Moto Culture

  • Winter Commuting, Winter Gear

    The last six or seven weeks have been unusually cold across most of the Midwest, and much of the rest of the USA too. It's been about six or seven degrees below seasonal norms here in Duluth, MN. Which doesn’t sound like that much but when it comes to winter riding the difference between thirty-five and twenty-three degrees is huge. Same for +17ºF and -2ºF.

    What works best for winter dressing depends on the specific riding application. For all-day low temp exposures have as much electric added-in heat as possible: Heated grips, saddle, jacket liner, etc. There is no substitute for adding heat for long rides in cold conditions. (Though I have seen old men on Gold Wings happily ride all day in freezing weather wearing huge puffy arctic-looking goose down parkas and sitting behind some of the most oversized accessory windshields imaginable, without using any electrical heat supplement. YMMV.)

    For commuting, everything depends on distance and speed. With a short commute (three to five miles) on surface streets, one can get by with very little, using the ‘thermos bottle effect'. A nice sweater and good gloves, bundle up completely before leaving a warm building to trap heat inside your layers and that’s it.

    To ride farther, and at highway speeds, requires some additional strategy to stay warm and comfortable, including several layers and some electrically heated gear. Starting with a combination of Merino wool, bamboo or synthetic base and mid-layers is the foundation for keeping you insulated and comfortable.

    Several Aerostich associates who ride regularly in cold weather plug-in the added warmth of Kanetsu electric gear. A WarmBib is the favorite, because it does such an amazing job of heating your core, in such a small and easy-to-wear package. It takes up almost no space inside your suit or jacket (in case you, um, may not have as much room for layering as you once did…). The WarmBib does a great job of blocking the wind too, and it stashes easily in a tank bag or cargo pocket so you can always carry it with you.

    Keeping out drafts is an essential part of staying warm in cold temps. There are many options available, from an original Cotton Bandana to a Breathguard mask, or Shellaclava Neckwarmer to an Aerostich Fleece Windtriangle. One of our favorites is an Aerostich Silk Scarf. Worn underneath your suit or jacket it wraps around your neck for comfortable softness and effectively seals out any cold air from leaking inside, especially with your jacket collar snugged up tight and the top of the scarf tucked in-place underneath the chin-strap of your helmet.

    Still looking for even more ways to add or retain heat? If you want to push your riding boundaries deep into freezing territory then consider adding heated grips or even a heated seat. Several versions of battery powered gloves are also available, giving you an hour or more of added heat and comfort with just the press of a button. We've also found that Triple Digit Glove Covers work great to not only keep your hands dry when riding in the rain, but they are a great wind blocking layer and help retain heat in your hands.

    Check out the selection of products below to extend your riding all winter. For additional cold weather tips, gear advice and stories, ask for a copy of Zero Below Zero, our account of the first all-winter Duluth electric motorcycle commute, and see how we did it.

    Products mentioned in this post:

  • The Economics Of Riding

    The Economics Of Riding

    Motorcycles ridden for everyday transportation was a normal part of my life growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. With high gas prices playing a factor, I have fond memories of both of my parents riding. Dad had a 500 Yamaha with an aftermarket fairing that he’d ride rain or shine to work everyday, and on weekends would let me swing a leg over the passenger seat for a scenic afternoon cruise on the backroads. Mom rode a Honda 125 that was formerly used by the Shriner’s to put on riding agility displays at local parades. She would use it to ride back and forth to her part-time job while us kids were in school, or to pick up a few groceries or run some errands. As a kid, I viewed riding a motorcycle as just a normal part of everyday life.

    By the time I was old enough to drive, my parents had sold both bikes (I suppose the logistics of shuttling 3 kids around played a part in that decision, but my Mom also said she felt like drivers were not paying attention to riders), and I ended up learning to drive on 4-wheels, but always with a thought about wanting to ride a motorcycle...someday.

