I met up with my buddy Paul last week during the waning days of the 2009 Iron Butt Rally. I’d been tipped off by IBA staff to the location of a bonus near me, and I passed on the tip to Paul, who rode the ’07 Rally. We rendezvoused in the tiny town of Langlois, Oregon, at a book store called Crime Scene Books—which judging by the gutted and cobwebbed interior had long ago been the scene of the crime of burglary—to wait for what we assumed would be a steady stream of riders coming to claim the bonus.
Paul was already there when I arrived. Other than the single northbound Rally rider I passed on my way south—a rider Paul had met at Crime Scene—we saw no others for the next three hours. We called it a day at about noon and rode to my favorite coffee shop.
There we talked about the sort of things motorcyclists talk about—bikes, trips we had taken, bikes, great roads we wanted to ride, bikes—and eventually the topic turned to riding gear.
I can go on and on about this, since so little riding gear fits me well. To begin with, I’m six feet tall, but have a 30-inch inseam, so most of my height is from the waist up. I’m also...let’s see, how can I put this...a touch more stout around the middle than I should be. There, I said it. Oh, and I have big feet.
Buying regular clothes isn’t a problem. I can buy jeans with the right waist and inseam just about anywhere. Ditto shirts and sweaters; also shoes. But if it’s riding gear I’m after, things get a little more complicated. No—make that a lot more complicated.
Despite the majority of riding gear being made overseas, I’m told it’s designed here in the U.S. I can only assume those designers live and work in windowless offices, cut off from all human contact, because based on the specifications they send to Bazookistan or wherever, they’re never seen a live male American.
I base this on the fact that motorcycle clothing designers seem to operate on the principle that if you have a large waist, for example, you also have freakishly long legs, and that if your girth exceeds the norm, so does your neck size.
I’ve tested a lot of motorcycle gear for magazines, and more often than not when I order a pair of riding pants in my waist size, they come with legs so long the kneepads hang down around my shins; if I sewed the cuffs closed I could wear the pants like footy pajamas.
Jackets made in my size all too often come with neck openings so big I can put them on without unzipping them, like sweaters. The only way to seal up the enormous collars is to wind a dozen yards of bandanas around my neck and stuff them in the gap.
And boots? Phooey. There’s no direct translation for “EE width” in the language of any country that makes really good armored and waterproof riding boots.
I guess it’s my fault that bike gear doesn’t fit me. After all, the manufacturers can’t be expected to make what is essentially specialty clothing in sizes to fit a wide variety of riders (that’s what they tell me, anyway), and if I were really worried about it I’d lose some weight.
Or grow longer legs, and a shorter torso. Or bind my feet like a 19th-century Chinese courtesan.
Yeah. I’ll get right on that.