Thoughts on riding gear

18 02 2009

i review from my journey any some important to enjoy jouney, best plan and best gear you will enjoy ridiing…

Keeping warm and dry

Several folk used electrically heated clothing – mainly Gerbings to keep warm and swore by it but I relied on passive protection and did not regret it – especially when seeing one of my companions keep draining his battery with the electrical wardrobe he wore. I found that a layered system comprising a merino wool undershirt with long sleeves, a cashmere cardigan and a Gore Windblock shell, all under my BMW Rallye 2 Pro riiding suit, kept me warm in even icy conditions with a 50 mph wind.

Importantly on a long trip, I found that I could wear the same stuff day after day without any odour making it unpleasant for me or the others. Partly this was because it was cold and mostly with a very low humidity so we didn’t sweat a lot but it is also I believe a property of the Merino wool. I alternated the undershirt with a Peter Storm thermal underlayer and this worked well although not quite as warm as the wool. It has the advantage of being a lot cheaper too.

We didn’t encounter a lot of rain but we had one very wet day on the Chilean side of the Andes when I wore my Jofama (or Halvarssons as it is sometimes called) rainsuit over the BMW gear. I was disappointed that this seemed to let in water through the zip but I need to try it again to be sure that I hadn’t made a mistake and left the flap of the zip open or some such. The material itself seemed to keep out water and was breathable as advertised.

Essential gear turned out to be a thin balaclava worn under the helmet. I had taken only a Buff but fortunately was lent a proper helmet liner by Shira – one of my riding companions and this made all the difference between having a comfortable head and a very cold one.

The Sealskinz socks worked wonderfully well. Even when my boots were half full with water, the socks kept my feet warm and dry. The link only shows mid length socks but mine were long ones.

The Rallye 2 Pro suit kept me dry when I wasn’t in the rainsuit thanks to effective goretex liners in the jacket and pants – however some drawbacks to this outfit merit some extra words – see further down the page.

Keeping safe

My helmet, gloves boots and suit all kept me safe including one quite heavy get-off in roadside rubble at speed.

These were Alpinestars Tech 7s and they proved to be very comfortable, not bad even for walking about in and most of all I believe they saved me from a broken leg or ankle when I came off. Riding the ruts on Ruta 40 threw up a lot of stones and riders without the kind of protection I had suffered when stones hit their toes. My boots completely protected me from this hazard and inspired a lot of confidence when standing on the pegs and riding hard in the dirt.

They were easy to put on and take off – unlike previous motocross boots I have owned and the clip fasteners proved very secure. They were not waterproof but my Sealskinz made sure I didn”t get wet feet. When I dried the boots out, I used two or three changes of crumpled newspaper over the space of a few hours to absorb water and this worked well leaving the boots dry and pleasant to wear the next day.

My Arai Tour Cross helmet was mostly a winner. My head is still in one piece and it kept me warm and dry. The visor needs replacing now as the dust on Ruta 40 has scratched the one I was using quite badly. The peak was useful at times as the sun could be low in the sky and quite blinding at times. However, I did miss my BMW System V flip-up, especially when we stopped for a bite to eat at the roadside, or to take a photograph. Despite strong winds, I did not find the noise or head buffeting as bad as I feared it might be.

I used first a pair of no-name gloves with kevlar palms and made from quite thick leather that I wear in the UK when it’s not raining and these did fine until it got colder as we rode further south. They were the ones I was wearing when I fell off and my hands are fine. Later, I donned a pair of Frank Thomas goretex winter gloves and these worked very well even in heavy rain and freezing winds. I was surprised because Frank Thomas doesn’t have a great reputation for waterproof wear but I was very pleased with my gloves – which also provided good feel for the controls.