    Someday came when I started working as part of the marketing team here at Aerostich. After some training and practice, I got my motorcycle endorsement in the Spring of 2009. Donning a new Hi-Viz Roadcrafter Classic one piece, I threw my leg over a borrowed 1971 Honda CB350 and never looked back as I established my roots as a dedicated daily rider.

    In the early Spring of 2010, I was offered a great deal on a lightly used, ’08 Kawasaki Versys, (that fit into the ‘bike budget’ I had been saving for) and logged the first ride of the season on March 11th, continuing to commute nearly every day that year through the end of November. Out of about 165 workdays during that timeframe, commuting on the new bike accounted for 145 of those days (with a few longer day trips and vacation riding days mixed in too). A quick run of the math proved that after the investment in the bike and riding gear, I was saving a fairly significant (to me anyway) amount of money by choosing to ride over driving a car too!

    With my Aerostich gear and a determined mind-set, 2012 allowed me to ride (at least a few days) every month this year – not always easily, but enjoyable every time – from below zero Duluth, MN temps in January and February to sweltering heat and humidity in July and August. Riding (anywhere), for me, is always the most versatile, practical and economical (not to mention fun), way to get from point A to B. Gas prices were jacked-up most of that year too, creating an even bigger savings.

    Flash forward another 5 years and I’m still riding the same Kawasaki (have changed the oil annually and put 2 sets of new tires and brake pads on it over the years) and wearing the same (road grimed) Hi-Viz one piece Roadcrafter Classic. The bike and gear have gotten very comfortable after over 7 years of use, not to mention that every mile and every day that I ride further adds to the long-term value of the investment in the motorcycle and riding gear. Every ride continues to save money over driving the car too. Looking at just the gas savings over the last several years, the economic benefits of riding become pretty easily apparent. The fact that riding gets me from A to B more efficiently, allows easier and more readily available parking options and is better on the environment is nice too. But the personal benefits from riding are where the real reward is. Anytime I ride somewhere, I arrive more alert, aware and ready to take on tasks at hand. If you choose to ride more I’m pretty sure that you would find similar results. Save money, feel energized and healthy and have way more fun!

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  • First Day Riding

    First Day Riding

    Today fellow employee, Randy, reluctantly gave up the keys to the company owned Zero for the weekend. After he gave an overview of the all-electric motorcycle I was perched on, I hopped off and let the thumping adrenaline in my ears subside. What an awesome feeling, I thought. What’s it going to be like when I ride it? That’s when Randy turned very serious.

    Our legendary wall of crashed Roadcrafter gear was hauntingly visible through the open overhead door as we stood outside talking. Randy didn’t pull any punches. He explained how cars like to turn left in front of motorcycles and the importance of assuming you’re invisible when riding. Then he motioned toward the empty lot across the street and suggested, or rather required, that I get the feel of riding there before heading home.

    Forcing myself back inside the Aerostich building for a final meeting before heading home, I pondered the enormity of the adventure ahead. Our company is in town and home is in the country, leaving no way to commute without riding through town, which has lots of scary cars. Getting 100% on the permit test yesterday gives me confidence – just need to block out flunking it four days ago.

    The following half hour meeting was the longest week I ever spent sitting in an office. Finally, I dashed down the stairs and got suited up for the initiation. As a kid I’d ridden a Yamaha TY 50, but not on the road, much. Now, a hand full of decades later, I steadied my flipping stomach, turned the key, then the throttle, and pulled from the curb over to the dirt lot and practiced for 15 minutes. Good enough. I was anxious to get on with it.

    At the second stop sign a pickup almost went out of turn, then the driver smiled sheepishly and waved me, slightly wobbling, through. Turning from the streets, I white nickeled it up to 50mph on the highway and was exhilarated by the wholly unexpected blast of air. Fifteen minutes later I made it to our driveway and was so grateful for the safe transit that I named the bike! Seeing the bike pull in, my wife looked alarmed. Then, recognizing parts of the dorky outfit I wore, she relaxed, looking bemused.

