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postheadericon Gear Spotting

      I enjoy research. I enjoy riding 2-wheeled vehicles. I don’t recall what, exactly, caused me to start contemplating how much protective gear the riders of different types of motorbikes were wearing, but I did. I started thinking about it, a lot. I started wondering how one could objectively measure who was wearing the most and or best gear. Both my wife wife and I hypothesized that sport bike riders probably wear the most gear. Cruiser riders, including Harley-Davidsons, Goldwings and other “Baggers” are known for their lack of gear, particularly helmets. Would they fair better or worse than riders of scooters?
I started by thinking about the most common and most important pieces of protection we wear. I came up with five categories: helmets, jackets, gloves, leg-wear and footwear. I figured that by observing different riders, I could give each a score of zero to five that would represent how protected they were as the rode. It occurred to me a bit later, that this would not be entirely accurate. A guy wearing boots, pants and a pair of gloves, for a score of 3 in my simple system, is probably not as well protected as a rider wear only a helmet and leather jacket (score: 2.)
I then further subdivided my five categories into a few more areas, allowing me to refine my protection observations. Helmets I divided into full-face, other than full-face and none. Jackets are divided into armored or leather, other and none. Gloves are still yes or no. I can’t really get close enough to know how good a pair of gloves are. Leg-wear is divided into riding specific pants or chaps, plain street pants or none, which doesn’t mean that the rider is bottomless, just that they were wearing shorts or a skirt or something other than long pants. Footwear is similar. The best protection is a pair of boots, followed by shoes that cover the entire foot, but not the ankles. The zero score includes sandals, flip-flops or anything that does not cover the entire foot.
This allowed me to make a weighted scale. I increased this to a 10 point scale and weighted each answer consistent with the overall importance of each category. The number of points for each item is as follows:

Item – Points given
Full Face – 3
Other Helmet – 2
No Helmet – 0
______________________________________
Armored Jacket – 2
Other Jacket – 1
No Jacket – 0
______________________________________
Gloves – 2
No Gloves – 0
___________________
Riding Pants – 1.5
Plain Pants – 1
Other than Pants – 0
____________________________{_________
Boots – 1.5
Shoes – 1
Other Footwear – 0

All that remained was to get out and make some actual observations. I did make some “rules” for this as well:

  • Observe at a variety of places around town.
    Observe at a variety of times and days of the week. Thus I could grade commuters and the casual riders.
    Don’t observe around the airbase. The Air Force requires a certain amount of gear. This would artificially inflate the numbers.
    I didn’t want to observe scooters at any of our club events. There is a certain amount of peer pressure to wear gear. Again, this would artificially inflate scooter scores.
    I wouldn’t make observations at any group ride of any type of bike. Again, peer pressure or group dynamics may artificially increase or decrease scores for that particular group.
    I took note of weather and time of day. This first group of observations took place with temps in the 90’s. I will endeavor to do another set when temps cool a bit and see if there is any shift in the numbers.
    I wanted to get a sample of at least 20 bikes in each of the three major types of bikes: Cruisers, Sport Bikes and Scooters. (I didn’t quite succeed.)

     I took observations on 71 different bikes (27 cruisers, 25 street and 19 scooters) on about 20 different days, in about 15 different locations. Temperatures at the times were between 82 and 102 degrees. I only charted the numbers on bikes where I could clearly see the entire body of the rider. I especially liked parking at intersections so that I could visualized the riders’ feet when they stopped.
So what were the results? Well, with only a relatively small sample, my hypothesis is spot on. Using the weighted scale, the numbers look this this:
Sport Bikes – 7
Cruisers – 4.69
Scooters – 3.42

     As a scooter rider, I am appalled, but not surprised. Some time ago, when I was writing an article about hot weather riding, I took random pics of riders on a hot day to put in the article. It was then that I noted so many scooter riders not wearing gear. I know a lot of riders crying ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) on forums and on Facebook, but my “on the street” observations tell a different story.
I also looked at averages on the individual pieces of gear. Helmet use (the single most important piece of gear) was the only in which scooterists were not dead last. (Numbers in the table below are percentages.

