My wife and I have a difference of opinion on gift-giving. In her family, it’s common to send out gift suggestions around birthdays and Christmastime. They come over the phone or via email from distant family, or they are dropped—maybe not an entire list but a single suggestion—into a conversation on a completely unrelated topic, seemingly innocuously, as if accidentally, usually with one’s back turned. I get it: you’re trying to help the other person out, who legitimately might have no idea of what you want. If this is a distant family member, that makes sense. But if it’s your spouse, well, you have to wonder how well your soulmate knows you.
I, on the other hand, love the element of surprise, and am willing to gamble my gift receiving in the hope of being pleasantly surprised. I also like giving gifts. I like the challenge of trying to think of that very thing someone has always wanted although he or she doesn’t realize it until the epiphany of opening my gift. My sister says I have gifting issues, but I say I’m just a kid at heart. The best part of Christmas is not the turkey dinner, the family visits, the work parties, the chocolates, sweets, egg nog, the smell of pine in the living room, the decorative lighting . . . no! It’s opening gifts, damnit! It’s getting to be both a kid again and Santa at the same time, if only for a morning.
It is therefore completely against my gifting policy to write this blog, which is a composite wish list of my most desired motorcycle gear. These are the things I would buy tomorrow if I happened upon about $4,000 and had my debts and mortgage paid and about three times what I actually have in my RRSP and child poverty worldwide was a thing of the past. It’s not meant so much as a wish list to my spouse or anyone else but a dream list to myself. Fortunately, I don’t need any of this stuff to fulfill my plans for next season, but they sure would make my journeys more enjoyable.
First up is a new seat. The BMW’s Rotax engine is the best thumper going, but their saddle sure does suck! I noticed it immediately upon going for my first ride. Well, what I noticed immediately is that the seat is sloped forward so it feels like the boyz are constantly crushed against the airbox. What took about another five or six hours on the seat to notice is that it’s not just the boyz that have complaint. After that first tour, when I put 800 kms. on the final day, I had a new tactile understanding of the term “saddle sores.” So if there’s one item I am somehow going to purchase at the beginning of next season, even if I have to sell body parts to get it, it’s the Touratech Comfort Seat, Extra High.
Yeah, BMW has a comfort seat, but why reward them for putting a cheap seat on an otherwise excellent bike? I’m really happy with my Touratech panniers and I have a lot of confidence in this German company, which seems cut from the same cloth as BMW itself. I’m going to go with the extra high because I can easily afford another 2 inches on the height (my mom’s nickname for me is Longshanks), and it will change the ergonomics and make me less cramped. I would go with the FreshTouch version, which is covered in some technical material that somehow doesn’t retain heat as much as regular vinyl.
I plan to start some off-roading and I saw at the Simon Pavey school that motocross boots are mandatory for their courses, so a pair is on my list—not that I’m going to Pavey’s school in Wales, but I understand why he thinks they are necessary. The body parts most likely to be injured in a fall are your feet and lower legs, and when you are off-roading, especially learning to off-road, I imagine you fall a lot. The bike can fall on your leg or you can clip something like a trunk or rock when you plant a foot to corner. Now I don’t need a premium boot, not even an intermediate boot; an entry-level should do just fine and from the research I’ve done, Alpinestars is the brand. So on my wish list is a pair of Tech 1 AT’s.
If I were going higher end, I would probably get a pair of Sidi’s, but these are the only boots under $200 with a hinge/blade system for increased flexibility. I also like that they have a sewn sole, so you can have it replaced by your local cobbler when it wears out. The buckles are plastic but you can swap them out for the metal buckles found on the more expensive Tech 7’s if desired.
My next purchase will be an off-road helmet. I love my Arai Signet-Q touring helmet. It’s light, comfortable, really well ventilated, has the Pinlock anti-fog system, and SNELL certification, but . . . it was $800! I simply can’t afford another Aria helmet, even though the XD-4 is an amazing helmet. I went looking for something less expensive that wouldn’t be a huge sacrifice in quality and found a company named LS2 which makes quality lids at a fraction of the price of the big boys. The one I’ve got my eye on is the 436 Pioneer. It’s got a polycarbonate shell so it’s light, has a tonne of venting, an optically correct, fog-, UV- and scratch-resistant visor, a drop-down sun visor (great for touring), and is ECE rated. Best of all, it’s built for long-oval head shapes, which is what I have and right in line with the Signet-Q. I was so stoked about finding this helmet I almost bought one last summer but held back, hoping (praying?) they would release one in 2017 in a blue and white graphic to match my jacket. In writing this blog, I went to their site and lo and behold:
I’m a happy man.
Next up would be some auxilary lighting. That first tour to New Hampshire taught me that it’s not always possible to get to where you are going before sundown. Also that there are animals crossing the road at night. That road-kill incident sent me looking for secondary lighting and the Denali D4’s are on my wish list.
