Just won the award for longest post title in a blog with that one… ha-ha In my former home the licence plate logo says “Sunshine State”, like Florida. I rode for years without owning wet weather or winter riding gear. There was no need to ever look at weather forecasts. Only when I left did I realise my riding gear was inadequate. A friend told me he cannot afford to buy good gear for motorcycle touring which got me wondering how much need it cost?
You can certainly spend more on rider gear now than a small motorcycle retails for if you want. Some of those ADV brands are $2000-3000A just for a jacket which is amazing marketing given they are all made in Vietnam for $20. When looking for my gear I wanted to avoid no name gear lacking any reviews and local brands with Japanese body sizing so I went looking for some sensibly priced gear. (links are to my previous reviews – all prices are quoted in Australian dollars)
For upper body I am currently using a Alpinestars Andes touring jacket. This is a drystar gore-tex type jacket with zip out quilted liner, reasonable ventilation with top flap that clips open to allow a good amount of air. The jacket cost about $240 and I think is a reasonably priced three season solution. I have worn it as low as 3 degrees (with thermal base shirt) and up to 31 degrees with liner removed (and open weave shirt). It is not a summer jacket but in a pinch you can get by if you keep moving and hydrate frequently. The sleeve ends can be held open with the velcro latch thus letting lots of air in or those same latches make sure the sleeves are firmly secured to your gloves to stop water and cold air. Not perfect, not pretty, but it seems ok. I prefer gore-tex rather than a 3 layer jacket with the inner pvc rain coat. They do not breath, are overly bulky and become very heavy laden with water which also means extra cold in winter. (edit – this jacket is not the best in persistent rain, the liner will fail)
Pants wise for mid season or mild weather with just occasional rain I am using the BMW city pants which I obtained in Australia long ago discounted but they still cost about $200. The BMW city pants are non textile but rather a heavy fabric construction with armor and with a perforated type of inner liner to work over a wide temperature range. In conjunction with these I use a pair of lightweight pushbike rain overpants which are sort of like a waxed thin material and besides being very compact they absolutely never leak like my nylon motorcycle ones have. These were very inexpensive about $15 online. When riding in cooler conditions I wear a pair of Alpinestar Drystar pants with removable quilted liner. These cost about $190. In Japan spring or autumn can be lovely but any day can turn 10 degrees and rain then fall to 5-6 degrees at higher altitude. Once I venture into that sort of territory regular riding jeans even with thermals underneath are not enough. I find pants with armor put me in between sizes and I had trouble getting something to fit. Be sure to try on in real life or shop where there is easy returns such as Amazon offers. Gore-tex style pants mid season can be too hot on some days for me while the jacket can still flow enough air and remains fine mid to high 20’s. In Japan I can carry more than one pair of rider pants with me but overseas I cannot carry everything and unless I expect it to be very cold like when I rode down to Victoria on my downunder tour I will pick the BMW city pants which handle a wider temperature range but low teens is their temperature cut off point. (edit the drystar pants like the jacket in rain for long time will eventually fail)
The base layer is just as important. I have been warm down to very low degrees when wearing a technical thermal shirt with the afore mentioned jacket but wearing a cotton t-shirt I was cold soon as it dropped to around 10. Similarly when riding in SE Asia in hot conditions but venturing into the highlands having a thermal base (and windbreaker) means not having to also bring bulky mid season type of gear. Then in hot and steamy places with a open weave non cotton shirt I have been fine as air could easy circulate to my skin and perspiration was whisked away. With cotton t-shirts in similar conditions heat and sweat is retained. Budget chain Uniqlo sell both air flow or ‘heat tech’ t-shirts here for about $6 each (probably more in other countries where they are not budget despite exact same items) and they are fantastic for riding and quick dry also. Traditional cotton shirts I keep for off the bike.
I never ride anywhere without a Buff to seal around my neck in cool weather and to keep the back of neck from being burnt in the sun. In cold and wet conditions I switch to a thermal water resistant gator to seal the neck and cover the lower face up to and over my nose keeping me warm and reducing visor fog. These are both just $20-30 items but essential for touring. I carry anti fog and rain-off visor treatment with me. On a very wet day these are most welcome and I apply every few hours priced from a few dollars each or look for the small twin touring size packs sold on Amazon.
Hands wise I already had good gloves. I use Held Rain Star gloves as my all rounder touring gloves. When I got them it was from overseas and that saved me some money, about $160 from memory 8 years ago. Still in good order so the quality speaks for itself but I will reiterate these are simply fantastic gloves. I am very demanding with gloves which relates to my lifetime struggle with dermatitis. I have tried many over the years, most turned out to be uncomfortable and a waste of money. I had tried a number of famous brands like Dainese that were poorly constructed. The Held gloves are supremely comfortable and handle 3.5 seasons, everything except peak summer. As the name suggests they are gore-tex and I have just treated them with Nikwax which has restored both their water resistance and general appearance and I hope to get another 8 years from them.
Lastly footwear. I have a pair of TCX Explorer boots (TCX was formerly known as Oxtar). Mid cut boots with Gore-tex. These make a world of difference when it is cold or raining. My feet stay warm and dry all the time. I basically chose them being the cheapest brand name boot with consistently good reviews. They cost $169 direct from overseas, which is what you can pay for no name boots. A key part of keeping my feet dry is wearing non cotton touring socks. Again I chose Alpinestars simply as they were the cheapest that were certified as proper technical socks with the wicking Coolmax construction. About $20 a pair also from off shore shops, not cheap but I have had them for many years now and still perfect so actually well worth the money. Previously I bought some Puma sports socks claiming to be Coolmax but my feet would perspire and be damp so obviously not as advertised. Like the shirts having the right base layer makes such a big difference to the performance of your footwear and comfort. Oh and add a pair of odor eater inner soles to your boots and replace them frequently to keep the boots themselves fresh.
Incidentals I find useful on tour are a microfibre cloth kept damp in a ziplock bag for wiping anything from visor and helmet to garments at end of day. One of those V visor clean pouches. The microfoam wears out quick so just buy the same at your local 100yen/$2 jumble type shop and cut to size as needed. UV block lip balm and easy application sunscreen. I also always bring Febreeze or similar in small pump bottle to refresh gear while on tour.
That’s my tour setup. I am not endorsing any of these brands just giving an idea what has worked for me and what it cost. If buying tomorrow I would look afresh at what was reasonably priced that has verified reviews on Amazon and blogs and might choose different. I don’t pay too much heed to Revzilla feedback because everyone there rushes to review an item soon as they open the box. And as for motorcycle writers on commercial sites you know they are being paid so their reviews are never going to say any gear or bike is wrong in some way or not good for you. Even shopping for economical gear it does add up. If you have a tour in future perhaps best way is to buy when things are on sale otherwise last minute as my friend said to me it is too much.
Of course if touring SE Asia you can get away with far less, especially in the dry season where really the only thing you need is sunscreen, but that’s another subject regards,Warren.