Monday, October 27, 2008

The Biker's Batsuit?

I've been scouring the Internet of late, looking for some possible replacement options for my well worn riding suit. Seems there's lots of new stuff available - and some of its rather high-tech. Both Rukka and BMW have come out with new abrasion resistant materials that have a bit of stretch built-in which should make riding gear a little less stiff, and Aerostich is no longer the only one-piece touring option available.

Rukka, those innovative Fins, have the "SRO-Anatomic" suit which touts itself as "the latest know-how in the areas of safety and comfort. Breathable, waterproof, stretching, ergonomic, reflecting, thermal regulating, durable, machine washable"... not to mention damn expensive! Over $2,000 for the jacket alone. For that price, it should be self-cleaning, have built-in airbags, and maybe a few other nifty 007-type gadgets. The look of the suit is questionable - in my eyes, at least. Black Cordura with red stitching and Aramid blend in strategic areas truly does give it a "Batsuit" look. By the way, SRO stands for Smart Rider's Outfit, which should give the owner a nice feeling of superiority (at that price, there's got to be a few perks, right?).

BMW have long been known for trying to do things a little differently than others. Sometimes the results were good, like the Hossack inspired Duo-Lever front end; and other times not so great, like the vague feeling servo-brakes. Their newest suits seem, at least on paper, to be good. The ComfortShell jacket and pants include the newly developped "c_change" membrane, which was developed through a partnership between BMW Motorrad and Swiss textile specialist Schoeller. According to the brochure, "the pore size of [the c_change membrane] adapts to the ambient temperature to thus control the breathing capability of the clothing as necessary." Translation: when its hot outside, you're cool; when its cool outside, you're hot. I've seen these suits up close at the local Beemer dealer and I've got to admit, they sure look nice. How nice? You could almost walk into a restaurant with the jacket on without tipping off the other patrons that you just rode in on a motorcycle. Again, it isn't cheap at about $700 for the jacket and $500 for the pants, but if this suit actually lives up to the hype it might be worth it.

Much has been written in MC forums all over the net about Olypia Motosports' Phantom one-piece riding suit. Many have pondered if this would finally be a worthy competitor (or replacement) to the much beloved Aerostich Roadcrafter. At about half the price, many were probably hoping it would be as-good-as the 'Stich. So what's the verdict? Depends on who you ask. Many Phantom owners love their suits, and are proud to point out that their crotch is still dry after riding in the rain - a longstanding problem with the Roadcrafter. However, for people who commute on their bikes, the Phantom still can't match the Roadcrafter's speed for putting it on or tearing it off. Guess its a bit of a toss-up, but if you're looking for a one-piece and don't have money to burn, the Phantom is definitely worth checking out.

Rev'it has also come out with a one-piece suit, which looks oddly similar in design to some of BMW's riding suits (albeit, two-piece). This suit looks like an evolution of the Roadcrafter. Although the 'Stich may have a certain utilitarian appeal, it's looks aren't really up to par with other offerings out there. That's where Rev'it's Infinity suit really shines. Without going over the top like the SRO Anatomic, the Infinity is still utilitarian in nature with plenty of pockets and velcro galore, but it also looks good with a two-tone colour scheme in neutral grey and off-white. It's also got that long zipper for easy in-and-out even when wearing boots, so it might actually be a contender to the 'Stich in that regard. One issue though, it ain't cheap! At about $1,100, it'll cost you $300 more for the extra bells and whistles of the Infinity compared to a Roadcrafter.

Anyhow, today's a beautiful day but they're saying we could be getting snow before then end of the week. I need to get out and ride. There'll be plenty of time to consider which suit to buy during the long winter months.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've read a few interesting blog entries lately about how the press and mainstream media seem to always paint motorcyclists in a negative light. Doug, over at 40on2, made a list of what appears to be mandatory terms to be used when writing a story about motorcyclists; while Belt Drive Betty commented on the negative connotation that seems to be associated with terms like "biker".

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly with everything they said. It is factual and I don't think anybody can deny that, in most cases, when motorcyclists are portrayed in fiction or mentioned on the evening news its rarely a good thing. But that's human nature. After all, as any newscaster will tell you: "If it bleeds, it leads". Nobody in their right mind would think of leading the evening news with a story about a motorcycle club that raised $50K for a children's hospital... but if one guy from that same club crashed his bike in the back of an SUV on the way home from the event, you can bet that'll be the first thing to be aired.

Although I'm certain that the majority of motorcyclists cringe when they read yet another story about how motorcycles are dangerous and all bikers are bad, there's also that side of us who wouldn't want it any other way. Most of my riding buddies didn't get into motorcycling because of the price of gas or the lack of parking spaces downtown. They liked the image and the instant membership into this mystical brotherhood.

The outlaw biker image has been cultivated not only by the mainstream press and a slew of B-movies in the sixties and seventies, its also being touted by the very people who are making the motorcycles. Think about it: when was the last time you saw someone smiling in a Harley magazine ad? How about Kawasaki's catchphrase from the mid-eighties: "If you don't look bad, we don't look good." Cruisers are meant to look mean, not friendly!

Not since the early sixties, with the "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda" ad campaign, has there been such a positive spin put on motorcycles. But no manufacturer in their right mind would try that kind of advertising for a cruiser! Seriously, if the folks in the ad below were riding a VTX1800 instead of a Cub 50, would you buy it?

Truth is, many are looking for an escape from their boring everyday lives. Motorcycles, and the image associated with them, provide a release. For that half-hour when you're riding around town on your chrome steed, you're no longer Jerry the Accountant... you're badass. Reginald A. Bruce wrote an excellent Case Study of Harley Davidson's Business Practices. Amongst the American manufacturer's obvious strengths is Marketing. Bruce says that "It is difficult to define an average Harley-Davidson buyer. The demographics range from a blue-collar worker to a high-power executive located all over the world. The common thread is a desire to escape the routine and become anyone you like. [...] With Harley, you can live out your fantasies, as well as experience camaraderie with fellow bikers." Obviously, its worked quite well for HD - so why should they change?

Deep down, we all know its little more than role playing. We're all still regular Joes and Janes both on-and-off the bikes, with our jobs and mortgages and bills to pay. But that's all a bit too boring, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plains, trains, automobiles... and boats!

Aye, it's been awhile but now I'm slowly getting back to normal® - whatever that may be. In the past month my body has been transported by plane, bus, automobile, cable car, tram, train and boat. Oh yeah, and by motorcycle too!

After two weeks on a wonderful Alaskan cruise where I was a willing participant in the excesses of dining and libations, I'm trying to get used to living at home again with no five-course meals, martinis, and crew members to take care of your every whim. If there is any truth to the old saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, then I must be falling pretty hard given the extra weight I've taken on. Oh well, it was all worth it.

Contrary to what I had expected, going back to work after five weeks vacation wasn't the chore that I thought it would be. I didn't exactly miss the job, mind you... but I didn't really mind being back. I'll tell you what I really didn't miss - the election campaign! How great is it to be away during the major part of the campaining (i.e. bullshitting) and only get back in time to vote? Priceless! Of course, the majority of passengers on the cruise were American, so I did have to listen to alot of Palin vs. Obama rhetoric. Maybe because it was an Alaskan cruise, but I didn't hear John McCain's name mentioned once... it was just Palin, Palin, Palin. Not sure how good that reflects on a presidential nominee when his running mate gets all the attention.

Came home to nice autumn weather - which was good, although bittersweet. I love riding in autumn: the colours, less traffic, good weather. What I don't like is that those falling leaves signal something much more ominous: winter. But for now I'd rather not think about it, I just want to ride.