Monday, February 23, 2009

Gear Review: When Huge Things Are Supported By Little Ones...

There are national parks and other places throughout the world where huge rock formations and natural columns of stone stand precariously balanced on foundations that have been whittled away by water or wind. To thousands of tourists who photograph these wonders, half the delight is in getting the picture. The other half is the possibility of being there when one of these things comes crashing to the ground.

Similar sentiments were expressed by a crowd of some fifty onlookers, assembled in a Haverford College parking lot for a tailgate party, prior to the school’s savage basketball victory over traditional rival Swarthmore this weekend. I had previously offered to supply the group with hot, spiced cider (braced by a quart of Applejack and a dash of cinnamon), heated to the point of steam over a burner I used for frying turkeys.

I have no personal interest in basketball, but pretend so to humor the coeds who show up for these parties in skirts that are smaller than the bandana I use as a handkerchief. Yet tending the cider meant sitting next to it and occasionally giving this mixture a stir. This gave me an excellent opportunity to once again bring out my Kermit chair.

If you have ever attended a major bike rally where one or more of the entertainment functions included the burning of a huge human figure, or a wild, half-naked dance around a bonfire, or even a bar set up on planks, you will likely remember that there was a scarcity of places to sit. The ground is always available, but is invariably too hard, too cold, too damp, or too covered with cow shit to offer adequate comfort. These factors are seldom regarded as serious considerations in your early 20s, but acquire a higher priority in your 50s.

With some rallies attracting crowds of 10,000 to 50,000 riders, the search for a rock, log, or vacant picnic table is sometimes highly competitive and generally unrewarding. Plus rocks still fall into the category of being too hard, while the curved surface of the standard log is seldom compatible with the shape of the average derriere.

Hence the Kermit Chair was born.

According to popular legend, the Kermit chair was developed as the ultimate, light-weight, folding chair, especially for bike rallies. (The legend is actually a bit more specific claiming the Kermit chair was initially developed for Beemer rallies. It is a well-known fact that BMW riders have very official-looking -- and highly functional gear -- for all occasions. Shortly after being introduced to the market, the Kermit chair became a staple at BMW rallies, but has many other equally practical applications.)

This product has a collapsable leg and armrest assembly, connected by a cloth seat and back. It includes two leg supports and two curved seat braces. Coming out of the bag one cannot help but notice the fine fit and finish of the oak wood. The evident quality of the metal joinery speaks volumes too. The chair has no small parts and assembles in about two minutes without tools.

When first assembled, however, it looks like a kid’s chair for the beach. And a skinny kid at that. Many in the crowd wondered what the hell I was doing putting it together. They had no idea what I intended to do with it once it was completed, as the basic chair is not only somewhat tiny in appearance, but it is low to the ground too.

The manufacturer offers leg extenders, which raise the seat height to 17.5 inches. These also go on in a matter of seconds without tools.

The fully assembled Kermit chair is very elegant-looking, but the first word that comes to mind is “spindly.” I offered it to my friend Molly, who weighs in at 110 pounds, and her first words were, “Will that hold me?”

I stepped around to the chair’s front, and positioned my ass over it. The whole seat was swallowed up by my shadow. A gasp ran through the crowd like an electric current. A young mother made her son run behind a parked car to protect him from the splinters. I heard a voice say, “That poor chair. That man ought to be ashamed of himself.”

I gradually lowered my bulk into the seat... The Kermit chair creaked like a wooden trestle the first time a locomotive rolls over it. The silence of the crowd make the creaking seem as loud as machine gun fire. I saw money change hands in the back of the gathering as bets were settled and the odds increased.

I had barely settled myself in the seat, when, you guessed it. In front of all those people -- nothing happened. The creaking stopped. The Kermit chair was unbelievably comfortable. And all of those nice folks, who were standing around on a cold day (waiting for the fat person in the popsicle chair to go crashing to the pavement), realized I had the only seat, closest to a roaring propane burner, by the only hot drink on the menu.

The spindly, delicate-looking Kermit chair is stressed to take 350 pounds. Buried in the chair’s promotional material is a statement claiming it was tested to 750 pounds, and I believe it. I presently weigh more than 350 pounds, though I am losing weight every day. I have a size 56 waist and I have to tell you that the Kermit chair is more comfortable for me to sit in than an airline seat. Every detail has been well thought out. For example, the chair’s two seat supports are curved to prevent digging into your back and thighs.

