[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Trans-America Trail (TAT) is an epic 5,000-mile dual-sport motorcycle adventure across America. Mapped out by Sam Correro many years ago, the TAT starts in North Carolina and ends at the Pacific Ocean in southwestern Oregon. As Correro mapped out it, the route consists of dirt roads, gravel roads, jeep roads, forest roads and farm roads, most of which are in the middle of nowhere. Riding the TAT in the summer of 2009 was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and for better or for worse it cemented me as an adventure rider and fan of the roads less traveled.
We adventure riders are a tough crowd to please when it comes to riding apparel. On the TAT trip we encountered everything from the moist heat of the mid-Atlantic to the heat of the plains to the chill of the Rocky Mountains. In fact, most ADV riders are on the road on longer trips than other riders, riding through a variety of climates and conditions so our apparel needs to be waterproof. Very often we’re getting a workout as we negotiate difficult terrain, and this means that we need to have breathable riding apparel. The challenge in motorcycle apparel construction is that the more waterproof a fabric is, the less breathable it is, therefore it’s a delicate balance.
One construction approach is to construct a jacket with a sewn-in waterproof liner (least expensive and easy to do). Another is to construct the jacket with a removable waterproof liner, which is suitable for a wider range of climates, but adds an additional cost. The third construction option is to bake the waterproofness in to the outer layer of the jacket as in waterproof, breathable laminates. With this method, every time you add a seam to the jacket that seam then needs to be seam taped for waterproofness. But in order to make a jacket fit well, a lot of seams are needed, and this is why these jackets cost so much more.
“You cannot have the most of both,” says Edward Wilkinson, director of development for Scorpion Sports, Inc. “The downside of super waterproofness is less breathability. In order to serve your customers well what you need to do is ask themwhat type of riding they are planning on doing the most, and then fit them accordingly. If they’re a person who rides no matter what the weather is, or they live in northern Europe where it’s cold and rainy all the time, Gore-Tex is a very good option for them. If they live in a temperate climate like northern California, some days it’s nice and warm and they’ll want maximum ventilation and so leave the liner out, and some days it’s cold and wet and they’ll leave the liner in.”
Most of the major apparel brands now have some type of waterproof, breathable laminate, but all laminates are not created equal. Waterproofness is measured in millimeters of waterproofness based on a static column test. 5-20,000 is considered generally waterproof, 20-40,000 is guaranteed waterproof during extended pressure and 40,000+ is a non-porous material that will fail structurally before leaking. The difficulty is that most motorcycle apparel companies do not disclose that number and so it can be difficult to make an accurate comparison.
This is where your dealership’s sales reps can be extremely helpful by providing this information. Make sure you have the statistics and figures for your ADV riding customer in advance because these customers do a lot of research. Hopefully your dealership is stocking high quality apparel that can keep up with these riders, whether they’re gearing up to ride the TAT or locally on forest roads.