Get-Offs In Slo-Mo

By Gerde Applethwaite

A guy falling off his motorcycleI was watching the Olympics a while back and the crashes of the downhill skiers caught my eye.  The slo-mo replays of somebody biffing it on a downhill run have some resonance with a motorcycle get-off. You got to see the way in which the body automatically, in the absurdly brief time available, attempts to set up for the fall.  Arms and legs splay akimbo but there is often just enough time to put out your hands or feet in a defensive posture.

The yootoobz be full of slo-mo viddys of motorcycle get-offs. They run the gamut from CCTV of Chinese scooter accidents on busy streets to wobbly Isle of Man TT high-sides or the fixed camera setups of weekend riders who go wide out of a turn on Mulholland. There is a similarity between many of the bike get-offs and the downhill skiing fly-offs. Basically, in both you have yer low-sides and yer high-sides. The low-side skiers (if they maintain consciousness and are fortunate enough to remain unbroken) are attempting to push against the slope in a braking maneuver. The high-side skiers, when slowed down enough, often have the look of an old slapstick cartoon where the poor boffo is swimming in air.  Also the high-siders will put an arm down to broach the distance between themselves and impending doom. Its an automatic reaction – skiers do it, skateboarders do it, bicyclists and motorcyclists too. If you watch professional football you will all too often see a receiver on the edge of the field catch a pass and then step one foot out of bounds to maintain balance. The pass is ruled ‘not a reception’ because you need 2 feet inbound at the time of the catch. The better players have trained themselves to drag that second foot keeping 2 feet inbound and just taking the fall. It is counter intuitive to just take the fall. The football players earn 6, 7 and 8 figure salaries and train for this sort of stuff constantly but on the day they will still, instinctively, put that foot out to brake the fall or prevent it.

I recently wrote a post about road rash and one of the pieces of information I decided not to include in that post (not because I deemed it uninteresting but in a rare attempt at keeping the post brief) was Dr. Flash Gordon’s* information about the ways in which infection can cause serious permanent damage to your body.  If you have a full thickness road rash on your hand or you have torn up the area around a joint be very careful; infections consequent to this can cause permanent damage to your hand.  So there you are in mid-air in the midst of your soon-to-be expensive high side as you and your CBR part company and you reflexively (in the micro-seconds afforded to you) stick one or both of your ungloved hands out toward the approaching pavement. You snap a wrist or two, tear open the skin and then pivot onto your t-shirt covered shoulder; some sliding …. and you stop – let’s say partially under a parked car. Just for the purposes of full disclosure I should say that something similar happened to me. The details are a bit different: it was a parked semi-tractor trailer, it was raining, and I was all ATGATT’d out but the sense is the same – one second you are riding blissfully along and then somehow you are the star of your own brief, slo-mo, get-off cartoon.

In a low-side you will quite often not have time to pull your leg from between the side of the bike and the pavement. This is an ugly sandwich. Its the luck of the draw whether or not you break your ankle and mangle toes. It really depends upon where your leg just happens to be, the shape of the bike, the terrain of the road bed and, not least, your foot wear. The skiers often have time and free room to do that kicking, braking, steering motion but even if you could it will be of little avail to you with one leg trapped under your bike. Maybe in your low-side the bike slides out ahead of you or off to the side – that could be lucky. You see it on the race track frequently enough – Rossi slides on his back at 80 MPH and lives to sign autographs later that day. I mean it could be lucky if your chosen path did not lead toward an impact with something that will mangle you. Good luck. I find it somewhat comical when I see a guy on a sport bike wearing shorts and a t-shirt but he has frame sliders installed on his bike. He is aware that a crash might happen and he has taken the time to install something that will help minimize the damage to his costy fiberglass but he has thought not one wit about what will happen to his body in the same scenario. DOH.

Women, you’re not out of this either. You think your jeggings and cute boots will protect you in a crash? It is to laugh. The pressure on women to look good while doing anything and while being anywhere is crazy-making. It discombobulates any reasoned approach to the purchase of riding gear. When I commuted to work by motorcycle I wore an old Air Force flight suit, helmet, gloves and boots. I kept a pair of shoes at work. My commute was fully suited out in protective gear but underneath I wore my work clothes. A Joe Rocket Survivor Suit is my current kit and it does the same duty. I really didn’t care all that much how I looked on the bike although I like the look of the Joe Rocket.  I wasn’t out there to look gooey nectar on my commute. These days I am astonished at the number of women who wear clothing that will do them less than no good when they are riding. She wears the helmet and a pair of leather garden gloves and no other protective gear. Believe me they will cut those pricey jeggings off of you in a heartbeat in the ER.