I took no risk in using the Kermit chair before this savage crowd as I had demonstrated its properties for my de facto father-in-law at a family gathering last year, when I was heavier. This was pure theatre as far as I was concerned. This is the second time I have written about this chair. The test was different on this occasion as I got in and out of it a dozen times, putting it's joints to one hell of a stress test.

The chair weighs 5 pounds and fits into a stuff bag 22” long, and 4” by 6.” According to the specs, the leg extenders go into a stuff bag 9” long and 3.5” by 3.5.” Any backpacker will now roll over face down in the dirt and tell you how nonsensical this is. But I am compelled to remark that the packed size of the Kermit chair does not seem that big, especially its diameter. My 1995 BMW K75 has yet to complain about carrying it. No canoe or horse would complain about the added weight either. Yet your butt and back will thank you, especially after hours in the saddle. The Kermit chair is a lot more comfortable than a metal folding chair and will carry a lot more weight than the plastic ones found on the deck’s of many restaurants.

The Kermit chair comes in forest green, burgundy, black, and red. A cup/beer holder is also available. This chair is not cheap, and will set you back $129. The leg extensions (which I regard as absolutely essential) are another $30. The cupholder (purely cool) is $18. The chair has a 5-year warranty.

This blog supports American-made products, like the Mini Maglite. The Kermit chair is made in America, Tennessee, in fact, and is the personification of US craftsmanship like you remember it. The engineering that went into this product is evident in every aspect of its design. It will replace all of the shitty aluminum can and plastic weave seats you have been accustomed to buying on site, and throwing away before you leave for home. It’s a better choice for the environment and for the economy. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a nicer gift to give or get, if your riding takes you to events which are held outdoors. The Kermit chair guarantees you will always have a “good” seat.

Speaking of the economy, money is going to be a touchy subject as the riding season unfolds. Everyone I know is under the impression that they are going to have less of it. This places a greater emphasis on the quality of the gear you purchase. As a professional writer, I am chronically broke. (I have made myself a sign that reads, “Will write for sex, rum, or food, but especially sex,” that may come in handy when I am forced to pimp my talents on Main Street this summer.) I discovered hunting during the first financial crisis in my life, 25 years ago, and a bought a Winchester semi-automatic shotgun for $179.

I thought it odd at the time that the semi-automatic shotguns from Ruger and Browning were selling for five times as much, but I had my weapon and was ready to hunt. No one was more surprised than me when the breech-block blew out of that piece of shit shotgun the first time I fired a high-brass round through it. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt. (So was Winchester.) Then I read a prophetic statement in a hunting magazine that said, “Buy the very best gear you can afford for hunting or fishing,” The author went on to say that it might be better to save your money for a season or two rather than to purchase crap that could actually ruin a trip through failure. Well-made equipment will hold its functionality for years to come.

The same holds true for motorcycle gear. The Kermit chair may be regarded as a superfluous item for motorcycling that entails outdoor events or camping. Yet it becomes a lot less superfluous if your ride is enhanced by having a decent place to sit at the day’s end. It should be noted that I paid for my Kermit chair and have no relationship whatsoever with the manufacturer of this product.

In the next issue of “Twisted Roads” will introduce my new feature, “Dispatches From The Front,” a series of shorter, inter-related topics presented as one feature.

The winners of last week’s contest will be announced in this new section on Wednesday.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pc)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

26 comments:

Tena said...

Hey, Jack. I've heard about the Kermit chair from your previous blog, and it sounds like a very nice chair. I've purchased a couple of regular folding canvas chairs from Wally-World, but they sag, the arms move, and they just aren't very comfortable. Plus, only one chair actually has a cupholder! If I win the lotto, I might have to rethink my chair choices.

ADK said...

I've seen that Kermit chair in action. How far up your a..... Oh never mind.


Best deal of the month,

http://www.newenoughhp.com/closeouts/luggage/rapid_transit/abrams_strap_mount_tank_bag.html

Just bought one, holds wet weather gear jacket and pants, spare gloves, mp3 player, maps and a few other things. Shipping was a bit steep at $12, but even so that still comes to a lot less than everything else that I've seen.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

If most of your travel is done in a car or a truck, then the folding and weight characteristics are less critical. But if you're going place on a horse, in a canoe, or on a bike, the Kermit chair cannot be beat.

