Vijay Parmar Column – The gear you’ll need to deal with the elements
Ask anyone what motorcycling means to them and the usual cliches follow. Freedom. Independence. Two wheels feed the soul. It completes me. The list of tired one-liners is endless. They feed a dream state, where all you do is ride into the sunset, with the wind in whatever is left of your hair! The reality is actually far removed from the advertisements. A motorcycle, per se, is just an inanimate object, still and cold. Thus, most large adventure bikes spend a long time in storage. The usual reasons. Winter, the monsoons, work, family commitments and last but not the least – injury.
The ownership demographics reveal that a large number of middle aged persons, mainly men, are drawn irresistibly to the adventure bike stores, and as is universally proclaimed, succumb to the urges of their mid-life crises. This tribe of successful entrepreneurs and corporate bigwigs yearn for that adrenaline rush, same as the youngster on his Street Triple, but being thwarted by slower reflexes and a stiffer, less supple body, usually means winding up on the floor a lot more. However, protection is available in many forms.
So what should we look for?
The first thing that comes to mind is protective gear. Start with branded and certified full face helmets. The goggles that fit them must be comfortable and shatterproof. The peak must be ventilated to lessen the strain on your neck at high speeds, when the air grabs it like a spinnaker. The usual jacket fitted with protective memory foam at the elbows and shoulders, the trousers braced with knee-protection and slender hip pads are now de rigueur. Enduro boots that buckle down and protect shin, ankle and metatarsals are common. Gloves preventing the loss of skin during forced dismounts are nothing new. So what else do we look at apart from the very obvious? Well, several things!
Is all gear made equal?
We spend most of our time riding and very little falling or crashing into objects. Whereas one ‘gears up to fall’ and this approach saves us from injury when we do, other factors are actually working against us as we ride – factors that will eventually decide whether we crash or not. Heat and cold being at the top of the list. Heat build up is the most common factor that insidiously works to fatigue and finally disorient a rider in our hot and humid climate. The normal enduro gear we buy is designed for Europe and works well in the cold. In India, it causes your core to overheat within an hour if on a road with traffic. Even with the vents open and liners removed, it cannot dissipate the heat build up. A Leatt Cool vest will work miracles. Immerse in water for 3 minutes and put it on next to your skin. Add a vented jacket over that. Cooling will carry on for the next 2 hours as the water evaporates and you will remain lucid enough to avoid a possible mishap. Repeat when the vest dries.
For the cold ride to Spiti, where temperatures drop to minus 30 celsius, invest in a heated vest, heated grips and handlebar muffs that cut out the wind from the controls. Rain covers for the boots will keep out water splashes that can turn to ice as you ride. Think beyond the normal gear. Heat and cold sap your energy, befuddle the mind and make you lose concentration, causing the fatal cocktail.
Rehydration packs are to be taken seriously. Especially in the cold. You are losing water since the humidity on a winter day is less than 10 per cent. You will hardly sweat and you will not feel thirsty. When riding in the extreme cold of the Spiti winter, the water in the pipe will freeze. Unless you take care to blow it back into the bladder after each long sip! Only then will it stay liquid.
A few more unusual accessories to help you stay whole include a pair of EVS or Leatt Knee Braces, a neck brace from KTM and compression socks. The knee braces will save you from one of the worst knee injuries ever – the dreaded ligament hyper extension. Worth their weight in gold, almost. The neck brace is for hard riders mainly. Saves the neck muscles from hyper extending during a fall involving whiplash. The compression socks are amazing, as you can spend the entire day in your boots without your soles hurting or your calves complaining. Decathlon sells the Optonia brand there which work like a miracle.
So invest in your gear, and reap the harvests of ‘Ride More’.