These babies will send a beam almost 700 metres down the road in front of you. Better still, the combo beam and wide-angle lights also illuminate the surrounding roadside like it’s daytime. Because they are LED’s, they pull only 3 amps per pair. Wiring is easy, and you can wire them either into your high-beam switch or, as I might, a separate switch; I have an empty switch next to my four-ways that I could use or save for some fog lights. There is bike-specific mounting hardware so these will tuck in nicely at the top of my forks.
Okay, now we get into the practical stuff. Sleeping. If I’m going to camp while en route across the continent, I’m going to put the money I’m saving on motel costs toward the best inflatable mattress money can buy. My ultralight Thermarest is okay for 5 nights of canoe-camping, but for anything longer, especially when daytime concentration is essential to staying alive, I want a better mattress. I remember seeing one at La Cordée a few summers ago when I was buying a new mattress. It had a built-in pump, inflated I believe to about 4″ thick, was puncture resistant, and packed up smaller than a sleeping bag. Why, oh why, didn’t I buy it then? On my list is something like it. Suggestions, anyone?
Even more practical are tools for fixing a flat. So far I’ve been flirting with disaster. Anyone touring in remote areas has to carry sufficient tools to patch a puncture. Unfortunately, my bike uses tubed tires. The tubeless kind are so easy to fix with those plugs, but on a tubed tire you have to be able to remove the wheel, remove the tire, patch the hole, replace the tire, and re-inflate. The patching is the least of my worries. I’ve been patching bicycle tires practically since I was pre-verbal; it’s the other stuff that concerns me. I want to be able to break that bead and get the tire off and on without damaging the rim. On Adventure Rider Radio, I heard about BeadBrakR by BestRest Products. It’s a series of tire irons that fit together to create a tool to leverage the tire off the rim. So you have your bead breaker and tire irons in one convenient pack. BestRest also produce the CyclePump to re-inflate the tire. Yes, you can use CO2 cartridges, but you only get one shot with them. The CyclePump is small enough to pack easily and runs on your 12V port, so if your patch isn’t perfect, or if for some reason you can’t patch the hole, you can use the pump repeatedly to get you to the nearest service centre or, if you’re really in the sticks, to phone service.
Speaking of safety, another little tool that I think would bring my wife peace of mind is the Spot Gen3. It’s a small, clip-on device that works with satellite technology to do a number of things. It can track your movement, so your wife will always know exactly where you are. Hmm . . . Okay, so don’t take it to your high school reunion then. Press another button and you can check-in with family to let them know you’re okay when out of cellphone range; it will send an email with GPS coordinates or a link to your location on GoogleMaps. This will be handy even on group rides to The States to avoid texting charges. Press another button to alert them you need help in non-life-theatening situations, and still another to hail the helicopter ambulance. So if you’re planning a solo trip up to Deadhorse, AK, on the coast of the Beaufort Sea, as I am, this should be in your stocking.
Finally, we come to the most important items and the ones that, at about a thousand dollars apiece, will probably be on my list next Christmas too. I love my Joe Rocket leather jacket. I bought it as a starter jacket off eBay for a song and it’s been my one and only jacket so far. I zip the quilted liner in and out as needed, sometimes several times a day as temperature fluctuates, and throw a cheap rain jacket and pants over everything if the skies open up. But what I’d love, eventually, hopefully in this lifetime, is a Klim adventure jacket and matching pants.
Klim are the undisputed leaders in riding apparel and for good reason. They spend a lot of money on research and development, and all their products are premium quality. For example, the armour in their jackets is D30, which feels like soft, pliable rubber but molecularly stiffens upon impact; you can wrap this stuff like silly putty around your finger and then take a hammer and whack away to your heart’s content. And they’ve developed something called SuperFabric which is five times more abrasion resistant than leather with only half the weight. Gore-Tex means no need for an exterior waterproof jacket or zip-in liner. Warm in cold, wicking with vents in heat, this bad-boy is a one-jacket, climate control centre for four-season riding, and when the only thing separating you from the elements or the asphalt is your clothing, your jacket is the most important investment next to the bike itself. A Klim jacket will take me from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in comfort and safety. I haven’t decided yet whether I want the Induction or, for a few hundred dollars more, the Badlands, but one thing I am sure of is that whichever model I eventually get, it will be in the hi-viz colour. When Marilyn and I drove the Cabot Trail a few summers ago, we definitely found the hi-viz jackets caught our eye at a distance. I don’t even think hi-viz comes at a coolness cost these days; rather, as I’ve claimed in a previous post, I think hi-viz is the new cool.
Most of these items are to set me up for the adventure riding I’m longing to try. Now I’ve got the bike and the licence, but if feels like those things are just a start. I remember during my first theory class in my licensing course, the instructor warned us that “this sport will latch onto your wallet worse than your ex-wife.” Having experienced the financial cost of one divorce, I almost fled the building. Now I see what he was talking about. But he continued by suggesting to pace ourselves, to “not go crazy” but slowly build up our gear. And to avoid a second divorce, that is what I’m going to do. In the meantime, a wish list is a fun way to dream and plan, research, and select, without the messy consequences of actually buying. Like window shopping.
No doubt your wish list is different from mine. What do you hope Santa leaves under the tree? Merry Christmas, and happy and safe travels in 2017.