Last One Out….Turn Off the Lights

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: In Winterfell the cold days are here – keep your loved ones close and banish the darkness.

When I was growing up we were dog people. We were not cat people. We had all sorts of dogs but mostly, as I got older, they were field dogs. It was our habit to put a hook near the front door and hang a leash from it. If you grabbed that leash and made a noise with it you would have an ecstatic Black Lab. or Golden Retriever at the door in mere seconds.

If you ride and you live in a cold climate that first day when you can sense spring in the air is like that. You can smell it and you can also feel it in your bones. Ridin’ weather is comin’ – and soon. Sometimes its a false alarm and you have another couple of weeks with snow, sleet or some other ride interfering noise from the heavens but sometimes you wake up and it feels warm outside and the snow has receded to just patches up against the sides of buildings or nestled into that area between your staircase and the building. The street is dry and it just feels good to be outside in a t-shirt.

You got gear for Christmas and its put away in a closet. Get it out. You got some mod. For the bike and you already bolted that thing up one cold Saturday afternoon in February. The battery has been on the tender and the gas was stabilized when you put the bike up. Put some air in the tires, fire it up – you’re rett’ to go!

For a great many folks in the upper hemisphere the cold season is most seriously upon us. That reverse sense has hit you – the day you walked outside and felt the chill on your bare arms and said to yourself  ‘I’m gonna have to put the bike up soon.’ How many more rides can I get in? Yeah, some of you ride all year in the snow and sleet but I gave that up some time ago. The combination now of ice on the road and idiot texters in cars just makes it not so much fun anymore.

I haven’t had a cold weather riding season in a long time. Oh, I have had them believe me. I have frozen my ass off because I wasn’t geared up. I have also felt the icy chill when I was indeed properly suited up. Merde avoir lieu. Now though, I am spoiled with that Camelot Cali. moto life. Don’t be thinking about movin’ out here. We have no room and besides the state is full of loons. Trust me you wouldn’t like it. Stay there – Minnesota needs you, right there. Come visit in the summer, we’ll take you up to Napa — heck we’ll even show you where the speed traps are on Silverado Trail or dang near anywhere on Highway 17 heading over the hill. We’ll take you up the windy road to Alice’s on a Sunday late morning and let you wander around with a cup of coffee in your hand while you ogle all of the bikes parked chock a block. For the moment you just have to get through the cold season in Winterfell.

The Winter won’t be so bad. There are episodes of Cafe Racer to be watched and you can listen to your pal Ansell gripe about how they are taking perfectly good ___________ (name the bike) motorcycles and ruining them with a cutoff wheel and some off the shelf mod’s.  Me, I like the cafe racer bikes for the most part but after a couple of beers Ansell (and most everyone who has put their bike up for the winter) gets a little stir crazy – waiting for the sound of the leash at the front door and the feel of warm long sunlight on their arms. 

Hang in there. Buy a trick license plate taillight assembly and figure out how to bolt and wire it up. Buy some heated gear and sit in the recliner with your glass mat battery on the tv tray and your gear kluge-plugged into it. that should be good for a larff or two. Spring will be here before you know it. In the meantime cherish your family and your friends – life is short.

Gerde Applethwaite

Gerde’s To-Do List

By Gerde Applethwaite

When I am the only the one who finds it necessary in my cohort to get there on time I am referred to as “kkkkair-duh.” The key is to get a really good rolling ‘chuh’ sound from the back of the throat at the beginning. When I am the one who really would rather wear sweats and stay home watching Game of Thrones repeats I am called “Gertie.” Gertie needs a good to-do list. Here is part of it.

1.) I have to get the scratch out of my old Arai Corsair face shield because it is in my field of vision and it bugs me. TAP plastics has a scratch remover kit. I really have to get over there and pick one up. If that doesn’t do the trick I just need to replace the shield with a new one.

2.) My Sidi boots are due for some treatment. They have held me in good stead and I need to care for them soon. If you go to one of the touring blogs and search out the posts for boot care you will get chit-chat that hottens up nearly as much as an oil thread. I am not sure what to use. If anyone has the true ticket please drop a note here.

3.) Some of the stitches are coming undone on the side of the right knee of my main riding pants (textile.) I need to get in there and do a little sewing. then I need to test them to see if their water resisting capability is still there. There is a way to treat the threads with some goop to water proof the area. I may need to get some of that.

4.) I also want to try out a pair of suspenders on another pair of pants because i think they will stay up better that way – especially when they get wet. If I recall Duluth Trading has some good old red suspenders. Gotta go look that up. I will then be an honorary member of the red suspender crowd. All I will need then will be the traditional corn cob pipe.

5.) The taillight lens is getting dull on one of my bikes. I need to use some of that TAP plastic stuff on it. Someone told me to use toothpaste on the lens. I guess I’ll try that first because at least I have the toothpaste.