I used to like one particular Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach. The first time I showed up there to meet friends I was confronted just inside the front door by the maitre d’ who politely explained to me that there was a dress code and that my flight suit was not appropriate. I laughed and told him that I expected to check it and then started to doff the suit. Underneath I was wearing clothing acceptable to management and everybody was happy.  It is possible to plan an evening out on the town and still wear riding gear that will help keep you safe – they are not mutually exclusive. The maitre d’ got to know me and would make a comic flourish out of welcoming me when I came in. It was fun for us both.  Yes, my boots were a bit out of the norm but it became my look. Trust me, you can wear your motorcycle boots to the opera and as long as everything you are wearing is black you will get away with it just fine (note: boots with lotsa buckles can make a sound that is annoying to those sitting next to you.)

Take a look at the online videos of riders going down and make some reasoned decisions about how you want to look when you are the one staring up at the sky after a crash. Do you want to be she who is wearing very little riding gear and has to be carted off to the ER or do you want to extend the chances that you will not be carted anywhere and wear the ATGATT? There are ways to wear the gear that won’t inhibit your social life or your look.

*Note: Dr. Flash Gordon’s book Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists is available from White Horse Press.

 

Gerde Applethwaite

Arai? All right!

We hope you are all as excited as we are for the new Arai helmet arrivals! These helmets are teeming with cool features, different designs and more personality than your cat! So let’s cut to the chase and get right to it.

Introducing the first in line is the Arai Signet Q Zero series. A notable difference is the Long Oval Shell Shape, which is very long front-to-back and very narrow side-to-side. The interior head liner has 5mm peel-away pads on both sides for additional forehead room. The Signet Q Zero series is available in silver and red. For the more bold who can’t be tied down to one color, we also have the Signet Q Bomb.

Arai Signet Q Bomb

Next up is Arai’s Defiant Chronus and Defiant Chopper helmets. The Defiant Chronus boasts FCS, Multi-Density one-piece EPS Liner, Dry-Cool liner material, micro fitting interior padding and a pull down spoiler. Created to be the street helmet, it offers comfort, stability and ventilation. The Defiant Chronus comes in red, green, yellow and black while the Defiant Chopper is in black/red.

Arai Defiant Chronus in Black

Arai Defiant Chopper in Black/Red

Arai brings two new designs into the Corsair V family to acknowledge and celebrate the past and present motorcycle racers Tetsuya Harada and Jonathan Rea. Harada, a former racer, won the 1993 FIM 250cc World Championship and inspired the Arai Corsair V Harada Tour. Rea was a runner-up in the 2007 British Superbike Championship and 2008 Supersport World Champion. He currently competes in the Superbike World Championship and has helped spur the Arai Corsair V Rea 3 helmet.

Arai Corsair V REA 3

Want recommendations? Need help in finding a helmet? Not sure what to look for in your next helmet?  Then check out our friends Best Motorcycle Helmet for more information!

Scorpion Leather Jackets – Serious Riders Only

Helmet City is pleased to announce its latest additions in apparel from Scorpion! We now have even more to offer both our male and female riders in leather jackets. (Sorry, you’re on your own in the love department).

Ladies, say hello to the Scorpion Women’s Vixen Leather Jacket.This jacket offers the perfect fit, form and flexibility for female riders with various stretch panels, adjustable waist belts and multiple perforation points for maximum ventilation. The Vixen is available in three different colors: white, black and pink.

vixen-jacket-white-sm

white

For gentlemen, we have the Scorpion Men’s Clutch Leather Jacket. Similar to the Vixen, the Clutch is superior in comfort and fit. It also offers Powertector GP AIR HUMP for even more airflow, additional padded panels, internal pocket storage and external hard warmer pockets. The Clutch comes in three flavors: black/neon, black/white and white/red.

clutch-jkt-black-sm

black/white

clutch-jkt-white-sm

white/red

Made from top-grain leather, the Vixen and Clutch are meant for serious riders with only the best in mind. For riders seeking the thrill of the road while maintaining safety and comfort, be sure to check out the Vixen or Clutch!

 

IJMS Conference – 2014 in Colorado

By Gerde Applethwaite

The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies is a group of folk who roll around in the research and the writing centered around things motorcycle [not to be confused with the International Journal of molecular Sciences – they do something on a quite different scale.]  If you go to the IJMS main site you will see all manner of really intriguing papers written by riders, some academics – some not. It is truly great stuff. Its not just for motorcycle journalists, the topics vary widely. I have burned up hours and hours reading really fascinating papers gathered under the IJMS rubric. I recommend it to all y’all.

This year the 2014 IJMS conference is going to be held in the States, in Colorado. If you can carve out the time in mid-July to make it to the conference I will see you there. I will not be presenting a paper (BTW, final submission date is march 1st)  but I will be attending as many panels as I can.

