What variety of leather pants are most appropriate for my needs?
April 20, 2011 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I am the proud new owner of a beautiful 1985 Honda Nighthawk 700S. Tell me what else I should spend my money on.

Obviously I need a helmet, jacket, gloves, boots, and a cover (no garage). What am I missing? What brands would you recommend for the large headed gentleman?

Do I need to motorcycle specific boots or would any tough work boot do the job?

What sort of jacket would you recommend for summer riding?

Safety courses in the DC area?

Is this finally a legitimate reason to wear chaps in public??

Anything I am missing?

Does anyone have any experience with Coleman Powersports in Falls Church, VA?
posted by BobbyDigital to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Motorcycle pants, definitely! I'd take specialized motorcycle stuff over chaps though. I can imagine the chaps getting undone and coming partway off in an accident = big skin hurt on leg.

And yes, specialized motorcycle gear - for instance, motorcycle boots protect your ankles should they become pinned by the motorcycle, whereas work boots wouldn't.

MSF or Motorcycle Safety Foundation for safety courses. I actually suggest you start there - they'll give you information on everything you need.

And ... Congratulations!!
posted by krilli at 11:07 AM on April 20, 2011

helmet, jacket, gloves, boots

This list covers your head, arms, torso, feet, and hands, but not your legs/ass region. They say wearing jeans is more or less equivalent to being naked when you come off the bike. Normal denim will completely disintegrate after a few feet of contact with pavement at highway speed. So, I think most people would agree that leathers of some kind are in order (where 'leathers' includes aerostitch gear, etc), or maybe those kevlar jeans.

Re: head size and helmets, its really more headshape you want to look at. The big, reputable helmet manufacturers like Shoei, Arai, etc all sell helmets in different (including quite large) sizes, but the shapes will fit you differently, so you pretty much have to go to the store and try them on. An XL from one company might feel tight when a L from the other feels fine, because it pinches on a different part of your head.

Re: courses, The MSF offers courses all over the USA.
posted by jeb at 11:08 AM on April 20, 2011

Motorcycle specific boots are much better at protecting your feet than random work boots. Don't neglect your legs in this protection scheme. http://www.motorcyclegear.com/ is your friend. Watch the closeout section for stunning deals.

Perforated leather or mesh for hot summer riding.

http://online2.msf-usa.org/msf/Default.aspx has a list of all their safety courses.

The only legitimate reasons to wear chaps are a leather fetish or ranch work. How do you feel about your dick and ass? Don't you want to protect them too?

Have fun!

Earplugs! My MSF instructor told me that motorcycle riding is the #1 cause of preventable hearing loss in the US. It's not the engine noise, it's the wind.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:09 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: mollymayhem: I am a big fan of both, and I will take that into consideration. I am going to try and get a most of the gear off of motorcyclegear.com and will get a helmet at Coleman (their yelp reviews are pretty harrowing, but mainly for service) after I can try a few on.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:16 AM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Also as a follow up question, when you are riding with another individual on a highway situation (separate bikes), how do you communicate?
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:18 AM on April 20, 2011

Agreed that your head might be a better fit with one helmet brand or another. I love Arais, haven't found a Shoei that's anything close to comfortable.

Some of the vented jackets do pretty well to let more air through on warmer days and a lotta people like the Aerostich suits (or jackets).

I've lost track of all the latest, greatest technology, but a lock could be a worthwhile investment.

Dunno what might be in your area, but reputable on-track riding courses, which focus on good riding, not on being Captain Go Fast, are worthwhile and all kinds of fun.

Ride safe.
posted by ambient2 at 11:21 AM on April 20, 2011

how do you communicate?

Hand signals mostly. Point at the tank to indicate you need gas. Pat your tummy to indicate you're hungry. Or just pull 50 yards ahead of them and then exit, and they'll follow you.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2011

These are the pants I ride in every day. They're waterproof, warm in Texas winters, and the liner comes out and I'm not too hot in Texas summers.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:26 AM on April 20, 2011

Woohoo! Congratulations!!

Definitely take the safety course. It will greatly improve your abilities even if you already know how to ride.