BMW Rallye 2 Pro suit
I thought long and hard about getting this suit and in retrospect it was probably a good choice but not without a couple of downsides. It saved my hide in the fall I had and for that I thank its body armour, especially the hefty back protector and knee guards. The fleecy goretex liners in jacket and pants kept me dry and I didn”t get damp from perspiration. It was also quite comfortable, including around the neck which is often a source of weakness in motorcycle jackets. So what was wrong with it?

First the zips – they did the job but only just. They are undersized for the loads on them and they are not waterproof. The pulls are tiny and can’t be operated in gloved hands. It’s all too easy to find yourself trying to zip the goretex liner to the outer shell’s zip because they are not very different in size. I broke the pull on the outer shell’s main zip – fortunately on the last day of riding so I didn’t have too long worrying about a lash-up solution. If you don’t get the male portion of the zip fully home in the bottom receptacle, the zip pulls apart very easily. I find this a real and annoying weakness. I hope to get the zips replaced on the outer shell, with something better suited to the job.

Second, the pockets. There are just too few and they are small and not waterproof. I need a good sized waterproof pocket to hold maps and other documents whereas the suit has but one small waterproof pocket on the outer shell- just large enough for a passport. The inner goretex liner has a further water proof pocket but getting at this in a hurry is difficult and a real bore. The lower pockets on the outer shell are not very useful at all. Anything in them gets wet in a light shower and they are very small. Aerostich does pockets very well except that they are not waterproof either, although they offer more resistance than the BMW pockets. I did find the pocket on the left sleeve useful for holding my little Canon Powershot SD1000 camera and I have to admit it seemed to keep the camera dry in light showers.

I did like the pants of the suit, even though they only had two moderately sized pockets. They were comfortable, warm and dry although I did find it necessary to wear thermal long johns in the south but with those they were fine. They fitted pretty well albeit tightly, over my motocross boots and the height of these pushed the knee protector on the left leg, higher than ideal. However, that was a minor problem and my knee remained well covered by armour. With the kind of riding we did it was no hardship to wear these all day and I will definitely consider wearing them in the UK on my Wing. They have nice l

eather on the insides of the thighs which will avoid the paint scratching problem my Aerostich Roadcrafter presents.

It may seem odd to include this under the heading of keeping safe but it ensured I didn”t get dehydrated and there was a real danger of that in the cold dry desert. Dehydration is insidious and it can creep up on you until the first time you realise there is a problem is when your attention has wandered and you are upside down in a ditch. I have the 3 litre bag in an Osprey 33 litre backpack and the combination worked very well. I drank the full 3 litres most days whilst riding – I could just get the bite valve up inside my helmet – one advantage to the design of the jaw protector. I did not find the weight on my back a problem at all which really surprised me. Apart from the Camelbak, I had only light clothing and a few snacks in the backpack. This was no problem as its design allowed for it to be strapped down into a small compact package when not full.


I took both a full size iPod and an iPod Nano but didn’t use either much except on the plane journeys. I did have all my important documentation loaded on them just in case I lost the paper stuff but fortunately, didn”t need any of this backup.

My choice of camera – a Canon Powershot A570is worked well until some point at which it stopped focussing correctly. I think it had been switched on in the tankbag and something prevented the lens from extending which gave it problems. These seem to have sorted themselevs out now but not wishing to be without a camera, I bought a new point and shoot in Chile. It is a Powershot SD1000 . It takes photos identically to the A570is but is a much smaller package and the menu must be used for settings available on the larger camera by turning a dial. Since I took most pictures on full auto this was not really a problem. It was a good decision to take the smaller camera rather than my A570is – having the thing easily to hand encouraged me to stop and take pictures whereas the palaver of getting the big camera out of the tankbag or elsewhere does the reverse. The quality of pictures is quite high and thanks to the plethora of good photostitching software, the limited lens capabilities is not really a big issue.

I have Alexendre Chistie Touch wristwatch and I used the compass and altimeter a lot during the trip – hardly an essential item but nice to have. If only the darn thing would show the day of the week!

let enjoy ride..




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