Check it out:

http://ijms.nova.edu/

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1309315

See you in Colorado Springs,

Gerde Applethwaite

Road Pizza: A Most Unwelcome Roadside Treat

 By Gerde Applethwaite

“Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle
first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for
Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter
starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis.”

The Weather on the Left Coast at the time of writing is still mostly dry and mostly warm. In other parts of the country the cold havoc reigns supreme. The scooter evolution is in full swing here and for reasons somewhat beyond my understanding scooter riders seem to have a penchant for Teva’s and cargo shorts. The vast majority of motorcycle/scooter accidents occur at under 30 miles per hour. The bi-product of the under dressed and the over-accelerated is road rash or as we affectionately call it – road pizza (you will know why if you have ever seen it.)

Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis. This is a really common condition for the under dressed who ride – whether it be on bicycles, skateboards, scooters or motorcycles. What I wasn’t aware of were the complications that can ensue from an improperly treated road rash. Yeah, you should wear the right clothing and we sell the right clothing but for right now let’s just focus on a few select notions from Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear.

(Picture Taken from Wiki How)

You need to get as much of the dirt out of the wound as you can. Any leftover dirt can produce scarring at best and complications from a serious infection at worst. I knew a guy in high school who did a face plant while on his bicycle; he hit a poorly designed road grate. They didn’t get all of the gravel out of his road rash wound and years later you could still see the occasional dark bits of gravel on the side of his face. Sometimes a little chunk of gravel would work its way to the surface causing intense itching until it finally broke loose of the skin – some bits stayed where they were. The broken skin is incredibly sensitive to stuff like Betadine or even tap water. It alone will send your nerve endings howling. Saline solution is better.  Contact lens solution is actually good. I now carry a bottle of it under the seats of both bikes, along side the small first aid kit.  Again, this is thanks to having read the Flash Gordon MD. book/s. Read them – no foolin’. The idea in this first phase is to get as much of the dirt and germs out of the wound as possible. The longer the microbes party in your road pizza wound the more you will pay for it later. If all you have is tap water then use that – get the wound clean.

Yes, the next phase is to protect the wound. Dr. Gordon no longer recommends antibiotic ointments like Neosporin for this. I didn’t know this. I knew enough to try clean the wound but then my first reaction would have been to slather it all up with something Like Neosporin then put down gauze 4×4′s and finally pave it all over with tape. Wrong. The wound needs to be cleaned but not dried out. The ointment will actually dry out the wound. You have a couple of ways to go here.

One is something called a semi-occlusive dressing like Tegaderm or Opsite for example. You apply the film onto and around the wound. It adheres to healthy skin around the wound both protecting the area and allowing the wound to breathe. This can be packed into your first aid kit as well as the saline solution and your other stuff. It really doesn’t take up that much room and if you don’t need it for yourself you may one day need it for someone else.

An alternative means to protect the cleaned wound site is to spray on some stuff out of a can that films over and will rapidly give you some protection. The products noted in Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear are 3m’s Nexcare or something called Medi-Stat. I have the Nexcare in my kit. I haven’t seen the Medi-Stat in my local pharmacy. Gordon mentions that the added advantage of using the spray is that if you are the wounded one and you find yourself without help you will have an easier time of it by spraying something onto the wound site than you will applying a sheet film because you can one-hand it. Good tip.

You’re not out of the woods yet. You still risk serious infection and the potential consequences of infection turn out to be more than a little startling. I’m not going to go into it here because I want to keep this piece brief. Read the book (have I said that already?) or at least go online and do some research. At some point, either at the time of the initial accident or later when you suspect infection you may need to seek medical help. Do not hesitate to get it.

Finally a word, directly from my experience, about hospitals. Not all hospitals are created equally. I am given to understand that ambulance crews are not obligated to take you to your hospital of choice – they are obligated to take you to the nearest hospital. Now its roulette. If you are unfortunate to be taken to a crappy hospital or to one that has an overburdened emergency room (often one and the same) then you are really at the mercy of the fates. I happen to live in an area where the local hospital — the one that I would be taken to in the event of a neighborhood accident — has a stupefyingly poor reputation for everything except gun shot wounds – they appear to be good at that and they get a lot practice. If you show up with a road pizza shoulder and/or face you could realistically wait for 12 hours before you are seen depending upon who got shot before you showed up – or while you waiting. Do you want to risk that just so that you can feel the warm breeze blowing up your cargo shorts? Buy some riding gear, fool!

Gerde Applethwaite

The HJC CL-17: Next Generation of Quality and Comfort

The CL-17 is new to HJC, with significant improvements over its predecessor, the CL-16 design. The CL-17 comes fully equipped with a new ventilating system designed to give riders more aerodynamic capabilities than previous CL models designed. The ventilation system has improved from previous models in that are now four additional vents, including an eyebrow vent which is completely new and provides greater air flow for riders.

