The 200 Mile Triumph Touring Warm-Up
I have the hard won advantage of being able to take a few week-long rides in summer and fall. Retirement will do that for you. In my 50th year of motorcycling, I’ve noticed that my choices for bike and gear on longer rides have changed over the years.
In the beginning, things were simple. You toured on what you owned – in my case a Yamaha YDS-3 250cc two stroke that I rode from Minneapolis and Seattle and back – camping. Gear was simple, because there was pretty much was none available specifically designed for motorcycles. I had a snazzy black “Webco” motorcycle jacket – in vinyl, some hiking boots, and the best Bell helmet money could purchase. I had some heavier gloves, and also a pair of white handball gloves. Why white? (This will test the memories of the elderly!) Because the bike had no turn signals, and I would wear the white gloves at night so people could see my signals for turns! My “camping” gear was a small tent and mattress and sleeping bag in a surplus US Army ammo bag. And so on.
I kept things really simple for years, riding a Honda 450 Street Scrambler to Florida, among other rides, with the Army ammo bag as the “luggage,” but I indulged in motels for that one.
Over the years things became more complex and I was better prepared and equipped. The best bike for this was probably the Triumph Sprint ST I owned for a couple of years. With the hard saddle bags and a large tank bag, I was living in luxury!
For the 14 years I worked in the motorsports industry, I had the opportunity to ride almost all of the large touring motorcycles on offer. The Harley Ultra Classic (ugh), the Road King, (a favorite), several Honda Goldwings and Valkyries (also a big like), the BMW 6 cylinder, and so on. All were impressive, but for me they were all too large and seemed to be too much of a steamroller ethic. I prefer a more nimble mount for my journeys, which usually meander along winding two lane roads.
I noticed when attending Goldwing club events, for example, that many of the riders covered huge mileages, but mostly on freeways. They were often uncomfortable on the roads I craved. Watching a slew of them try to turn around on a crowned two lane road after the leader made a wrong turn was a tragicomic spectacle.
For me, simplicity remained a theme. In recent years I’ve become even more fond of “less is more.” With thousands of miles on bikes with 130 to 165 horsepower, I’ve been there and done that, and now I love to be a little less awe-inspiring and a lot more relaxed. Thus the 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120 I purchased a year ago. I used it for a trip from Seattle to northern California and back, bone stock, and had a great time. No windshield or anything other than how it was delivered to the dealer, plus a tank bag and Cortech saddle bags I borrowed, and a large gym bag bungied across the street. Full report on that on this site from about 8 months ago.
Once home I ordered my own set of the Cortech bags, plus the matching top bag that plugs into the side bags. This spring I added the Triumph accessory fly screen, and I think I’m done. Bar end mirrors are a possibility, but the stock ones are OK. They’re not terrific, but a lot better than the useless ones I was used to on more sporting machinery.
Now the spring cometh, and thus a good time to “test” my gear for the coming adventures of summer. The biggest change from last year is the addition of a Triumph flyscreen, in the gorgeous cinnamon pearl color of the stripes on the tank. I knew from the first ride that it had more of a salubrious effect on wind blast that could be believed, but how about – in rain?
An opportunity presented itself. A group of Triumph enthusiasts enthuses in the Portland area, and Soren Winslow invites all Triumph riders (and anyone else) to a north meets south gathering in Chehalis each spring. The size of the event has dwindled in recent years, as have the number of Triumph dealers. Those dealers that remain are the cream of the crop, and seem to be doing quite well, but there’s less enthusiasm for dealer support of rides or riding groups, exacerbated by Triumph walking away from support of their “RAT” enthusiast program almost ten years ago.
I meant to go to Soren’s lunch last year, when my bike was less than a week old, but the rain was so intense that all those who were going to ride with me bailed, and eventually their better minds prevailed. I listened to reason and rode back home from the meeting spot a mile from my house. The weather forecast looked equally grim this year, and once again I would be alone, but I had testing to do!
I also wanted to test me. An exciting adventure into our local medical infrastructure had kept me off the bike for three months over the winter. Lurid details, for those who enjoy exciting medical sagas, are two months back on this site. I wanted to see how I would do on a longer ride. This would be 105 miles each way, all on the freeway, so if my back began to protest I could find a rest area or fuel stop and re-assess.
