By Richelle Redekop.
How many times do you have to learn the same lesson before it finally sinks in? In my case, the answer is, too many times to count over the past decade. You might think that whatever this lesson is, it couldn’t possibly apply to you – after all who takes 10 years to have a simple concept be driven into their thick skull? Well I’d wager a guess that this will apply to more people than care to admit.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will save you a lot of heartache and ruined rides. One that deep down you have always known but refused to acknowledge. Spending the money on the good gear the first time will save you money in the long run, and rescue a lot of rides that would have otherwise turned into exercises in misery.
As I mentioned, this is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. I always told myself that I couldn’t afford the good gear (yet somehow I could justify the cost of the motorcycle, the insurance, the gas, etc.) and that it couldn’t possibly be worth the money over what I already had. As a result of this mentality I have spent a lot of years being too hot, too cold, too sweaty or worst of all, soaked to the skin while riding through never ending deluges. I’ve poured water out of my boots in Oregon after they got so full they started to slosh, I’ve had to strap jackets and boots to my bike and ride in a T-shirt and running shoes in California in hopes of the wind drying them out to a wearable state.
I’ve nearly frozen to death riding through the Coquihalla in British Columbia when the weather took a nasty, snowy turn. My poor fingers turned to wet prunes in the Yukon, and nearly melted on Vancouver Island under the beating sun. Even after all of these experiences I still did not learn as I upgraded to a different version of a slightly less crappy piece of gear, and hope that the extra 50 bucks I spent would be the answer. Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t.
What finally changed my mind? What finally made me loosen my death grip on my purse strings and invest in some high quality gear? It was a combination of an absolutely miserable rain filled trip along the Alaska Highway, and a husband who was much less willing to put up with crap gear ruining trips than I was (I couldn’t let him have nicer gear than me!)
This past summer we set off on what was supposed to be an epic ride on the Alaska Highway. We didn’t have a lot of time but were hoping to make it at least to Whitehorse from Edmonton, and ideally Dawson City, but the weather had other plans. It poured down rain every single day of the trip, and when I mean poured I mean I was waiting for the ark to appear. We spent every single hellish day soaked to the skin, freezing cold and miserable. Every once in awhile we would meet other bikers on the road and wistfully stare at their gore-tex gear while listening to them say how the weather could be better but at least their gear kept them warm and dry.
On a ride like this we tend to spend a lot of time checking out side roads and going on hikes, but in weather like we had we really had no option other than to just ride, which in poor gear is an unattractive prospect indeed. Ultimately, we ended up giving up and arrived home five days earlier than we intended because the rain had no end in sight and we were fed up with being cold and miserable. It was at this point that we swore this would never happen again, and made the decision to make a real investment in good riding gear.
The sticker shock was pretty horrible at first, but then I got thinking, how much have I probably spend over the years on subpar gear if I went back and added it all up? Between pants, jackets, boots and gloves I would estimate that I have likely spent at least $3,000 in gear that I was miserable wearing, all in the name of saving a few bucks. The new Klim Altitude jacket, Klim Latitude pants, and Klim Quest short gloves that I bought set me back about $1300 and this stuff is actually comfortable to wear, keeps me dry and has a ton of venting. So over the years I likely could have saved myself $1,700 if I had just bought quality gear the first time around. More important than the money I would have saved are the rides that could have been elevated from exercises in torture to a much more pleasant riding experience. Priceless!
Don’t get me wrong, if you never intend to leave town and only want to ride your bike to the nearest coffee shop then by all means buy the cheapest gear that looks good. However, if you intend to do any touring then save yourself a lot of hassle and heartache and learn from my costly mistakes…save money and rides by buying quality gear the first time.