While the shell material is familiar, we do see that there have been some changes to the shape of the helmet. HJC describes the shape to a neutral oval fit.  Another new element to the CL-17 is the improvement made to the liner. The liner snaps are now more durable and easier to locate within the helmet. The padding system is still interchangeable, giving riders the option to change out pads for a custom fit.

Customers are very satisfied with the comfortable interior and excellent ventilation this helmet provides. Although this is one of the more affordable helmets available, don’t let the low price fool you. The HJC CL-17 delivers excellent the quality and comfort we’ve come to expect from HJC.

The HJC CL-17 comes in a wide selection of graphics and colors. Riders can choose from six solid colors, or four different graphics in a variety of colors.

HJC CL-17 Mystic

The CL-17 Mystic design comes in two different color options. The graphic on this helmet plays with an optical illusion design featuring lighter color tones to really make it stand out.

 

 

HJC CL-17 Redline

The CL-17 Redline comes in five different colors. The graphics reflect a really cool racing style with an asymmetrical racing strip down the center of the helmet. All of the helmets will have the HJC logo on the back.

 

HJC Victory

 

The CL-17 Victory can be found in three different color options, all very bright and designed with the HJC name running along the side of the helmet into the back. There’s definitely a bold choice in color representation of this helmet.

 

HJC Mission

The CL-17 Mission is a really cool design, especially small details along the helmet. The sudden choice of light grey, red or green to the overall dark grey tones the helmet displays really presents a sleek look for riders.

Bell Qualifier- Hi-Viz Rally in Black and Yellow

 

New to the Bell product line is the Bell Qualifier. Offering comfort and style, the Bell Qualifier takes the safety and durability of a helmet to a new level for riders. Having replaced the Bell Arrow, the Qualifier now features a new shield and ventilating system. The most noticeable change you’ll see to the Qualifier is the oval shaped helmet design, inspired by racer style helmets.  The change in shape provides riders with more aerodynamic capability. Staying true to the quality of Bell products, the Qualifier also comes with the exclusive Bell Click-Release system for a fast and simple way to remove shields. Definitely one of the stronger helmet design to show quality, presentation and safety.

The Bell Qualifier Rally in Hi-Viz Black and Yellow is one of our favorites in the new line of colors and designs to choose from. This style reflects a cool racing strip down the middle of the helmet, showing off detail in the reflective silver and yellow-tech graphics. Displayed in a rubberized style, the color is great for showing a sleek aesthetic of the Bell Qualifier. 

The Hi-viz Conundrum

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Why wouldn’t you wear hi-viz? After I bought a Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest for a friend as a Christmas present I got to thinking about hi-viz…..again.

I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest because it is my favorite amongst our hi-viz vest options. My pal’s gear is pretty much all black and I thought It would be smart to help make him more visible on the road. He thanked me for the present and then made a self-deprecating joke about his reluctance to wear it not because of some sort of fashion choice but because its just too visible. Yeah, we both cracked up. This lead me to wonder about what keeps people from buying hi-viz gear. I see more and more folks kitted out in hi-viz every day especially bicycle riders. Whether on Motorcycle or bicycle I only wear hi-viz these days.

For a mere $60.00 you get an instant upgrade for your lo-viz jacket or suit. For me this is a no-brainer yet there are plenty of folks out there who do not see hi-viz as a viable option. I am sure that moto gear manufacturers take this into account when designing their new gear. How they go about this I do not know. I imagine gnomes in Alpen caves looking into vats of bubbling future-predicting goo to suss the trends for the latest Alpinestars lineup. Who knows? I guess they hire fashion consultants (who may or may not ride) in order to get input into the designs for the latest looks. If you read my stuff at all you know by now that I constantly rant about the cluelessness of gear manufacturers when it comes to both hi-viz and reflective tape use. This seasonal design thing quickly becomes an odd game of cat and mouse though: when does consumer desire tilt the scales for manufacturers and when do the fashion mavens wholly dictate product design? Mostly I suspect it is the latter.

The fashion bonzos are not asking questions like: “What percentage of cage drivers who strike motorcyclists say to investigators “Golly, I just didn’t see him.”  Instead I am convinced they are saying stuff like “if we add the farkle X graphic scheme to this helmet how much can we expect it to bump up our sales in the 18-24 demographic or ”Sure we have to put some reflective stuff on jacket Y but “If we only put a little bit of reflective tape on this jacket we can save an extra .02 cents per unit.”

Another way that might work in the effort to coax manufacturers toward the bright would be to have insurance companies offer riders a discount for wearing hi-viz clothing and helmets. It would certainly be to their advantage but I don’t know how you would enforce it.

