For those of you that might not remember, I purchased a Stratoliner S from a dealership in Philadelphia a few weeks back. This is the story of how I got the bike home.
The day started with a 9:30 AM flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Pittsburgh has a pretty nice airport – some cool shops, better than usual airport food and, best of all, no line at security. With a helmet bag in one hand and what seemed like a week’s worth of gear in the other I was sure that I would get a bit of a hard time, but as I walked up the agent asked me what kind of bike I was picking up and where – cool.
We talked for a minute then I made my way through the scanners and onto the little train that takes you to the gates. I felt a little self-conscious standing there in my River Road Taos jacket and mis-matched touring boots, but it was kinda fun getting all that attention. Oh yeah, mis-matched boots…why? Well, I originally I wanted to bring along a pair of Rev’it Rival H2O boots and a pair of Sidi Stivali Way Rain boots for a comparison but my carry-on was getting so big that I just put on one of each. Frankly it was the best of both worlds, as I could really test them out at the exact same time in the same situation. Both boots were exceptionally comfortable and full of terrific features but I will actually talk about that in an upcoming post.
Anyway, I almost missed my plane window-shopping and had to run through the airport as they paged my name. I was that guy! As I got on the plane and made it to my seat I could feel all eyes upon me, as if I was to blame for anything that could go wrong in the next forty-eight hours. Even the flight attendants were giving me the fish-eye – one made a big deal about my bag despite the fact that there was no one in front of, next to or behind me. But that all passed pretty quickly and I arrived in Philly a little bit later.
It was easy for the driver from Hannum’s Harley Davidson to find me – the ten year old SUV with Harley Logos all over would have been easy to spot too. The drive gave me a chance to learn more about the kid – he confessed he actually preferred Metrics to Harleys – and about a half-hour later it looked like we were going back to the airport.
“Umm, I was accidentally going to my house” the kid said.
Maybe I should of kept my mouth shut and not distracted him. Not a big deal because a few minutes later we pulled into the really cool dealership. There was a sea of Harley out front, along with a really cool Ducati Multistrada that they were selling for a song. I was ushered in to see “JR” – the general manager – and he worked up my deal and pointed me to a good Cheese Steak place on the way home. (It wasn’t bad but I should have gone into town for one of the big-boys).
The guys at the dealership gave me a little good-natured ribbing at the bags of gear I was carrying, assuring me that the absolutely gorgeous weather would make my chaps, River Road Taos pants and jacket, First Gear Electric jacket liner and gloves, neck-gator, and emergency long-johns barely even an afterthought.
There were some really beautiful Harleys at the dealership, but when they rolled out that Black Cherry Stratoliner S I knew I had made the right decision. Chrome was everywhere, and it was also decked out for touring with leather-covered hard bags, a quick release windshield and a passenger back-rest with luggage rack.
I actually listened to the guys at the dealership and put all my gear except for my trusty Rev’it Summit H2O water-proof gloves, River Road Taos ¾ length touring jacket (replete with armor and warmth liner), and Bell Star Carbon helmet (with incredible transition lens of course!) into the saddle-bags, which were far more spacious than they looked. I didn’t linger once I was loaded up as I was eager for the road – and that cheese steak.
I’ve had a couple of cruisers – a 2007 Harley Davidson Road King Custom that I loved, a 2009 Super Glide Custom that I liked, and a BMW R1200C that wasn’t really mine but I liked to pretend it was for all the time it was in my garage. After those three bikes I was ready for some pretty understated performance out of the Strat, despite all I had read to that point.
Once again I was wrong; instead of making do with around 67 HP and 80 pounds of torque like my King (when it was stock!), the Strat was putting down just over 80HP and almost 110 pounds of torque. Don’t get all crazy now – at 800 pounds even those numbers don’t make the big Yamaha a drag specialist but it certainly was no slouch. Acceleration was brisk and smooth and available at just about any time. The bike had a stock exhaust but it was by far the best sounding stock exhaust I have EVER heard. It was menacing and deep and had just the right amount of bark when I hit the throttle, but when I rode past a State Trooper standing outside of her car, she just waved me by.
The weather at the start of the ride was beautiful. It was sunny, warm, clear – and 3 in the afternoon. Fast forward three hours on the turnpike and it was getting cold!
Sure my feet were toasty (Sidi a little warmer than Rev’it) and my head, hands and torso fine, but my legs were FREEZING, despite the long-johns. Remember one of the most important rules of riding – make sure your body is as well equipped for a trip as the bike.
It didn’t matter that the only things cold were my legs; that cold started to creep in everywhere else and really tried to lessen my enjoyment. I pulled over at a rest area threw on my chaps and long johns, and then promptly pulled over at the next rest area an hour later to do things the right way. This time I used the First Gear Heated Jacket Liner, First Gear Heated Gloves (the regular ones not the armored carbon ones), River Road Taos Pants, and my neck gator.
Wow! What a difference the right gear makes.
The Taos pants were extremely warm, with a removable full-length liner. These pants were comfortable too, with protective armor that, for me, was in exactly the right spots. I will say that you should probably buy a size larger than you normally would – same thing goes for the jacket. The jacket and pants together were really cool looking too, and did not give the appearance of costing $300 for both. They really were very well-made and it looked like a lot of attention was given to making sure that they had the right features, like CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows, foam armor pad in the back. The aforementioned liners, reflective piping, adjustable cuffs and pretty decent venting.
The best thing about this excellent combination is that you can get River Road locally, right at OffRoad Express East. The gator was a $5 special from last year’s Motorcycle show in Cleveland but really make a difference – extreme cold on your neck feels like an icy wire wrapped around your adam’s apple ready to slice your head right off.
All this was great but the star of the show was the First Gear heated jacket liner and heated gloves. The Gloves plug into the liner, and the liner plugs into the bike (unless you have a stock power outlet your bike will need some minor modding). You use a wireless heat-roller – dual or single – to regulate the temperatures and then forget about it till you get home. I turned them both up all the way – the gloves actually felt very neutral but the jacket liner was HOT! I liked it—I kinda felt a little bit like a McDLT – that burger from the 80′s that kept the hot meat on one side and the lettuce and tomato on the other: my favorite burger (sniff). I wish they’d bring that back instead of the McRib, although I do like that one too! Anyway,
I digress; my apologies…
The marketing guru from First Gear actually chided me a bit – I should have set the jacket to a lower temperature. It’s not about sweating, it’s about neutralizing the elements, but that warmth felt really good. I attribute the extreme comfort provided by all this weather-appropriate gear as the reason I was able to do the 400 miles in one shot, instead of spending the night somewhere in the middle.
It got a little hairy around Pittsburgh – I was getting tired – but Five Hour Energy and Snickers make a good combo. I got home around 1:00 in the morning and stayed up till 4:30 watching the Military Channel.
This trip may have been a little shorter and a little less extreme than my planned trip to Wisconsin would have been, but I’m glad as my gear would not have been appropriate. Even the River Road Taos pants would have needed a little help in the way of maybe a heated pants liner and socks had the weather been ten or twenty degrees colder.
First Gear is available at OffRoad Express West, over on Peach – and since both First Gear and River Road are both distributed through Tucker-Rocky you should be able to get them in quite a few more places too. I’ve gotten Tucker-Rocky at Harley Davidson of Erie and I’m pretty sure I did at Street Track and Trail down in Meadville too.
Ride smart and ride safe…