I can has new gear?

For no reason at all, I’ve been looking though the internet to see what kind of retro looking motorcycle jackets are out there. Searching for a good quality jacket in women’s sizes is always an exercise in disappointment, so I was a little surprised to find at least two candidates. Hmm… decisions decisions.

Go ahead – vote for one.

REVIT_Womens_CR_Leather_Jacket_zoom   2008_Alpinestars_Womens_Stella_Six_3_Leather_Jacket_Black_White

And while I was at it, I looked up helmets too. I’ve worn solid helmets for as long as I’ve been riding and I’d really like a change. I dislike most of the graphics on regular helmets though. Suomi seems to have been the only brand that made nice looking designs, but you cannot get them anymore. I did think this Arai looked a bit retro and would match either of the jackets rather well. Thoughts?


I haven’t had new riding gear for at least 3+ years and my current silver Arai I’ve been wearing for maybe 2 years, so I don’t feel like I’d be splurging too much by picking up something new.

Gear List

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the gear I bring with me for a long roadtrip.

Motoport mesh kevlar riding jacket (GP2)
Motoport mesh kevlar riding pants (Ultra II)
Motoport Aero-Tex liners for jacket and pants (waterproof/windproof/breathable)
Gerbing heated vest (with on/off switch)
Techniche Evaporative cooling vest and tie
Arai Quantum2 helmet
Daytona Lady Star GTX boots
Held Akira gloves
Lightweight silk balaclava

Cortech Sport Saddlebags
Ortleib Rack Pack (Large – 45L)
REI waist pack (camera, gps)
Camelbak bladder and backpack (water+ice)
Roadgear Tank Map Holder

Bike toolkit
Chain lube (travel size)
Genuine Innovations tire patch kit
Slime air compressor
3/8 ratchet with sockets and extensions
Nitrile gloves
Duct tape (wrapped around ratchet)
Electrical tape
JB Weld
Zip ties

Mobile Phone
GPS – Garmin Zuo 550
Camera – Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7
Helmet wireless intercom system –
Cardo Scala Q2

REI Quarter Dome Ultralite T2 2-person tent
Marmot Teton women’s sleeping bag
Big Agnes Sleeping Pad
REI TiWare Nonstick Titanium Pot
REI TiWare Mug
Propane stove and tank
Spork and spatula
Salt/peppers/spices shakers
Small jars of oil and small container for garlic paste
Small vial of soap, scrubber and rag
Fire starter

REI balaclava
Microfiber base layers (top and bottom)
Ex-officio moisture wicking underwear
Wool/moisture wicking socks

Length of neon orange rope
Emergency blanket
Glow stick

Liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Hairbrush, hair ties
MSR Ultralite Pack Towel
Woolite/Tide travel sized sachets
Contact lenses, solution, glasses
Band-aids, painkillers
Eagle Creek cubic container for it all

Petzl headlamp
Sony tripod
Camera filters
Protein bars
Business cards (mini-cards with email address and blog URL to hand out to people you meet out on the road)

Protein bars
Coffee juice

Cooling vest
Extra face shield
Slime air compressor
Winter gloves

Clutch lever
Brake lever
Gear shifter
Spark plugs

MOA Anonymous book
Journal and pen

New boot woes…

The good news is that after a month of waffling, I finally decided on which new boots I wanted and got the Frey-Daytona Ladystar GTX ones – handmade in Germany, they say. They look really good – even better than on the website. There is a sort of inner leather boots, in addition the outer boot. There have lots of velcro and zippers to adjust them to your calf size. They feel stiff in all the right areas. And most importantly, the sole is thick enough that it increases by height by at least 11/2 inches. I’m planning to add a Dr. Scholl’s lining which is another cm thick.

The bad news is – I wore them for the first time today to ride them to work, and I had a hell of a time shifting gears. The front part of the boot is at least an inch thick and re-inforced on top, so I had trouble getting it under the shift lever and figuring out whether the heck it actually did shift up, having to relying solely on the sound to confirm it – good thing I wasn’t wearing earplugs. I made a complete ass of myself out on a busy street with struggling to shift gears, and waffling between 1st, 2nd and neutral over and over, when I should have been in 4th. So this is what I looked like when I was a n00b. :| I think I’ll call Helimot today and ask them if there is a trick to this that I am completely missing. I’m afraid they are only going to tell me though that I’ll get adjusted to it in time. :|

(Once I do get adjusted to the new boots, it’d be time to sell the old Oxstars methinks. They are pretty good boots, although used and a bit scuffed. How on earth does the right toe get scuffed anyway? O.o)

Edit: Adjusting the shift lever did the trick!

More on leathers…

Last night was the first night that I’ve actually slept well without once coughing my lungs out. I’ve been sick for an entire week now with a really bad head cold. Thankfully, the worst is over, although I did manage to pass on the virus to my manager as well.