I am convinced that unless the push comes from the consumer side my vision of a hi-viz option in every part of a manufacturer’s line is a very long way off. The next time you go shopping for riding gear think for a moment about that half-wit in a cage texting his way down the road – right toward you.

Gerde Applethwaite

Hypothermia: The Chilling Truth

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: T’is the season to feel the brunt of the cold weather on your weary bones. Here’s the quick low-down on Hypothermia.

I have been really cold on several occasions, of note are: once while surfing in Northern California’s 53 degree water while clad in a completely clapped-out rental wet suit, once in Amsterdam on Sint Niklaas Eve while wearing ridiculous shoes as I trudged through the snow on my way to a party (doing my best, quite unintentional, imitation of Hans Christian Anderson’s  The Little Match Girl) and a few times while on the motorcycle – most often while wet from a rainstorm. On all of those occasions I got so cold that I got the shakes and I couldn’t stop them for quite some time and I guess it is important to note that it was all user inflicted. I mean, had I taken the time to dress for the weather and the environment I could have avoided all of it.

Infants and seniors are more vulnerable to Hypothermia as are people with heart conditions and folks who are taking anti-depressants, anti-psychotics or sedatives. My intention here is to give you an overview of Hypothermia and hopefully inspire you to go researching on the intertoobz at your convenience (see the reference note at the bottom of this article.) I cannot give you credible medical advice but I can certainly steer you toward those who can. If you live in a cold climate or plan to spend any time in one you should really get to know the information and advice surrounding Hypothermia. Be advised too that it is possible to suffer from Hypothermia even if you are not resident in what is considered a cold climate. Seniors die in their homes every year because older people’s natural body temperature monitoring senses become less useful to them and they do not realize how cold they are – then the addled brain syndrome, so much a part of Hypothermia, sets in and damage or death follows.

History is littered with folks who have learned the Hypothermia lesson hard way. The most infamous of which is Napoleon Bonaparte who decided to go after the Russians. It didn’t fare well for Napoleon or his 500,000 troops. Various Polar explorers, prepared as they were, learned the hard lessons of Hypothermia as have many climbers and Sherpas on missions to summit Mt. Everest.

Napoleon smashed his way, in mid-1812, toward Russia (can you hear the Tchaikovsky cannons in the background) with the simple mission to convince Alexander the First not to support the Brit’s. by buying British goods through proxies. Seems like a small thing right, but Napoleon brought his half million with him to help with the coaxing. The Russians played an effectively brutal game of cat and mouse with Napoleon that extended the time line and turned out to be increasingly catastrophic for both sides. Bonaparte started out in Spring but the thing dragged out into November and the Russian winter.  Russians were forced by their leaders to flee their cities ahead of Napoleon’s advance and forced as well to leave no food or supplies behind them. By August Napoleon was near Smolensk and after a great deal of back and forth the Russians fled the city but not before destroying supplies that would be useful to Napoleon. This caught Napoleon and his gang by surprise and further diminished his capabilities as his re-supply lines were already under constant threat from raiding Cossacks.  – an army of 500,000 needs its supply lines. Soon one of the key elements in the Russian victory would come into play: Hypothermia. The French troops were not prepared for a Russian winter and tens of thousands died of the cold. By the time it was over Napoleon staggered homeward with just 27,000 fit troops and a cadre of wounded. The painting at the top of this post by Adolph Northen is the most famous of those that depict Napoleon’s ignominious retreat.

For an extraordinary documentary about one tragic attempt to summit Everest you can do no better than to watch the 2008 PBS piece by David Breashears entitled Storm Over Everest. If this documentary doesn’t make you want to go out and buy heated gear before your next cold weather ride then you have ice in your veins.

Hypothermia and Hyperthermia are two different things, they are opposites and some folks confuse one for the other. Hyperthermia is the state of having a fever (which can be caused by disease and/or environmental factors) while Hypothermia is a substantial drop in body temperature and that’s what i’m talking about here. There are 3 stages of Hypothermia (some say 4 stages and add a final stage called Profound Hypothermia): mild, moderate and severe. I will only speak to mild Hypothermia here.

Most of us will only experience mild Hypothermia but mild as it may be it is certainly enough to kill you. In mild Hypothermia your body temperature is in that range from just below your normal temp. down to 96 (some readings say 95) degrees Fahrenheit -  it only has to drop below 96 degrees Fahrenheit before you enter moderate Hypothermia. When you are in the mild zone your ability to use to your hands and feet in a coordinated manner diminishes and you will at some point start to shiver — most importantly your mental faculties are now no longer reliable. If you are out on your bike (adding to the potential complexity of the mix is the fact that its already a challenge to drive in rain or ice or snow) any one of these things can be fatal.

