Expert tips for outfitting your customers
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver the next six months, I will be leading motorcycle groups in Mongolia, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Argentina. Being a guide for group motorcycle travel means plenty of riding in plenty of fantastic places, and in turn means plenty of riding on different roads, terrain and weather.
Choosing protective clothing and gear for my touring season is a challenge because there is no single, perfect gear set up to suit every riding condition.
Of course, this situation is not unique to guides. Every rider standing in the clothing and accessory section of their local shop has the same questions running through their heads as we do: which gear is going to offer me the most protection for most of my riding in most of my weather conditions?
As I write this article we are on a three-day ride from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. The weather here swings quickly between cold, wet and muddy to hot, dry and dusty. In four weeks we will be in northern Namibia and Botswana where the roads will be paved, there is no chance of rain, and cool mornings give way to pleasant afternoons.
Here is a look inside my gear bags for the next six months:
If I only get to take one outfit, this year it is the KLIM Dakar Jacket and Badlands pants. The Dakar jacket is reasonably priced, comfortable and water resistant. I am not concerned with total water-proofness from this set up. Despite my steadily growing percentage of body fat over the years, I have also becom
e less tolerant of cold, rainy days, and to help combat this I always pack in the BMW ProRain 3, lovingly called the big banana suit. I will wear this over an existing suit, even if it’s GoreTex because it provides great wind protection, waterproofing and is highly visible on cloud filled,
Because we run with a chase vehicle, there is often extra room to allow myself two sets of gear to help fine tune my gear to the weather. This is a luxury that solo travelers don’t have, and it’s delightful! When I feel like a princess and the temperature rises, I ride with the Leatt 3DF AirFit body protector with a KLIM Dakar Pro jersey overtop, and vented KLIM Mohave pants.
If limited space in the chase truck doesn’t allow a second set of gear, a cooling vest under my regular motorcycle gear does a tremendous job of keeping your core temperature down. If you want to save the cost of the cooling vest, keep dumping bottles of water into your jacket and do up all the zippers, and don’t forget a wet buff around the neck if you are not wearing a neck brace.
I am a big fan of proper boots and have worn some version of the Sidi Discovery boot for the last 10 years. The same sense of security that some get when buckling the seatbelt around them in their car is the same feeling I get when pulling on these boots.
Considering that my feet spend their time hanging out on metal pegs below a heavy motorcycle, I’ll give my feet all the protection they can get. And because our traveling style involves a fair chunk of walking, I needed to find a boot that was protective enough to get foot, ankle and shin protection that still allowed comfortable walking to museums, look out points, camp set up, or hanging out at the bar. A pair of flip flop sandals will always be strapped to the bike somewhere to give the boots a chance to breath at longer rest stops.
It used to be that helmets were made and marketed exclusively by familiar helmet companies such as Arai, Bell, Shoei, Schuberth. With the adventure market steaming along, clothing and accessory manufacturers have been seen keen to enter the marketplace. Touratech has recently introduced a new adventure helmet, and I suspect you will see others by the end of the year. My helmet shopping list only has a few points, and they are to keep it relatively light, give me a peek, and if the helmet has a visor let it stay in the up position while riding at speed.
For the last two years, I have been switching between the Arai XD and the KLIM F4 for off-road. The KLIM I will run with goggles and the Arai will be run with the visor up (or removed) as I love to be able to smell the air in the areas we travel. To combat helmet and wind noise, I use disposable earplugs with every helmet.
Pro Tip –I recommend using clothing made from merino wool next to your skin and keep an extra pair of gloves buried in your luggage. We rode last year in Mongolia with a magazine editor who wanted to test his merino wool undershirt in a real world scenario – 15 days of riding and no washing.
Joining an international, guided motorcycle trip to somewhere special often qualifies as a highlight of a riding career. Much of the appeal of riding in remote areas like Mongolia, Namibia, or Patagonia is the distance from overt signs of civilization. This also means an increased distance from medical assistance should you need it. If signing up for these remote trips provides the incentive for riders to renew their own riding equipment, we suggest the same criteria that we use for our own gear – protection first, weather second, fashion third.
Like my grandmother used to say; there is no such thing as bad weather, just underdressed kids. Get out and enjoy it!
Rene Cormier was an around the world traveler from 2003-2009. In 2010, he started Renedian Adventures, a motorcycle touring company. He is also the author of “The University of Gravel Roads: Global Lessons from a Four Year Motorcycle Adventure.”