Even with a tent behimd me, there is nothing like sitting upright alongside the campfire. in a seat with a back, that you can move around to avoid the smoke.

Thanks for writing in. The piece you are looking for will run on Wednesday.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondes regards,
Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris Wolfe):

The chair is a marvel. I have reason to believe I may have a much better riding season this year, but for the flow of cash. If I am going to give up motels to save money, than my chair is going to get a heftier workout if I take up camping -- again.

The link you send didn't work. Does the product you boight have a name. Iam going to start using my tank bag these days too.

You can bet we will be riding again this summer.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Steel said...

Jack,

At first I assumed your reference to the Kermit Chair being designed specifically for BMW riders was just embellishment, but the Kermit Chair website says the same thing. Fortunately they add that they will sell to people who ride other brands of bikes.

I would like a Kermit Chair. I guess I need to schedule a ride to Tennessee. I hate to spend extra for shipping.

Charlie6 said...

Nice Review Jack, almost made me want to go out and buy one but then again I rarely camp or go to rallies....so I'd probably not get my money's worth.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel (Steve):

As I said in the review, the Kermit chair is exceptional in both design and function. I laughed when i saw that you wrote that you'd ride to Tennessee to save the shipping on one. Then I thought, if he did that, (during the BMW Rally), I'd ride back with him through Dodge Ciy and Deadwood. I bet the Kermit Chair peoplewill be at the rally too.

Do you camp when you ride across the country? I didn't think you did. The chair is a campsite must as far as fireside comfort goes. Check this blog again later and you'll see me torturing one.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I don't do rallies either... Just the fun ones. You really ought to find a way to get to the MOA Rally in Tennessee. It's going to be a pisser.

By the way, I couldn't say enough about the pictures on your blog yesterday.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Tena said...

Jack, the last time I went camping the fire was surrounded by people holding umbrellas. The rain was pouring down, and the only way to get the fire lit was with gasoline. I am not a camper, and the deluge was just miserable, so I was plied with much Jack...Daniels. When I woke up from my alcohol induced nap, it was to the campfire and umbrella brigade. All the umbrellas had holes from the flying embers. I was so tickled I grabbed the bottle of Jack and retreated back to my tent, giggling all the way.

I look forward to Wed. Not sure if it is with enthusiasm or trepidation...

ADK said...

The website is Newenough.com and the tank bag is the Rapid Transit Abrams Tank Bag. 22L strap on bag with included rain cover for $17 plus shipping. There is also the Bradley Tank Bag, also a strap on(!), that holds 11L, for those who only want to carry their makeup.

If you Goolge the full website and bag name it's actually a liitle easierto locate than finding it on the website

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

I can tell you right now, you do not need a Kermit Chair. You need a Gulfstream travel trailer. I have been camping for year, with at least a month of days in the rain, and never saw an umbrela once. I never lit a fire with gasoline either.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris):

Looks like you got a deal with this one.The bag is certainly large enough for the stuff you want to put in it, and I am intrigued by the fact it is prewired for audio. I am considerng a music system for "Firebsalls," but I don't think it will work the way I want it to.

On one website that came up when I searched for the bag, a purchaser said that this could be used as a top case (on the rear deck) with very little effort or imagination. One guy who posts here often -- Domngo Chang (Redlegs Rides) -- has devised some very clever soft luggage for the back out bags intended for other purposes.

I expect to ride up to the Adirondacks at least one weekend out of each summer month this riding season. If you wouldn't mind, could you please pre-pay a rum and coke tab for six drinks and leave it with the bartender at the Spruce Hill Tavern. This way it won't matter if you're there or not.

Fondest regards,
Jack

irondad said...

I agree with buying good gear. That's always been the way I roll, and not only with motorcycle stuff. I've seen literally thousands of riders and nobody has ever come up to me and said,

"Gee, I wish I'd have bought crappier gear!"

As to the chair, I will check it out. It seems being large could be an advantage. A person could get up and their chair would go with them, if you know what I mean. Just be careful turning around in a crowd.