Generally you will be coldest first in your extremities, so hands and feet are the most likely candidates for Hypothermia damage as well as the exposed nose. It takes more effort to circulate the warm blood out to your hands and feet and as you get colder your body tries to keep the core warm in order to keep you alive — you will risk frost nip, then frostbite. You manufacture heat in your muscle tissue and this will include your heart and liver. You lose heat predominantly thorough your skin (90%) and the lungs – the other 10%. I was told some years back that you lose 25% of your body heat through your head – something about all of those capillaries and such in your scalp. It turns out not to be true (except in infants and their heads should always be protected in even moderately chilly weather.)  Adults, you lose the same amount through your head as through the rest of your outer wrapping.

Remember you also lose your ability to think clearly and that starts at level one. When you combine the loss of rationality with the diminishing control of your arms and legs then you are seriously courting a crash.  When I got cold on the bike I would often go in somewhere and get a cup of hot coffee. Coffee and alcohol dilate your blood vessels and send the instant sensation of warmth back to your hands and feet at the expense of your core. For a while you feel good again. The core sacrifices warm blood to warm the limbs through now dilated vessels and the body’s core thereby loses its ability to maintain its equilibrium. The new blood in your limbs is now re-chilled when you are re-exposed to the weather making you feel even colder than before you had the coffee or the alcohol. The stress of a body core now colder than it was before can lead to heart failure or stroke. The limbs cannot be rewarmed until the core can be maintained at a warm temperature. Let’s say you are not the one who has suffered from mild Hypothermia but its your pal Stan (I hope, for the sake of this example, that you do not actually have a pal named Stan but if so please accept my humble commiserations.) You rush over to Stan and you take charge. You immediately start to warm up his cold hands and feet – makes sense, right? Within minutes blood rushes back to his extremities, Stan develops an Arrhythmia that turns into a heart attack and before your eyes Stan dies. When the warming process begins it should start at the core. Did you know this? I did not. My first move would have been to warm up the cold hands and feet. There is much to learn. Please read the outside informational sources and do the homework – someone’s life could depend upon your knowledge and skill. Forewarned is forearmed.

I knew a guy with a great rat bike who took two of those gallon and a quarter semi-rectangular vegetable oil plastic jugs, cut them out and glued on foam yoga mat type material. He slid them over his handlebars and bent some bronze TIG wire into shape on the inside to keep the wind from pushing the jugs against his clutch and brake levers. Some pop rivets and some bending and voila – hand protection for next to no money. It worked a treat and was of course completely within the decorative theme of the bike. There is a company called Hippo-hands that make a nice looking professional version of the same idea. I think they are slowly phasing out the business now and although they still have merchandise for sale the inventory is thinning out. I have a pair of something similar but smaller that I use on both bikes: they have a sort of faux-fur lining inside. I forget who makes them. I have had them going on twenty years now and I still get cold on some rides. No electrics for me as yet and I don’t know why. I am really ready for heated gloves at a minimum. It is also time for me to start looking into heated body gear.  On a ride I will get really chilled and then swear to buy some heated gear right away and then somehow never get around to it. I think this may be the year.

We have a pretty decent selection of heated gear and their accompanying controllers. Take a look. Expose as little of your body to the wind as possible. Wear a Balaclava or a necklacava. – we have those too. We also have great winter gloves. Make sure you are prepared before you set out on your next cold weather ride. Your choice of clothing is important. Synthetics and wool fabrics will hold their heat better when wet than will cotton. You can still perspire underneath all of those layers of clothing even on a cold day. If you wear clothing that wicks out the moisture away from your skin then you will have less heat transference from your body into your clothing. Polypropylene and polyester fabrics are moisture wicking.

Note: I used 4 sources for the medical information contained herein: The Mayo Clinic website, The NIH website, The Princeton University website and Wikipedia. I recommend you go to all of them in order to get more detail than my cursory overview provides. You will find treatment and diagnosis advice and you will also find notes on prevention.

Of course, if you have any questions about our heated gear, gloves or ancillary clothing do not hesitate to give us a call. I wish you all good riding in 2014.

Gerde Applethwaite

Tourmaster Centurion Suit Review

by Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I think the Tourmaster Centurion riding suit is a good deal for the price. The weather has turned seriously cold in many parts of the country and its time to take yet another look at a riding suit that won’t break your wallet.

There was a time in ancient history when I used to ride in a beat up ‘Wild One’ style leather jacket, 501′s and a pair of Chucks. On my head I sported a bruised silver Bell Custom 500 helmet when I wore a helmet at all. That was it, that was my total commitment to gear for many years – oh yeah and Serengeti Driver sunglasses. Ever have a bee smash itself into that space between your nose and the nose bridge on your glasses at 60 MPH? Very disconcerting. Riding gear has improved since then and my inclination has improved as well. I am, as you likely know by now, all about the ATGATT and the hi-viz. In my slowly expanding collection of riding gear there is a pile of Tourmaster/Cortech textile kit. I am not a big spender on gear: I just don’t have a Klim type budget. I have found over the years that I really get major bang for my buck with Tourmaster gear. I am often amazed at what they are able to crank out for their price point. My #2 go-to is Firstgear with Scorpion coming on strong.

