(Part II of II): A recent West Virginia Weekend jaunt provided a chance to test some new (and not-so-new) gear, and visit some lovely spots.
Part II: Gear
Pegs: I owe a belated but rave review to Ilium Works for its passenger gripper pegs. When Jeff got the new BMW R1200GSA last year, it came with the stock passenger pegs of course. They were narrow metal pegs covered with a rubber sleeve that was anchored by a piece of rubber that protruded through the peg and out the bottom. They were rather small, so when mounting, all my weight had to be balanced on the very tip of my foot, on a peg that was roughly just over an inch wide and a few inches long. After a few months, the rubber on the left peg (the side I mount from) began slipping free of where it was anchored and twisting around the peg. This created a hazard because it would happen just as I was mounting. Thinking my foot was resting securely on the peg, I’d put my weight on it and then the rubber would start sliding, taking my foot with it, until the rubber had slipped away and the middle part of my foot hit the metal underneath. The first time it really gave way I slipped so badly I wrenched my back and shoulder and hurt Jeff’s shoulder too, when I tried grabbing him for balance. After repeated efforts to re-anchor the rubber or to try to mount and dismount without letting the rubber slip (unsuccessful), it was clear we had a problem. The GSA is a challenge to get on to anyway – it’s very high, and the side and top cases limit the space in which to maneuver. So, after the MD 20/20 rally, when getting on and off fast was hampered by the peg hazard, Jeff ordered the Ilium pegs.
These are perfect! They are much wider, allowing a firmer surface for mounting and dismounting. They have teeth, so even if it’s wet or my boots are muddy, I never slip. It’s made the challenge of getting on and off much easier. While riding, the Illium pegs are more comfortable too, because there is more choice on where to rest my foot. And they look pretty sharp besides. Yay Illium Works! Thank you.
Clothing: After some trial and error in my effort to find summer-weight gear, I ended up with a Revit jacket and Olympia Cordova pants. Both have a lot of mesh, weigh a lot less than my Klim gear, and fit far, far better than Klim. An aside here on Klim: In my experience, Klim is built for long-waisted women with wide shoulders, extremely long arms, and no butt or hips, which unfortunately is pretty much the polar-opposite of my body type. With all the body protection in it, it weighs a ton, and it’s very scratchy around the neck and wrists. So, in the two years I’ve been wearing Klim, generally, the best part of a ride is when I get to take off the gear. In terms of three-season performance, however, it can’t be beat. The Gor-tex outer shell is water resistant; you don’t need rain gear. After a really soaking rain will you feel damp, which is pretty much unavoidable, but short showers just roll right off. The jacket has four exterior pockets, which are reasonably sized and placed, although not as good as the ones on Jeff’s jacket – the man’s version. ( Why do women’s clothes never have really good pockets?) It also has interior pockets. It repels dirt really well, and overall performs as well as I could want – except for fit. It is also very well vented, and even on hot days it’s reasonably comfortable when moving at 70 miles an hour. But given its overall weight and density, even a stop light in the summer can be torturously hot. Hence, the lure of mesh gear.
This was the mesh gear’s first test ride and overall, I liked it, but it has limitations. It’s light – it rests easy on the body. The breeze flowing through the fabric was just right, very cooling yet the jacket deflected enough wind that even at highway speeds I didn’t feel like I was being beaten up by too much air. And when we stopped, even to get off the bike and walk, it was more than bearable. Joy! Happiness! All this and it fit too!
Now the drawbacks: With all the mesh, there are only two highly-inadequate exterior pockets in the jacket. No space for more. Further, it’s not water-resistant. The sales clerk who convinced me the Revit jacket was for me pointed out that if it’s hot enough to wear mesh, you probably don’t mind getting wet. And it does come with a lightly lined removable liner which provides both warmth and water resistance. The Olympia pants also came with rain pants that can be worn under or over.
