Monday, January 11, 2010

The Talisman...

“This is your Christmas present,” Stiffie said with a laugh. “I hope you’re surprised.”

“Thank you,” I replied, laughing back. Our Christmas gift exchange is an old joke, but one that never fails to make us both laugh.

Ten years ago, Stiffie (Leslie) introduced me to a rather pragmatic approach to Christmas gift-giving that that eliminates any disappointment and the necessity to return stuff. It also puts a dent in the “surprise” factor. But when it comes to Christmas gifts, “no surprise” is better than “having to act pleasantly surprised.” Stiffie’s approach calls for agreeing on the amount to be mutually spent, and then submitting a “wish list” of items, one or several of which will fall within the pre-agreed purchasing parameters. The trick is to submit enough suggestions — about 30 — so you’re not exactly sure what you are going to end up with.

You might think this process is a trifle mercenary. I did at first. But then it just makes perfect sense. An old friend of mine’s wife successfully lowers the bar on Christmas gift expectations from year to year by getting him some of the most useless things a man could pretend to want. We are not speaking about grabbing one of the highly discounted, pre-wrapped, last minute gift suggestions kept close by the cash register at the door. Nor are we talking about the homespun variety of gift (which can be incredibly exquisite) mandated by financial necessity. (She has a good job.)

There is substantial evidence that my friend’s wife puts a great deal of thought into his gift and still comes up with three lemons whenever she pulls the lever. Last year, she gave him a selection of scented bath powders. (I shit you not.) The year before, it was a collection of 1940’s dance music. (He is not a fan of 1940’s dance music, nor do they go out dancing.) I have no idea what she gave him this year as no amount of persuasion would get him to tell me. (I’m thinking it was a book titled, “A Detailed Explanation of Women’s Studies.”)

I had trouble giving Leslie (Stiffie) my wish list this year. As preposterous as this sounds, I realized that I had everything I could possible want. Throughout the ten-year tenure of this relationship, Stiffie has given me the most extraordinary gifts I have ever received. When I was building my model railroad empire, she found me some exclusive pieces that defied easy collection. When I needed a watch, she got me the best. And when I began my career as a re-entry rider, she delighted me with exquisite gear. (The heated Russell Day-Long Saddle on the K75 was her combined Christmas, Valentines Day, and Birthday gift for me in 2009.)

This year there were only a few things that I could think of on the list — but only one that I secretly coveted. And now, I accepted the box with reverence and awe. The package was exceptionally light for its size. Shaking it produced a soft rustling noise.

“Open it,” said Leslie. “I’m curious to see what this looks like.

“It looks like the talisman it is,” I replied. In truth, the contents of the box were nothing short of technological magic. They could extend the comfort of the summer motorcycle riding season into the dead of winter, while eliminating a creeping kind of fatigue that has lured countless riders into making bad decisions.

Leslie’s christmas gift to me was a Gerbing’s heated jacket liner, and the required thermostat controller.

(Above) This is the new micro-wire Gerbing's jacket liner that Leslie got me for Christmas. It looks a little different on me, but does have a remarkable slimming effect. Photo taken from the Gerbing's site.

The jacket came with a fused connector to the battery, and a temperature controller that has to be purchased separately. I may also opt to get a coiled connector extender to give myself some additional squirm room on the bike. Despite the fact that my K75 has two power outlets (one on the dash and another on the left side cover), it is necessary to make the primary connection directly to the battery. Neither of the two power outlets is rated (nor fused) to match the 77 watts of the Gerbing's jacket liner.

I wore the jacket around the house for a bit to get the feel of the wires hanging down against my leg. I also practiced saying things like, "Is it really that cold? It's hard to tell with these electrics and a heated seat." You have no idea how encouraging statements like these are to riders who are freezing their respective asses off. I decided to quit when the dogs took an interest in the hanging wires, and offered a playful pursuit.

