The Motorcycle Chats (from the April 2012 Ride West BMW e-zine)
Gathering the Gear
Team Ride West manager Dave Preston and GM Dave Swezey have over 75 years of riding experience between them. This month they discuss gathering the gear we all need for our rides.
DP: Dave, for this month’s topic I’ve selected gear, and that may seem odd to folks who have started riding in the past 5 years. There is now so much high quality gear available for almost any sort of motorcycle riding that the question becomes first – do you believe in wearing gear or not, and then, what gear do you need? For the veterans, thus was not always so. What “gear” did you have when you first started riding?
DS: Gear, what gear? I was a teenager and thought I was indestructible. I was going to college, working part time, and barely had enough money for food and gas. My gear was pretty bad by today’s standards, but I did ride with a full face helmet, ski gloves, work boots, and an old leather coat. I really wish we had Ride West Parts and Apparel Swaps back then. They are such a great way to find used gear.
DP: I had an excellent Bell open face helmet, which was the best available at the time (1967) because my parents thought I was going to take up kart racing. Then I talked them into allowing me to spend summer college earnings on my first motorcycle. My “riding jacket” was a ski parka – for about 5 years, and I added to that hiking books and gloves. One pair of gloves for summer use were handball gloves. Why? Because they were white, and thus showed up better at night when using hand signals for turns – because motorcycles did not have turn signals then!
Then the dinosaurs died away and things changed…
DP: In contrast, I’ll bet neither of us can actually list all the gear we own today. What does your collection of gear consist of primarily?
DS: If you ask my wife about my “gear” she will emphatically state that I am a serious gear junkie! When both our boys moved out, I turned one of their bedrooms into our “gear closet.” I’ve got enough gear to open up a consignment shop!
DP: About a dozen years ago I converted one half of our two car garage to the “motorcycle side.” Three years ago I took a large metal shelf unit we were about to toss and resurrected it in the garage, plus two over poles on hooks. Once I had all my gear organized I was appalled at how much of it there was, and could not figure out I came to acquire it all! Our Parts and Apparel Swaps have helped me “thin the herd” a bit, and now I have room for…. More gear!
DP: Let’s assume that the experienced rider has a collection of gear, ranging from the basics to the “Imelda Marcos Shoe Collection Award” amounts of stuff we both have. What goes into your decision of what to wear for a particular ride?
DS: Being in this industry, you learn very quickly the value of “head to toe” gear coverage. Regardless of whether it is a dualsport, street, or track ride I always wear all the gear, all the time. As a matter of fact, one beautiful summer evening a couple of years ago, I was heading home on my bike and something just didn’t “feel” right. The bike seemed fine, but as I was heading west on 80th towards the freeway, I realized that while getting my gear on at the office I had simply pulled on my overpants and forgotten to put my boots on. I literally felt so “exposed” that I took the side streets back to the shop to grab those boots.
DP: I am pretty good about ATGATT, but not as zealous as I should be. The helmet, gloves, and boots – all of them infinitely better than what I used for the first 20 years of riding, are constants. I will confess that on warm summer days I ride to work in all of that but with only jeans – which is a bit of folly I hope I do not have to pay the price for at some point. If I am “working,” as in leading a Team Ride West ride or attending an event, then we go full on with the RevIt! pants or Vanson leather pants, depending on the use expected.
DS: Thinking about all of this “stuff,” what is the one item of gear you would choose to do without last? What is your most important piece of gear?
DS: Since I always wear a good helmet, jacket, pants, boots, and gloves, I’d have to say that I really can’t do without any of them. The most important piece of gear is always your “common sense”
DP: I would pick my helmet for a couple of reasons. Years ago at a motel in Idaho I wanted to ride two blocks to a store to purchase a motorcycle magazine. There is no helmet law in Idaho (I think there should be) so I thought I would try it. Scared me so much I could not focus on operating the bike! I figure that modern medicine can do an excellent job of repairing a lot of damage to my body – but not to my head.
My other rationale is that, for reasons I do not fully understand, I feel more like “me” with a helmet on than at any other time. Once I pull the helmet down I do not think about anything else, and I have convinced myself over the years that if I am wearing a helmet, on a motorcycle or car, nothing bad can happen. I know this is a nonsensical bit of folly, but I do feel comfy and at ease with a helmet on – any time.
DP: One debate that has been ranging in the community for over twenty years has been leather vs. textiles for riding apparel. Where are you on that one?
DS: I own both. I ride on the track with leathers and on the street with textiles which I personally find more comfortable and I really appreciate how much technology has improved (armor, venting, waterproof fabrics, storage, multi-season use) and been built into today’s textile clothing
DP: I was a diehard leather guy for decades. I think a lot of that was vanity, but also the desire to emulate the heroes of my youth, who were road racers in all black leathers. If it was good enough for Mike Hailwood… And, black leather is so slimming doncha’ know! However, the textiles have gotten so good in recent years that finally my resistance was worn down. I have two textile jackets – one for work and one for going undercover, and both are excellent. I have textile pants I wear 80% of the time, but for track days or long multi-day rides I still prefer my Vanson leathers. They are superbly comfortable, fit me just so, and yes, I have to admit I think they look pretty cool!
DP: How about adding technology to your motorcycle in terms of GPS systems, radios, phones, and on and on. What is your position on this?
DS: I haven’t graduated to syncing my cell phone to my GPS yet (mostly because I don’t want to interrupt my precious “helmet time” with work related calls) but I do use a blue tooth Scala Rider G4 Intercom system, which I swore I would never, ever, own…and I was wrong, again! My son and I have used them on our last two long dualsport trips and we both thoroughly enjoyed them. I own several ipods but I don’t listen to music while I ride because it is just one more distraction that I’ve chosen to eliminate while on my bike.
DP: I represent the troglodyte sector here, and I wear my curmudgeonism proudly. No radio, no phone, and no GPS! However, I have to admit, I enjoy the fact that so many other people have this stuff, and I have no qualms about asking a friend with GPS how far it is to the next gas station or whatever. For my own ride, I prefer to keep the experience “pure,” and also not allow any distractions to diminish my limited ability.
DP: Are there gear products you would not recommend, or go so far as to tell people to stay away from?
DS: Not really, other than to say that you should always try to wear the best possible gear that you can reasonably afford because it can save your life.
DP: In a sense, I guess I would. When people first get into motorcycling, cost is always going to be a factor. I would recommend (again) coming to one of our Parts and Gear swaps or a similar event and purchasing lightly used gear of high quality over new gear of poor quality. Then, over time, you can ramp up your collection of stuff to embrace wider uses and gradually convert to gear purchased new for you. Besides, when I was a single person I was trying to get gear for two, for the day when I would meet the girl of my dreams and be able to take her for a ride on my bike. That plan actually worked – and still is!
DP: Looking to the future, if you owned a gear supplier company, where would you choose to gamble your R&D money? What do motorcyclists need now and in the near future?
DS: Over the last several years we have seen a huge emphasis placed on technical riding gear that meets the needs of three to four season riders. This is a daunting task, and yet many of the new riding suits are superbly engineered to accommodate a wide range of riding styles (dualsport, street) and weather conditions. This is where I would continue to invest in R&D.
What do motorcyclists need now and in the near future? That’s easy, more time to ride!
(Next month – 75 years of funny stories, and what we can learn from them)