    After a good rest and a settling snack, I hopped back on the cool, light orange bike and rode to nearly every friend and neighbor I know within ten miles. The bike even made it slowly through the rutted muddy trail in the back field with just one minor dump, which my sons saw. But, we pounded and promised everlasting secrecy from mom, which lasted under 30 minutes.

    Country rides for tomorrow have been mapped, more surprised faces of friends imagined, and now I won’t be able to sleep. Louise (the bike not my wife) is charging up outside and waiting, pretty as a peach, for Saturday to dawn.

  • What’s In Your Tank Bag?

    What's In Your Tank Bag?

    There are essentially just two kinds of tank bags: The emptyish ones for varying day-to-day commuting loads and full-ish ones that have been loaded and equipped specifically for long distances and all-day-plus rides. Over the past thirty years I’ve assembled several of the latter type and even though each has been assembled with slightly different components, a few commonalities exist. 1. Flashlights/headlamps. 2. Cutting, pliering and screwing tools. 3. Scarves, bandana’s and rain glove covers. 4. Maps and guides. 5. Cameras, radios and electronic items. 6. Spare bike-specific small parts. 7. First Aid items. 8. Snack foods.

    All seems pretty simple, but details matter a lot when you are far from home. Here is one example of a tank bag setup for use on a 2007 BMW R1200 R…

    Row one, left to right, across the top. The bag itself is an old California-made Rev-Pac, made by a guy named Jim Revely, a firefighter who retired decades ago to make motorcycle luggage and run a motorcycle resort in a friendly small California town called New Cayuma. It’s somewhere in the middle of practically nowhere, and the resort, called the Song Dog Ranch is still there but is no longer operating as a motorcycle resort. Maybe he still makes bags? This one is the Tank-Pack Jr, the smaller of the two available sizes. I just like how it fits me and my bike. Not too large or too small, and like the temperature of the porridge in ‘The Three Bears’ children’s story this bag is just right for me in size, shape and configuration. I’m on my third one. But I digress…

    The front of this bag has a full-width external pocket just large enough for a pair of sunglasses if the case isn’t too thick, so that’s where my Rx sunglasses ride. The entire map window lifts up from the rear revealing a central zipper from the back up to the front of this bag. When this map case is Velcroed down at the rear there’s just enough room for a lightweight Aerostich ball-style cap (#658 $16), which goes onto my bald head the moment my helmet comes off. At the base where the bottom meets the sides, about in the middle front-to-back, and on both sides I’ve added two little webbing loops from which I attach a lightweight bungee (#944-943 $14) that goes over the top of the map window. This helps hold the map window down over the cap and gives me a place to put my riding gloves at gas stops.

    On the right side of the top sunglasses’ pocket clips a little waterproof flashlight on-a-leash (#887 $21) for those after dark riding situations when I’m able to unclip it to read a map or check anywhere on the bike…while rolling. Or not. On the other end of this pocket an old-fashioned wax-lead grease pencil (#2340 $15) that I’m able to un-holster while rolling and which is used to write temporary ‘memory jog’ messages or the license numbers of rude cars directly onto the map case window. Later the wax just rubs away with a windshield cleaning paper towel from a gas station.

    On the left side of the bag is a RAM mount ball (#6284 $7), about two thirds of the way up the side. On the inside of the bag is an “L” shaped aluminum strap from a hardware store which stabilizes the ball nicely whenever the bag is pretty full, which it normally is. The RAM ‘dog bone’ clamp (#6228 $13) is the shortest one available and on top is another RAM ball which is attached to a little clear plastic platform about the size of a playing card. On top is usually either a battery powered AM-FM radio (#3916 $50), an iPhone or a battery-powered radar detector.

    Next is a small umbrella. Living and traveling on a bike is a guarantee that you’ll be spending time either standing around a wet campfire or walking somewhere (or with someone) in the rain. Carrying an umbrella also reduces the likelihood of encountering rain by at least 82%. Guaranteed. Try it.

