Road Rash: Apparelized

Nov 10, 2015 View Comments by

Road Rash: ApparelizedMotorcycle Gear Problems –

Surrounded by a dozen pairs of discarded riding pants in the fitting room of one of the country’s largest motorcycle superstores, I reluctantly admitted defeat and pulled my jeans back on. I’d tried on every small pant that the store had to offer in both men’s and women’s, and they were all simply too big. With my 30-inch waist, the only thing holding up the pants was their stiffness. I’d grudgingly moved on to the women’s sizes after the sales person told me that they were exactly the same as the men’s, only smaller. I suspect they were cut a bit larger in the hips than the men’s, but since the protective hip pads give me more curves than Charo anyway, it was irrelevant.

I topped out just shy of 5 feet 7 inches before age-related settling commenced, and although I haven’t measured myself in a couple of decades, you get a general idea. I’ve always had trouble finding properly sized clothing, but the problem is especially bad when it comes to riding apparel. The models in the catalogs don trim riding gear that looks as if it were sprayed on, but I look like a cross between the Michelin man and someone suited for K-9 attack training when I sport the same clothing.

The various pieces of armor inserted into pockets throughout the gear, though necessary, are a constant source of irritation as well. They’re never in quite the right spot, and comfort is often compromised along with the protection. Kneepads become shin guards, and back protectors feel as if someone inserted a folded lawn chair into the jacket lining. When I am lucky enough to find something that fits me, I snatch it up and head for the checkout like a squirrel carrying the last nut to top off his winter larder. Not exactly the features I was looking for? No problem—at least it fits. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually have my pick of all the fantastic riding gear available. I’m lucky to have a shot at 10 percent of what’s on the market.

Another item that elicits frequent “cleansing bursts” of four-letter words is the prolific use of Velcro in riding apparel. Don’t get me wrong; Velcro is great stuff in general, and I certainly wish that I’d been the one who invented it. But here are my complaints: it sounds like ten cats being simultaneously yanked from a screen door when pulled apart, it usually wears out long before the rest of the item does, and it latches onto everything that isn’t nailed down. If I ever jump from a plane and have a choice between a parachute and some Velcro, I’ll grab the Velcro—it’s sure to snag something on the way down, whereas the chute may not open.

The design of some riding gear also has raised my eyebrows on several occasions. Certain things seem to be made with the sole purpose of irritating the purchaser, and for no good reason. When was the last time you performed a roadside installation of a waterproof liner into your jacket? On hot days, I usually just let myself become soaked before going through the five-minute process of figuring out the myriad of zippers and hidden snaps that hold most liners in place. I barely have the patience to install a liner at home, and trying to affix one to a jacket minutes before a storm hits seems like an exercise in futility. I’ll be wet by the time I get it into the jacket anyway; so what’s the difference? Why don’t they just make the liners a totally separate piece of clothing with no attachment to the jacket? Where do they think it’s going to go? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never, not even once, turned around and scoured the road for a shirt or vest that somehow slipped out from under my jacket. I rest my case.

I’m just getting started, but I need to close for now since the smiling men with the straitjackets are edging closer. I don’t really know the solution to my dilemma, as the market for riding apparel that fits me is apparently too small to interest most manufacturers. Perhaps I’d have better luck focusing on children’s gear. Once the action-figure emblems are removed, it should look pretty much like the real thing. And even if it doesn’t, so what? At least it fits.


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