After seeing how even a low speed crash can rip through clothing, I'm a firm believer in ATGATT - all the gear all the time. However, riding gear isn't comfortable to do normal things in and it can be a pain to carry and change into normal clothes. You'll have to decide between convenience and total protection.

Definitely protect your noggin. As mentioned, Shoei and Arai are some of the top tier brands. They should have helmets that fit. Jeb is also correct about the fit. I have a medium Scorpion while my boyfriend wears a small Shoei. Also, I really like the kind with flippable tinted shades as I don't like swapping tinted/regular visors in and out.

You won't feel as hot in a mesh jacket during the summer but I would still wear an armored jacket. It's possible the mesh will rip, and your skin too, in a crash. Next to your head, your torso contains most of your vital organs.

Ironically, I wear regular jeans since I commute with my motorcycle and it's a pain to change out of armored pants. If it was purely for joyrides, I would have gotten a complete jacket+pants combo. The kind that you can zip together so no body part is exposed. If I had the money, I'd get me some Draggin Jeans.

Gloves. Get the armored kind as well.

Riding boots have a hard exterior and are very stiff. An excellent protection for your feet and ankle. They're also a little hard to walk in. If you're going with regular boots, get something that will protect your ankle. Also make sure it has a tough sole. Mine wore out really quick since I tend to scrape my feet a little when stopping.

Most people use hand signals for communication. Just agree on a few simple ones before a ride like slow down, stop, left, right and you're good to go. There are also radio things you can wear or install in your helmet but they can be expensive.
posted by vilandra at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2011

Safety courses in the DC area?

Prince George's Community College offers them. It seemed a little easier to get into a class there than in northern Virginia.
posted by exogenous at 11:27 AM on April 20, 2011

I can't recommend the Aerostich stuff highly enough. It completely changed what i consider 'riding weather'. The one piece aerostich suit is very easy off/on-about 10 seconds when you get some practice. It takes me longer to get a helmet on/off. The roadcrafter suits are expensive but way, way cheaper than treatment at a burn ward the first time you put the bike down (and you will, you will).

As for helmets I always end up buying the newest version of nolans flip up helmet. I started wearing them because i could take them off and on without taking off my glasses (i have since then had lasik), but have stayed with it because it fits my 2x head well and i like being able to flip it up to talk to people without taking off the helmet. They also come ready to have intercom radio gear installed, which is how you talk to other riders and also how you get a radio to listen to while you ride.

These two pieces will not make you look like a cool biker however (not that a mid-80's japanese bike will help in that area either). But spend the money on the best gear. You will change bikes if you like motorcycles but you will keep good gear that fits you forever. And seriously-any riding suit is worth it when you get into the inevitable crash. Gear can be the difference between walking away and hospital or hospital and funeral home. Burn wards are not a good way to spend a vacation and the scars are nasty. Google road rash and look at the images. Good gear doesn't seem so expensive now does it?
posted by bartonlong at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2011

New tires. I just bashed up my 82 'hawk, in a mild rainstorm because my tires were probably in need of replacement.

They're not cheap, but you're investing in your health.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:03 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: The bike itself is in excellent condition (30k miles and clearly garage kept its whole life), it has new tires.

Thanks everybody for the great advice!! Keep it coming!
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:12 PM on April 20, 2011

Going to be riding in DC winters? You might appreciate heated gear. I finally got these heated gloves last winter, and I now really regret not getting them the winter before that. They turned a miserable commute into a simply boring one. I plan to get the heated jacket liner before next winter.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:20 PM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Most likely the bike will be in a storage bag during the winter per a previous AskMe question.

At the very least I will cross the cold weather gear question when I don't have a giant swampy summer looming.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:23 PM on April 20, 2011

Fun bike! Remember: You *can* wheelie a shaftie! I vote that you double-double check the tires, checking the manufacture date. As I recall, Honda specced pretty stiff touring tires. The power curve on that thing had a huge spike somewhere around 5K rpm. I almost lost the rear end a few times until I replaced the old (but pristine-looking) tires.

