Failed! Cold and Wet
We don’t always put a lot of thought into the motorcycle gear or accessories we buy… often we just see something spunky and cool looking and think, I gotta have me one of those!
But… when you shop for a particular product for a specific purpose, that’s when you’re going to become despondent if that gear fails.
I’m a fairly literal thinker, to the point where it even does my head in sometimes. If I read manufacturer claims stating their product has particular features and functionalities and multiple reviews that independently back up how great these features and functionalities are, then my mind comprehends: The product is what it says it is…
This article relates to the failure of gear, that I’d relied on to keep me dry and therefore warm, on an outback road trip in harsh, pre-winter conditions. It is told, to highlight the importance of choosing the right gear for the particular challenge, because when in the middle of whoop-whoop, the last thing you want failing, is your clothing.
I thought I owned a great pair of winter gloves, heated by batteries, which have done a freakin’ awesome job for two, fairly dry, winters and the day before departing, I bought a claimed, all-rounder (four seasons,) jacket. I trusted what I’d researched, for the jacket, via the manufacturer’s claims and respected, independent, product reviews as well as the shop assistant confirming my choice was the best. I studied the labels, mentally ticking off my requirements, which it had, plus some.
It set me back $500, so whilst not top-end prices, that’s still a decent chunk of coin, so being of a reputable Australian brand, I didn’t hesitate.
The quality of manufacture is admirable, no complaints there; it is beautifully designed and the zips are some of the best I’ve come across. With loads of super stylish and handy features, I was confident this garment would be the duck’s nuts in the impeding water-logged, route, I was preparing to confront.
If the failure had been in and around the streets of Wellington or Wollongong and I lived less than an hour away on 60 km/h roads, then hey, no biggie. But bought purposely for outback road trippin’ with no room for spare gear, it was a more serious dilemma.
The waterproof liner failed… which meant not only did my upper body become seriously soaked, but I was also exceedingly cold. Under the waterproof liner is the thermal liner, then my base layers, which all became wet and therefore useless.
The first leg of my journey was from Bendigo to Dubbo and at the first fuel stop, I was okay. I felt a bit damp, but my mind was telling me, that’s impossible. I’ve got this u-beaut four-seasons coat on; I’m imagining it. At the second stop, I knew it wasn’t my imagination, but by then there was only a short way to go, so figured, I’d deal with it when I stopped.
Compounding the problem was the failure of my so-called trusty gloves! Waterlogged, with the inner liner compromised when my fingers were untangling themselves from the soggy, furry mess.
No hope in hell of putting them back on after squeezing out the water to still use for protection in case of an off.
My other gloves packed were my faithful white, perforated leather ones, worn for summers, which I’d thrown in for the further north I got. The top of the index finger and thumb are chopped off for use on the phone screen, so although they were okay, protection-wise, they weren’t designed to keep my hands dry or warm.
I had travelled this route many times, so knew what to expect. I am always over-prepared rather than under, for a motorcycle road trip, especially for the type of outback routes and weather I’d be heading into.
I was readied for the unexpected, as far as the roadworks and flooding were concerned; I had not provided, however, for a failure in gear.
Should I have?
When travelling light is important, there is no room to carry a backup set of gear so what’s chosen needs to have been considerably calculated.
My packing starts the week prior, unpack, re-pack and repeat until I’ve got it just right. I’d done everything possible in preparation. An experienced outback road tripper, with roughly 500,000 km behind me, so to be honest getting caught out like this felt like a rookie error.
Except it wasn’t. Instead, what had been researched to be more than competent and dependable for the conditions… wasn’t.
Being cold, wet and super peeved, in the middle of the freezing Australian whoop-whoop with two major articles of inadequate gear, is unquestionably zero fun.
No bike shops within cooeeee to just pop in and ask, got a waterproof jacket and some gloves there mate? Not even a shop to buy a yellow, rubber-ducky type raincoat coat… coz really I was wondering if I could gaffa tape some plastic bags together… I would have worn anything at that stage.
I even eyed up a Dorothy the Dinosaur raincoat of some little kid on one of the streets I went past.
One weak link in the makeup of otherwise two exceptionally made products had them both fail a main function. The rest of the trip was intermittently wet and dry and lots of cold.
As the jacket was acquired to be my trusty go-to-all-rounder for all road trippin’, when I got home, I cleaned it up and sold it on.
The gloves have not returned to the former shape, with the fur lining somehow compromised, although I dried them correctly, so $350 down the tube there.
This experience has taught me a lot… and I definitely know a lot more swear words too.
After most of my life riding, I still get excited with new lessons and challenges and although this one wasn’t particularly pleasant, I survived it and will now be way more thoughtful about gear choices for road trippin’ in the middle of whoop-whoop.
I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently though, apart from going through those same conditions to test them, pre-trip.
The important bit… make sure, the gear you buy, is up to the undertaking. Preferably test it as close to the conditions you’ll encounter.
In this case, I was super lucky. If I’d not had the heated jacket insert, I wouldn’t have been able to continue and a call to RAC would have ensued.
Most Australian and New Zealand sold, midrange motorcycle gear will cope with general conditions. However, add into that mix, riding 8-900 km/day, at highway speeds, without a windshield and these products often can’t keep up, without additional support.
An example of being less prepared than I’d thought, was years ago, one of my Nullarbor crossings in a particularly chilly August, had me close to hypothermia. I thought I’d be fine, layered up, looking very Mrs Michelin-ish, almost overheating whilst standing still.
But I hadn’t considered how that wind chill factor would eventually seep through every one of those layers, (I think about eight, plus bubble wrap,) even though most of them, separately, were enough to keep me toasty.
This wasn’t a gear fail as such. The only things that could have stopped that wind chill from getting to my bones:
- Heated jacket insert
- A car, or
- Don’t go
Doing 800-900 km on grey cloudy days of below 12 degrees, hastening along to reach a safe destination each night, that wind just goes through each fluffy and each windbreak, newspaper, bubble wrap and every other wind-blocking invention out there.
It doesn’t help squat when the chill factor turns each of those layers cold. That cold ends up through to the bone.
I had considered adding a clip-on windshield for that trip, but the cons outweighed the pros for me and thinking I’d be fine, by layering up, I went bare. BAD choice!
Getting that cold is dangerous, as drowsiness can kick in and shivering takes focus away from what’s happening. That particular stint was a close call and half an hour under a hot shower and getting into a bed with an electric blanket was the only way I could defrost.
So, choose wisely and buy the best you can afford. Do your research and read some reviews and forums. Ask your peers… and where possible, test thoroughly the important functions
by Katarina Dálaigh
There is such a thing called a Waterproof Rating which is worthy to note, if you are considering buying wet-weather motorcycle gear.
It will help you decide on a garment worthy of the price tag and the ride planned.