6.) I need a new bicycle helmet because mine now has a crack in the plastic. I want a helmet with a bill on the front like a baseball cap. I like that because it really helps to keep the sun out of your eyes when you are riding right into the light. I always have trouble finding a bike helmet I like. Some of the helmets that have a lot of holes in them also have a sort of forward projection that works like a ball cap bill. I just don’t like the helmets with all of the holes in them. I have to find a new helmet.

7.) My small portable air compressor, the one that fits under the bike’s seat, has crapped out. I need to find another one, a better one.

8.) I’m thinking about getting a small winch to fit into the head of the bed of the pickup truck to make it easier to get a bike into the truck. I need to design a sturdy mount for the winch out of angle iron.

9.) It would be good to have more visibility at the back of the bike at night. Texting clown car drivers have almost driven into me a couple of times while I’m sitting at a light waiting for it to change. Those license plate light setups seem to be a popular idea. I need to look into that and find one I like.

The New Year is around the corner. For many it is time to put the bike up for the winter and there are a series of tasks related to that; gasoline additives, bike stands, bike covers, etc. I am fortunate enough to live in California and we have a 12 month riding season so I can forgo those chores.

Another year nearly done – where does it go?

Gerde Applethwaite

Scorpion Passport Suit

 Scorpion Passport Suit

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Scorpion comes out with it’s Passport Suit for 2014 and it has Sas-Tec armor and a hi-viz version.

In general Europeans like touring riders on their turf. There is something about the whole wanderlust thing that reaches deep into the Euro-soul. This means, generally, that you get treated reasonably well when you go to a hotel or a gasthuis. When you tour on a bike in Europe you see all manner of nicely set up riding gear being sported by your fellow riders. Scorpion is a German company and they have come up with their first offering of a touring/commute oversuit for the 2014 season. I have some quibbles with this suit but I think for its price point you get a lot. I ordered one up so that I could give it the closeup once over.

The Scorpion Passport Suit is a part of their XDR line (Extreme Distance Riding.) It comes in 2 flavors; you have your standard grey with black on grey and a semi hi-viz. I am only interested in the hi-viz. The hi-viz is really well thought out and it passes my hi-viz standard in spite of the fact that it has a section of black running down the middle of the suit. The non hi-viz panels are also where you would want them to be. You will find the butt area and the inner leg area where it might contact the bike to be made of black material and this will help keep the suit from looking dirty as time goes on.

The suit comes with reflective patches but they are sparse and they are of the sprayed on persuasion. The outer body of the Passport is a 600 denier nylon material that is standard in the business.  There is a mesh inner liner for airflow when you open the vents and the suit is billed as waterproof. It may well indeed be waterproof. They have installed a gator around and down the waist which is designed to eliminate the problem of water pooling up in the crotch area of the suit when you are riding in the rain (this is a persistent problem with riding suits and pants alike.) Scorpion also touts its “H2O Blok” engineering which is a series of layers designed to keep you separated from the storm outside. There are stretch accordion panels in the lower back and in the knee adjacent real estate.

In hot weather you are going to be a little too toasty in this suit but it should be a 3 season riding suit if you bulk up the layers in the really cold weather.

The main zipper on the suit runs from the neck down the body and across to mid-thigh. This is plenty deep enough to allow for booted entry and exit (although unbooted ingress and egress is the only thing that makes sense and helps calm fears of tearing anything up inside a suit and its so much easier.) Its always a bit of dance getting in and out of riding suits but Scorpion has placed zippers on the inner side of the legs as well so once you get the thing zipped open its merely a matter of artfully dumping yourself into the flexible origami you hold before you in your hands (pro-tip: once you have arrived at your destination for the evening I recommend taking the suit off before you start with the quaffing of the beers.) Where are my pink bunny slippers?

The main gator closure on the front comes with Scorpion’s signature neodymium magnet flap seal.  Obvious cautions apply for folks with pacemakers. The vents come in pairs: there are 2 chest vents, 2 back vents and 2 sleeve vents. These zippered vents are sufficient to flow air through the upper body and cool you down in all but the warmest weather but it seems odd to me that they placed the rear vents directly behind the back armor. Doh.  The suit also comes with adjustable sizing straps in the waist and the arms.

Sizing? I am 5’10” tall and weigh in at 150 pounds. My review suit was a medium and the fit without the liner in and while wearing a t-shirt, Duluth work pants and Sidi On-Road Goretex Boots was tight from crotch to the back of the shoulder when on the bike. It looks like I am a large. Bear this in mind when you try to figure out what suit will work for you. These suits come in bulk sizes (S,M,L,XL) and not in graded sizes. Scorpion has a sizing chart for this suit so look it up and make your best guess as to your size and of course call us at *888-343-5638* with any fitting questions.

