The jacket ride

After looking forward all week to riding in the dirt, the plans for Sunday morning got changed, and I had to settle for a street ride to Fountain Hills for breakfast (20 miles one way). It was not what I had planned at all, but I did get to do an experiment.

Last week I rode with some fellow Beemer club members to Superior, AZ for breakfast, and I thought it was nice to ride my F800ST. But on the way home, it was hot (no surprise). I had even put on a “wet vest,” the secret weapon to ride in the heat. A wet vest is a vest (duh – stating the obvious) that you soak in water to get it wet, then put it on  before you ride through the heat. The only problem is, in the dry heat of Arizona it dries out before you get home, and then it becomes one more “thing” on your body to hold the heat.

There is one school of thought that says you should not use a mesh jacket with a wet vest in this climate. It is better to wear a textile jacket and open all the vents in it. That way you still get some air flow, but not too much, and the evaporative cooling effect lasts longer because it takes longer for the vest to dry out.

For a long time, I couldn’t even think about trying that method; I thought riding in summer heat without mesh would make me suffocate. However, after my experience last Monday riding home from Superior when the wet vest dried out almost immediately, I thought, well, maybe I should try a textile jacket.

I first thought I’d wear my favorite Speed and Strength To The Nines black jacket, (  but I don’t want to have it exposed to the summer sun because it will fade too quickly. All my summer riding jackets and my older winter coats are highly faded, and I hate that “purpled-out” look that the black parts get. Plus, I wanted a jacket that fit a little closer with the liner out of it than the Speed and Strength coat. I remembered that small Cortech jacket that I’d gotten a couple of years ago for a low price at Goodwill. It is a very nice jacket, and at first I’d wondered why anyone would get rid of it. I think the person who took it to Goodwill must have bought it as a “motorcycle jacket” to hang out in, not ride in. It fits really close to the body, and it feels tight and restrictive when you are just wearing it. But when you get on the bike, it fits perfectly. It’s close to the body in the right places, and gives you freedom of movement in all the right places when you are leaned over gripping the bars of a motorbike.

I’d had to reconstruct the interior on one side of that coat in order to wear it since it had been cut apart, but I’d done it. I even wrote about it here, and the story can be found at this link:

Anyway, I wore the mesh jacket on the way to breakfast yesterday because the air was still “cool” enough when I left the house at 7:50 a.m. That is a relative term because in the neighborhood, the temperature was 86° F., but by the time I got out into the hot streets, it was around 90°. Anytime it is below 100° F., I am happy, and I think it’s a bonus.

It was a fast, pleasant ride, and I parked my bike in front of the Subway shop at 8:14. I like Subway for breakfast because their coffee is good, and the food is healthy. Plus, it’s affordable. The store doesn’t officially open until 9, but I didn’t know that, and when I walked in (door was unlocked), the young man at the counter said they would serve us anyway. Hal turned up a few minutes later, and we got our breakfast. A couple of cups of coffee and an hour later, it was time to go.

Gearing up, I reached into my side case to grab the “Evanescence” jacket, named so because the previous owner put a patch on the jacket that bears the name of the music group. I happen to like that group, so I left the patch on the jacket. I pulled the wet vest out as well. I had soaked it before I left home, and put it in a ziplock baggie. The wet vest made me feel cool the moment I put it on. I shrugged myself into the jacket, the vents were all open. I wondered if it would work.

The moment we started riding and the air started moving, I felt the cooling effect. We had to stop for fuel right away because Hal needed to fill up his bike to get home, and I wondered if I would still feel cool halfway home. If not, I was going to have to pull over and get the mesh jacket out. After fueling up, we got out on the open highway, and it was amazingly cool. The temperature had climbed to 97°, still under 100, but the sun was blaring down. I ride with the darkest tinted visor I can get, and wear sunglasses under it, probably to make myself at least “feel” cool.

The closer I got to home, the heavier the traffic was. The last nine miles or so were in stop and go traffic, the true test. The vest had soaked the top of my riding pants as well, and that helped a lot, and the best thing was that the vest was drying out much more slowly under the textile jacket than the mesh jacket. Plus, there was no hot air on my arms, or need to wear a long-sleeve Under Armour shirt to keep the sun off my skin. It is like riding into a hair dryer in this climate in the summer.

I got all the way home and still felt reasonably comfortable. So, the experiment worked! I felt good about that because maybe I will be able to ride my street bike more often this summer!


4 thoughts on “The jacket ride

  1. I’ll have to try the cooling vest under textiles method. I’ve only used my cooling vest a few times but it made me feel “clammy”. Today is a hot day, it must be in the mid 80’s. :). I’ll try it when it gets over 90.

    I just went through a gear transformation myself. My last riding suit was an Areostich Darian Light. I paid a bunch for it and absolutely hated it! The jacket vented poorly and the pants had no vents at all. I sold it at a loss and bought a Klim Latitude jacket and pant. I love it. Vents well and is way more crash worthy in my estimation. I would have saved a lot of money if I had bought it in the beginning.

    • I know. The most expensive gear is not always the best. I have spent a lot of money trying different things, and like almost everyone, wasted a lot of money before finding what works for me.

      Still looking for the elusive DR. Still no takers on my GS.

      – Jo

      • If you expand your search to here I could deliver it around Christmas. Did you try search tempest? You probably have a big ride planned for the summer, I’m stuck teaching summer school. I’m seriously thinking of a solo South America trip. Life is short, sometimes ya just gotta do it.

      • Ron,

        Thanks for the offer. I will look.

        There is a DR here in Phoenix that I want, but the guy who posted it on Craigslist isn’t responding to email, and I haven’t sold my GS yet anyway.

        I agree with you. Life is too short. I am seriously thinking about Alaska, too, and if something else comes up, taking time off. I highly doubt that working means more to me than traveling on the bike.

        – Jo

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