Friday, March 13, 2015

Preparing for Riding Season

Preparing for Riding Season
Depending on where you reside, winter may FINALLY be abating.
Or not.
Or you don’t have to deal with it.
Or you ride all year, no matter the conditions. Many Nelson-Rigg customers ascribe to the adage that “There is no bad weather – just bad gear.”  And Nelson-Rigg is here for you!
However, many motorcyclists prefer to wait for what they term the “riding season.” This can vary all over the place as to dates but generally includes mild temperatures and a relative lack of wet stuff.
If you’ve not ridden for some time, it’s a good idea to prepare for the ecstasy to come.  After all, perfect preparation prevents poor motorcycle performance.  And by performance, I mean you, your bike, and your gear. Let’s take a look at these three areas.
Body Maintenance:
Not to lecture about physical fitness, because irony will bite me in my butt, but a couple of items should be obvious.  Then again, perhaps they’re not, which is why I’m going to cover them.
If you’ve led a sedentary winter life with few opportunities for bear wrestling, mountain climbing, or running marathons, you need to pay some attention to your body. Not so much overall weight, but flexibility. It’s appalling how most of us can go through a work day and never turn our heads or stretch our arms and legs.  If you begin to simply spend some time each morning and evening doing basic stretching exercises, you will find your rides to be much more enjoyable.
Try this for an experiment. See how long you can stand on one foot. If that is too easy, close your eyes. I was advised to do this a few years ago and I was horrified at my ineptitude. Where did that come from?  Aging. Practice will take care of this and strengthen your core. It’s all good.
An even better idea, of course, is to get your saggy butt to the local Y or gym, or sign up for yoga or other classes. Anything to get your body moving and flexing.  Just taking a brisk walk each evening will bring positive results.
Getting off your bike after a ride all sore and aching is not fun. Nor is it safe. Fortunately, it is not required.
Head maintenance:
The same concepts that apply to your bod can also be used on your “brain muscles.”  If you’ve not been riding in the alternating monsoons and snow storms of the recent past your skills are now a tad rusty. Your bike handles differently than the car you’ve been droning to work in. Take the time to take a “test” ride and perhaps some low speed practice in a nearby school parking lot (hint – pick a time when the school is closed).  Can you do a tight circle with both feet up comfortably? When was the last time you tried to stop as efficiently as possible?  Even some practice backing the bike up with your feet would not go amiss. You need to re-train your brain to work with your muscles and sinews on the actions they will be asked to perform.
A better option would be to sign up for one or more of the offerings from the menu of training classes offered by the safe riding schools in your area. Most now offer several classes, and the basics class you took once upon a time could be revisited as an intermediate class or advanced. Some offer “cornering clinics,” which are track days with much of the testosterone drained off. A day spent focusing on cornering lines and body positioning will pay dividends all year.
Bike maintenance:
This can or should be easy.  Your motorcycle has an owner’s manual with maintenance schedules. Check and see where you are in the maintenance scheme of things.  If you are not adept mechanically  (the ineptitude rankings start here, with me pretty much unchallenged as #1), a local dealer or independent service outlet can take care of what your bike needs, whether a simple safety check-over, a service, or something more exotic. They will charge you for their expertise, as they should, but the season of riding peace of mind results is extremely worthwhile.
Gear check:
Where do you intend to ride this year? What will you need? With experience you’ll find that the list of what you want for your bike and on your bike will grow.
Several decades ago I took off on cross-country trips with virtually no thought at all.  I did not have a tire repair kit or a compressor or a first aid kit or a selection of tools or… pretty much anything. With this appalling lack of capability I rode between Minneapolis and Seattle twice, once to San Francisco and back (in late December!), and once from Seattle to Florida.
I was both stupid and very, very lucky, as I never had a serious problem. Now that I’m older and possibly wiser, I always carry a tire repair kit, a compressor, and a first aid kit. 
Good news here. Murphy’s Law seems to work in reverse in addition to the usual. Because I have these things I have never had to use them.
I’ve made excellent use of Nelson-Rigg gear for several years.  
Nelson-Rigg tank bag.  My latest one has been on my Triumph Speed Triple for over a year and has covered about 6,000 miles in sun and wind and rain and temperatures from the low 30’s to well over 100 degrees.  It looks brand new. The clear plastic map pocket is still clear, and the tank remains unmarked.

Nelson-Rigg tail bag. I use a magnetic Nelson-Rigg tank bag as a tail bag. It is at least ten years old. It has been used as a tank bag on bikes with steel fuel tanks and as a tail bag on many others. Even after a decade of use it looks brand new. This is especially remarkable on the Triumph, which has little in the way of a rear fender. The poor Nelson-Rigg is bombarded with a constant rooster tail of rain and mud and grit, and yet shows no wear. I live in the Northwest, where if you do not choose to ride in the rain you pretty much choose not to ride.

Nelson-Rigg rain suit:  On long trips I roll up an inexpensive Nelson-Rigg rain suit and stash it, just in case.   Nelson Rigg offers a wide variety of styles and suits for your selection.
So your bike is parked at a motel in a state far away. It looks so lovely sitting there as the evening gathers.  But - to miscreant locals it looks like opportunity.  While you sleep, a quick snatch and grab with a pick-up truck and you will probably never see it again.  Thieves rarely target a bike with a cover on it, figuring (probably correctly) that it is also equipped with a disk lock and an alarm. All of these things are available from Nelson-Rigg.
Other Stuff:
We can assume you already have “the basics,” – a jacket, boots, riding pants, and helmet.  Or not?  Time for some quality time perusing the catalogue! 
Here’s a tip. I usually carry three pairs of gloves with me on any ride.  Warmer ones for the morning, a sturdy but light weight pair for high heat conditions, and a third pair for rain. 
You will also find that once you invest in heated grips, or jacket or vest or gloves or socks, you will never again ride without them.  Even in the heat of summer, a ride over a mountain pass can get chilly, or much, much, worse.
How old is your helmet?  Is the liner capable of emanating odors that can be fatal to small animals?  It may be time to replace.
Always check the condition of your tires before the riding season, and often during it.  I have a friend who rides a lot, and he has two complete sets of wheels and tires for his bike. He puts on a fresh set of tires before any long trip.
If you’ve never had a pair of “real” riding boots you are in for a treat. The last three pair I have used were all completely and utterly waterproof.
Now for the most fun:
Break out the calendar and maps!  The roads beckon!  I used summer time trips to my advantage all year long. In the winter they are the “carrot” that gets me to the gym with some frequency. As spring arrives, the frequency tends to ramp up in anticipation.
Two months before I ride I let my local riding pals know of my intent. You may prefer to ride alone, but there are also advantages to traveling as a small group of two or three.  Even if none of your buds can get the time off to match your trip, you’ll all have fun yakking about your plans at length.
As a final note, the experienced rider will notice a subtle change in the Nelson-Rigg catalog over ten years or so ago.  There are now hundreds of products on offer designed by and for women riders. It’s all good.
David Preston

For more of David’s stuff, visit his web site at

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