With our first rain shower, I had to agree, that getting a little wet was fine. I cooled off and dried right out after it was over. But when it started to rain the second time, much more heavily than before, we were at a higher elevation and the temperature dropped too. So, when pulled into a gas station I pulled on the rain gear – pants and jacket liner. The rain gear worked great, especially when worn as the outer layer. But the rain jacket, in particular, is warm, and it’s not vented. Further, having to stop to take on or off layers, rather than just zipping or unzipping vents is a pain. On the upside, Jeff (wearing three-season Klim) complained that after getting soaked on Saturday, his gear never completely dried out for Sunday, whereas my lightweight stuff was completely dry and ready to go on Sunday.
So, the upshot on the pants and jacket are: great for when either (1) it’s hot and highly unlikely to rain; (2) so hot I really want the light gear and I don’t mind being wet – knowing I’ll dry fast once it stops; or (3) I expect pretty steady rain and the temperature is somewhere between mid-70s and high-80s, such that the liner/rain jacket will be comfortable and the rain gear will just stay on most or all of the time. But for most longer trips when the precipitation is less predictable and the temperatures more likely to vary widely, the Klim’s versatility is hard to beat. It doesn’t require stopping to pull rain gear on or off and the venting allows a wider range of temperature adjustment.
Gloves! I upgraded these this year too. When I bought my first gloves, I really didn’t know what I was looking for but now that I’ve somehow ended up with four pairs of gloves, I have some clues for newbies on the options: Depending on the weather, you may want ones that are vented for hot weather, lined for intermediate temperatures, wired for heat for cold weather, and/or waterproof. Vented ones won’t be waterproof, although one of my four pairs has a vented “grip” side and a side that's waterproof. While the waterproof side keeps my hands dry in the rain, the grip side gets soaked, so while it seemed like I was getting two gloves in one, after it rains it’s pretty apparent I have only one set of – very soggy –gloves. As a result, I’ve found three sets are pretty much necessary – hot weather; waterproof and mid-temperature (useable in hot weather too, just not as comfortable); and wired for heat.
In my first round of glove buying it also never occurred to me to look for “smart” fingertips so that I could use my phone with out taking off my gloves. Bad move! Upgrading to fingertips that can be used on a touch screen makes life so much easier. How many of the fingertips? Both hands, with the thumb and forefinger of each is ideal. Cuffs that will come up over your jacket or not? Depends – for the vented, hot weather gloves, no; but I prefer cuffs for the rain and cold weather.
Riders have a somewhat more expanded list of concerns because they also have to consider the grip the palm covering will provide and take into consideration if they have heated grips or not. Not so important for passengers. But, lastly, both passengers and riders will appreciate the little squeegee on the finger of their waterproof gloves for clearing their visor of raindrops!
Alaska Leather seat: Before I ever sat on the GSA, Jeff had changed out the stock seats for Sargent after-market ones. The Sargent is cushioned, but it’s still shaped more like a plank than a seat. The RT (the old bike) had more shape to it and was much more comfortable.
After the first few rides, in an effort to relieve my aching “sitz” bones, I purchased an Alaska Leather skin. While it provides a bit more cushion, that’s not the problem with the Sargent seat, so the Alaska Leather when used as intended didn’t really solve the problem. However, I’ve found that by rolling the Alaska Leather under so that it only covers half the seat, I can reconfigure the seating area to give a bit more lift under my legs and change the pitch of the seat, which helps tremendously. It looks a bit odd, but I’ve now ridden well over 6000 miles on it, and they were far more comfortable than the first 1000 miles or so on the GSA without it.
Temdan waterproof iPhone case: Yes! It works. You can even talk on the phone without taking it out of the case and it wasn’t very expensive. Only drawback is that the control to flip the switch to silence isn’t very effective so either I can’t silence it or I’ve silenced it and can’t get the sound back – unless I take it out of the case which is not all that easy. But everything else – touch screen and the other controls – work just great! I can sit on the back of the bike, even in the rain, and use the phone.
Little by little … I’m learning!