As far as accessories go, get another '83-'86 for parts. When I had to fix mine around eight years ago, Honda had very few spares left. They're good about customer service, though. Six months after I sold it (for parts, at a bit of a profit), they shipped me free of charge a shift lever linkage I had on order for over a year with a note apologizing that they had it in the wrong bin and found it after an inventory reconciliation.
posted by graftole at 12:44 PM on April 20, 2011

I would hate to ride more than two hours without a crampbuster.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:03 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know how much protection they offer, but these textile suits are pretty sexy. If you can stay safe while channeling Devo or Man or Astroman, more power to you.
posted by ladypants at 1:10 PM on April 20, 2011

The gear that will save your ass is the gear you actually wear. Choose comfort above some sort of "ultimate best protection". Hell, choose style over optimum protection if that matters to you. But don't be one of those complete idiots riding around in shorts and a t-shirt.

I personally like Rev'it gear because it's stylish and it's sized well for me. Their Air jackets are great for summer riding and are also armored. A fleece or sweater underneath will keep you warm in temperatures down into the fifties. Three or four season jackets will feature zip-out waterproof and insulating liners, but are much more expensive, and probably overkill until you know you're getting fanatical. Lightweight armored gloves are also highly recommended, not just to protect your hands, but also to make it easier for you to grip the handlebars for long periods of time.

Finally, I encourage you to check out Craigslist. You need to be very careful buying used motorcycle gear - if it's been in a crash, or been used for more than 4 or 5 years, it needs to be replaced, even if it looks ok. Only buy gear that looks absolutely pristine. Even the slightest signs of wear, give it a pass. That said, the world is full of people who bought hundreds of dollars in accessories only to find out they didn't really like riding. Deals are absolutely to be had.
posted by psycheslamp at 3:15 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

A horn that people can actually hear.

A tank bag , and/or saddle-bags.

For any trip longer than an hour, I like to carry a hydration-pack for hands-free h2o on the road.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:34 PM on April 20, 2011

Get the shop manual for your year of bike.

I was in the process of fixing up an 85 700S before I found out the engine was entirely toast. Despite being garage-kept and relatively low miles, the bike will have some issues that might not be immediately apparent until you start doing your own preventative maintenance.

One thing that you can do regularly without much hassle is change the oil and check the spark plugs. The shop manual will give you pictures to compare your plugs against. The wear/color on the plugs will tell you about things like how your carburetors are faring (rich or lean) and how the electronics (coil packs, battery, etc.) are wearing. Carbs are funny things and even with a history of garage keeping and being driven only to the grocery store on Sundays there are a bunch of rubber/plastic parts that don't do well while submerged in gasoline ... and spend their entire lives either being sprayed with or submerged in gasoline.

Incidentally, my bike was 'broken' by someone who wired the spark plugs 1,2,3,4 instead of (IIRC, and my memory is VERY faulty), 2,4,3,1 as they need to be. This is why you own a shop manual.

There is an excellent Yahoo Group centered around the 700S, with lots of mechanics and restorers.
posted by SpecialK at 8:08 PM on April 20, 2011

I would not recommend purchasing accessories at Coleman Powersports; it is a high-margin business for them. Although they are pretty much the only big retailer in the DC metro area. Instead, check out MotorcycleGear.com (formerly known as NewEnough.com).

As for helmets, Scorpion offers a great line of quality options at good price points. Not quite as slick as Arai, but less than half the cost. My Scorpion helmet is as comfortable as my Arai.
posted by agentjones at 8:42 PM on April 20, 2011

Yeah, I've been riding with a Scorpion EXO 700 for 2 years and it's held up really well (I've replaced the visor twice due to scratches and the paint is starting to fade from the sun). Granted, I commute 80 miles a day 5 days a week, so this thing is in the bugs and sun a lot.

I think my next helmet will be an Arai or Shoe, because I hear those are a little quieter in the wind. My helmet is pretty loud from the noise of the wind, but then, a lot of that is probably due to the buffeting from my fairings/wind screen (2003 Suzuki V-Strom....notorious for bad buffeting).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:00 PM on April 20, 2011

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