Purple Hair Jen : Beginner Biker Blog

PURPLE HAIR JEN : BEGINNER BIKER BLOG : WHAT DO I WEAR?

     Learning how to ride…..Should I just get on a motorcycle and go, it’s just like a bicycle but with a motor right? Should I learn how to ride a dirt bike first, falling on sand isn’t as bad as falling on asphalt? Should I have my husband teach me, he has been riding for over 27 years without any accidents? That should be good, right? A bike is just a bike no matter the size, just get on and go. You will get used to it.

     Well…. No, to all…Not for a beginner, not for this beginner and I don’t suggest any of these things. I have learned a lot by listening to seasoned motorcyclists and running a shop. (Like I have mentioned in my first blog, I have only been riding my own bike for about 8 months and truly been immersed in the motorcycle world for the past 7 years.) I loved riding on the back of Dave’s 1978 CB750, being able to look around. See the hawks flying in the air. Seeing the cool old cars in people’s yards on the back roads. Going on the 94, taking the twisties though the mountains. Talking about what I see and smell to Dave through our Bluetooth headsets. It’s freeing. But finally I felt I wanted to ride myself. Ride the roads on my own bike.

     Dave was excited for me that I wanted to make this transition after being around bikes for 5 years. But, he said, “I won’t teach you. I do not want to teach you my riding skills. I want you to learn your own in a proper setting.” I researched classes and found the San Diego PSC, Pacific Safety Center Motorcycle Safety Course. I talked two friends into taking the course with me. One that was working on her own bike in the shop (a CL350) and another who grew up around bikes but never has ridden herself. We signed up and a few weeks later we started the course.

     The first night was a Tuesday, in a classroom setting. We learned about proper gear to own, watching videos on how to scan the rode ahead to avoid potential obstacles, and much more. We did round table discussions about who we were, our moto history, and why we were taking the class. It was very enlightening and fun. Our next class was going to be the weekend riding class. But, first I had to by some proper gear for myself. I was originally using one of Dave’s helmets. It fit, but since I changed my hair style from dreads to straight hair, the helmet was a bit loose. Also I was using one of his jackets and some Doc Martins for my boots. So I went to Cycle Gear and tried on gear.

     So, you might ask, what the big deal is. You were covered. You had a helmet, jacket and boots. Why get new stuff? Well, everything should fit YOU. Properly, not loose. Dress for the slide. If you have a slight loose helmet, it can slip down or up or off. Just the wind alone was making the now loose helmet, slide down my forehead. I constantly had to readjust it so I can see. On the back of a bike, yeah this was sort of ok but in reality it was SO unsafe. The jacket was a good leather jacket. But it was just a bit too big. When I sat on a bike in the rider position the shoulders would rise up and rub against my Bluetooth on the side of my helmet, annoying. Jackets should be form fitting. Cover your wrists when you put your arms out straight. Cover just the top of your pants and not rise up with the wind. My boots were good. Doc Martins. But they were fashion Docs, Patent leather. No ankle support, not steel toe. My gloves were good, they were proper riding gloves. But, I did find out not good for colder weather. (but, that story is for another blog).

Here are my fashion Doc Martin boots. Loved the look but just not right for riding. And look my BELL helmet when it was new. 

Here are my fashion Doc Martin boots. Loved the look but just not right for riding. And look my BELL helmet when it was new. 

     When you are looking for new gear, try on just nearly everything. Each brand, size and style is completely different. I knew what style of helmet I liked, but I still tried on at least 10 different helmets till I found one that fit just right. Squishy cheeks. Smiling in a helmet is a new squished experience. Shaking my head with each helmet making sure it did not wobble around. Chin strap easy to access, and did it sit right under my chin. Did the visor have clear view so I can see out the corner of my eyes? I did find I did not like the pop down shade visor intergraded in some helmets. It sat too high above my nose, so it created a line of demarcation in my line of sight I did not like. This is where sunglasses work instead. But, speaking of sunglasses, get ones with bendy arms. I was wearing my prescription sunglasses before. No problems with the previous helmet. But with the new one, I found that the tightness of the helmet pressed the stiff arms into my scull above my ears. It was so painful after a ride. I ended up getting Bobster sunglasses. Nice bendy arms, large view area and I can get them made into prescription sunglasses too, that’s a plus. In the end, I ended up getting a BELL Vortex Matte Black, perfect fit.