    Below the umbrella is a lightweight cable lock (#1011 $19) and a piece of webbing that can be clipped to two of the tank bag’s mounting clips to allow you to carry it over one shoulder like a messenger bag. The lightweight lock is rarely used…to secure a jacket, helmet or riding suit from growing a pair of legs and then walking away from some seedy location. I can’t remember the last time I used it. Normally all the gear and helmet come with me if the location is even slightly questionable, or out of sight.

    The tank bags rain cover is next to the umbrella and gets used lots. Even if it’s only slightly threatening rain it’s nice to be ‘ready’ and not have to stop. With smartphone animated weather-radar apps this kind of forecasting is simple.

    Triple Digit raincovers (#442 $47) go into my Darien Jacket’s side-entry pockets to be similarly ‘ready’ if rain is anticipated. If the road is straight and smooth and there’s not much traffic I can take them off and put them on without stopping, but it’s nothing I’d recommend, because it involves a very wide empty road and a lot of room to wobble back and forth between the lines attempting to steer with knees only. Google ‘counter steering’ and you’ll find dozens of explanations why this is tough. Takes more than a mile but I’ve never actually paid attention enough to really know. It’s always too long and too risky and a relief when the switch is done.

    The little titanium flask (#4445 $74) holds scotch. Nothing as fancy as the container. Just enough to get drunk once, or mildly high twice. Or to share around a campfire with friends. Or to drink as you are lying near death on the side of some lonely road somewhere beyond the middle of nowhere and its pitch dark after a terrible crash when you’ve just killed some stupidly innocent deer. When I was younger this was a plastic flask (#2014-2015 $4) which held a little more and cost a lot less. Who says you get smarter when you are older?

    The navy blue zippered pouch is a self-storing ultra-ultra–light hooded rain parka that adds a windproof under suit layer on a cold day and is also good for walkabouts on cool or wet evenings and mornings.

    The silk scarf (#1549 $27) is great on super hot days when wetted and on cold ones when dry. Provides slippery neck comfort in any conditions, so you don’t need to close your collar quite as strangulatingly close around your neck. Which is nice.

    The playing cards are like the scotch in the flask. For whenever one might be stuck somewhere waiting for something to happen. Like a tent when it’s raining or under a picnic shelter. As long as there’s someone around to share your misery of not riding, cards work as time-passers.

    Row two, left to right, begins with the little bungee cord that goes across the top of the tank bag’s map window and the earplug speakers (#3134 $69) that are usually looped around the bungee when they’re not in my ears. Just below is a short coily cord (#2313-2353 $5) which connects to either the radar detector or the iPhone or the radio.

    A short canister of bear spray (#3563 $19 ) in a little Aerostich envelope bag (#738 $11) for safety at night in a little tent, from both quadrapedal and bipedal intruders. Never had to use it. Just being superstitious and thinking about Murphy’s Law. Needs to be replaced every year for fullest potency.

    The little stainless folding poo trowel (#1584 $11) is more than for superstition and means you can stealth camp and hide your and poo just about anywhere you want. Which is nice. There’s enough TP at least one poo, and when more is needed it’s available at the next gas stop. Which hopefully has clean rest rooms so you don’t need the trowel-squat experience in the first place. But if and when you do, there’s no substitute for carrying one of these.

    First aid kit (#1767 $25) Do I really need to explain? This is another ‘Murphy’s Law’ item. If you carry it, you’ll never need to use it. Next to this the little bottle contains some aspirin, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, etc. Various over the counter pills which can be identified visually. Having a headache when you want to do some riding really sucks. And if you want the fastest headache relief possible teach yourself to grind up a straight aspirin tablet with your molars. Chew it to dust. That’s what ‘headache powders’ were in the 1800’s, before tablets were invented. This brings relief much faster if you can stand the momentary mouth bitterness. A swig of water helps wash it down but isn’t absolutely needed once you are used to doing it. Your salivation will be triggered which quickly takes care of this. Some riders take an over-the-counter joint and muscle pain med pre-emptively and swear this helps reduce discomfort and fatigue during long hard ride days. Definitely makes a difference you'll feel.

