Sunday, August 26, 2012

Out for a Sunday ride with new gear

So the new Klim (it’s pronounced like climb) gear came in on Friday and I was itching to test it out. Saturday was spent doing maintenance to the bike and taking care of an exhaust issue on the truck.

Sunday morning, I was up bright and early. I only had 2 things on my list for the day. First I was to meet some guys for breakfast in Fulshear, TX at 8:00am and then I had to be home before 2:30pm which is the time I expected Reagan to be home.

I decided to try out the new gear as if I was riding in a rally or doing a LD certificate ride. So I started with the LDComfort undergarments top and bottom. Coconut socks on the feet. Then I put on the Klim Badlands pants along with my trusty Dainese Gore Tex boots. The new Klim Badlands jacket covered the top half of me. And finally with my HJC helmet and mesh gloves I was set.

The ride up to Fulshear was calm and uneventful except for the bicyclists. OK, I have to drop off on a tangent here. I recognize that bicyclists are people too, heck one of my good friends is a bicyclists when he isn’t riding his motorcycle. But those dang fools need to remember that they have zero protection and the world does not bow down at their feet when they are riding on the street. If they are going to ride our public roads they need to abide by the same traffic laws that cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles must abide by. For instance, a red light means STOP, it does not mean you can blast through it while turning right and go all the way across the lane into the oncoming turn lane because you were going so fast. Plain and simple, when you come to a red light you stop. I don’t care about times, pace, rhythm, cadence or anything else. Red lights mean STOP. If a bicyclist can’t understand that GET OFF OUR PUBLIC ROADS!!!!.

One other thing. Unless the bicyclist is Lance Armstrong or one of those other world class athletes that ride in that race over in Europe, chances are the rider won’t be able to go the posted speed limit. In fact in most cases bicyclists are traveling 2 to 3 times SLOWER than the posted speed limit on rural roads. So for their safety as well as their engine powered bigger siblings (aka motorcycles) I simply ask you to move over to the shoulder and definitely don’t ride 2, 3, 4 or more abreast while taking up the whole lane. Stay on the shoulder! Bicyclists need to remember they have zero protection against the front grill of an automobile or semi truck. So get out of the way for your own protection!!!

OK, enough on that tangent. Not a single bicycle rider will probably ever read that and if they do they’ll post some sort of excuse as to why they do what they do. I don’t care, they are causing a safety issue and should know better. OK, now I’m really going to get back to the day’s ride and the gear.

The temperature on the way to Fulshear was in the high 70s and the first thing I noticed about the new gear was that I didn’t feel the cool air as much as I expected. I decided that was more a function of the LD Comfort top than the Klim jacket. I’ve noticed the same thing before with the LD Comfort even when wearing my Olympia AST jacket which definitely vents the air. Even though I didn’t feel the cool breeze on my upper torso I wasn’t hot.

At breakfast I took the jacket off and was comfortable in the LD top. We visited for over an hour and I really didn’t notice any discomfort at all in what I was wearing. When I got up to pay the bill I definitely noticed one thing about the new jacket, it’s quite a bit heavier than my old one. Shipping weight on the pants and jacket was 17 pounds.

Afterwards, I found myself headed north out of town alone. It’s easier that way, especially when I really don’t know where I’m going. I rode Racer Road, and then headed to Fayetteville. The gear was working great although I felt a few degrees warmer than normal. I poured some water in my lower sleeve vents and that seemed to help a bit.

I left Fayetteville on FM1291 heading north. I really wasn’t sure where I was going but I was aiming toward some storm clouds. A few miles outside of town I stopped at a farmer’s gate under a tree. I took off the jacket, soaked the sleeves of my LD top and put the jacket back on. Now I had a nice cooling affect while rolling down the road.

I was looking for rain clouds, the nastier the better. Before I knew it I was at Hwy 290 so I turned east toward Houston and got a chance to see how the gear worked at normal freeway speeds. Pretty good would be the rating I’d give it.

When I got to Burton I took the more scenic FM390 and thought I was finally going to catch those rain clouds I’d been navigating toward. When rain drops started to hit my faceshield I discovered my first problem. I wasn’t familiar with all the new zipper locations and they were a little stiff. So I pulled over to sort things out and resumed my ride in less than 5 minutes.

I no more than got things zipped up and I rode out of the rain. Fortunately FM 390 came to an end at Hwy 105 so I took that up to Navasota toward the rain clouds. I managed to find a very light and brief shower, and this time I was able to zip up while riding. And once I got through the shower I was able to unzip as well. The new gear was working fine.

When I got to Navasota I decided to ride FM3090 only to discover that a good stretch of it had been recently covered with gravel. That certainly wasn’t the sort of twisty road I was looking for. When I got to the end of 3090 I headed east and started to make my way back home. First through Anderson, then Plantersville and on over to Magnolia. From there I cut back to the west to pick up FM 362 down through Waller and Brookshire. I continued to work my way south through the back country roads until I got to Hwy 36. The whole time the temperature was rising, it was now in the 90’s. Yet I didn’t feel any warmer in my gear than I had earlier in the day.

When I finally made it to Hwy 36 it was a short ride over to Hwy 59 and then I pointed the bike toward home. By this time it was in the mid 90’s and I was still very comfortable. One thing I noticed at about this point was that nothing was rubbing, scratching or irritating me in any way. That was nice, new gear always seems to bother me at the neck or around the sleeves.

As I pulled into the drive way, I noticed Reagan pulling up behind me. I had beat her home by mere seconds. But I was home before she got home. Second objective for the day accomplished.

So what’s my take on a $1,500 2 piece riding suit? It fits my needs nicely. For a rider who is serious about protection and climate flexibility I think this is a great solution. Are there other options out there? Sure there is. Of course there’s the old standard made by Aerostitch which may be a couple of dollars cheaper. But the wash/care instructions of the Klim gear certainly trumps it, I mean there’s no need for special chemicals or treatments. Just wash it in the washing machine and then toss it in the dryer on the medium. I don’t think you can do that with a ‘stitch.

What about my Olympia gear? It’s still good stuff. I think I could have gotten by with the jacket but the pants were another story. I didn’t have the venting options in the Olympia pants without giving up the rain protection. For general touring where it’s no big deal to pull over, take a break and put on rain gear. I feel like the Olympia stuff is great. And in the winter time the ranger pants are water proof so there’s no need to pull over even. Just zip up the jacket.

I’m satisfied with my investment in the Klim gear. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works in a 30 hours rally next month. Since January I’ve changed out all of my gear except my helmet in the quest for the best gear possible to meet my needs of comfort and protection in all conditions. After my credit card cools off from these recent purchases I’m going to have to look at other helmet options. Again ventilation and keeping water out will be my major criteria.

The Olympia gear will probably go on Ebay once I get it cleaned up.

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