The Tourmaster Centurion suit has been around for a while and I see it often on touring riders. It comes in just below $400.00 and for that price you get whizzbangs not seen in many of the pricier suits. The suit that I have been riding around in is the Joe Rocket Survivor suit. It is slightly less expensive than the Tourmaster and its a good suit. When I was shopping it out I thought about getting the Centurion suit but decided almost immediately against it because they do not have a hi-viz model. When Joe Rocket presented its semi-hi-viz version I jumped on it. If you are looking into suits and are not interested in hi-viz riding gear then the Centurion should be an option for you.

The shoulder, knee, and elbow armor is puck style with a cushioning layer on the wet-ware side and Tourmaster says it is CE rated. They say no more than that so it is safe to assume that this means it is Level 1 CE armor. It appears that the back armor is some version of the standard place-holder foam. The hip pads are also place-holder foam. Were I to buy this suit I would have to replace all of the armor with CE level 2 armor. That’s why its irrelevant to me whether or not the back armor is just a place-holder pad – it would have to go anyway. The armor in the newly released 2014 Firstgear TPG Expedition suit is CE Level 2 except for the back armor which is (disappointingly) Level 1. The Firstgear suit is also ALL molecular D30. You pay extra for that but I think this is the direction that all quality makers will be heading toward in the not too far distant future. The armor in the Centurion resides in Velcro’d pockets in the mesh breather layer. The mesh layer is gauzy consequently the armor has the tendency to float around. This is not good. Floating armor means you are playing roulette with fate and your bone surgeon while you are in mid-flight: maybe you’ll land on the armor … then again.

The Centurion has a thermal liner. This is as it should be. I think all suits should have a zip-out thermal liner. Some do not: The Expedition does not, in spite of the fact that it is over $150.00 costier. The Tourmaster offering also has a few other nifty features that please me. They have incorporated a rain hood under the collar (the Expedition has one too), it zips down into place once you curl it back up. I love the rain hood idea. If you have ever ridden in the rain and had the cold wetness slither down the back of your neck you will truly appreciate the foldup-rain-hood-in-the-collar. They have also designed a truly nifty (removable) rain and wind gator that comes across the neck. I haven’t seen this elsewhere as standard on factory gear. This is a great feature and it is so simple. Clearly aspects of this suit were designed by riders or by people who actually listened to riders. Go to any rally and talk to the gathered over the course of a weekend and you will get enough information to design the perfect riding suit. Some features of this suit seem to have been designed by riders – others not so much. Tourmaster has also incorporated a small zippered pocket on the left forearm sleeve. Inside is a key hook on a bit of elastic string. This is a great pocket for a small wad of bridge toll cash or change for parking meters, for my eye drops and even a key or two. If you attach a small day-glo disc to the key ring and leave it outside of the zippered closed pocket it will serve as a visual reminder not to leave your keys in the ignition when you go to the coffee shop. If you see the disc when you are off the bike then your keys are not back in the forearm pocket – where are my keys? It might also be possible to fit a moderately sized Li-on battery pack in there for a heated glove.

The zippers are sturdy YKK and the exposed areas are rubberized. The Captain Kangaroo pockets are fold over style with Velcro but are not zippered. They have an angled, zippered foldover pocket on the chest. That zipper is not rubberized. Pockets abound for those who are into that sort of thing. If you need to carry a tuna sandwich in one pocket and a set of 3/8′s drive metric sockets in another then you will have no trouble here. The main zipper runs from neck to the top of the right thigh. The leg zippers run from ankle to the top of the hip. I like this because its a nice long run and the suit is easy in and easy out but it does cause some bunching when you’re seated on the bike (combine this with the floating armor and you are fidgeting for just a bit to get yourself situated before you set off.) The big zippers have rain/wind flaps secured with Velcro to keep out the weather. The crotch area has a big rain gator and I cannot testify to its efficiency at keeping you and the rain from commingling. I don’t get to ride the review suits in the wet.

The sleeve cuffs do not have a zipper but a pie slice shaped expansion insert that cinches over with Velcro. Some folks like the velcro cuff closure better because they ride with their gloves tucked under the the sleeve and the zipper cuffs make that harder. I have gauntlet gloves and it only makes sense to me, aerodynamically, to ride with them out over the cuff. I like the zipper style better because it makes it easier to reach in and grab your sweatshirt to pull it down. That’s just me. The legs do not have an inner gator panel to protect against water infiltration. It is expected that a good tug on the Velcro cinch will be sufficient to keep the wind and rain from crawling up your boots.

