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!

Big dual sport riding, and a bad ending to a good day

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday’s planned dual sport motorcycle ride was to ride the Rim Road, FR300, from Woods Canyon Lake west to near Strawberry, AZ. However, during the month it was planned, other riders had been saying how much snow there was there, and that the road was still closed. So, plans were changed to ride FR512 to Young, AZ, and then south on 288 to pick up the 188, and go home from there. However, much to my surprise, it was decided at breakfast in Payson, AZ that we would ride both. I thought, what??? There went my idea of maybe getting home fairly early so I could get some (music) practicing done.

I was up for it, though. It was time to meet my “dirt hangups” head-on. After last week’s rough ride at Seven Springs, and then the criticism I received for not standing up the whole ride (which I normally do) I was ready for redemption. The fact is, on that previous ride I was trying to keep the back end of the bike (the TTR225) from “bucking,” and at the time it seemed like a good idea! On Sunday, I got out the “big guns” and brought my F650GS. I thought, what’s the difference how big it is? It will be more comfortable, and it’s a dirt bike.

So, we left Crosswinds restaurant, fueled up in Strawberry, and then rode up on the Rim to find FR300, which is not too far past the intersection of 87 and the 260. Those who wanted to aired down their tires, including me, and then we were off. The ride leader, Don S., put me up front behind Hal. I figured that was going to make for some really pissed off people since I am slow, but no one passed me, and no one complained (at least not so I could hear it), during the ride. I was going fast, though, for me.

Up on the Rim:

The most surprising thing was the condition of the road. Far from being under snow, or muddy, the road was extremely dusty! It was rough in some spots, I thought, but the bike’s suspension was working to keep me comfortable. There were a few places where there were patches of snow on the sides of the road, but the road itself was dry. Really dry. I was only behind one rider, but the dust was bad enough. I can only imagine how bad it was being behind six or seven riders.  By the time we got to Woods Canyon Lake, we were all covered in dust to some degree.

A dusty trail:

Self portrait:

I noticed how I was not being beat up as I had been on the Seven Springs ride, thanks to the proper suspension on the F650GS. I was standing on the pegs, too, but after an hour or so my feet hurt. The  foot pegs on this bike are those evil skinny ones that give almost no support. I don’t know why they put a narrow peg on a bike that is supposed to be ridden in the dirt. It hurts to stand on them for any length of time.

After we pulled into the rest area, a few people left for home. On hindsight, I wish I would have. But for then, I was having fun and wasn’t done riding for the day. So, we all went on to Young. They put me in the back this time. Ha. There ya go.

The road was rough, the roughest I’d seen 512 for a while. I used to travel it a lot when my brother-in-law owned a house there so I am reasonably familiar with it. I still was going fast, for me. We made it to Young from the 260 in a little over 30 minutes, a record for me. We stopped in Young at the new Antlers, a Young icon, for peach-rhubarb cobbler (sounds weird, tastes great!). It was definitely worth the ride.

At the new Antlers:

After we’d finished, the ride definitely split up. Most went “the south road” toward home (288), and were going to either go north or south on the 188 when they reached it. Two riders left about five minutes in front of us, and then Hal and I, the last riders to leave, started down the south road. Again, we found it dusty and rough, and again I realized that I was not nearly as tired as I had been last week. No wonder I love my GS so much.

I turned the GoPro camera on during this leg of the ride because I found the scenery so pretty. This road is aptly named the “Desert to Tall Pines” road. We were up in the pines at this point, climbing for a while. As you may expect, what goes up must come down, so next we began the descent toward Roosevelt Lake. It was truly beautiful with the lake shimmering in the valley below, and in the distance, the dark silhouettes of the mountains were against the afternoon sun. Finally, we reached the intersection of 288 and 188. We paused for a moment, and I asked Hal to turn the camera off, but it was already off. The card was full. We made the left turn onto 188, and that’s when disaster struck.

As I got to the top half of the turn onto 188, I felt something “let go” in my bike’s engine. It died, then the bike coasted to a stop. I was fortunate that I got it to the shoulder of the road as the turn is on a fairly steep grade. I would not have been able to push the bike off the road because it’s too heavy for me to push at all, let alone uphill. I knew the bike wasn’t going to re-start. What I felt was fatal, at least until it can be fixed by a mechanic. And, the worst part was, it was already getting late. I could see myself not getting home until very late. And how was I going to do that?? All this flashed through my mind in the seconds after the bike quit.