% Full Face
Sport Bikes – 88
Cruisers –       41
Scooters –      32
% Other Helmet
Sport Bikes – 0
Cruisers –      15
Scooters –     37
% No Helmet
Sport Bikes – 12
Cruisers –      44
Scooters –      32
Total % with a Helmet
Sport Bikes – 88
Cruisers –       56
Scooters –      69

     So, we scooterists came in second place, but still almost 20 percentage points behind the sport bikers. Also of note is that we are the smallest wearers of full face helmets. I’ve seen it reported that 40% of all injuries to the head in motorcycle crashes, occur to the face. Some of us in our Tucson club have personally seen what happens when someone crashes wearing a ¾ helmet. Also, 1/3 of us, aren’t wearing helmets at all.
How about the other areas? Here are the highlights of the other areas I was monitoring:

% Wearing Jackets
Sport Bikes – 48
Cruisers –      15
Scooters –       11
% wearing Gloves
Sport Bikes – 76
Cruisers –       41
Scooters –       11
% wearing NO leg protection
Sport Bikes – 36
Cruisers –       15
Scooters –      58
% Wearing NO foot protection
Sport Bikes – 0
Cruisers –       4
Scooters –       26

     More than of us wear shorts? More than a quarter of us don’t even bother putting on a pair of shoes? If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have a hard time believing this.
As I was acquiring the data and as I began to note the patterns, I began to wonder what conclusions could be made from this. Quite frankly, I haven’t thought of one yet. However, I hope this does cause us to think about our choices of what we wear when we ride.
What about you? What do you think about the above? I am looking forward to your comments.

***Call to Action – I would like to expand this research and get numbers from YOUR neck of the woods. If you would like to help out, please send me an email or private message.

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postheadericon Winter Riding for Desert Rats

I admire my scootering friends who live in the mid-west or further north and are still riding, even in cold temps. This blog post is NOT for you. The definition of cold is a bit different for those of us who live in southern Arizona and I am writing this specifically for those who grab jackets or coats when the temperatures drop into the 60’s or below.

Temperatures in Arizona are not always warm and balmy. Just this week we have had low temps in the high 20’s. That, my friends, is cold, no matter who you are. The big difference here is that most of us not only don’t own cold weather riding gear, it is very difficult to find in stores here because there isn’t much of a demand.

TORSO

So, what is a determined scooterist to do if he/she doesn’t: a) have the money to buy cold weather gear, or b) doesn’t want to spend the money on something that they will get relatively little use out of? Well, I’m going to give some suggestions. I have been riding year round for 3 and half years now, in all kinds of weather. I am cheap by nature and haven’t wanted to spend big bucks on cold weather gear. If you are on a budget and want to ride this winter, I hope to give you some suggestions that will help.

Cool in summer. It has reflective piping and removable pads.

One thing I didn’t skimp on was a riding jacket. When I bought the scooter, I bought a helmet and a textile riding jacket. I am not going to preach to you about how important it is to wear to wear the proper safety gear. That is a personal decision. My recommendation though, is to go out and get you an actual riding jacket. Leather or textile, expensive or bargain, stylish or not, just get something that will protect you if, God forbid, you end up on the pavement when you’re riding. The jacket, however, is the foundation for my cold weather ensemble.

It’s thin but effective for mild temps.

I wear this jacket year round. Because it has all of the “holes” in it, it breathes great and is great for summer. I really like the fact that it has reflective piping for better visibility. I wear just the jacket until temps dip to the low 70’s. At this point, I put in the liner that came with the jacket. I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but it isn’t very thick. It zips in and keeps me comfortable to the mid-60’s.

Because the jacket breathes so well, I needed something to keep the colder air out of the jacket. Once temps are in the 50’s, I need more than just the liner. I went to one of my favorite places, a thrift store, and found this:

Extremely effective. This allowed me to comfortably ride in temps down to about 40 degrees.

It is a lined wind breaker. I think it cost me $7 or $8. It, unfortunately, does not have reflective tape or piping on it. I went to Harbor Freight and bought this reflective, hi-vz vest for $2.99. Please note that this jacket has a high collar. It is important to keep as much cold air out as possible This combination has gotten me through all but a handful or rides. I have found that it works for me until temps are in the 30’s.

It is most important to keep your core, i.e. you upper body, warm. If you can keep your torso from getting cold, you will be fine. Cold legs, arms and/or feet are a nuisance, but they won’t stop your ride. Cold hands are different, but I’m getting to that.

When temperatures fall into the 30’s, I add one more layer:

The hood won’t fit under a helmet, but the sweatshirt lets me ride in temps into the high 20’s.

