Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Becoming a Pillion and Gearing Up for an Adventure Ride!

The first 9 years of my life were spent in the Philippines, playing with the neighborhood kids outdoors when all the studying was done. Then we moved to the US, specifically, Santa Cruz County. I grew up loving the outdoors: the beach, the trees, the mountains, the fresh air and the sounds of nature. I also love sports, ALL forms (golf, baseball, football, bowling, archery, volleyball, running, soccer, hockey, basketball, chess, and the list goes on and on). I enjoy spectating, supporting it and participating in it. Given my love for the outdoors and love of all sports, it was only natural for me to get into BMX, biking and mountain biking.

I had always wanted both a Harley (Sportster and probably custom for my size) and a dirt bike (suitable for my size as well).  I wanted a Harley because these machines are just beautiful works of art! I always wanted one with custom paint featuring Wonder Woman whom I grew up emulating as a child. I wanted a dirt bike because I enjoy being out in nature's trails where mere cars can't reach! Because I am 4'11' and 90 lbs, I was always told "no way", "you can't ride those", "you're too small", etc.. I understood and accepted the safety reasons and I understood that my size would indeed be challenging, but my size being a deterrent? Well, I just don't accept that. I am still going to have my Harley and/or a dirt bike some day, soon, but until then, I am happy to be a Pillion. :-)

In mid-July I decided to join my boyfriend on an Adventure Ride in September along the COBDR & UTBDR with a stop at the KTM Rally in Steamboat Springs in between. Now that that's been decided (and when I decide something, it's pretty much set), it was time for me to gear up and I only had 1 month to get it done! I knew the task of finding gear to "fit" me was going to be challenging, I just didn't realize how daunting it would be. Here are the gears I found and I am extremely happy with and would recommend every single purchase.

HELMET: Shoei RF-1100
I needed a very comfortable and high performance helmet that reduced outside and wind noise effectively and, of course, provided solid head protection. It was recommended that I look into dual sport helmets, but riding as a Pillion, I didn't want to worry about hitting the back of my boyfriend's helmet with the front face peaks (forehead and mouth peaks). Based on reviews online, many read specs and dry fits, I decided to go with the Shoei RF-1100.

Performance Result: I just got back from the 2 week long September Adventure Ride and this helmet performed amazingly! It is incredibly comfortable! I had no pressure points anywhere. The XXS size is a perfect fit, and for me, I did not feel the need to wear ear plugs, at all.

BOOTS: Fox Racing Comp 5 MX Boots
Since these boots were going to be used for adventure riding through woods, rocks, mud, sand and water, I needed very comfortable boots that offered high coverage (over the shins), solid protection, waterproof and FIT well. Given my small feet size, the only options I was able to find were Alpinestars and Fox. I decided on the Fox Racing Comp 5 MX Boots, Youth Size, because there was no need to break them in... they were comfortable as soon as I put them on, just as advertised. The lower portion of the boots halfway up the shin is waterproof.

Performance Result: Impressive! These boots were battle tested and they exceeded all my expectations! I had to put quite a bit of effort in securing a couple of the latches but it was worth the effort knowing they were firmly secured and not going anywhere. They were comfortable all day and all night. And most importantly, they kept my feet warm and dry!

GLOVES: Fox Bomber Glove and Motoport Kevlar Racing Glove
I initially purchased the Fox Bomber Gloves and while I thought they were great, I wanted to have a bit better wind/draft protection and coverage beyond my hands that extended over my wrists. I found Motoport's Kevlar Racing Gloves during my search for a Jacket & Pant.

Performance Result: The Fox Bomber Gloves (pictured left) are light, compact, offered good protection and I would use them on a hot summer day. The Motoport Kevlar Racing Glove (pictured right) offered good protection but was a bit larger than the Fox Bomber Gloves. I chose to wear the Motoport gloves on the Adventure Ride because it covered my wrists and it kept my hands warm and dry during our recent rides in Colorado which were rainy and cold. Although, I must say as a Pillion, that it was much easier to use a camera with the Fox Bomber Gloves on. I am very happy with both and will utilize them according to the conditions.

Motoport's Marathon Kevlar Jacket and Ultra II Kevlar Pant
The jacket and pant had to be strong, light weight, comfortable, waterproof, windproof, high performing, protective, breathable and dare I say stylish. This was the most difficult task of them all and after much researching and fitting, I ultimately ended up going with a custom order. My boyfriend had been asking around the ADV Rider community as well as his group of rider friends for recommendations and we got a tip about Motoport and the outstanding work Wayne Boyer does with their gears. This is a bit more detailed of a write up given the custom nature of the order and I hope it helps others who are doing their own bit of research.

