Half the price.
by Denny Schmidt
After we waste the majority of our incomes on things like utilities, mortgage payments and groceries, many of us are forced to tour without one of those expensive two-wheeled wonders with cavernous storage spaces, barndoor sized windscreens and plug-ins for heaters, intercoms, microwave ovens and other household appliances. My main touring ride is a mildly customized 1972 CB750. The old bike is fitted with a windscreen that keeps most of the bugs, birds, and miscellaneous airborne debris off my expensive touring sweatshirt. Although my trips are confined to touring around the midwest, you may be able to benefit from my experience regardless of your touring geography.
Don’t plan on impressing folks with your trendy, immaculate, wrinkle-free threads. All you really need is two sets of clothes. There is one exception. If there are any of those steel grate bridges along your intended route, you may want to take an extra pair of under shorts &endash; two pairs if you plan to return by the same route. When one set of clothes begins to exceed all limits of personal hygiene, just zip into the nearest laundromat.
Rain suits…should I or shouldn’t I? I’ve given up on the things myself. I got caught in a rainstorm and pulled into one of those small tourist town gas stations that offer live bait, dehydrated pizza and everything for the sportsman. I sloshed around the store until I found the outdoor clothing section. I was in luck. With tourist season in full bloom they were promoting their $9.95 two-piece plastic rain suit for $19.99. They also had some $4.95 green plastic ponchos on sale for $10.00. No ponchos for me, thanks. I tried that once and didn’t get into fourth gear before the stupid thing blew up around my face, so I handed the clerk some soggy money for the rain suit. He looked me up and down and remarked, “kinda like closing the barn door after the horse runs away, ain’t it?” I remembered the slogan, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” and did not respond.
Under the shelter of the gas pump canopy I slipped into my new rain suit, poured a pint of water out of each boot and hit the road. Five miles later I looked down to discover that the engine had melted a big hole in the right leg. The meltdown had impacted the structural integrity of the fabric, and it began to shred in the wind. I ended my riding day with a head cold and a half pair of rain pants. You don’t need a rain suit. Eventually you’ll ride out of the rain, and your clothes will dry out. You may even postpone a trip to the laundromat.
Windy days can take some of the fun out of riding. If you have a propensity toward growing nose hair, you may want to make sure each nostril is well trimmed before you head out. An unrelenting cross-wind can play havoc with untrimmed nose hair. This can be quite dangerous, as the normal reaction is to take your left hand off the grip to determine the nature of the disturbance. (This may have been the origination of what we now know as the cyclists’ wave.) Once while crossing Iowa, my nose hair became entangled with some stray mustache hair. This pulled my upper lip into an unnatural sneer. I wonder if this contributed to the rash of Elvis sightings in Des Moines last June.
Whether you wear a closed face, open face, or handkerchief helmet, you may want to consider taking some earplugs. They helped when I was stuck in traffic next to a car full of teenagers with one of those thumper things playing what passes for music these days. Oh, and the plugs work OK for reducing wind noise, which contributes to feelings of fatigue at the end of the day.
Never, ever, ride while wearing bell bottoms or shoes with excessively long laces. I remember riding around the block several times before I could stop because my shoe laces were caught on the brake pedal and my pants leg was caught on the opposite foot peg. If I had been low on fuel, I would have had to locate a soft place to fall down.
On arriving home from a tour the owners of the luxury touring rigs often spend hours cleaning the bugs and dirt from their mounts. Us low budget types take just a few minutes to wipe off our glasses, shave off the insect encrusted whiskers and pop the old touring sweatshirt in the laundry. Low budget touring, twice the fun, half the price. Anyway that’s what I keep telling myself.