots, you can also indulge in heated socks. I have not taken this step myself, I have not had issues with cold feet, maybe it's my riding position and warm K block? But if you suffer from chronic cold feet, it might be a solution for you. Heated socks come in battery or electric. They can be found in snowmobile supplier catalogs/web sites.
These would be perfect if they had a zip out mesh lining (the newer models may have this)
Want to extend your season past 60 degrees? Loose the jeans. You need riding pants, over pants or not. For the cold, I really like my Rev-It pants, they are long enough, don't ride up, and have a zip in quilted lining. The lining works so well, it has left my Gerbing electric pants idle most winters. I have many criticisms about my Rev-IT gear for the summer, but it rates 4 stars for the cold.
Leather is a nice option in the fall
Most riders have a jacket. If you have a skimpy form fitting number that shows off your butt, it may be time to upgrade to a fuller coat, one that will offer added protection and layering opportunities. I have tried leather in the winter, and while the wind protection is good, it gets too stiff in the cold stuff, and to worrisome in the rain. I prefer textiles for versatility. Which ever way you go, be sure you can fit an extra layer or two underneath.
And what do you need underneath? An electric jacket. "That's cheating" is a common reply I hear. Cheating what? Discomfort? The point here is to extend your riding season not prove your manliness. Get over yourself, and get comfortable. Skip the heated vest, unless you enjoy frozen arms and will never want to use heated gloves.
If you are on an underpowered bike, there are self powered battery options for you. When dressing, make the electric jacket your second layer, over a thin shirt, you want it close to your skin. And by all means buy the heat controller...else you will be like a toaster...off/on. It's enough to give you the chills.
Roadcrafter's are not very warm without a layer underneath!
Speaking of chills. If you do make the move to heated clothes, let me advise you to keep the controller on the lowermost setting. You might even leave the garage with it off. Be sure to practice making adjustments so that you can do it with your bulky gloves...without looking. The reason to keep the temp low, is the more contrast there is between sections of your body the more likely you'll start to shiver. If your legs are 40 degrees, and your chest 70, it's not going to be a comfortable trip.
My favorite red neck triangle enjoyed some use in the Alps
Does the neck deserve its own category for gear? You bet. When it gets down into the 40's, and you're going 70 mph, you don't want ANY skin showing. A wind triangle is the most versatile item I have, I keep it with me most of the year. Put it on low, put it on high over the mouth. Even on a coolish summer evening, when I don't want the air going down my coat, because all I'm wearing is a T-shirt - wind triangle to the rescue!
Additionally, you might considers a wind resistant balaclava, or turtle fur neck warmer. The latter being an extra layer if it does not have wind resistance. Look for balaclava's that are ultra thin, with no fleece going into the helmet. If you have a proper fitting helmet, additional thickness will leave you with a very nasty headache. I know!
A full faced helmet. Do I need to say more? I see the hold outs in New Hampshire...Live Free all right...neoprene face masks, knit caps, silly beany helmets. Hello? You are freezing cold & UNSAFE. Now when it comes to full faced helmets some brands/models are more vented than others, so buyer beware. If you are purchasing your first look for the vents, be sure they can all be closed. Look for a nose dam to help with fogging. And for about $20, get yourself a FogCity insert, never live with a fogged up shield again!
Mid Weight Gloves are fine for me until temps dip into the 40's.
I can't tell you how many of my friends tell me they don't worry about winter gloves because they have heated grips. Uh...so what? Heated grips help your palms, don't do a thing for the top of your fingers, the ones taking all the wind. Or maybe it's just me...my hands are my Achilles heal to cold weather riding. Last year I finally moved to a heated glove. Good move! No more aching hands that I want to rest on the K block for warmth. I was caught in cold, snow squalls last week, and I never felt uncomfortable. Cold..yes, but now my hands are not the culprit. The nose and forehead are the most vulnerable now - I wasn't carrying a balaclava in October!
With the right gear you can add some color to a gray day
Sunday, October 10, 2010
A three day weekend in October. Not a cloud in the sky. Temps in the 50's and 60's. Tent, sleeping bag, cameras...check. I rolled the GT out of the garage at 8:00 AM, I could have ridden forever.
I set out to shoot some foliage.
In Southern New Hampshire and South West Massachusetts the colors were near peak, still a touch of green amongst the yellow beach & birch, blaze orange oaks and every so often a fire red maple near the water.
I also made plenty of impromptu stops, such as this well appointed house. I've never seen so many Pumpkin Fests!
Riding alone does have its benefits, when it comes to making lots of stops
The crowds were thick on Rte 9 in Vermont, but I quickly dropped off onto Rte 8 south. Bye bye motor homes.
A whole day of roads with no lines, little to no traffic. It was a visual candy land out there.
I took a wrong turn that turned out to be right. I enjoyed lunch under this tree, at a country store in Worthington, MA. It's a corner of Massachusetts that should be annexed by Vermont.
I set up camp, for free, at Beartown State Forest, Great Barrington, MA. It might have been 60 during the day, but it was a crisp 30 degrees overnight...where is my battery operated blanket?
I rose early (for me) to capture some pictures around the camp site. There were a half dozen other enthusiasts enjoying the colors. Can you just smell that smoke...glorious!
I hope you have some perfect times this fall. Remember it leaves fast!