I think my leathers conundrum has finally been solved. Vansons leather pants would have cost me at least $650 less armor, and a one piece would have been close to $1400. If I were a serious racer, I might have considered it, but it just seems overkill. Besides, if I really were a serious racer, I’d probably go the extra mile and spend $2000 on a Spidi kangaroo skin suit – so much ligher and more abrasion resistant than cowhide leathers. Plus Vanson are notorious for not delivering on time. Even the BMW guy said that if I were to put through an order, it would be the last order they would take because they were planning to stop dealing with Vanson entirely. He told me to expect a 3 month wait (something had warned me about), and there’s no way I’m going to wait that long.

Next up I called Barnacle Bill to get his prices, and ended up speaking to Barnacle Bill himself. :) He seemed like the loveliest guy with that charming Southern accent that I’m such a sucker for, and I really wanted to go through him. He also guaranteed that he would have them ready in 8 weeks. I told him that I would go home and look up the designs and think about whether I just wanted pants made or a one-piece. I really, really just wanted to order with him because little one-man operations like his are so rare to find and seem so much more human and endearing than gear churned out by some factory.

As luck would have it though, I happened to wander back to Renton Motorcycles a couple of weeks ago and found a pair of Alpinestar Stella track pants that fit okay. They were a bit loose around the waist, and the knee armor was positioned such that it was just an inch below my knee, rather than covering my entire knee. The knee puck too was so low, that a racing boot would not fit over the pant leg. I bought the pants anyway “just in case”. I figured I’d see what Vanson said and decide what I wanted to do.

I rememberd an acquaintance of mine from Eastside Motosports mentioned that her husband had had his leathers altered by a tailor who worked very close to where I live – guy by the name of Eugene. I got his contact info and called him this morning and he said that he did indeed do racing leathers. His shop was open from 9-5 but he offered to work late if I couldn’t make it during that time (how many times have you ever had that experience?). I rushed out of work at 5, got home, picked up the pants and went to see him. He turns out to be this really nice Russian guy (original name Yevgeny :P) who said that he could cut the pants at the knees and raise the lower halves so that they fit like they were supposed to. It’s going to cost me $150 but I figure it’ll be worth it, as the overall cost of the pants will still be way lower than what customs would have cost. Plus Alpinestars is a good enough brand and the leather is good quality.

I need to go find a jacket and bring it back to him next Monday so that he can set up the zipper so that the jacket and pants zip together correctly. Fortunately, I have a wide choice to pick from. On my shortlist are the matching Alpinestars Stella Dyno jacket, Teknic Violator or the Dainese Trax jacket. I’m leaning toward the Teknic jacket because it seems reasonably priced, has good specs and is decent looking.

I’m eventually also needing to get some boots. My Oxstars are just fine for commuting and touring but they don’t have any ankle protection. It’s a little confusing though because there are so many different types out there. I’m thinking about the Sidis obviously, but they make so many different types of boots!

Oh and finally I should mention that I finally feel comfortable on the SV and am LOVING riding it. I rode it for a couple of hours yesterday around Lake Sammamish and thought I would burst with happiness! It handles so wonderfully and my cornering and braking and throttle control has improved dramatically. Lying sick in bed and reading Sport Riding Techniques really helped, it seems! :P There is so much more to riding a sportbike than I had even dreamed possible. :) I finally feel like the bike doesn’t own me.

Sometime soon when I sit down and calculate exactly how much money is going into this little hobby of mine,  I think I am going to silently curse Liz for creating this monster, what with all her links to Femmoto and Mike Sullivan’s school and making me watch Faster. :P

I love them! I love how the palms are so thin that you can feel your bike. I love how it is so well armored for a glove. And I love the little squeegee that you can use to wipe the rain off of your visor! It really works! ;)

Hunting for leathers…

Woke up later than I expected, considering that I’ve been waking up at 6 everyday during the weekday as it’s getting light out earlier and earlier. Made a list of all the dealerships with the gear they carry and their addresses. See it would be wonderful if there was one store which stocks every known brand of women’s gear, but noooo… the way it works is – RideWest BMW carries Vansons and RevIt, Ducati Seattle carries Dainese, Seattle Cycle carries Tecnic, University Honda carries Joe Rocket, Icon, Firstgear et al, Renton Motorcycles carries Alpinestars, Eastside Motosports carries MotoGP and so on…

Since folks had highly recommended the Vansons, I headed to RideWest BMW first thing. The thought of seeing all the lovely, lovely Beemers had absolutely nothing to do with it. :P Turns out that might as well have been the only stop I had made that day. I tried on some men’s pants and they fit okay except they were looser at the waist and longer. I thought I might as well buy them and get them altered, but the guy helping me said that they could order the women’s fit for me instead. Apparently they run in the same sizing as jeans sizes, so he could order me pants in my jeans size or we could take measurements and he could fax them over to Vanson’s and let them decide which ones would fit best. I decided on the latter, little realizing what lay ahead.

