By Arlo Mudgett
As we enter the 2016 motorcycling season, thoughts often turn to our support gear. I'm talking about jackets, boots, helmets, gloves, and those comfort and safety items for your ride. If you are a pack rat like me, you've got tons of stuff lying about. This is true for folks who backpack, kayak, bicycle, hunt, etc. etc. We accumulate a lot of this stuff that made a whole lot of sense while in the outfitting mindset, but in practice, do you need all this junk? If it contributes to your comfort, safety, and sense of well-being, then yes. You need stuff. Let's take a peek into my saddlebags.
I usually carry a frog togs rain suit. They are made of a Tyvek-like, breathable material that is very lightweight, and you can ball them up and find room for them just about anywhere. Dig down a layer in the saddlebags and you will come across at least three pairs of gloves. I've been known to wear each pair all in one day. If you begin a ride in the cool of the morning you wear a heavier glove, and as the temperatures change, so do your gloves. It is a safety and comfort issue. What's the first thing you do when you fall? You put your hands out. Should you go down on your motorcycle, that is what you will do. If you are not wearing hand protection, the asphalt can make very quick work of removing the skin from your palms.
A further look into the saddlebags will reveal a can of chain lube (only used on the two chain driven bikes that I own) a tire repair kit with a spark plug inflator, some chapstick, a snap on helmet visor, a tube of sun block, and a tool bag. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, my registration and insurance info is in there, too. I have used every one of those items in my travels over the past 46 years, and I'm sure that other experienced motorcyclists have their own goodies that they would not leave home without.
I usually equip each and every motorcycle in my possession with a windshield, a small thermometer, and a clock. Raising your left arm and using your right hand to peel back a sleeve to check the time is the equivalent of texting while driving, only worse on a motorcycle. The concept of target fixation on a motorcycle is also true in cars and trucks. You go where you look, so constantly scan your surroundings and don't allow yourself to get distracted. Having the right information within sight can keep you out of trouble. For someone who grew up with the 'ol attention deficit problem, you'd think that motorcycling wouldn't be a top choice, but it focuses my mind. The need for survival will do that to you.
Now we come to all the things that a well-equipped motorcyclist should wear. Boots with some ankle protection, pants with at least some abrasion resistance, gloves, an abrasion resistant jacket, and a good helmet. I have five or six motorcycle jackets and I try to wear the right one for the day's conditions. On a really hot day, I have mesh jackets with elbow and shoulder protection. I have insulated leather jackets for cold weather, and I have been going for more textile jackets in recent years because some of the better ones have spine protection pads built in, and the whole jacket is usually lighter than leather. So where do you keep all this stuff?
We have an armoire that stores most of my gear, but it is overflowing. This week I got some shelving and some hooks to store all my helmets in the clothes closet. I actually found some unused space on one wall near the ceiling, and I'm going to use it! If all of these motorcycling accoutrements sound like a bunch of stuff that equates to a pain in the butt, sure, you're probably right. But the correct use of them can keep you safe or reduce the severity of injury in case of an accident. Ride safe out there this season. Drivers? Please watch for motorcycles and bicycles on the road. We're vulnerable and need all the help we can get to stay safe.
Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.