Since my debut as a re-entry rider in 2005, I have ridden my bike into the cold until the streets were choked with the detritus of winter (sand, gravel, and salt). Layered gear, much the same for heavy winter backpacking, kept the cold in check as Dick Bregstein and I routinely rode in temperatures as low as 22º (F). Below freezing temperatures take a bit of the spontaneity out of the ride, as frostbite awareness calls for gloves, pants and footgear with better insulation. Exposed skin freezes and turns gray within a minute or two at speeds above 60 miles per hour and some care must be taken.

My experience with getting cold on a motorcycle is limited, but poignant. I have an awesome pair of Lee Parks insulated riding gauntlets (also a present from Leslie) that are the warmest gloves I have ever owned. (They are a trifle on the bulky side and not my first choice for dealing with stop and go traffic.) I was concluding an eight-hour run late one November day (2008) when the temperature dropped to 25º as the sun went down. The Lee Parks gloves were in my top case, but with only 30 miles to go before I hit the garage, I decided to continue on with lighter weight winter gloves.

There was a peculiar throbbing in my hands about two miles from the house, and I started to shiver. Coming off the local expressway, I found the light at the top of the exit (where I must make a left turn) in my favor. Pulling in the clutch to downshift, the bike went into a wobble and nearly went over. I was amazed. Under normal circumstances, I would have pissed myself. And then I realized I hadn’t pulled in the clutch, but clamped down on the front brakes instead.

I did the same thing at another traffic light less than a half mile and a minute away.

It was then I realized I was in no shape to be riding the bike. Pulling off my gloves in the garage, my hands seemed a pale blue. The normal skin-tone returned an hour later, but they continued to throb for a good deal longer.

But now I have entered the realm of serious BMW riders who spit in the eye of cold weather adversity. Between my Lee Parks gauntlets, my Gerbing’s jacket liner, and my heated Russell Day-Long seat, the winter will be my oyster — as soon as I get over the fear of wading my bike through piles of sand and gravel, seasoned by little mountains of salt.

I showed my latest gear acquisition to Dick Bregstein, whose electrics include a jacket, gloves, pants, socks, and a codpiece -- all wired in sequence. Yet Dick had the nerve to imply that heating my jacket liner would take the same amount of energy to raise all the houses of Fargo, North Dakota, two degrees on a winter day. Those readers who follow my adventures and my example will remember that I had a voltmeter installed on my 1996 BMW K75 last winter to monitor the impact of my accessories on the battery. Running a pair of Motolights and a set of PIA HID lights makes no difference to the 50-amp alternator, which cranks out 600 watts, at 1000 rpm. The Motolights are 50 watts each. The PIA’s are 60 watts total, and the heated seat is 18 watts. Adding 80 watts for the headlight, and 77 for the Gerbing’s jacket at it’s maximum setting, comes to a total of 335 watts, leaving 265 for the engine and recharging the battery. Should it appear that the alternator is struggling, it will be a simple matter to switch off the Motolights or turn down the Gerbing’s gear.

Riding in the winter is a bit of an acquired taste and one that certainly separates the men from the boys. I was out running errands this Sunday (yesterday), and had stopped for lunch. Suddenly, the frigid air (temps in the twenties) was filled with the sound of summer, and 14 Harley Davidson cruisers roared by in tight formation. I was ready to stand up and salute these guys. They were certainly showing everyone (including me) how to ride. If I hadn’t had to be someplace, I would have chased them to take a picture.

Today, Stiffie and I stepped out to lunch and passed a vintage red BMW K100, that I think belonged to my friend Jim Robinson. And then down in Downington, Pa, we saw another superman roar by on a Harley. The time was you never saw the chrome and leather guys out in the cold. Now they are setting a new trend.

