Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Gear Upgrades & Bike Tribes

After a couple of weeks on a bike, I'm starting to get a feel for what I like in kit.  I think having a real set of boots and pants really paid off at the course (near freezing and windy).  Windproof clothes are worth their weight in gold.  The other day I did my longest ride wearing the jeans I wore to work and it wasn't very comfortable.  I'm a big fan of wearing kit that suits the activity, jeans are a poor second choice.

The other piece that I'm not feeling are my gloves.  They're sufficient (they are Joe Rocket biking specific gloves) and they are comfortable, but plain black and not particularly warm.  I was aiming for a white/grey vibe when I started, the Alpinestars SP-1 gloves shown are a nice, gauntletted glove that look like they offer a much wider range of comfortable temperature options (they close up or vent as needed).  They also cost four times what the beginner gloves I got cost.  I imagine they are whole levels of awesomeness beyond the basic gloves I started with.

I did the same thing with boots, I picked up the cheapest pair of bike-specific boots that were available.  They are warm, dry and quite tall.  I've always wanted an ankle boot, for cooling and the Alpinestars S-MX1 boots on the right give me the monochromatic look I've been looking for in a boot that isn't huge.  I purchased pretty low-rent gear to begin, mainly because what was available in the shop in the budget I was looking for.  It was all purchased without any time in the saddle, so I didn't really know what I needed, other than it should be motorbike specific.

The pants I got (I hadn't planned on buying pants), happened to be on sale.  They've been great, and as early/late season pant they're wind resistant, have a liner that would let you ride in a snow storm and have a zipper, so you could get some air going through them.  They are too long and way (WAY) too hot for summer driving.  Looking for well ventilated pants I could wear over shorts, these Rev'It Airwave pants fit the bill, and continue the monochromatic theme I'm looking for.  A light coloured pant would also help keep the heat out.

The one piece of kit I wouldn't want to change is the jacket I got.  The Joe Rocket Atomic 11.0 textile jacket is fantastic.  Great wind resistance, a removable liner, vent openings, it fits me perfectly and feels fantastic... this is a jacket for all seasons, I have no regrets with it at all.  I imagine the more expensive jackets might offer lighter weight, but this particular jacket is my favorite purchase.  It's padded in all the right places and I even like the break with my monochromatic vibe.  I've yet to find a situation where the jacket hasn't been just what I wanted it to be.

The other purchase I've been really happy with is my Zox Helmet.  The funny part was I was treating it like a
full face helmet until one day I wondered what the red button on the chin did, and suddenly it was a modular helmet that flipped up!  It's comfortable, but the wind noise isn't ideal.  I'm guessing more expensive helmets offer a tighter fit and finish meaning less wind noise.  It has nice venting, and when I treat the visor with a bit of soap, it's fog free.   As a cheap first helmet, I've no regrets. It does more than I hoped it would and didn't break the bank to do it.  It also lets me live my inner Stig, which is never a bad thing.  The built in sun visor is a nice touch too.  It really is a full featured helmet.  The double adjustable top and bottom vents work very well and the storm trooper vibe is cool.

If I had any advice for buying kit your first time it would be: don't rush it, try on lots of stuff, and then walk away and think about it.  Waiting a couple of weeks saved me a couple of hundred bucks as things went on sale for spring time.  Trying on a number of different styles also lets you decide what fits you better, and what feels right.  I need to adjust the pants (too long in the leg) but I can probably pin them up.  After a bit of looking, I've found pants that offer the same size with a shorter inseam.  My next purchase will be more pinpoint accurate in terms of sizing.

In riding I've noticed that there are tribes.  I definitely fall into the sport bike/standard bike crowd with my textile gear and full face helmet.  The 'I'm too cool' leather cruiser crowd are so busy putting out a vibe they don't have time to wave.  I've found everyone who isn't a Harley knob makes a point of giving me a wave. As a new rider, that's a nice feeling.  To all the ZZ Top chopper types, I say, "whatever dude."