Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wet/Cold weather riding gear

“What is good gear? That might make a good thread at this time of year. I always thought tires should be the first consideration for bad weather riding.”

Someone posted this question on tribe, and I wrote a novel about riding gear for motorcycling in the rain or cold. Here is my response, for posterity's sake:

I ride year round, so this is a pet question to me.
1.) The tires I’m running now on the SV are Metzeler M1 Front and Z6 rear. This setup was suggested to me by another SV rider. These are SOOOOO much better than the touring tires I had before. BIG difference in the rain. On the DRZ, I run Avon Gripsters. I have never had any problem with them at all, but the key is to run them like dirt bike tires (which they are) not sportbike tires. Think 22/24 or something like that, not 32/24. Worst tires I ever ran on the DRZ? The stock set: Trailwings (we called ‘em Deathwings). UGH.

2.) Helmet. Same as normal. For cold weather, add a balaclava or one of those polarfleece neck warmer things. Keep in mind that wet weather means you will have a wet polarfleece wrapped around your neck, so a jacket with a high collar may suit you better. (I don’t usually do the neck warmer thing myself.)

3.) Jacket: I have a Marsee jacket that I LOVE. It was a lot more waterproof before I crashed in it, but it still holds most of the water out. I patched the holes fairly well with the goretex patches you can buy from Aerostitch. They say temporary, but I leave mine on for a year or so before replacing them when I re-waterproof my gear. (Techwash and Nik Wax) Worst jacket I owned? Clover. Worst jacket ever. The Firstgear I started with was very waterproof, though lacking in safety features.

4.) Pants: this is the worst. I don’t believe there is any pant on the market that will keep away the wet-crotch for real. Most successful ones I’ve had? Again, the Marsee pants are a winner. The Aerostitch does very poorly unfortunately, although re-waterproofing helped a little.

5.) Boots. Mine are sidi sympatex. I’ve worn them daily for about two years, and I can still walk through shallow creeks in them (as long as the water doesn’t reach the top of my boots, my socks are DRY.) These boots really stink, though. And I’d like to replace them with something with better armor, someday, maybe. For cold: wool socks.

6.) Gloves: again: screwed. Winter gloves suck ass. I nearly lost my finger last year, and won’t wear winter gloves anymore. I’ll take the wet hands. Other possibilities are waterproof over-glove things you can get from REI or something. I think Areostitch also sells something like this. The downside is you’ll generally find them mitten style (or lobster-claw from Aerostitch) which means you have to get used to not having all your digits separate) For cold weather, I used to have glove liner inserts (again a camping store, or any motorcycle shop) but I don’t know if they’d fit under my current gloves.

7.) Finally, the real icing on the rain-worthy cake: Frogg-Toggs. As noted, the pants will only be wet-crotch protection in a light rain, and if I really want to be dry, I put Frogg-Toggs over my gear. Jacket and pants cost like $60 or something. These are completely waterproof. Really. And they pack light, so you could even keep them under your seat if you have such a thing.

That’s my basic setup. But, I also have the following:
1.) Electric vest. You think you don’t need one. You think only old whiny guys would wear one. You are wrong. An electric vest will raise your core temperature, keeping even your digits a little more comfortable. Which keeps you safer and more comfortable. You’ll be able to move your fingers when you pull off the freeway in the freezing cold. Instead of pulling to put on/take off layers for weather changes, you just flick the switch. It’s smaller than packing three polarfleece layers. It’s NICE to be hot when it’s hailing. I am able to run this on the DRZ400 and the SV with no problem (same for the old EX500). Also available: electric sleeves and pants, and even gloves (but I would still stick to my real gloves

2.) The low-brow way to deal with that is to use those camp handwarmer things. One in each boot, one in each glove. Cheap and easy. Electric vest will do a better job overall, but these target your cold spots nicely, and are a lot cheaper and easier for those of you who don’t make a habit of being out in the cold, but sometimes get stuck in it.

3.) A dirtbike. I know, it’s cheating. But it really does handle the shitty roads and rain conditions a lot better.


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