The measurements took the better part of 45 minutes. He (Josh) had a form, on which he had to fill out the minutest details. While he was kneeling down and looking up at me, he asked me if I was totally okay with having the measurements done (aww… what a gentleman!). I shrugged and said that it wasn’t a problem at all (I’ve only ever had male tailors so it wasn’t really a big deal), and he said that they didn’t get too many women in there (meaning none. :P). I tried to remain stoic throughout the measurement, but it was hard to not burst into giggles when he read things from the form like – “Measure around the fullest part of the hips” without a change in expression. There were various other assorted measurements of an even more awkward nature like butt, inseam (literally measured from crotch to ankle – fear not, I had to hold the crotch end of it :P), crotch to beltline on both front and backside, and two different bust measurements (oh and the one priceless moment where he asked me to kneel down, and when I did, he hastily knelt down himself). In hindsight, I wonder, wouldn’t it be a *lot* more embarassing to measure a guy’s hips and crotch? :P

When it was finally done, we both exclaimed – “Finally!!” and J. started to say – “You were a good little…” I think he was going to say “girl” but then changed his mind quickly and said “lab rat”. :P Hehe… it didn’t hurt that he was a bit of a cutie in a way that I don’t really fall for, but was rather appealing. I remember there was some other guy who walked close past me in the middle of our measurements when J. was writing down something and when he came around me to measure my shoulders from the back, he quietly asked – “Did that guy run into you?” which I thought was rather decent of him. It’s strange – I can’t stand guys who come across as overly protective and obnoxious, but it did feel nice to have him be concerned in a – “If that guy was messing with you, I’m going to go kick his ass.” sort of way. And yet, it just cracks me up so much at how self-conscious he was throughout the measurement thing and how concerned he was at not wanting me to feel uncomfortable. I almost told him that he now knew my body better than any of my boyfriends had ever done, but thought better of it. :P

He went to send off the fax, while I wandered into the bike display room and sat on some of them and I found a used F650GS that FIT ME PERFECTLY! It was factory lowered and fit my well in every possible way! I could have ridden it out of there and never have had to alter it in any way, unlike with the SV which is still far from optimum. *sigh* If not for my wanting to do trackdays, the 650GS would have been THE bike for me. :|

I wandered back to the front desk and asked J. if they had any gloves in my size (without much hope really). He showed me a pair of Held gloves in size 6 which were a perfect fit and were made entirely of kangaroo leather. Only hitch – $185. Worse hitch – cute guy selling them to me. I bought them.

I left the dealership after almost an hour and a half of being there, went to my car and laughed till I cried for a good five minutes at the measurement fiasco. Two days later and I’m still giggling. If that suit ever gets made, it’s going to be one nice fitting suit! ;) He said he’d call me in a couple of days and let me know what Vanson said so I can decide if I want to order or not.

Next I went to Ducati Seattle and tried on some Dainese pants which fit me okay but were a bit too long and $500. :P The customer service was really awful (typical motorcycle dealership if you happen to be female). I left sooner than I expected and headed to University Honda Yamaha to meet and . We hung out a bit, tried on a couple of things and chatted with the salespeople who are the absolute nicest out of all the motorcycling places I’ve been to. I’ve bought a major part of my gear from them just for this reason. I found a nice white Tecnic women’s jacket that fit very well, had good back armor and a full circumference zipper. They said the thickness was 1.2 mm and that many women wore the Tecnic suit on the track, but I think I was spoiled after looking at the Vansons which were almost 1.5 mm thick and looked much less flimsy. I’ll have to think about this one.

It looks like I will have to decide between getting Vansons or a Teknic suit. My instincts tell me that the former would be the better option, although much more expensive, and only in black. Let’s see what they say…
Later in the weekend, I also rode the SV around a good bit. Took it to a parking lot (same one I took the Virago to last year. :) and practised slow speed manuevers and got to know it better. I’m still lusting after the BMW I didn’t buy though and it still feels very weird to ride such a shiny bike that sticks out. I’m going to buy a dirty, grungy used tank bra to cover up some of the shinyness in the vain hope that it will look used and gritty. :P

Misc shopping…

This Saturday is going to be devoted to doing the rounds of all the motorcycling stores withing driving distance of Bellevue in my quest for racing leathers. I’ve already tried Renton Motorcycles which reportedly has the largest selection of gear, and yes it had a HUGE variety of 1 brand in women’s leathers ( the Alpinestars which were a lousy fit). I’m planning on hitting University Honda, Ducati Seattle, RideWest BMW, Aurora Suzuki, I-90 Motorsports, Cycle Barn and Seattle Cycle (correct me if I’ve left anything out. :P). Of course, I’ll call them and check that they stock what I’m looking for to avoid an unnecessary trip.

I also need to shop for new gloves – my current HD ones are falling apart. The velcro has come off and I’m not sure if I should just have it stitched back on or get new ones. Not surprisingly I have a hell of a time finding gloves that fit my tiny hands *and* look decent and offer good protection.