    Miscellaneous items within a zippered Chase Harper ‘junk’ pouch (#979 $12): High end Japanese-made lighter/mini-blowtorch (#2509 $47), Mini USB power adapter, 12 v to 5v (#3158 $20), Spare key for 3' motorcycle lock (#1153 $20), Mini liquid filled compass on Velcro strap, Space Pen (#2315 $20), Pencil tire gauge (#3550 $7), spare throttle lock (#1774 $49) in case installed version (#1893 $37 fails, Neutrogena rub on SPF 30 Sunscreen (#2084-2085 $6), pocket change and currency, Mini Carabiner (#4024 $7)

    Bottom Row, left to right. Aerostich microfiber hat (#658 $12) carried under map window for fast deployment.

    Small blue Aerostich envelope bag (#738 $11) With spare ear plugs (#1274 $3) and face shield cleaning kit (#1051 $25)

    Small purple Aerostich envelope bag with spare 12v power cord, spare audio cords, smaller Aerostich envelope bag with spare earplug speakers.

    Medium size Aerostich envelope bag with AM/FM/Weather radio (#3916 $50) and related cords and connectors.

    Near the back opening of the tank bag, loose items include a spare tail light or turn signal bulb (#4896 $59) in an old 35mm film canister, a Spyderco folding knife (#2410 $73), a Petzl headlamp (#8241 $27) and a pepper spray self-defense tool (#4623 $35) which is supposed to be transferred from the tank bag to an easy-to-reach place on my riding suit, but I always forget to do this.

    A green Aerostich envelope bag carries a mini-multimeter (#2939 $14) and a small blue Aerostich envelope bag (#738 $11) carries some spare batteries.

    Last but-not-least, a yellow zippered Chase Harper bag contains a few jerry-rig repair items that don’t fit anywhere else. A spare CBT boot strap -- I think this is the very last one. I needed one once about ten years ago and have not needed another one since. Murphy’s Law again? Since these are no longer available, we make a strap repair kit (#418 $24) and if I didn’t have this strap, I’d carry one of these. Also in this pouch are a mini roll of duct tape (#756 $6), a short piece of insulated wire, some straps cut out of a motorcycle inner tube, a spare adjustable bungee hook, a spare side release buckle, a stick from a hot melt glue gun that is useful with the mini-torch listed above, a GI can opener (#2068 $4) and simpler model Leatherman multi tool (#3671 $55) and a mini Aerostich bag (#720 $11) with a few bike fuses, I think.

    That about covers it. The total of the items purchased from Aerostich comes to around $1000 which is what can happen if one gets carried away. On the other hand, most of this stuff was purchased incrementally over a dozen year period. I’ve made three different pre-set up tank bags similarly and this one is for the bike I currently ride on trips. The others are less elaborate. Do you really want to know? One is for an old Airhead I rode for twenty years and the other is for a little 620 Ducati I kept remotely for winter season riding in the Southwest mostly.

    What’s in your Tank bag?

    – Mr. Subjective, 6-17

    PS - Our company motto in latin translated as ‘better late than never’ could not feel more true. Which is how I feel about this video. I know part of it is that I’ve personally grown emotionally and psychologically in the past several years and this stuff is less important to me now than it was ten years ago. I loved figuring out all the little logistics stuff to the point of being obsessive. Nowadays it feels old (and so am I) and it doesn’t seem as important anymore. But I’m glad we captured the obsessiveness of it all before entropy takes over and these details fade away a little more. I’ll always be OCDish about lots of different stuff, but can’t quite imagine going back and doing this all over again from scratch another time.