Ordering Process: I contacted Motoport on 8/5/13 and they were very friendly, helpful and informative. I told them the type of riding I would be doing and that I was new to the sport. I gave them my measurements and from there they were able to provide me with gear recommendations. Most importantly, I told them I was under a tight deadline and needed the gears by no later than the last week of August - so both a custom and a rush order. They confirmed they would be able to accommodate the rush order for a price - a price that was worth paying IMO.

I researched the type of jacket and pant I wanted and what colors I would want and any extras and stuck with Wayne's recommendations. I went with the basic black and the standard reflective package. Per the website = "Note: All the new black Stretch Kevlar is made with a new invention called "Cold Black". The new black color made with this Cold Black stays 15 Degrees cooler than the previous black color. When touching the material it  actually feels cold. The Cold Black is in the dye of the material and will always work."

I went to a tailor to get my measurements as well as took them on my own which rendered 2 different results in certain areas, should've just skipped the tailor. I submitted my final order on 8/8/13 along with my measurements. I contacted Wayne to confirm receipt and to see if he had any questions about the measurements I provided. I told him how I got 2 different results from my own and from a tailor. Based on his experience, he was comfortable with the numbers I provided him. I asked him more questions about the armor and what he would recommend for me. Here is my final custom and rush order:
  • Marathon Kevlar Jacket
    • Zipper to Connect
    • Marathon 2 Part Jacket Liner with zip out Thermoloft Insulation 
  • Ultra II Kevlar Pant
    • Zipper to Connect
    • Hip Pads
    • Sacrum Tri-Armor
    • Pant Liner
  • Kevlar Racing Glove 
  • Nylon Overboot = just in case 
  • Nylon Overmitten = just in case

Performance Result: W-O-W! First off, the order came in early! Second, it all FIT! And lastly, in the short amount of time that I've had the jacket and pant, I've logged roughly 2,500 miles as a Pillion in the course of just a 2 day/overnight prep ride to/in Mendocino, CA and over a 2 week Adventure Ride along the COBDR & UTBDR with a stop at the KTM Rally in Steamboat Springs in between and throughout the rides the gears performed well beyond my expectations!

I felt great. I felt good. I felt sexy. I felt safe. I felt protected. I felt like a tank. I felt like a sexy tank! I felt warm when I needed to be warmed during our rides in Colorado. I stayed dry while it rained and after going through plenty of water crossings. I felt cool when I needed to be cooled during our rides in Utah in the heat. I felt comfortable. I was a HAPPY PILLION! I strongly recommend Motoport and their products. The comfort and performance of their gear has truly helped acclimate me with ease into the sport of Adventure Riding. Their gears made my introduction rides that much more enjoyable and well worth every penny!

As a Pillion, I would be remiss if I didn't address the next three topics of Seat Comfort, Footing and Communication. In addition to my write up, I also reached out to the ADV Rider community for guidance and the thread can be found in this link: New Gal to Adventure Riding. It is in this community that I got the following recommendations from fellow riders and pillions as well as other helpful tips, advice and encouragement.

SEAT COMFORT: Original Airhawk Seat Cushion
I purchased the Airhawk "Cruiser Pillion" size and I am so glad I did! Not once did my buttocks ever feel any type of discomfort whatsoever! Thank you baka1969 for the great recommendation! I also wore bike riding shorts for the extra padding and comfort - highly recommend!

This is a cheap but highly effective modification to the passenger foot peg on the bike. My boyfriend drilled and installed some grub screws in the passenger pegs to give me additional grip off-road. This was fantastic as I could use my legs better as leverage to minimize sliding forward and maximize staying centered on the bike at all times!  Thank you LittleWan for this awesome modification advice!

COMMUNICATION: Sena Bluetooth Headset & Intercom
This was another great investment! Thank you again LittleWan for the recommendation! We were always able to communicate with each other and be on the same page which made me feel like a part of the ride as I heard his every thoughts and reactions (good and bad). Having the ability to hear his tone coupled with the feel of his body and the bike as we rode and what I could see up ahead, I was able to anticipate and react more quickly to the conditions, whether it be standing up as we rode over rocks to leaning back as we descended. Communication is key in everything!

I hope my write up on the gears above have helped you as you research your own gear needs and run your own preparations. This is all new to me and I am by no means an expert rider, but these are the gears that worked for me and made my introduction to the sport an absolute pleasure, a sentiment that will surely last. If you have any questions, comments, feedback, please feel free to chime in keeping it family friendly. I am going to be posting about my recent adventures soon where I will talk about, in more detail, the organization and camping aspects of these Adventure Rides and my approach and the measures I took to keep things organized and efficient.

Until next time, have a great ride!

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." ~ Mother Teresa