Riding motorbike is one of the most wonderful ways to travel. But at the same time it is one of the most dangerous.
Travelling with a car or truck give you much more freedom to wear whatever you want.
Is that right? Couldn´t you just wear jeans an a T-shirt on your travel bike. Well, sure you can. But it will be less comfortable on the long run. Lets see why.
Does a good suit or the right clothing just protects us in case that we have an accident? Most people I spoke to are wearing their gear because of the higher crash protection and this is usually also the main emphasis with the sales persons in the shop. So, kind of a safety belt or an airbag. Well, not my opinion....
Yes, I put temperature at the pole position. I ride my bike the whole year round and therefore encounter freezing temperatures in winter and unbearable heat in the summer.
Different gear for summer and winter, sure. But even in spring you have warm days and pretty chilly nights. When we are travelling we have to deal with a lot of different circumstances and so have our clothes.
Motorbiking is a sport that demands more concentration and skills than hanging around in your SUV. On the highway and for sure on gravel roads and offroad tracks.
The more comfortable we feel, the longer we can keep up our concentration. If you are really freezing, your body starts to centralise the body temperature to the core. To the organs that are most necessary for survival. This is the reason why we start getting cold feet and hands first. For our body these part are not so important, so they just get "shut down" first. You loose feeling and the possibility to move your fingers quickly. But thats what we need to operate the clutch and the front brake with. We need warm fingers that are fully operational. Just to make it clear. The body "shuts down" the blood flow to the hands and feet if you gets cold in general. Even if you have good gloves and boots. The overall temperature management is important.
It is a similar business with heat. Our body is more or less set for a core temperature of around 36°C. But it is a hell of a machine. We can withstand exposure to freezing temperature and up to 60°C, but that is not what your body really wants. Too cold, we start shivering to produce heat on one side and try to move as little as possible to save energy. Too hot, we start to sweat so we can hopefully cool down with some wind, and we move as little as possible not to heat up even more with the physical effort.
If we can not sweat enough or our sweat can not evaporate and create the necessary cooling effect, we do not stop heating up.
Have you ever thought of the season why we have offices and homes air conditioned or heated to certain temperature? Because this is the point in which we feel comfortable, do not have to do any effort to cool or heat our bodies. Every extreme high or low is an effort for the body. It needs energy to deal with it. This energy is missing so you start to get tired and loose concentration quicker. That´s what we have to prevent on a bike, especially if we travel and sit on the bike for several hours a day.
There are a lot of parameters that make our body deal with this stress. If you are used to more extreme temperatures or you are in a very good physical condition. Your body just deals better with high or low temperatures then and it makes things easier.
For the rest of the time we need the right clothing to help us deal with it, keep the perfect body temperature and stay fresh and alert.
More or less a no-brainer, isn´t it? We do not want to get wet when it is raining and we do not want to get a sunburn when we have a wonderful sunny day.
NO! For both extremes we need coverage for our skin. A different coverage of course. A long sleeved shirt is a good protection for sun, but a terrible one to keep us dry.
When I travel I love to leave the highways and take some gravel roads or find a nice spot of the main roads. If you have some rain on these type of roads but also on bad roads with a lot of potholes your legs will look as you took a mud bath.
Our clothing has to cover all of this at the same time. Not so easy and IMHO not possible at all. We will need different solutions for this.
Small objects? What does he mean? Well the usual bug or insect. Have you ever got hit by a fly on an exposed part of your body when you go 50km/h? That´s not funny, and it even worse when you go 100km/h or faster. It hurts! It will not injure you but I prefer not to have hundreds of dead mosquitos, flys, bugs or even bees on my arms and legs when I get of the bike. Do you agree?
Another, more dangerous object that can hit us are branches or brushes when we leave the highway. Larger scratches are a pain. They heal pretty slow and are a perfect opportunity to get an infection. We should try to avoid it.
I guess and hope that most of us ride their bikes day in day out for years without having any serious accidents. But at the same time 100% of us will encounter the previous mentioned 3 problems. Do you agree?
Thats the reason why the crash protection for me is the least important. It is the one that can prevent the most damage, but it is not a every day event.
If we would see our suit only as a crash guard, I would agree to compare it with an airbag. I know it is there, I hope it works and will prevent worse, but at the same time I have no problems to get old and drive millions of kilometres without ever seeing one blowing up in front of me.
Sorry, but the one and only solution does not exist.
All our motorbike gear has to be a compromise, a personal choice. And this depends of a lot of questions you have to answer yourself:
- How long do you travel? Do you travel for weeks and months and the weather can change?
- Where do you go? Marocco or Scottland? Mexico or Canada?
- What kind of roads do you want to use? Onroad or Offroad?
- Do you cruise relaxed on the highway or do you test your limits on offroad trails or extreme situations?
If we are going on a weekend road trip, we can check the weather news and adjust the gear we will need to deal with the predicted weather conditions. In case that we have more than one bike we will choose the right one, the right tyres, our credit card or our camping gear.
The solution is called layering. In German we call it the "Onion Method". You get it.
If you start on a trip like mine, you will have to expect everything. Rain, snow, sun, wind, heat, deserts, high mountains, hot days, chilly days, cold nights, perfect tarmac, terrible tarmac, gravel and sometime no roads at all, relaxed days, rougher days and even crashes. And I had them all, so far !
It is impossible to take the right gear for all circumstances. So you have to grab a layering system that gives you the option to adapt for most situations. The method is not new. It is the same method you will see with mountaineers and other outdoor people. But if you know the layers for mountain sports, this one is a little different.
The layering system consists of these 5 layers:
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