    The two tank bags featured in these two videos, and the smaller one for the bike I once kept in Arizona, are the most recently built tank bags, but before these three were several others starting back in the early 1980’s. The first one was a huge multi-level Chase Harper bag, modified to be even larger with a custom-made map-case ‘office’ attached to the top. It was so big it was practically a fairing. Each successive bag got a little smaller and the contents became more focused.

    From the beginning one thing all of these bags had and have in common was some way of mounting an audio source or radar detector (or both) to the top left side where it could be easily operated while moving with my left hand. The first item there was a Sony ‘Outback’ ruggedized AM FM Cassette player, and I usually carried half a dozen or more cassettes on most trips. The first attached is a photo of this setup from about 1986 showing a radar detector just below an AM-FM reciever. Also attached is a still from the setup I used for about fifteen years beginning in the early-90’s, which featured several items mounted to a Lexan platform that had some aluminum struts beneath that fit into slots on both sides of the bag, and lastly a couple of screen grabs from the video of the RAM mount that is on my current tank bag.

    1986 Setup
    Early 90's setup
    RAM Ball Mount


    RAM mount - interior
    RAM mount

    Read the 2017 catalog online, all 298 pages

  • The 2017 Iron Butt Rally started in Minneapolis 6/26

    These photos are of some of the 105 competitors getting ready for the start of this 11,000 mile event. This event takes place every other year. Not sure we will be back to capture images of the riders returning from this challenging ride, but hope you enjoy these photos of some of the riders getting ready to depart!

    Follow the progress of the riders by going to

    To view a selection of gear to make your long distance riding more comfortable, check out our Endurance Rider Guide.

  • 8 Tips For Beating The Heat

    Rand Rassumusen, SEDALIA:

    A Primer Focused Mostly, but not Exclusively, on Riding and Camping in the Heat

    One-Hundred-and-ten degrees. Fahrenheit! That’s what the thermometer affixed to my windshield says. Of course, that’s in the direct sunlight; but then, so am I. I mean, really, why would a motorcycle rider care what the temperature is in the shade? Late on this Missouri July afternoon the heat bears down on me with an almost physical weight. Even so, I can still tell when a blast of air has first made its way past a cylinder, and collected it’s extra heat before swooping up my leg and under my helmet carrying an extra furnace blast. I haven’t ridden in this kind of heat for a while—if ever. But it’s okay; I came prepared for exactly this. I had made my decision that I was going to attend the BMW MOA National this year, in Sedalia, MO heat be damned and, anyway, I know how to ride in heat.

    TIPS for Beating the Heat:

    Andy Goldfine, proprietor at Aerostich, is fond of saying that, when riding in heat (or cold for that matter) a rider must strive to create a “micro-climate.” That is, a smaller, more hospitable personal ecology in which to ride. People who live in desert nations have understood this for millennia, and it is the reason that we always see desert-dwellers in heavy clothing—which seems counter-intuitive, but is backed-up by much objective science and many years of experience. So, I revert to my own experience riding in heat. I drink lots—actually forcing water, juice and Gatorade; I re-wet my long-sleeved cotton T-shirt at every stop, and I wear a jacket to control the evaporation of my shirt. Controlled evaporation is the key to staying cooler longer. If you wet your t-shirt and wear nothing over it, it will feel really good…for about 10 minutes. But if you mute the evaporative effect with an over-jacket, and venting, you will feel quite-a-bit cooler for an hour or more. That is one of the reasons Aerostich suits are built the way they are, with so many venting options. I have also resorted, at times, to filling the pockets of my Aerostich with ice (a tip learned from my wife, Susan) and sucking on the remaining cubes for as long as they last. But, despite the forge-like heat, I seem to be okay with more basic measures today.