I the meantime, I am dying to give my new gear a whirl. In fact, I may get over my fear of the gravel and sand, and ride to the Mac Pac breakfast this Sunday.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010

AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)

AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)

AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


somepinkflowers said...

what a great posting,

we follow BOTH
religious practices
of Gift~Giving in my family
so all bases are covered:
1 from the list
1 from the imagination


nothing succeeds like excess,
as they say.

i live up the road from Daytona.
i see every manner of cycle wear
during Bike Week
and Biketoberfest.
you can well imagine.

a green haz~mat suit
on a yellow bug~eyed bike
scare me to kingdom~come.

i like a ride on the back
on a summer's evening
down A1A
wearing t~shirt, shorts
and flip-flops.

warm air on a suntan;
salt air in my nose!
nothing gets much better
than that...

yes, i know.
it is all over
if the bike goes down.



“A Detailed Explanation
of Women’s Studies”
would not be on my list either.

{{ love your stiffie, BTW }}

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Some Pink Flowers:

I am utterly amazed to find you on my blog tonight. In fact, utterly amazed would be an understatement. Your writing is so up-lifting, so pure, so full of positive imagery, that I feel my own is so industrial by comparison. And yet, here you are! An artist from Florida, dabbling in 5w-20.

And all I can do is wonder... Did she read all that other stuff I wrote? Like the RIP story?

And then I discover you like to ride pillion... Sort of bare back (without the ballistic gear). Will wonders never cease?

I have never ridden a motorcycle without being dressed up like I was getting shot out of a cannon. ASnd some days, I did.

Thanks for reading my stuff, and for dropping in tonight.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Conchscooter said...

Yeah well, try this for uplifting: less than 60 degrees is a trial. Less than 55 is a Bonneville no go. My wife said she would still love me in the event I left the motorcycle parked while the Keys turn to tundra.
Don't set the codpiece on high because that would undoubtedly blow your alternator.

Electra Glide In Blue said...


I knew that wasn't you in the photo, you have lighter colored hair.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

Another good friend of mine, Mack Harrell, rode down to south Jersey on day when the temps were in the high 20's, with his electrics on, his wife's electrics on, an electric blanket on, and a microwave oven on too.

He killed the battery and needed a jump start. That's why I got the voltmeter.

The temperature at your place is currently 56º, so stop crying. It will be back up to the 70's in 48 hours.

We got another light dusting of snow here last night and the mercury is pegged at 25º.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Electra Glide In Blue (Jeff):

Right you are... Otherwise this guy and I would be twins. It's amazing how good that jacket liner will make you look.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

cpa3485 said...

For some reason the scene from Blazing Saddles where the Mexicans are lining up to join up for the raid on Rock Ridge comes to mind.

Heated Gear?

We don't need no stinking Heated Gear!

But I bet it is nice on a chilly day. Get out there and ride, just watch out for the sand!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

When I first got my K75, I noticed a little blank spot on the tach which was some kind of screen. It turned out to be something I had never heard of before — a gear position indicator. With the enginje running, a little number appears in the screen to tell you what gear you are in,.

"This is the most pussy-like device I have ever seen on a motorcycle," I thought. After riding around for a week, I realized how useful it was. (And this was standard equipment on a 1986 Beemer.)

I think I will feel the same way about the heated jacket liner. It will be a delight to be warm and comfy while cruising around.

My feet and legs don't ever seem to get cold. But my arms chest and hands do. This should put an end to that.

Thanks for reading my tripe, Jimbo, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jsack • reep • Toad

At the moment, my driveway is covered with a paper-thin layer of new snow, under which there is a micro-thin sheet of ice. It has warmed up to 30 degrees, and I would love to try and use this gear, except I cannot get down to the street — which is like a beach with all the sand on it.

Cantwell said...

I can see you wearing that liner whilst writing this piece. I was also thinking that having the cords hand down around you legs like that might be good practice for walking around with a Foley catheter and associated attachments. You might start considering using one as you have been having increased trouble dismounting. Maybe that could be on this years 'gift list' to Stiffie.

Enjoy the gear and don't forget it when you come up next time.


PS. Don't forget to deflate the balloon before you remove it.....

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Michael:

That was one of the most sophistcated and well-aimed shots I've sustained in a long time. It was the best laugh I had all day too.

