Rally Ready Part 2: Gearing up; you and your bike

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Yamaha Motorcycles Street Event - I-90 Motorsports


Rally Ready: Part 2

Gearing up; you and your bike

In this second installment of Rally Ready, we discuss riding gear selection and luggage options. At the rally you'll see all types of riders wearing all types of gear. Some of it will protect them in a crash, some of it won't. You'll also see all sorts of luggage configurations. Choose the gear and the luggage that's right for you.

Gear Up 1 – Your Riding Attire

Are you still riding around in a bomber jacket, blue jeans and/or tennis shoes? Before you head out for the rally take some time to improve your attire so that you have the gear that will lessen your chances of major injuries in the event of a crash. And remember, rallies are a common place for crashes to occur. If you get caught up in one you'll want to be ready.

Start with the helmet. You like your chin? If you don't wear a full face helmet, seriously consider upgrading to one. Those half shell and three quarter shell helmets will do little to protect your face and chin if you launch off your bike unexpectedly. They take a little getting used to, but once you've worn one a few thousand miles you'll feel naked with anything less.

Above: Regardless of how warm it is during the rally, or any other time for that matter, riding in full gear all the time is your best insurance to reducing bodily harm in the event you are involved in a crash.

Riding jacket. A good riding jacket should have CE rated armor at the elbows, shoulder and over your spine. Levi, letterman and stylish bomber jackets do not. CE rated armor often means the difference of having a broken or fractured bone in a crash or not. In a minor crash having CE rated armor often means the rider will walk away from the crash with little pain. Without it you chances of injury can greatly increase. If the weather is warm you might be tempted to ride without your jacket on. Instead consider packing an Evaporative Cooling Vest .

Riding pants. Ditto on the jacket sermon above. Add chaps (horsey pants) to the list of gear that doesn't come with CE rated armor. Hey if you want to protect your legs, and why wouldn't you, might as well get some decent protective gear. But there is the question about "why wouldn't you" and the reasons are varied. Too hot, too sticky, too stuffy, too bulky are a few of the common ones. The solution is simple. Wear only a wicking base layer under your riding pants and all these symptoms disappear. Blue jeans and other cotton pants are the cause of these symptoms so once you dump them you'll be far more comfortable in a pair of CE rated riding pants.

Gloves. The choices are many. Look for gloves that offer good protection across the knuckles and palms. Garden gloves don't. When traveling long distances, carry three sets at all times. A light set for riding in the heat, a medium set for typical days and a heavy set for fierce rain and cold moments. Regardless of the weather when you leave, you'll be glad you have all three each time you ride.

Boots. Not tennis shoes, not sandals, not Birkenstocks, not cross trainers. When you ride you can greatly reduce your chance of injury to your ankle by wearing a quality pair of over-the-ankle boots specifically designed for motorcycling. A stiff ankle area means you're less likely to twist your ankle in a crash and for those who have done that very thing, they may be happy to tell you the dramatic details of their recovery. It's no fun.

For your feet consider investing in a synthetic pair of motorcycling socks that will wick away heat and moisture and keep you more comfortable mile after mile. We like the SOKz brand.

Gear up well. Wear all the gear all the time.

Gear Up 2 – Your Luggage

When getting ready to travel to a rally or take a long trip, luggage is certainly a consideration. How to carry everything you want to take is a learned skill. Having the correct luggage for the correct purposes is key.

If you're moteling it and riding solo you should be able to pack all your gear in about 60 liters of space. For many this means a simple tail bag and tank bag will do the job. If you're camping you'll need more like 85 liters to hold a small tent, sleeping bag and comfy air mat. If you're riding two up, add another 20-40 liters of space needed for your ride. Anymore than that and you're over-packing, regardless of how many days you plan to spend on the road.

At right: An overloaded bike with a not so secure load can take you down in the twisties and spoil all the fun!

For years saddle bags have been a favorite with riders. But the location and shape of the things isn't optimal when it comes to handling and fuel consumption. Tail packs can prove to be the smarter move but are often too small.

Ventura Luggage has developed what many consider the best of all worlds. You can store up to 80 liters of gear directly behind you. On some bikes this can actually improve fuel mileage by virtue of the fact that the bag design cleans up the 'dirty' air, or turbulence, which can reduce your fuel mileage.

At left: This couple has mastered packing all they need for two up riding into 150 liters of space.

Many bikes will accommodate a tank bag. In the quest for more storage it is possible to purchase an insanely large tank bag system. The trouble with these big boys is that they can interfere with your ability to steer the bike, read the instruments and/or maintain an optimal riding position. Consider a medium-sized bag for long rides, one that won't be too cumbersome to take on and off the bike a few times each day at meal stops. In this bag, store all the items you want to access during the riding day so you don't have to dig into your luggage on the rear.

For bikes that won't accommodate a tank bag, tank panniers may be an option. These smaller bags hang from each side of the tank. When selecting a set be sure they will not interfere with your sitting position or ability to properly operate the bike.

At right: For multi-day solo trips on a sport bike, there's nothing easier than the Ventura bike pack system which keeps gear away from exhaust systems.

We've all seen it before. Two loaded saddle bags and no less than 5 rolls, duffles or a combination thereof, all bungeed in dangerous ways to the bike. An overloaded bike won't handle too well in the twisties and isn't much fun to ride as a result. If you're over-packing you owe it to yourself to refine your style learning in-depth tips from books like Greg Frazier's Motorcycle Touring or Tom Mehren's Packing Light/Packing Right .

Patrick Thomas/Spring 08

Missed it? Click here to read part 1 of Rally Ready


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