Book Review

The RiderWearhouse Catalog
by Andy Goldfine and the Aero In-House Design Team

reviewed by Bob Stokstad

(excerpts from this review appeared in the June, 2005 issue of City Bike)

It came today.  I never know exactly when to expect it.  But suddenly it was there on the pile of mail on the dining room table when I got home from work.  I grabbed it and started turning pages, but before long I had to take it with me to that little reading room where the last few issues of City Bike are kept close at hand.  Great literature has this effect on me.

The coming of the Aerostich Catalog is a rite of spring, artfully timed, I suspect, for the arrival of motorcycling weather in the Midwest.  It’s the time of year when folks will add another gadget or gizmo to their riding paraphernalia – something they never knew they needed until the Catalog arrived.  I suppose some riders will even order a ‘stich from the catalog.  (I like to get a new one every ten years and am about ready for the third.)  I expect most people, however, will just start browsing to see what’s been added since last year, what new pearls of wisdom will be cast before us, which exotic destinations will be pictured with the Suit in the foreground.  A fat glossy catalog that’s fun to read is not a bad thing, so let’s have a look at what Andy Goldfine and his staff in Duluth have included in this 195-page edition.
'89 Catalog
There are seven sections, beginning with “Aerostich Suit,” the company’s famous core product, and ending with “Sundry” – books, videos and toys for happy campers. There’s a broad range of practical and protective things to wear in the first two sections.  Besides the expected boots, gloves, helmets, suits and such you’ll find, for example, a line of “microfiber” dress clothing and a nostalgia riding jacket called the Falstaff, which is made of that British invention, waxed cotton.  And in case you’re wondering how the latter fares in a crash, the accompanying text reports,  “…the abrasion resistance of waxed cotton (when compared to the Darien’s 500 denier cordura) is better than you’d think.”   Still wondering?

Moving onward through the color-coded sections you’ll encounter an eclectic assemblage that reminds you of Cycle Gear, REI, Ace Hardware, Radio Shack, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney and the in-flight shopping magazine on your favorite airline.  There’s a big difference, however: the stuff in Andy’s catalog is high quality only and, of course, has at least a remote connection to your passion for two-wheeled travel.  How remote?  Well, I wear a watch (pp.136-140) when I ride, boxer shorts, too (p. 42).  I use batteries (p. 144) in my GPS (pp. 114-119), wear a cool t-shirt (pp. 54-57), enjoy espresso (p. 99) and beef jerky (p. 112), and take along glue and duct tape (p. 168) for repairs.  When I get off the bike at the end of the day I like a camp chair to caress my bottom (p. 94) after sprinkling it with Anti Monkey Butt Powder (p. 64).  (“More than a re-packaged drugstore talc or a baby powder, this formula ... provides an immediate ‘aaaahhh-oooohhh’ skin relief.”  6 oz. bottle $6.00.)
  As I said, it’s fun to read.

On a higher literary plane, I found quotes from Victor Hugo, Walt Whitman,  T.S. Eliot, Henry Thoreau,  Aldous Huxley, two eminent physicists (Niels Bohr and Robert Oppenheimer), as well as wise observations from two writers well known to City Bike readers, Ed Hertfelder and the late Joe Glydon (p. 23).   While the type font, for my tired old eyes, is acutely small, the quotes are aptly selected.  In the pages devoted to Navigation I came across, “Not all who wander are lost”  (J.R.R. Tolkien) and “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else” (Yogi Berra).  The long poem on p. 4, “The Minnesota Department of Transportation Plans to Straighten Out Highway 1” by Barton Sutter is worth reading.    It’s about something important to everyone who rides.

'05 Catalog
The catalog reminded me of my Triumph owner’s manual when I read on p. 2  “Caution – Operating a motorcycle involves an element of risk.”  Sound familiar?   Here are some other legal posterior protectors.  See if you can guess the product.
“This reading test is just an approximation and is not meant to replace regular eye exams with an eye care professional.”
    “These devices may block out ambient sounds important for safe riding.  Do not use where other road users may be present.”
    “Not for use on public roads”
    “Absolutely no sales to minors.”

The subsection on heated clothing is super; from a physiological explanation of how a chest vest keeps toes warm to the best assortment of hookup wires and controls I’ve ever seen.  There’s loads of quality electronics – GPS’s, radios, radar detectors, audio and intercom systems.  I lingered longingly over the tool section.  Maybe I’ll hint to my wife I’d like “Titanium Tar Arns” for my birthday (p. 148).  I’d love to try the 4 oz. plastic  “Bead Popper” (p. 149), which would be a great substitute for the three-pound steel C-clamp I carry for tire repair.  And if a chain oiler for $137 can triple the life of my chain and sprockets, I’ll be way ahead.  In fact, there’s no limit, other than my wallet, to what I’m tempted to order.

There’s a motorcyclist’s dream library here in the ten pages devoted to books .  A few of them I own, others beg to be bought.  There are famous books like The Motorcycle Diaries and The Art of the Motorcycle, old standards by well known authors (Robert Pirsig and Ted Simon, for example), clever titles (On Any Wednesday,  The Ghost of Scootertrash Past,  There’s no Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled,  Fart Proudly) and at least one dubious offering. The latter’s blurb goes like this:  “… there’s an underlying sense of the buccaneer here.  This story is so full of energy, bravado and brag that this tale moves along with a boiling quick fury that’s a lot like…”   A lot like baloney, was what one skeptical reviewer wrote in City Bike about Two Wheels Through Terror by Glenn Heggstad.  The best bargain may be a book by Andy Goldfine himself: Lightweight Unsupported Motorcycle Travel for Terminal Cases (p.192  $5 or free with all orders over $100).

I recall in previous years the April Fools’ products that were sprinkled throughout the catalog.  So I smiled when I saw at the bottom of p. 3 the caveat, “Warning!  Items with Orange Titles are Fictitious and are for Entertainment Purposes Only.”  After an hour or so with the catalog I realized I hadn’t seen any orange titles.  True, I saw Doggles (goggles for canine co-riders, p. 30) and Cat Repellent (for motorcycle hygiene, p. 172) but as far as I can tell these are legitimate offerings – if you order they will come.  Then I found two orange titles.  But I’m not going to tell you where they are.  Go find ‘em yourself.  And after that, as Andy urges (order form, centerfold), “Go ride your motorcycle.”

Used with permission from Bob Stokstad