Finding Warm Comfort

Story by David Booth//
April 8 2020

I appear to be aging in reverse. No, I am not undergoing some kind of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button reverse aging process, although I did take up the world’s most demanding – or at least most deliberately painful – sport (boxing) in recent years and so have been getting in more fisticuffs – all legal! – than ever.

Delusions of (Tyson) Fury-ious glory notwithstanding, what I am talking about is an even deeper commitment to motorcycling. Not that I have ever been anything less than devoted to motorcycling, mind you, but in the past two years – since I turned the big 6-0 – I have a keener sense that there are many more motorcycling miles behind me than lie ahead. The result has been, as I described in my product test this issue, a desire to extend my riding season. 

Like all old fogeys, my joints do not suffer the cold well. There’s a reason that old soldiers fear the cold and, while motorcycle riding is not exactly battle, it does require the kind of dexterity that old, frozen cartilage does not reward. Where once I was willing to freeze pretty much any appendage – and, yes, folks, I have had frostbite there – the older I got, the shorter my riding season got.

Until, as I said, I turned 60. Then I bought my first set of electric gloves and even though they proved less than reliable – there might have been some internal short-circuiting that cooked a few of my fingers – they did find me exploring the beauty of November riding for the first time in years.

Next came an electric vest and, Lord, are all those scientists right about the benefits of keeping your core warm. Electric liner – and forget about those battery-powered thingies, they’re too wimpy – at full cook and it’s amazing how warm internal organs can make up for less than cozy extremities. Adorned with nothing more than a T-shirt and a Venture Heat jacket, I was good down to 5 C, punching along in semi-tropical warmth when (the few) other motorcyclists still out and about were freezing their you-know-whats off despite full winter regalia. Now I could take off for three-hour rides in mid November or early spring.

Eventually, though, my feet got cold. I love my Daytona boots, all pure racer style and protection with Gore-Tex impermeability. If someone can find me better footwear, drop me a line.

But, there’s precious little insulation in my Daytonas. In other words, my hands may have been nice and toasty, but my toes, equally vulnerable, were suffering from wind chill. Already well on my path to full Electric Horseman status, I began looking into electric socks. Yes, indeed, there is just such an animal. Only a couple more amps, so my V-Strom’s alternator should be able to handle the load and won’t that be a joy – no more frozen footsies.

The one issue is that the socks required a long extension cord to hook up to my jacket (which serves as the main connection to the battery). But, what’s this? I could also get some heated pants, which, along with rendering my lower limbs as warm as the uppers, could serve as the electrical conduit to my jacket (i.e., the socks are connected to the pants, which are connected to the jacket, which is connected to the… well, you get the idea). Now, maybe I could ride in earlier spring or ’til the end of November!

But then I had an idea – yes, I know how those are usually famous last words – why not go for a little tour on my birthday, Dec. 3? 

The weak link turned out to be my hands. My second set of electric gloves – again, see my product test in this issue – were plenty reliable and more than comfy, but they really didn’t blast out the heat. And as anyone who’s ridden in foul weather knows, your fingers are always your most vulnerable point.

I didn’t think that juicing up the current to the gloves would seal the deal. Nor was I ready to sacrifice comfort and control with bulky liners inside heated gloves. And so I turned to the age-old secret of foul-weather riders throughout the ages: Hippo Hands. 

Yes, they’re ugly. Yes, they’re occasionally awkward to get your hands into. But let me tell you: once ensconced in their warmth – I got the less bulky Rogue models because, well, my gloves were already heated – my hands were being bathed in a cocoon of comfort bested only by a mother’s womb while my fingers remained as agile over buttonry and levers as before. Birthday tour at the beginning of December, here I come. I might even make a trip of it.

I have a friend named Tom Neumann, also a Stromtrooper. He’s roughly the same age as me, and for the past few years he’s been riding his 2014 DL1000 right through Ontario winters, taking his car to work only when there is ice on the road.

I used to think he was nuts. Now, he’s my role model.

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