Meantime, Hal finally figured out that I was not behind him, and he came back to find out what was going on. I know he was not happy. I heard him on the phone a few minutes later canceling an RSVP to yet another dinner party. I told him to go, but he wouldn’t. I called my husband and asked him to bring the truck, the ramp, tie-downs, and my brother-in-law. I was not going to be able to get that 400+ lb. bike up onto the pickup without a lot of help, and maybe the strategic use of a landform. Hal found a ditch that we could have Desmond drive the truck into, get the front wheels to go up the other side so the back end would be almost level with the ground. If it would work, it would be perfect. Meanwhile, the wait began. We were 15 miles outside of Globe, AZ, and it was going to take a couple of hours for the guys and the truck to get there.

Disabled GS at the side of the road:

While I waited, Hal and I sat and talked, and I also took photos of the things around me. I know, idle hands are the devils’ workshop and all that, but after a while, I was getting bored.

Hole with big ants (I almost sat in some of them!)

Caterpillar trying to make himself invisible to us:

Pretty wildflowers:

Dusk falls over Roosevelt Lake:

Bike comes home on the truck. Oh, the shame of it:

Just as it got dark, the boys showed up with the truck, and we got the bike onto it quickly and much more easily than I’d thought. Then we got going on the 1-1/2 hour drive home, following Hal, who had to ride his bike because there wasn’t room to put both bikes onto the truck. I got home at 9:30, 14 hours after leaving, with work looming the next day.

I hope the bike can be fixed soon. I need it for the rally, coming up May 17. It’s not that I can’t ride my F800ST, it’s because I need the dual sport for this rally. The rally site is surrounded by fabulous dirt roads to explore, and I was counting on doing that even if I had to wait until I was riding home. We’ll see what happens.

Did I find “redemption” on this ride? Well, sort of. I thought I did a capable job of riding, but the main thing is I was a lot more comfortable at the end of the ride, abrupt and unexpected as the end was, than I was last week. But I didn’t expect my bike to come home in the bed of the pickup truck!

Flaunting conspicuity – First Gear mesh riding jacket

Conspicuity. What the heck is that?? you ask. It’s a term motorcyclists use when describing ways to make a rider “conspicuous.” Many times accidents involving motorcycles happen because other motorists just don’t see us. There are many ways to make yourself be seen, including extra lights, flashing brake lights, and lately, this color, the “hi-viz yellow” that has turned up on highway signs, clothing, vehicles, and other objects (and people) that need to be seen.

I won this jacket a few weeks ago at a fund-raiser for a fallen rider. I wanted to give it to my riding partner, but he didn’t want another jacket. Normally, I hate yellow, but I chose the hi-viz  color (it has a lot of blue in it) because I have been noticing lately how the more muted colors of motorcycles and riders seem to fade right into the background, especially on overcast days like today. No wonder it is difficult for cage drivers to see us since they barely pay attention anyway.

This jacket is by First Gear, which I was very happy about when I won it. I have been wearing First Gear “Air” overpants (mesh) for two years now, and they are just great. They are cool to ride in, which is saying something in Arizona, USA, where it regularly gets above 110° F. in the summer. I usually just wear shorts under the overpants, and I am comfortable. The Air pants have not faded in the constant blazing sunlight, another amazing fact since all my other gear fades after about one year. Another great feature is the side zippers that zip all the way up to the hip which make them easy to get on and off over boots. I mention the pants because another benefit is that the jacket zips to the pants. Since I’ve been wearing gear from different manufacturers, the zippers on the jacket and pants are never compatible. Until now. To me, that is reasonably important. It stops your pants from being ripped off you in a bad crash, and when it’s cold, it stops the wind from going up under the back of your jacket (the dreaded “icy back”), especially when you have a bag strapped to the back of the bike, like on a long trip.

I wore my new jacket for the first time today. Here is what it looks like:



I like the looped cord on the zipper of the pockets:

I am not as excited about the snap closure on the cuffs of the sleeves, but only because my wrists are so small that velcro closures are the only thing that works for me. But the more I rode today, the better I liked this particular design:



I think the snaps will work for me, as long as it keeps bees and other stinging insects from flying up the sleeves  while I am riding. That happened to me once with another jacket, and I did get stung.

During today’s ride I encountered temperatures from the high 50s F. to the 80s F. I started out with the liner in the jacket, my Gerbings heated jacket liner inside. It all fit, which pleased me greatly. When I am out on the road on a trip, I can go from freezing weather in the mountain passes to heat in the lower elevations in a very short time. Today I shed layers as the temperature warmed, and eventually ended up with just the jacket and an Under Armour shirt (another favorite brand). This jacket will work well on long trips.

Here is the liner, which proved to be windproof:

All in all, I was pleased with the functionality as well as the color of this jacket, and I think I will enjoy it for many thousands of miles.