One of the great advantages of this suit, at this price ($430-$445), is that it comes bolt stock out the door with level one Sas-Tec molecular armor. I am quite fond of Sas-Tec kit and to have it come stock in a suit was a smart move. I think we will find more and more manufacturers going with molecular armor in the future and the moves by Scorpion and Firstgear (D3O) really help this along. If I bought this suit I swap out all of the level 1 Sas-Tec with a Level 2 upgrade. That’s just me. The back protector is your standard place-holder perforated flat foam that cries out for replacement with something… like Sas-Tec’s new SCL line (the yellow colored stuff) that is rated at level 2. I am not sure whether or not it is a straight swap fit as I do not have any of the SCL to hand. Note: If you swap in armor that has no venting holes then it will only make the already poorly located rear vent strips even less viable.

What’s left? There is a boot gator to keep the water from creeping up your boot and into the suit in the rain. The bottom of the gator has a silicon band that really cinches the seal – nice touch. There are some wear/anti-slide patches where your butt bones (‘Ischial Tuberosities’ – for those in the house who ride bicycles with any regularity or those who are pre-med, or both) hit the seat. The zippers are YKK and none of them are rubberized except the zips on the inner leg..  The thermal liner is quilted and zips out. The suit has a mesh liner inside to keep you away from the walls of the suit itself and to help wick away internal moisture. I’m not sure how you plan to keep your suit protected from the hot bits on your bike as they do not appear to have installed any sort of canvas buffer material, or the like, on the inner leg. Is that possible? There are a few large Captain Kangaroo pockets for your cell phone and your trail mix and your eye drops. Atop the left thigh pocket is piggybacked a clear plastic outer pocket that is a befuddlement to me. It is designed to accept a Butler Map (you get the option for a free one when you buy the suit.) I like the Butler maps and we are seeing more and more of them these days but I really think this pocket is a mistake. When are you supposed to look at it? When you are riding? Heck, no! You have to take you eyes off the road and look too far down to get a bead on the map while you are riding. That just doesn’t seem like a savvy move to me. I’d rather have the map right up there on the tank bag. Also, this clear plastic outer cover is bound to dull out and go opaque in time with the unrelenting beating of the ultraviolet sunlight — in the manner that all of my old tank bag map holders have. Then what do you do?

If you are in the market for a moderately priced touring suit give this first time entry from Scorpion a look.

Gerde Applethwaite.

Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-Viz Vest On The Road

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Vest and took it out on the road to see and be seen.

I wrote recently about the wisdom of buying a hi-viz vest and just popped for the Firstgear version. Wait? What! More hi-viz chatter from Gerde? Yup. Hold on – this is a nifty sixty-some-odd dollar solution to your hi-viz needs. This time I flipped my hi-viz ride test scenario. Instead of riding around with it myself and asking folks how well they could see me on the road I reversed it. I loaned the vest to various riders on a few rides so that I could judge its visibility over that of conventional jackets. As predicted it makes a huge difference. I am now a big fan of the hi-viz vest for substantially increasing your visibility while wearing one of your no-viz jackets. Firstgear says that it provides you with visibility at a thousand yards away. This is not hyperbole, I tested it out and yup it’s true.

The design of this vest is the best I have seen to date as regards the placement of both the hi-viz fabric and the reflective material. The design is savvy all the way around – including the side area below the arm pit which is hi-viz, black and reflective. It is your standard CE EN-471 hi-viz color.

First gear makes this in three doubled sizes, I mean; extra small/ small, medium/large and large/2XL. I bought the medium/large and its a snug fit on my old medium Tourmaster jacket. They have sets of adjustment straps on the sides so you can easily snug it up to fit your jacket.

The vest is constructed mostly of a double layered mesh material so it will breathe air right through to the vents in your jacket. The mesh also gives it low wind resistance and I don’t get any annoying flapping at all – the vest zippers closed. They have placed an ID wallet on the chest (that’s required for the Mil.Spec. Part.) It is Velcro’d on and you can just pull it off if you do not need to have your id immediately available. If you have any particular medical needs in case of an accident I think its a good idea to leave the wallet in place and put that info in this chest wallet thing on a laminated card. I ironed a Flying Spaghetti Monster patch over the front of mine. Voila.

There is a long narrow pocket on the back and it just fits my empty helmet bag. It will instead fit a pair of gloves

Ask yourself this: how many times have you idled past drivers on a clotted freeway or at a stop light and looked over to see folks banging away on their cell phones? I see it every damned day! For something a bit over sixty dollars why wouldn’t you want to enhance your visibility in the face of the half-wits on phones in car cages across the land.

Gerde Applethwaite