Ready to start on roads to adventure, a fellow rider asks: “What are your secrets to gear for a serious motorcycle adventure rider?”
“What are your secrets to riding gear for a serious motorcycle adventure?” asked the newbie thrill seeker.
“It’s not a secret that my choice of adventure gear may not work for you,” was my initial answer. “For me there has yet to be a design that is a perfect all-around combination of adventure riding gear, but with the rapid growth of the niche called ‘adventure riding’ or ‘adventure touring,’ one can expect that advancements in gear will follow. Happily gone are the days when the adventure rider had to settle for a leather bomber jacket, garden gloves and leather boots made for walking or hiking.”
Having just completed a 4500-mile loop through the western United States over a ten-day period which included sand, dirt, twisties and seemingly endless miles of interstate highways with some snow, rain and heat tossed into the mix, my selection of gear was best for what had to be done. The secret is that the search for better gear is ongoing. But in the meantime I have found these choices to have worked for me. Find more advice in Extreme Adventure Rider Secrets Part 1.
1) Jacket and pants. My outer adventure riding suit has gone completely GORE-TEX. Hanging on the wall for the last 10-12 years had been my leather jacket and pants, more as display items than something to pull down and wear. My current choice for jacket and pants came from the Aerostich Designs Company. While competing products had made rapid advancements in the textile riding clothing market, the Aerostich combination of jacket and pants, made of GORE- TEX, found a home in my gear set. Like any new product, these took time to
A GORE-TEX riding jacket allowed for several optional accessories to meet the challenges of both on and off pavement riding.
break-in, but once massaged to my liking we had a symbiotic relationship that saw me grabbing them off the hangers in my studio when preparing for a long or arduous adventure. While I own several sets of jacket and pant combinations – all offering some likeable aspects – the Aerostich combination best met my requirements for body and environment protection with plenty of pocket space. Under the outer pants my bare legs were covered by a pair of full length bicycle riding pants made of a synthetic material. These bicycle pants allowed for warmth in the cooler weather, comfort between my legs and the inner lining of the outer pants as well as a degree of modesty when ending the day desirous of quickly removing my riding pants.
2) Boots. At least 50 pairs of boots have hugged my feet over the last 1,000,000 miles. Ten were still gathering dust in closets when my recent 4500-mile loop began. The pair chosen was from the Aerostich Company. Having used one of their Combat Touring Boot options on a previous ride around the globe, my choice this time was for their lower cut pair. Factoring into my selection of boots were several criteria, which included the ease of getting in and out of them quickly, flexibility, comfort (walking or sitting) and weather resistance. Having previously tried numerous types of boots that ranged from full-on plastic motocross boots to fine leather/Gore-Tex touring boots, the criteria also included prices that ranged from
astronomical to cheap. My final choice settled in the middle with a pair that could be viewed as clunky in a disco and not 100% waterproof when compared to others. Like my choice for jacket and pants, the boots took some time to break-in but it was speeded up by wearing them with water inside (versus the company tongue-in-cheek suggestion to fill them with a specific bodily fluid and bury them in the ground for some days before extended use). After they were broken-in the boots molded to my feet, making them comfortable like an old pair of shoes.
3) Rain gear. Keeping water from reaching my skin and other sensitive body parts had been an ongoing search. For hands and feet my choice was the three-fingered gloves and slip-on boot covers from Aerostich in order to meet two key requirements: that they kept water out and, when not in use, folded up into small bundles. Rubber boot and glove covers had been discarded because they were not compact when stored and caused my hands and feet to sweat while sealing the water out. Also, rubber products are not easy to slide into or out of by the side of the road. Numerous pairs of rubberized covers had ripped with me trying to pull them over my boots, making them useless. My fights with rubberized gloves had been noted as ‘epic’ when they would fail to slide on or off my underlying leather gloves. One expensive set of covers were, to the amazement of fellow campers, tossed into a campfire one night along with my verbal wish that they “burn in Hades” before my hands were forced into them again.
