By Paul Berglund
I love the way my bike looks. Like most motorcycle riders, I tend to buy bikes that I think are attractive. I feel it’s important that when you walk into your garage and see your bike, it makes you happy. And yet, one of the first things I do when I get a new bike is ugly it up, by putting on a tank bag.
Tank bags are just so darn practical. I keep all kinds of things in them, like sun glasses, a towel to clean my face shield, maps, snacks and various cables and adapters for my phone and heated clothing to name just a few things. I don’t like the way a tank bag looks on my bike, but I love riding my bike and having a place to put stuff that makes life easier.
It gets real ugly when it’s going to rain, or I’m running errands on the bike. Then I put on the top case. It’s a great way to store my jacket and helmet when I get to where I’m going. I can fit a full bag of groceries, or what ever I buy at the store and put it in the top case on the way home. It can also fit my rain gear along with all that other stuff. Top cases are just so darn practical. They don’t add width to the bike. You hardly know they are there when you are riding. You do have to kick your leg a little higher to get on and off the bike. I can live with that.
What I don’t like is how ugly they look when you are walking up to the bike. A huge black box stuck up high on the back takes away the sex appeal of most any bike. No more sleek lines or flow of design, it’s all botched up in service of practicality. To leave room for a passenger they seam to sit too far back and too high on the bike. They just look awkward and dorky. And yet, I end up slapping them on each bike I get, because they take a beautiful toy and transform it into a practical mode of transportation.
This past June, it seemed like there was a chance of rain every day. So the top case stayed on my bike. The Town & Country Cafe (320 E Belvedere Ave, Kellogg, MN 55945) in Kellogg has good food every day, but on Mondays, a pice of pie costs a dollar. So last Monday I checked my tire pressure and oil level, made sure my rain gear was in the top case and took the scenic route south along the Mississippi river on the Wisconsin side. When I got to Nelson, I crossed over to Wabasha on the Minnesota side. Six miles south and I’m eating the daily special (spaghetti with meat sauce) and ordering up some pie.
When I got out of the restaurant the pain of seeing the ugly top case was eased when I saw how dark the sky was to the north. I stayed on the Minnesota side for a change of pace and headed north towards St Paul and home. Just south of Red Wing the black bottomed clouds let loose and the rain was on. I swung into a gas satiation to fill up and put on the rain suit. Back on the road I was happy, warm & dry and full of spaghetti and pie. For a half an hour or so.
What the hell is the deal with rain gear? It only works once or twice and then it just stops doing it’s job. I’ve carried this rain suit around with me for two years and hundreds of miles in several different states. It worked fine the first two times I used it and now it leaks all over the place. I rode around looking like a dork with a big ugly box on the back of my bike, lugging around a rain suit that doesn’t prevent water from soaking my clothes. It works great, until it doesn’t. No warning. That sucks. Not as bad as if it happened with a fire extinguisher or an epipen, but it chaps my ass.
On this ride I had on my mesh gear, because it was hot and humid. The rain suit I use is a two piece with long leg zippers so you can easily step into the pants standing in a gas station, or on the side of the road. My other riding jacket had a water proof outer shell, till it stopped working. The same goes for my formerly water proof riding pants. So, what ever I’m wearing I have to lug around a dedicated rain suit when ever I go for a ride on a cloudy day. I would like to go on the record and say that riding jackets and pants with a water proof liner are some of the stupidest things on the market. You have to take off your jacket and pants, in the rain, to put on your rain gear. Who thought that was a good idea?
So this rain suit will go in the trash and I’ll go buy another one. Just like I have to go and buy yet another pair of water proof gloves. All the “water proof” gloves I’ve bought have failed. 100% of them. Same goes for my $400+ dollar water proof boots. So it’s an entire segment of the motorcycle industry that is guaranteed to fail at some point, just when you need it. It’s 2017, rain and water were preexisting conditions for several billion years before humans came along. So how about we take one of the smart technicians and put them on developing a rain suit that works. Tell the slack jawed yokel who was working on them to go back to sweeping floors.
I can’t afford new riding boots every year. Nor can I pop for new jackets and pants annually. I hate that the $125 leather gloves I bought last year are now more hydroscopic than brake fluid or a beach towel. So it looks like I have to track down new rain gear that goes over my current riding gear and just buy it every year. Just like I pay for new license tabs and insurance every year. Maybe it’s lucky that only 2 to 3 percent of Americans ride motorcycles. It won’t be long till our landfills are choked full of crappy ass rain suits that are good for nothing.