I rigged the bike for a much longer distance with the all three of the Cortech bags plus a Nelson-Rigg tank bag. For me, I donned my Triumph “waterproof” jeans, my Rev’It boots, a liner from my old Vanson jacket, and a Fieldsheer coat, finished off with some Olympia middle weight gloves and of course my Arai helmet. A second pair of Olympia rain gloves sat in one of the bags.
For test reasons, I also loaded the bags with the first aid kit, the tire compressor, a Go Pro, a camera, and everything else I would carry during the summer, except for several days’ worth of clothes.
At least it wasn’t raining at the start, a good sign. After a stop to top off the fuel tank, and a pause at the meeting location I’d chosen, where (as expected) nobody joined me, I was off.
With temps in the low 50’s, the flyscreen and the heated grips on “lo” kept me comfy, and I sailed along. Occasionally it would spit rain for a bit, but the fresh coat of wax I’d applied to my Arai allowed the water to stream off the visor with alacrity.
Along the way I recalled the items I should have packed for the test. For longer rides I wear a “Road ID” bracelet for the day we hope never comes, and for events I wear a Riders for Health bracelet in hopes someone will ask me about my favorite charity. It takes a while to get back into summer touring readiness.
In 40 miles or so I reached Tacoma, and the rain began in earnest. Now we shall see!
First thing I noticed was that the flyscreen also deflected wind and rain to the sides, so my gloves were not getting wet. Cool! As I journeyed south past Olympia the rain got serious, and soon I was sailing along at about 70 mph in a world of spray and puddles.
South of Chehalis I pulled off for the restaurant, and since I was early, chose to pause at a station to fill up the tank for the return ride home. As I got off the bike I noticed three things. One, the aerodynamics were such that water pooled in front of the rear bag, so I was sitting in a large puddle in the seat. Secondly, although my Triumph jeans were utterly waterproof when I purchased them, that was ten years ago. Now, not so much. My butt was damp, at least. Third, even though my gloves did not show water on the outer surfaces, the surroundings for 100 miles had been so humid that they were now about 75% soaked. You know when you pull off your gloves and the inner lining wants to invert itself, so that putting them back on is difficult? Like that. So in the bag they went, replaced by the rain gloves.
Then I rode the 100 yards to the restaurant, and joined an intrepid dozen or so Triumph riders. Most were from Portland and had a shorter ride there, but one was from Bellingham, 90 miles north of my home. He’d left home at 4:30am! Ah, the enthusiasm of youth.
The ride home proved a much sterner test. Both the rain and the traffic had increased exponentially, so now we had some 70mph cruising with dangerously reduced visibility alternating with 5mph or less stagnating crawls.
Now I realized that the waterproof gloves were also several years old, and their ability to repel water had been drastically reduced. The heated grips meant that my hands were soaked but not all that cold. And then the boots also began to advertise their age. They had always been utterly impervious to water, but now I was running along with my feet in containers of ice cold water.
As I rode I was reminded of the old joke about ham and eggs. To ride in this stuff you need to be involved. To actually enjoy it you need to be committed. Or perhaps should be.
I also mused that I was glad I did not have the GoPro running or some sort of video feed. Although the situation was dire, I was comfy and wholly engaged. Someone watching it would most likely have been horrified.
Once in Federal Way the traffic cleared, and I was rushing toward home, visions of a long hot shower dancing in my head.
I hung up my Fieldsheer jacket, which proceeded to drip several pounds of water on the garage floor. But it had kept me dry.
I peeled off my soaked boots and sodden socks, and laid out everything on various surfaces in the garage to dry.
Some will ask – what about Aerostich or similar? I have friends who are devotees of such suits, and they are fine products. Of course there was my friend who had a zipper suffer a catastrophic failure in the middle of a 9 day ride. For the rest of the trip he would bind himself up like a chicken with a long piece of rope. He looked like Bibendum preparing for 50 shades of gray.
Alas, I have never really been moved by such suits. I don’t know why. Just not for me.
So the test results are in. Clearly, the fly screen works very well. With equal clarity, I can see that it is high time to spray my gear with Scotch Guard or a similar product to really prepare for summer.
On the other hand, on summer tours I’m wearing my Vanson leather pants. They’re usually able to stay dry for a few hours of rain, which rain is a rarity at that time. I’m also usually wearing a Rev’It riding jacket, because it has copious vents for cooling, so in some ways my test results are not that telling.
It was cold, it was wet, the visibility got worse as the wax wore off the visor, and hypothermia was getting to be a concern. In other words – a great ride!
David Preston Copyright 2017