This weekend I rode the GS both days. Saturday was almost 40 degrees, and I ran some errands, and went to see a friend’s new BMW 2002. Lots of folks were out on two wheels, taking the opportunity to alleviate a little cabin fever. Sunday I went to the MacPac breakfast and things were entirely different. The forecast called for precipitation beginning in the afternoon and becoming a wintry mix. The temperature was in the 20s on the way there.

I was one of three bikes at the breakfast, which either earns me “real rider” points, or more likely is an indication of diminished brain activity. In the winter when many animals bulk up and hibernate, it is customary to slow metabolism and brain activity so as to conserve energy until spring. I know I was doing the first part, but perhaps I was doing the second as well. Some would say winter has nothing to do with it. But I digest……

Halfway through the breakfast presentation, the skies darkened up and opened up. It began to rain steadily. The ride back took place with temperatures in the mid 30s and steady rain start to finish, heavy in spots.

In summary, I had a fun comfortable ride there, and on the return I had a safe ride and arrived home warm and dry. The ride was, well, uneventful. This, my friends is progress.

When I began riding motorcycles, they were fast, and some were even fast, and had good handling. For their time. Gear however was mostly non-existent. Only the pros wore gear designed for the motorcyclist and his steed. The rest of us wore whatever we could get our hands on, mostly jeans and military or work boots. If it rained, you might have a poncho, but more likely you had an expanse of plastic from a new mattress which you strategically wrapped about yourself like a Sari. Then you would live in terror of it coming into contact with either the exhaust or the drivetrain. If you were carrying anything that couldn’t get wet, you either waited out the rain, or left it with someone to be retrieved at some other time. When it got cold, you turned up the collar of the jacket you were wearing and blew on your hands like James Dean, as if arctic winds would be deterred by this. You also just tucked in and rode faster so that you could get where you were going and recover. I distinctly remember being pelted by hail through a denim jacket and t-shirt, because I was racing to get through the stuff.  Instead of trying to avoid loss of traction, you practiced it. You entered the corner like a GP racer with a steely grimace, and usually exited like a dirt tracker with eyeballs like saucers and discolored underwear. Some of us didn’t survive practice. With the state of most tires, forks, and frames at that time, we were probably fortunate that front brakes were lousy. If they had been much more effective, we would have snapped forks and frames, and killed more of us instead of tearing up cornfields and the odd impromptu visit to peoples living rooms. Bikes went down all the time, and those of us that lived, impressed the guys (and especially gals) with feats of bravery and daring.

On Sunday, I traveled in safety and comfort. I had great gloves, heated grips, a warm jacket that I wrote about last week, an aging pair of boots that still works fine, and a helmet that blocked what the windshield did not. On the return trip I had the grips on high, and rain pants over my jeans. I watched with interest as water beaded up on the surface of the textile jacket and then rolled off. It was almost as good as the Rain-X treated visor in my fleece lined helmet. I was traveling in 33 degree weather in steady rain, and I was neither cold nor wet. But wait, there’s more. The paper booklet and sheet I had picked up at the breakfast were perfectly dry in the bike’s luggage, the tires displaced the water on the road, and the ABS system reduced the fear of using the brakes.

Bravery and daring is no longer so much the province of a motorcycle ride in adverse weather conditions. These are tough times. Today, if you ride through a california forest fire, texas tornado, or a saharan dust storm, the guys at the bar will probably say “Yeah, but you probably wore that new gyro-stabilizing jacket with the fireproof (yet breathable) shell, and had the satellite-equipped thermal imaging GPS Helmet. And I bet you had the optional sandstorm deflectors on that bike. Who are you trying to kid ?”

6 Replies to “Comfort During Adversity”

  1. Wayne, great post. We are getting a little spoiled don’tchathink? How is darwinism supposed to work if we keep preventing people from wiping themselves out 😉 Here at work the peter principle is full effect and it does the same thing. We have to stop this. Sell me your new jacket for $50 and go back to mattress plastic ;-o

  2. I bet you used to walk to school barefoot uphill both ways in the snow 🙂 As you point out, much of this progress is for the better. The real question is whether you wear modern gear when riding an old bike? Good post as usual.

  3. Dear Wayne:

    Wayne? This is you? I nearly shit when I read the line about the Mac Pac breakfast. I will have to turn up the intensity of my criticism. I missed the M-P breakfast on Sunday, owing to a ghastly migrane headache I had for three days.

    Before the M-P list troubles, I read a report from Jim Sterling that her nearly dropped his rig on a curve covered with nothing but road salt dust. I have no desire to endure the same experience. A day of rain may have alleviated a lot of the salt problem, but the amount of grit on the roads is still somewhat disconcerting to me.

    Bregstein claims a week of rain could redistribute the gravel, but I do not share this level of optimism.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  4. Dear Jack,

    Yes this is me, and I am that I am. You were missed at the breakfast where I was sure I would see you in all your electric-vested splendor. The sensible people opted for 4 wheels. I did see the road salt and some gravel in places, so I decided to forego the Valentino Rossi imitation until some other time.


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