I don't ike adding on sweaters and stuff when I ride. This may be one way of ducking the fatique and the shivers that occasionally accompany cold weather riding.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
Welcome to the wonderful world of heated clothing. It will open entirely new vistas for you.

I stole Jim Ellenberg's cookie recipe and will be baking you some cod-piece cookies. Save room; they're huge.

redlegsrides said...

an electric vest from gerbing with the new microwire technology...I am jealous.

my widder vest, which I got from ebay, has mysteriously shrunk since I got it a couple of years ago and fits rather snugly now on my torso. I've yet to wear it this winter, the one time I could have used it, I forgot it at home (senility you know). 77watts draw though, that's around 8.5amps/hr!

It would more than double the amp draw on my Ural if I had it. Then again, I've no idea how many amps my widder vest draws....must go find out.

Stiffie is a smart woman, in spite of choosing your company, to give you such a good present. You've now officially run out of excuses to not ride in winter. (assuming no ice/snow on the roads of course, I'll cut you some slack there).

cpa3485 said...

I bet that gear will be nice. I have experimented enough with different clothing outfits and am usually quite comfortable without heated gear. The only problem is my hands, and have considered those battery powered gloves from Gerbing, but find that the dollars are huge. Must be the exchange rate.

Canajun said...

Jack - Sounds like gift-giving in our house. The best way to go IMO. And you get great gifts like that instead of another tie, or bath soap.
I did enough cold-weather riding for 2 lifetimes before they had all this high-tech gear. But even with it, I don't think I'd tempt fate on the icy roads we get here. So, discretion being the better part of self-preservation, the bike goes in when the temps get near freezing.

Allen Madding said...


Not to fear! You can wire it into the battery lead on the Suburbial Assault Vehicle, I mean Suburban. Imagine how jealous everyone will be seeing you driving down the road with the heater wide open and a heated jacket liner!

I share a fear of gravel and sand along with ICE and any combination of these items.

The friend's wife giving girly gifts to the husband is probably counting on giving the gifts to him, he won't like them, and she gets them for her own use. Creative shopping I guess.

Hoping warm weather arrives soon.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I was hoping that this gear would let make take advantage of the many cold dry days we have in the winter, without having to wrap up n a lot of layers. The Gerbing's heated jacket liner is lighter than the Jloe Rocket liner, and will be warmer, I suspect.

I may venture out into the cold — and the sand on the street — but I do not intend to deal with the salt until we've had a few days of rain.

Naturally, I expect you'll be leading the way.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

As I previously stated, the cold was never really an obstacle, down to 22º, as long as the roads were dry. I'm hoping this jacket liner will really make things more fun, while reducing the cold-related fatigue factor.

The real obstacle to winter riding, as far as I am concerned is the sand an gravel, combined with the piles of undissolved salt, on the road. For me, this is going to mean slower speeds and more upright turns, with an eye for accumulations of grit in the corners and centers of the road.

And I have no desire to coat the black engine casings of the K75 with salt. That necessitates giving the machine a hose down, and a sponge bath within minutes of the ride's end.

If you recall, my bike originally had chrome crash bars. Bregstein and I went buzzing around right up until February last year. I got a little salt residue on those bars. I let it set for about two weeks. The chrome was pitted when I got around to wiping it off. (It was no big deal as I had the crash bars powder coated a couple of months later.)

Still, I m dying to tell you my first impressions opf this gear.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

The problem I have with most heavy weather gloves is their bulkiness. Even the electric gloves I have seen in the past are bulky enough to isolate my hands from the sensation of the clutch grabbing.

This drives me crazy. Consequently, I am inclined to ride with a lighter pair of cold weather gloves not up to the task. I have a pair of black hand shields that I will install on the machine next week, that should cut down on the breeze. But I am also going to look into Gerbing's Nubuck Electric Gloves, just to see if anything has changed.

I am still amazed that you ride around without the benefit of a windscreen in the cold.

Fondest regards,
Jsck • reep • Toad

Anonymous said...

Jeez, what a pile of wind you are. Don't quit your day job.

redlegsrides said...