You know I jest and as gently as possible. I'll offer some salve and return an earlier favor as well as copy my hero Steve Williams. I will proudly add you to my blog roll!

Anonymous said...

Jack,

Love your blog and read it on a regular basis. Ever considered putting a “Subscribe by Email” function on the site (hope I didn’t miss it on the site)? It would save checking in each day to see if you’ve posted. I read Steve W.'s “Scooter in the Sticks” site, too. It’s nice since I have subscribed and get an email notice when he has posted. Steve is a co-worker at Penn State.

Has the Mac Pac ever considered a ride to Happy Valley? Especially with all those technical guys, there has to be something up here in the labs that would interest the boys. We had Steve do a lunch hour presentation on his blog last fall at Innovation Park and got 30 riders from the Park to attend, stuff their face, and chat about the road.

Heck, if you got here in early spring, Paterno’s weight coach might have to put you through a workout to see if you’re on pace for your promised number in Johnson City!

Dan
‘04 1150 RT

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

Nothing feeds the ego of the desperate writer like fan mail. I walked around the house today, laptop cradled in my arms, reading the first paragraph of your letter to my significant other. I couldn't tell if she was getting the full depth of your opening statements, so I read it to her about 25 times. She is a former knife thrower from the circus and guess what? She wants to meet you!

I would be delighted to set up a "Subscribe to This Blog Via E-mail" option, except I haven't the slightest idea how to go about it. The assholes who designed this blog program neglected to set up a "click and install" approach to getting it done. I did find some half-assed "subscribe to" option buried on a page called "gadgets," but there was no explanation and clicking on it takes you to a "Never-Never Land" of lollipop-colored titles.

I added the "subscribe to" gadget to the blog page, but it is anybody's guess what it really does. If this helps you in any way, or does what you want, please let me know. If you scroll down to the very bottom of the blog page, you will find a line reading "Subscribe To: Posts (Atom)" on the left. I have no idea how this works either. I clicked on both of these things and got two very different results. Naturally, there were no simple explanations anywhere. My patience with this was exhausted in 50 seconds flat.

It must be cool working with Steve W. (Scooter in the Sticks). I didn't realize that Steve was a coworker at the college. I thought he just rode around and took semi-mystical scooter pictures. His blog was an inspiration for me to start mine (absolutely true). I really like his style. But there is no good comparison between his and mine. His is a pristine Alpine stream, while mine is the gutter running between the stage door and the pool hall. Still, we must accept what we are in life.

Some guys and I are planning a run up through Altoona to the Horseshoe curve in May. This is about 43 miles from Happy Valley. (Who named this place, Keebler elves?) I also do public speaking, with three presentations. These are: 1) Successful Relationship Building in 3rd and 4th Marriages; 2) The Art Of Turning Any Mediocre Motorcycle Ride Into An Epic Trip; and 3) Using Cigars To Abbreviate A day With The In-laws. Please let me know if these topics interest you in any way.

Thank you for your kind letter. It made my day today. And do let me know of any of those subscription options work.

I hope our paths cross soon.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

You gave me the first good laugh of the day. And it was about time too, as it was getting late. You said,
"I've seen literally thousands of riders and nobody has ever come up to me and said,

'Gee, I wish I'd have bought crappier gear!'"

Ain't that the truth.

Yet in the next paragraph, a poison dart came flying out of the crowd and hit me right in the ass.

IronDad, if you're going to call me fat, the line starts to the left, right behind that bastard Bregstein. I got a note from him today that began with, "Dear Lard Ass." He thought he was being gentle too.

Thank you kindly for adding me to your bloglist.

I was rather touched.

Fondest regards,
Jack

irondad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irondad said...

Jack,
Fat? Who said that? After all, I haven't actually seen you except in a photo here. You were something like 2 inches by 3 inches.

When I wrote "large" I was referring to, ummmm, the legend that surrounds you. Yeah, that's it, the Legend!

bobskoot said...

Jack:

I agree with "Large" as in being a HUGE LEGEND. I truly wished that you lived closer than 3,000 miles. I would like to ride by and check out your Kermit chair one day. And since they cost US$129. which works out to Cdn$500. right now (and climbing), I was thinking of following you and your K75 in the hope that it may "fall" off and turn into my inheritance, but only if it has been "Jack Riepe Tested"

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad and Bobscoot:

Screw you two guys. Actually, I really don't think about my weight until I try to do something and it gets in the way. But like I said, it's on the way down. And that has me feelimg good.

