Thursday, April 08, 2010

Essential Motorcycle Gear - Appropriate Clothing for Your Climate

When I rode to Los Alamos back in the end of April, 2008, I made a major mistake in my planning. I forgot to see what the weather was like in New Mexico. Here in Phoenix, it was plenty warm. So, I wore my Joe Rocket Phoenix jacket, and threw a hoodie in my tank bag in case it got cooler at the higher elevations. I only brought my summer gloves.

Man, did I blow it. I was comfortable for about an hour on the way to Payson. Then I put my hoodie on and I was comfortable for maybe another hour.

Then it was 5 hours of Hell to Albuquerque. I was able to hide behind the tank bag a little bit. It blocked some of the wind, but not much. The road to Los Alamos was worse. There was still snow on the ground! On the ride back to Phoenix I stopped to buy a pair of gloves at a gas station because I just couldn't take anymore cold on my hands.

The good news is that I survived, got a story out of it, and learned a valuable lesson: wear/bring climate-appropriate riding clothes.

My current collection of gear is as follows: A leather jacket for the winter. I wear a fleece jacket instead of using the leather jacket's liner in the gold. Fleece, as most of you know, is absolutely awesome and I recommend it to everyone. Sadly, the zipper on my leather broke a couple weeks ago, and I'm going to have to find a seamstress to repair it. Right now I'm wearing my fleece under the Joe Rocket Phoenix jacket during the morning. Once it starts getting warmer, I don't need the fleece.

My Joe Rocket jacket is getting pretty funky, and I might have to replace it soon. I'm not sure what to replace it with, though. The Phoenix feels like you're not even wearing a jacket, so long as you're moving. Here in the desert, stopping during the summer is going to cause suffering no matter what you wear.

I have a small confession to make: I don't have proper riding pants. I would LOVE to get a pair, but I'm seeking protection that I can wear over my work pants without arriving at work a sweaty mess. And, barring that, I have no idea what will provide adequate protection and reasonable comfort during the summer here. If you've got suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

This summer, I plan on getting some of those high-tech polypropylene underwear and t-shirts that supposedly wick moisture away from the skin. Nothing is quite as gross as a clammy t-shirt in air-conditioning after a hot ride. In addition to those luxury items, I've heard good things about cooling vests and bandannas soaked in water and wrapped around one's neck.

Did I miss anything?


bobskoot said...


My pants solution isn't the greatest but I purchased a pair of Joe Rocket Alter Ego Riding pants, ONE size larger to accommodate wearing normal work clothes underneath. During the summer I just wear shorts underneath and remove the "over" pants when I get to my destination and also change to my valued Pink Crocs, cause you can't wear riding boots all the time, too hot. The Alter Ego series have removeable panels which unzip to reveal a full mesh riding pants. While moving it is very cooling as the wind just whips around inside and the airflow is like an air conditioner. While in Mesh Mode, all the amour is still in place. The pants also have a removeable insulated rainproof liner for those colder mornings.
In the winter, with liner installed the Pads more or less stay in correct position, but during the summer with just shorts on, the armour may not be in the correct position so I was thinking of another pair more to my actual size, rather than the next size.
I was also exploring the use of those dirt bike pads which connect via velcro straps. I have noticed other riders using them with just shorts. They seem to have better protection than regular riding pants and I prefer to wear shorts instead of multi layers during the summer. So I am also looking for more nonrestrictive solutions too, for the hotter weather.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

cpa3485 said...

I do almost exactly what Bobskoot does for pants. My mesh gear pants are one size larger than normal because I normally wear them over my work pants. I sometimes wear shorts under them in the summer, but the mesh can be a little scratchy. So I have a pair of rip stop nylon pants that are light and cool to avoid scratchy knees.

David said...

Two things, Lucky. First, a good saddle shop should be able to put a new zipper in your leather jacket for a minimal fee. Second, consider a good pair of chaps instead of riding pants over your work clothes. Yes, riding pants will be better, with armor, but an inexpensive pair of chaps can be had on the cheap and are better than nothing. That same saddle shop can probably make you a custom pair of shotgun (Zipper up the leg style, or motorcycle) chaps. You could even get them to sew in pockets for armor, or put pockets in a commercial set of chaps. Yeah, you might look a bit like a cruiser rider, but if it keeps you safe, who cares?

Dave T.

Lucky said...

bobskoot - Thanks for the advice. I'll check out the Alter Ego pants, they sound most righteous.

cpa3485 - That's a great idea about the ripstop nylon under the mesh gear pants. Given how much heat the Triumph's motor kicks off, I think I would severely regret wearing shorts while riding in the summer here. As it is, my legs get burned (really) if my pants hike up a little too far...

David - Thanks for the advice about getting my jacket repaired. I'm going to pass on the chaps. I'm sure they're very convenient, but "traditional" riding gear and I don't get along. If you want hilarity, picture me in chaps and a police-style jacket.

James said...

Olympia Airglide pants are great. The mesh shell with armor is nice and cool, and the removable liner is waterproof and will keep your legs warm at least down to freezing (I haven't tested colder than that).

The zippers run the full length (in the liner, too) so they're very quick and easy to get on and off. I almost never ride without them now.

Every now and then a pair seems to show up on ebay for less than $100 - I got both black and silver pairs. Black for everyday riding, since it doesn't make me look too much like an astronaut, and the silver for hotter days and riding in the desert.

I wear them in the same size I wear jeans, and they fit well - a little snug when the liner's in, but I don't actually need the liner that often.