4) Gloves. Leather had come full circle in my search for what gloves worked best. My choice was for the full-fingered gloves with padded palms and knuckles for protection, and gauntlets for keeping the wind out. Options for leather gloves varied from one brand to another, but I remained with full leather because they stretched and molded to my hands and also had a lower coefficient of friction when sliding along pavement or gravel. Packed for the extreme heat were a lightweight set of leather palmed gloves which are sewn to nylon or cloth. As the temperature cooled I would then switch to the full leather gloves.
5) Cold weather gear. My cold weather riding kit has graduated to the electric riding gear stage, with the main feature being an upper body liner that easily mated to my jacket. The liner chosen had the additional feature of folding into its own incorporated bag, compressing to a small packet easily stored or used as a pillow when camping. For warmer hands a set of heavier gloves were stashed in the tank bag. I haven’t moved to the electric glove stage or heated hand grips yet, my decision based in part upon opting for less of a demand on my motorcycle’s electrical system. The decision was also based upon electric gloves being bulky and requiring wires to connect them to the motorcycle.
I use lightweight deerskin leather riding gloves (above) from Lee Parks Design for warm weather use. Although bulky, heavy-duty leather gloves (below) were a welcome option when the weather turned cold.
6) Hot weather gear. A nylon mesh padded riding shirt has been buried in my luggage for those times when heat has overcome common sense, leaving me with no upper body protection. The riding shirt compresses into a much smaller packet than did a full riding jacket, which would have been bulky and used very little. Of the time spent on the road only 5% – 10% was in hot or heated riding conditions, like when flogging my overloaded Kawasaki KLR650 through deep sand well away from a nice breeze. In 90 degree heat while sitting in gridlock in the middle of Las Vegas my outlook on life was much better in my well-vented riding shirt than it would have been in my full riding jacket. This same riding shirt had seen use in the heat of Africa, the jungles of Southeast Asia and deserts of South America.
7) Head gear. A full face flip-up (modular) helmet offered the protection desired while allowing me the option to flip it up for cooling or fresh air. Being able to flip-up the front when taking a photograph and not having to remove a full helmet to peer through the view finder was an additional factor. The other contender was the Nolan N42E “solid open face” model preferred for extremely hot traveling like through Southeast Asian jungles or African deserts. The potential for colder weather (including snow) versus minimal hot weather riding found me with the flip-up modular Nolan along with a baklava and scarf to fight off the cold.
8) Comfort. Two items added for additional comfort were a seat pad and kidney belt. The seat pad was in the form of a sheepskin non-slip pad or an air filled pad, of which there were several on the market. These were better options than spending considerably more money for a custom seat, and the pads could be moved from one motorcycle to another. The kidney belt was more for lower back pain instead of kidney protection. The belt kept pressure on my lower back, especially during longer sections while mostly in one position or while navigating lengthy sections of highway.
For head gear I used a Nolan full faced flip-up (modular) helmet with a lightweight baklava accompanied by a scarf to cut the wind to my exposed neck.
The gear described is what has worked for me. A considerable amount of time and money has been invested in the items themselves, as well as money spent on experimenting with other gear to find the best solution. The investment continues as new gear and advancements in gear move forward.
When in Alaska last year a German motorcyclist and I were comparing gear, tips and tricks while stopped in Deadhorse – the cold town as far north as one can drive on the North American Continent. He had noticed a sign warning of bears and asked: “Do you carry a gun or pepper spray with you for protection from bears?”
I laughed before answering.
“Any gun I carry would just as likely get me into trouble and piss off the bear more if I shot it. As for pepper spray, if I’m close enough to use it, I wouldn’t be running fast enough. Better in both cases to run faster, climb higher or curl up into a ball and let my GORE-TEX riding gear protect me. And then of course there’s my ‘bear away’ technique.”
He thought about my response for a few seconds, then asked: “Vas est das bear away?”
“Bear away is my screaming like a girly boy when seeing a bear, or not going where I will see one in the first place. It’s no secret that to stay away from bears, the first rule is not to go where they can be found.”
Now it was his turn to laugh and say, “You should write a book of your secrets, it might be a gut book. Call it SECRET MOTORCYCLE BARE FACTS.”