This is the second story I wtote about the Kermit chair, and only the third time I used it. Leslie gave me this chair as a Christmas gift two years ago. I sat in it the day she gave it to me, bracing myself alongside a countertop.

I couldn't believe the damn thing wasn't going to collapse. The second time I used it was at the July 4th fireworks at Antietam National Battlefield. Leslie's dad was convinced he was going to see something straight out of America' Best Home Videos.

So I knew it would hold on Saturday.

Irondad -- There is no substitute for really good gear. When you buy good stuff, you only have to buy it once. Nobody ever says I wish I'd bought crappier gear.

Bobskoot -- The currency market is doing funny things. I have an idea we are all going to remember 2009. The good news is that the three of us are still in possession of our machines. I would have hated like hell to have planned to purchase a new bike this year with jobs being what they are.

Yet it is always reassuring to find the two of you loitering in the hall.

Wouldn't it be cool if we could all go on a ride together this year? We should meet at the Beemer rally in Tennessee, and ride straight to Key West. All we'd need is a bag of charcoal. We'd eat barbecued chicken for free all week.

You guys made me laugh tonight. Huge laughs.

Fondest regards,
Jack

bobskoot said...

Jack: Let me take a look at the map again. I think you are just too far away, but if it were possible then we better get Conch to hurry up and take more pictures of those chickens before we get there, "cause if we are hungry, then there may be NO chickens left by the time we leave. He also posted a few pixs of his insulation job and it would appear that he has lots of room for a few motorcycle vagrants under "the stilts". It's mainly the time constraints of getting there and back

Right you are about holding back on the BIKE purchase. I was thinking of getting a Beemer but it just doesn't seem right, lots of deals around but things are slowing down at work so wouldn't look right to show up with a new machine.

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

ADK said...

Dear Jack, There will be an Easy Drink pass waiting for you at the Tavern the next time you're there, seventeen scantily clad supermodels, three bedroom torture devices, a video camera....and a Kermit chair.

Have Fun.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Skoot:

I think this is going to be a great year for the used motorcycle market. There will be more than a few great bargains with pre-owned Beemers in great shape. Flip back through a few of my posts and you will see Bregstein's "new" bike, which is absolutely beautiful.

Quite frankly, I know of a K75 in Maryland, with a Hannigan fairing on it, that I would buy in a second -- just to have in the garage. The price is great. All I need is money.

I meant what I said last night. It would be swell to meet with you, IronDad, and RedLegs Rides to do an apocalyptic run someplace. I may actually get to meet the author of Redlegs Rides this summer anyway.

Have you ever thought of riding to Deadwood, South Dakota. It can't be that far from you. About 1800 miles, I think.

Thank you for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris):

So what are your riding plans for this year? I think Michael Cantwell is thinking about riding down to the MOA Rally in Tennessee this year. Are you still headed out to Algeria for that pre-divorce ceremony?

Why not offer the kids a choice? You visit them, and they get $50 for a weddng present, You stay home, and they get $250. Which one do you think they'd take. (This is a no brainer.)

Except you don't really stay home. You get to ride your "Yellow Peril" on the Dragon's Tail...

I had the supermodels last time. All I want are the drinks now.

Fondest regards,
Jack

Fondest regards,
Jack

Steve said...

Jack,

Tennessee in mid July, huh? That would require nearly an exact replication of the BuRP trip of 2006. Not a bad thought, actually.

I've posted the date on a sticky note on my monitor, so it will bug me every day and prompt me to consider it for real.

I do like camping and have been camping on the motorcycle a couple times, including on the cross country trip (although only one night on that trip as it turned out).

Cantwell said...

Jack wrote...
>>If you wouldn't mind, could you please pre-pay a rum and coke tab for six drinks and leave it with the bartender at the Spruce Hill Tavern. This way it won't matter if you're there or not.<<

Wow...I know where the Spruce Hill Tavern is. "Hi, My name is Jack Riepe, I believe you have a pre-paid tab in my name...serve 'em up bar keep!"

Don't be surprised if the tab has a negative balance....