Sweatshirts of all shapes sizes, colors and designs can be found in any thrift store for prices as low as $.99. I have ridden in temps down to the mid 20’s with this combo and had no ill effects.

LEGS

Everyone knows that layering is the key to staying warm. This is the way I do it. I have found that the scooter provides enough protection that my feet have never gotten cold. My legs do, however, get uncomfortable at colder temps.

Purchased at a thrift store, these ski pants even have reflective tape.

By colder, I mean that I don’t generally worry about additional leg protection until temps are in the 30’s. Even then, I don’t worry about it unless I am plan on being out more than 45 minutes or so. Thrift store to the rescue again! I bought these “ski pants” for $8-10. Thrift stores around Tucson always seem to have plenty or these in stock. They are nice because they are lined and have zippered bottom so that they are easy to get off once it warms up or when you get to your destination.

HANDS

Probably the hardest body part to keep warm is your hands. Most of here ride smaller scooters. Therefor, we don’t have the luxury of electric hand-grip or powered riding suits. Our scooters just don’t generate enough extra power. We have to do it the old fashioned way.

The first 3 winters, I used the gloves I was issued when I was in the Army:

The shell and wool insert combo worked pretty darned well.

These are frequently available at Surplus stores like Millers. They have a leather “shell” with wool inserts. Wool is a great insulator. These are pretty inexpensive. I don’t know how much the shells are, but I recently paid $3.99 for a new pair of inserts.

I got these nice, Tour Master “Cold-Tex”gauntlets when a friend sold his motorcycle:

Cold weather protection plus additional armor on the tops of your hands.

I have been been wearing them this year and they are very nice. A quick Google search reveals that gloves like this will set you back $35 to $60 depending on store, sales and which model you buy. I recommend them if you’ve got the dough to get them.


Another thing that works well is keep the wind off of your hands in the first place. I don’t use them but one common item used by riders in colder climes is called “Hippo Hands.

These can frequently be seen on snowmobiles, er, in places other than southern AZ.

I seriously doubt that anyone in Tucson carries them, but they can be purchased on-line easily enough. I’ve heard that you can wear thin, summer weight gloves in the coldest temperatures with these muffs attached to your bike. If you have craft skills, I’ve seen patterns on-line, to make them out of insulated lunch bags. As you can see by the pic, they aren’t just for scooters.

Scoot Over carries, or has carried, hand guards that will fit the Genuine Buddy.

These come in a variety of colors as well. Simple, yet effective.

Hand guards block a lot of the wind from hitting your hands in the first place, thus helping you keep your hands warmer, longer. I don’t remember how much they were at Scoot Over, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 plus more if you need them to install them. I don’t have these, but have considered them.

NECK

Keeping your neck warm is important too. Your carotid arteries run very close to the surface and if your neck get too cold, it can cause your core temperature to drop quite a bit. My lined windbreaker gives me quite a bit of protection but sometimes I need a bit more. If inexpensive is what you need try a scarf:

Cheap, not stylish, but Chicken Dance Elmo approves.

Like ski pants, they can be picked up at most any thrift store for pocket change. They work great at protecting the old carotids.

I lost it, but another thing that has worked well for me was a neck gaiter:

Effective and multipurpose. I want another one.

There are a lot of variations to neck gaiters. One of the most versatile pieces of neck ware is called the BUFF. They range in cost from about $10 to about $40. Most not only protect your neck, they can be pulled up around your ears, nose and mouth as well. This is especially handy if you don’t use a full face helmet.

MISC

There are a lot of other items that you can use to increase your comfort during cold weather. I don’t have any of these, but I do know of people who have used them:

Lap Aprons. Kind of goofy looking IMO, but extremely effective

The Lap Apron or “scooter skirt.” These are not cheap. They are, however, very good at keeping you warm. Corazzo, a well known maker of scooter and cycling accessories makes some complete with reflective piping and pockets.

Starting under $10. These come in hundreds of designs.

Then there’s the neoprene face mask. I got one of these once (although mine wasn’t nearly so stylish as the one above) but couldn’t wear it because my head is too big. These are another item that is especially useful is you don’t have a FF helmet. They simplyact as a windbreak for your face.

This entry is not intended as a complete source for cold weather riding gear. It is simply a list of some things that have worked for me. Again, I know that people who live in colder areas really require serious gear or risk serious injury. Please, ride safely and gear up. Spend as little time as possible exposed to cold temps.

Howard

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