Jack, I recommend hippo hands or ATV grip covers....not very beemer like but they keep one's hands warmer when used with heated grips.

Wayne said...

Dear Jack,

The irony of being equipped to ride in the frigid clutches of winter is that you are now compelled to do so !

I got myself heated Gerbing gloves a few years ago and then proceeded to ride in conditions far colder than I would have ever tried. Wouldn't you know it, the gloves do not warm your face. I tried covering my face with a heating pad but that had undesirable side effects, so I bought a windshield.

See you at the breakfast.

sgsidekick said...

I bet you DO look just a tad different from the stock photo! So everything from the ass up is now warm? Comfy way to ride, I must say! My regards to Leslie; she's a smart lady!

irondad said...

Thank you to God for putting women like Stiffie on the earth. Even though they be better than we probably deserve.

Thank you to the guy who flew a kite and discovered electricity. He probably had the first electrically heated clothing but desperately wished thermostats have been invented right then.

Wires hanging down from electric clothing have a strange quirk. The tightness with which they can be wound around a rider's throat is directly proportional to the smart ass content of the rider's comments. Just a bit of philosophy to consider.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

Correcto-mundo on all three points. But when I c arefully examined the temperature control Stiffie got me for the vest, it was to "incineration."

Thank you for reading my blog, and for embracing my life's philosophy.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear SGSidekick:

In all honesty, I haven't got the pigtail hooked up to the battery yet... So, I can't tell you how well the device works. I suspect it will be late spring before I get out with this rig (due to the gravel and sand on the pavement).

I always said that Stiffie was lots smarter than me.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne:

There is an air dam on the bottom of the full-face, Nolan N-103 flip up helmet. The purpose of this little gizmo is to prevent icy drafts from getting up your neck to your face.

I have removed this comfort device from the helmet. With the face screen down and the vents closed, my face is pretty warm. The issue is with my hands (for two months each year). Yet, I have had the shivers once or twice, and thought the electric liner would make things exotically toasty enough t make a cold dry day's ride that much more enjoyable.

We'll see. I've heard a lot of storie bout these units failing. Not nercessarilly Gerbing's gear, but enough tales to lead me to think they are not quite foolproof.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo):

I regard you as one of the real authories on riding out in the cold. In my case, I think the Hippo Hands would be too confining. But did purchase a set of BMW hand guards that will look nice on "Fireballs." I may get around to mounting them tomorrow.

As usual, nothing is simple. the aftermarket mirrors on my K75 will require a modification inthe mounting hardware.

Thank you for reading and for writing in...
Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

motonomad said...


Thanks for this enjoyable post, and for the picture of Leslie's "gardener", who was kind enough to temporarily wear something for this photograph.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear MotorNomad:

What a thrill it is to see you getting out of your wheelchair and reading stuff online again. Clyde is looking forward to pushing you around at the bar on Tuesday. Did you know that Tuesday is "Old Farts Day" in Por Deposit?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Lance said...

Jack, I think you and Leslie have a great Christmas tradition. Also, I agree, black is very slimming.

Unknown said...

Jack "r":

When I first saw that picture and before I read the caption I was thinking to myself that the vest has such slimming properties. The fact that it also heats . . . is a bonus.

I have a cheap electric vest but hardly use it, but I keep it in my side case for emergencies. I also have heated grips with Hand Guards. The guards really help to keep the wind off your hands.

I find the best way to keep warm is to go to Hawaii. Originally, I was going to suggest Key West but you would have to bring your winter coat with you. There are benefits to riding in a warm climate. Your beach and riding attire are ONE (I have a photo to substantiate)

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Unknown said...

Jack "r":


bobskoot: wet coast scootin

ps: wish I knew the exact date

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Congrats on your Xmas gift. And, your gift arrangement makes perfect sense. We have a similar one--everyone is happy and the need to exchange something or waste it from nonuse is eliminated. I parked my bike a few weeks ago--but the 24 degees F riding that I did wasn't uncomfortable with my electircs but a couple of black ice encounters gave me pause...