My BELL helmet.

My BELL helmet.

     Jackets were the same process. I tried on so many kinds. I am not a girly girl and I didn’t want flowers or pink on mine. For a girl that doesn’t want these features, it’s not an easy task. So many manufactures think this is what girls want. I ended up having to go to the men’s section to find a solid black jacket. I could not afford a leather jacket. So I tried on a few textile jackets. Looking for the right fit around my chest and waist, and the right length on the arms. I am a short girl, 5’2” and not size 2. Adjustable waist straps were a plus. Pockets are a girls dream. All jackets come with removable liners which are great if the morning starts off cold and the afternoon gets warm. Just unzip, remove and put in your bag. In the end I got a BiLT jacket. It was in the women’s section. All black with reflector trim and 5 pockets. More of an ADV style, but it fit all aspects I was looking for.

My BiLT jacket. An amazing amount of pockets, a girls dream.

My BiLT jacket. An amazing amount of pockets, a girls dream.

     Gloves…..ah gloves….Thank goodness Cycle Gear has lots to choose from. I think I tried on at least 20 pairs. Prices range from $20 to $50. I was looking in the $20-$30 range and didn’t want pink. LOL. I was looking for a glove that went past my wrist but not a long gauntlet style. They are too bulky for tucking under the jacket sleeve, which I wanted to do. Ease to put on with one glove already on (Velcro can sometimes be too much of a b***h to deal with) Also wanted knuckle protectors, and not too thin of material. The reason for trying on 20+ pairs is that finger length is a factor. Some gloves were too small for my fingers and some were too long. (Extra material in the pinky finger) In the end I got BiLT gloves. Men’s size medium.

My BiLT gloves and Commander boots.

My BiLT gloves and Commander boots.

     Jeans are another issue. I didn’t get any pants at Cycle Gear. For one, I hate trying on jeans. I usually have to take 5 pairs in the dressing room at a time to see what might fit. But with that, don’t by jeans with spandex. No matter how fabulous they look on your ass. The reason why, is that within 3 seconds of friction on the asphalt, the fabric melts. Yes I said melts. The Doctor in the ER will be extracting melted fabric from your skin. Get Levis. Or better yet, there are some women owned companies that make motorcycle jeans for women riders. Worse for Wear, Stellar Moto Brand and Atwyld, are some that come to mind. Look them up. Check out what they offer in sizes. I know Worse for Wear makes regular and Curvy sizes (woo hoo) and they will custom alter them for your size.

     Proper footwear is essential. Have you ever heard of de-gloving? Yes it can happen to your feet. Have you seen people wearing sneakers, high heels or for goodness sake, flip flops. How you can shift in flip flops, I can’t understand. But proper shoes will save your feet and ankles. Don’t by online, go and try on boots. Steel toes make it that you can shift properly without truly wearing out the toe. Have reinforcement for the ankle. Rubber soles for grip on loose gravel and oil spills. The boots should be above the ankle. Your choice if you want them to go above the calf. For me I like above the ankle, less laces then above the calf. There are many choices. But go for function not fashion. I choose BiLT Commando Boots. They are comfortable, I can pull my jeans over them, and I can wear them all day.

Really???? Yes, these were once available to buy. 

Really???? Yes, these were once available to buy. 

     There are other things to think about for gear, freeze out glove liners, long johns and a neck warmer for the colder weather. Wind chill is an amazing thing. Or if you want to go all out get plug in heated gear or cooling gear for the summer.

     Last thing.....

DO NOT LET ANYONE TALK YOU OUT OF WEARING GEAR.

     It’s your body, your life, your safety. I don’t care if the rest of your group rides in a tee shirt, shorts and flip flops (yes I have seen it here, in the summer, in San Diego), and they say you look like a dweeb. You are the one that will have a better chance at having skin then they will. If you want to watch a story about someone that survived after riding with barely anything on to protect herself, watch and read Brittany Morrow's story.

ATGATT: All The Gear All The Time

My next blog I will finish my adventure at the PSC riding course. Dropping the bike on me and all….