    As important as the physical adjustments a rider must make when the riding conditions are uncomfortable, is a positive mental attitude. Pirsig was right when he contended that focusing on the discomfort, or worse, complaining, helps no one, and just makes it worse for everyone. I knew what I was getting into before I ever decided to attend this rally, and I chose to come anyway; so I have no one to blame but myself. Anyway, I am very much enjoying the ride—heat and all. My bike seems always to have a positive attitude, no matter the conditions. Right now, for instance. I am running up-hill at 75MPH, pulling my trailer in 110 degree heat, with nary a burp or stutter from the motor, and with speed and power to spare. It makes me wonder how this little 650cc motor can withstand this kind of heat and use. And not just to withstand it, but to handle it. I take a gas break/rest stop at the north end of St. Joseph, MO, and go through my routine: fill the tank, use the rest room, re-soak my shirt and buy lots to drink. If not almost to the rally site, I am at least close. It has been a good ride so far…

    Tip #2 for Beating the Heat:

    What you eat significantly affects how much heat you produce. If it is hot, avoid high fat foods like meats and cheeses and go for foods with higher water content, like fruits and salads. I have to admit that I violate this rule all of the time and just order whatever I am in the mood for, but it’s worth bearing in mind if heat is a real problem for you. Also, as good as a cold beer might taste with your lunch on a hot day, it’s not really a good choice. Even setting aside the drinking and driving aspect, alcohol is a diuretic and dries you out more quickly. Tea too (although, again, I often have it for lunch despite my own sage advice.). If you get bored with plain water, fruit juices or club soda gives you a little variety and still gives you needed water. Club soda cuts cotton-mouth better than anything else I know of. I like Gatorade and its ilk occasionally, but the regular stuff has a lot of sugar.

    At St. Joseph, MO I turn eastward toward Chillicothe. This allows me to circumvent the entire Kansas City metro, and do some other-than-freeway riding for a while. Heading east in the late afternoon, feels no cooler, so I employ another mental technique for beating discomfort; I simply force my mind to concentrate on things other than how uncomfortably hot I am. It can be done. I sing, compose, or think of my grandchildren or other pleasantries to distract myself. Thirty-six, while not exactly a rural road, is nice and rolling, and passes through several small Missouri towns. At Chillicothe I stop for fresh ice for the cooler, several gallon jugs of water, and some groceries. Another reason I like to tow my trailer to rallies: lots of room for groceries.

    Tip #3 for Beating the Heat:

    In the original insulated plastic cooler I had bolted onto the tongue of my trailer, the ice would be gone in just a few hours in hot weather. So, I replaced my original cooler with a larger insulated plastic cooler so I would have room to add an inner, collapsible nylon cooler. With the nylon cooler inside of the larger one, my ice now lasts from 12-24 hours depending on how hot it is. You can also increase your cold factor by freezing all your bottles of drinking water on the night before you leave home. If you save empties you can fill them at your home faucet and save a lot of money. Trust me: if you take one out and put it in your bottle holder it will quickly melt enough to drink—too quickly, as far as I am concerned.

    Arriving a day early to a rally has several advantages. The registration process is a breeze, with no lines whatever. Choice camping sites are also easier to come by. After registering, I talk to Dan about where he is camped. I follow him, but just until I come to a large, shady tree. By scoping out the directions, I calculate that a correctly placed tent will be out of the sun from mid-morning through the entire rest of the day. For the next 20 minutes I talk with Dan and busy myself with the dozens of small details of making camp. Here again, experience pays off when dealing with heat: my tent has 100% mesh uppers. And that means with the rain fly rolled up and tied off I am sleeping in a screen tent which, I guaran-damn-tee is a lot cooler than a regular tent with breathable nylon uppers..

    Tip #4 for Beating the Heat:

    If you are in the market for a new tent, I would strongly suggest buying one with mesh uppers. If you are devoted to your old tent, but are good with a sewing machine, or if you know someone who is, some tents can be fairly easily converted to mesh uppers, without in any way compromising their weather resistance.