The collar has the traditional soft flannel type lining – no complaints there. Tourmaster has also included a Velcro tab to allow you to secure the top front of the collar on one side to the shoulder when you are riding on a warm day with the zipper partially open. This suit comes in both black with black on black and the suit that I received which is grey with black on grey with a silvery material across the shoulders. The shoulder vents are nice when you are leaning forward on the bike and in combination with the rear shoulder vent you get plenty of airflow. Tourmaster has added a snap in the middle of the front shoulder vents to keep the vents pooched open on warm days. This is easily a 3 season suit but stretching it into a full time four season might not work. in really warm summer weather you might cook too much – especially in the black on black version. My Joe Rocket suit is black with black and some hi-viz panels and in warm weather with a t-shirt and jeans on underneath it gets a bit toasty out in the valley on those long, endless freeway stretches. The tarmac can be a cruel mistress in the summer. Underneath the waffle weave silvery stuff on the shoulders are some foam pads that may or may not help you in a get-off but at a minimum help to give you something of that je ne sais quoi Transformer elegance. The material is 600 denier throughout and as a bonus a doubled layer of 1680 denier material at the main potential impact points. They have done a very nice job with this: the knees are covered in this extra layer and the pattern is a sort of overlapping chevron. The silvery stuff on the shoulder is an additional impact layer too. From the elbows to the wrist on the outside is more of this extra layer. Kudos. The lower back has accordion “Carboflex” material to help with the stretch over to the handlebars. They have also put accordion material at the elbow and knee joints. I read online somewhere that one rider complained that the accordion pleated material was the source of leakage into the suit on a rainy day but I have seen no such complaints elsewhere. I cannot testify one way or the other. I don’t get a chance to torture test these review suits – only the gear I ultimately buy for myself. Tourmaster has included a long thin strip of heat resistant material on the right inner calf (some suits do not have any) but if your exhaust pipes and hot bits happen to be on the left, well … there you are. Finally, bringing up the rear is a layer of black durable material on the butt side to reduce wear through. You know some suits do not have an extra layer here – how is that possible? Do they talk to anyone who rides? These suits are being bought by people who commute to work every day or by folks who are long distance riders. Why wouldn’t you reinforce the sitzplatz area? Again Tourmaster has clearly paid attention to some of the practical details.

They have included the typical waist cinching Velcro to snug the suit into fit. There are also snap closures on the arms for adjustment. Oh, and they include a little bag of extra snaps for repairs down the road. That’s a thoughtful touch.

There is reflective material on this suit and in any of the suits I have reviewed no maker seems to offer enough of it to satisfy my standards. This is easy – the closer you get to a standard construction worker’s hi-viz vest reflective scheme the better. The Expedition suit and the Tourmaster suit seem to be fond of the blackout type of reflective material. Its a fashion choice and not a full tilt safety choice. Did they do a survey and find that touring riders blanched when seeing 2” wide stripes of highly reflective silver safety tape sewn into their clothing? I doubt it, so where does this come from? I think the fashion drones back in the main office have decided that lots of reflective material are not syley style. They take the subway to work or they park their cage in the company lot. They are clearly not riding around on motorcycles at night. The black reflective material is not as reflectively effective as the silvery stuff. Scorpion’s Passport suit uses silver type reflective stuff (not enough by any means) but it is sprayed (or silk-screened) on and I worry about its longevity – even though I must say this sprayed on stuff from them really catches the light. Joe Rocket’s Survivor suit utilizes a combination of sprayed on and sewn on reflective materials. They went with the silvery stuff and although there is far too little of it the stuff they used is highly reflective as well. Firstgear has an unyielding affection for the lesser reflective black material.

Remember this is a $400.00 suit. I have quibbles with every suit I review, some more than others, but I always try to balance price against features. Of the 4 suits available to me I have chosen the least expensive one among them as my preferred choice. Price should not be the main deciding factor when you shop for any gear. Really take a close look at features and the quality of construction and then look at price. Tourmaster and Cortech seem to consistently do a good job at this balancing act. This suit may seem a bit dated in terms of its armor, its leg and sleeve closures and the way in which the thermal liner is secured to the suit with Velcro on the legs but all in all I am impressed. Were it offered in a hi-viz version I might have jumped on it for my personal ride. I am eager to see what lessons Tourmaster takes from this suit and from the advancements in armor in recent years for the design of their next iteration Centurion suit. In the meantime If you are looking for a touring/commute suit at a reasonable price I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one

Gerde Applethwaite.

Other suit reviews:

Firstgear Expedition

Joe Rocker Survivor Suit