    After my complaints about the heat and humidity at last year’s rally at Chippewa Falls, Susan bought me a small “tent fan.” These attach to the tent using a magnet on the outside to hold the fan on the inside. Tonight is my first use of the fan. What a small miracle! This is not a wind tunnel; but it does provide just enough moving air to keep me comfortable. Its performance is greatly improved by the fact that because of the mesh uppers it is pulling in cooler air in rather than just re-circulating the hot, humid air present inside a normal tent. We’ll see how long the single “D” battery lasts. I brought spare batteries just in case.

    Sometime about two in the morning I awaken to thunder, and I can see flashes of lightening in the western sky, but I decide that I am not deploying the rain fly unless it starts actually raining, as to do so would obviate the advantages of this tent. I thus go back to sleep and remain so until morning. When I wake up, the fan is still running. Although I never had to cover up during the night, I was comfortable enough to sleep. That alone was an improvement on last year.

    Tip #5 for Beating the Heat:

    If you attach your rain fly on one side, and roll it up, you can sleep cooler, and it still only takes a minute to deploy if rain threatens.

    Tip #6 for Beating the Heat:

    As obvious as it sounds, the colder the drink and the less you move, the cooler you will stay. Therefore, when I get back to my tent I set-up my sunshade. I take my umbrella and mount it to my fairing with mini bunjis. This gives me 4’ of nice shade in which to sit. And as Colin Fletcher (in his book The Complete Walker) describes it, that little patch of shade makes the difference between hell and, well, something a comfortable half-hitch short of hell. Then I break out cans of cold club soda and start reading my books.

    Tip #7 for Beating the Heat:

    If, like me, you enjoy (or at least can hack) getting up in the pre-dawn hours, you can sometimes beat much of the day’s heat. If the trip is short enough, you can be home and napping before the real heat starts coming on at noon. I know some riders who break the day into to riding halves, with a long afternoon hiatus in between. Just before crossing the Mojave, my friends Matt and Joanne Butler rented a hotel room at noon, and napped, read, watched TV, and swam until 10:00p.m. before checking out and starting their ride. Matt told me it was worth the money!

    I awaken Sunday morning at 2:15. It takes about 20 minutes to pack all of my junk into the trailer. As promised I would make sure Andy knew when I was leaving, so I drive as close to his tent as I can without actually running over his head. I smile into my helmet as I think of him good-naturedly cursing me in his tent. As I connect with north 65 I am surprised at the amount of traffic still on the road in Sedalia, including another rally-goer leaving north on 65. About five miles out of town I pass him/her, and we ride in tandem the 15 miles up to I-70, where she/he goes east and I go west. It feels good cruising along in the pre-dawn hours. Watching the day come on is one of my favorite things to do as a rider. The air, while not exactly cool, is some 30 degrees better than it will be this afternoon, and I am determined to get as far as I can, as early as I can. This is as much psychological as it is physical; if I don’t make some real miles early in the day, I feel like I am behind all day. I take the 435 around KC and connect with I-29 N., with dawn coming on.

    By 11:30, when I reach Sioux Falls, my thermometer shows 101 degrees, and it feels like it! I buy gas and then drop into an Erberts & Gerberts for a cold sandwich and an air-conditioned rest. As I eat and read, I am also subconsciously preparing for four more hours in 100-plus degree heat. And with that in mind, I go willingly—rather than reluctantly--back out into the heat where my ever-faithful R-65 waits. Across the lot, in the shade of a bank, there is a sinister looking dude eyeing my bike. It occurs to be that he might be casing the banjo strapped to the top of my trailer. I don’t know if that is right, but I do notice that he moseys off as soon as I come out.

    Tip #8 for Beating the Heat:

    Sunburned lips are no joke so keep your high SPF lip balm where you can frequently apply it both on and off the bike. The high SPF lip stuff can be hard to find at C-stores, so we always lay in an ample supply whenever we find it in stock, until we have so much of it that I can always find a tube around the house. Always wear a brimmed or visored cap in the sun. I keep mine right in my tank bag and don it as soon as I stop if I am going to spend any time in the sun.

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