Mike’s tips on what to wear when touring in the USA
One of the most commonly asked questions we receive from our clients is “What should we wear when riding in the USA?” I would say that the correct answer is to wear what you feel most comfortable in when riding in the summer months in the UK and Europe. Spending fortunes on ultra-specialised kit is unnecessary but, having said that, there are some items which really do work just as described on the label and these could be worth a look. I’ve bought, used and tested many of these modern, specialised pieces of kit myself and in this little article I hope to pass on to you my impressions and experiences of them so that you can consider their merits before perhaps spending your hard-earned cash on them yourself. To begin with, our Hadrian “Own Brand” jackets and gloves are excellent and work a treat, as are the optional “Hyperkewl” brand, evaporative vests and neck bands which we sell.
I’ve compiled a short list below to act as a guide as to what type of clothing you could consider looking at and I’ve also outlined my reasons for buying/wearing some of the items. I do regularly wear these items during a typical touring season. Each item has been selected because in my experience I have found them either individually, or in combination, to provide the level of comfort and performance that I am looking for. I am not suggesting that any of these items are necessary or essential for others to invest in but their inclusion in this list might give you some ideas and help you make your own choices.
Mike’s Touring Wardrobe:
- Hadrian V-Twin armoured, mesh jacket with and w/out the liner.
- H-D “Performance” long-sleeve, ventilated tee-shirts. White or black.
- H-D “Performance” long-sleeve, ventilated shirts. White or black.
- H-D “Performance” micro-fleece long-sleeve tee shirt.
- H-D “Coolmax” knee-length socks.
- Nike and Adidas “Cool” running tights.
- Leather “Western-style” 5 pocket, fully-lined jeans.
- Leather H-D FXRG boots.
- Full finger leather gloves. 2 pairs.
- Hadrian mesh-backed, full-finger gloves.
- “Silk” inner liner gloves.
- Bandana/neck cloths.
- Open-face helmet with peak.
- Mirror-finish bubble visor, amber version and a light smoke finish
- Top quality, Polarising sun-glasses.
- “Hyperkewl” vest and neck band.
- “Generator”-style, down-filled, packaway, puffa jacket.
- H-D two-piece waterproof suit.
- “Banana Boat” Broad Factor SPF 30 facial suncream.
Each one of the above “branded” items will have a similar alternative manufacturer and retailer whose products may work better but I’ve discovered over time, that the H-D stuff does work, lasts extremely well and is easily accessible virtually worldwide and it seems to be good value for money.
Most of the items on my list are I hope, self-explanatory but carrying things like four pairs of gloves may seem a bit OTT. So, to explain some choices here goes: I wear my favourite old, soft, deerskin gloves most of the time. They’re just part of my riding life nowadays and go everywhere with me. If the weather becomes hot, I change to my HVT mesh gloves and if it becomes cooler then on go my fleece-lined, gauntlet-type gloves. Cooler still and the silk, inner liners go on as well….and I might unpack and don my Puffa-jacket at this point too!
I love my leather riding jeans. They’re fully lined and work really well in conjunction with the Nike/Adidas athletic tights which keep my legs cool while the shiny exterior leather reflects the sun and engine heat plus the reflected road heat. If things get cooler, they work just as well keeping me warm. Many of our clients are aghast when we all first meet at the bikes and see that I’m wearing leathers. The jeans work for me though and that’s what’s important. I have tried all manner of Kevlar Denims, Cordura and other specialised riding jeans but have gone full circle now and am back to where I started……cowhide!
I like to wear an open-faced helmet. This I combine with a flip-up bubble visor, of which I have three, ranging from dark-tint, mirror finish to reflect heat and harsh light, through a graded, lighter, smoked tint for more “normal” conditions to an amber one, which enhances vision in wet or darkening conditions. Having plenty of air circulating around my face whilst riding is to me, part of the joy of riding and I hate misted-up visors and the restricted vision I feel I get with other helmet formats. I’ve never really cared for full-face type helmets, although I perfectly understand and respect the preference of others.
Many full-faced and flip-front helmets come nowadays with internal sun visors which seem to work pretty well, which I guess is a great addition. I would recommend however bringing a pair of high quality sunglasses as well along with a pair of clear lensed riding glasses just in case there is riding to be done in poor or fading light.
Because I could be riding in the USA from May through August and again in October through November I expect to experience a wide variety of weather conditions. The summer months, as you might imagine, can be particularly hot, especially through the deserts and across the high plains. I ride with every inch of my skin covered to protect against sunburn and heat. My specialised under clothing takes care of and helps control my core temperature. It’s in direct contact with my skin and works by wicking surface moisture away from my skin and allowing that moisture to evaporate and thereby keep me cool and relatively dry. This means I can ride in complete comfort all day every day. I’ve moved over to these technical “wicking” materials because to be honest, I find that cotton tee-shirts, for instance, tend to get pretty well soaked with sweat and I find being ‘wet’ all day and riding in clinging underwear to be rather uncomfortable.
I always wear something to cover the exposed skin on my neck whilst riding too. A “Buff” or bandana works fine here for me plus, either of these can be fashioned into a “Doo-Rag” to plonk onto the top of my head immediately that I remove my helmet, thus saving the top of my old bonce from getting burnt.
Most of this technical gear is also very light weight and all of the H-D Performance wear washes and dries easily and fast, which is a real boon on a road trip. Oh….and I drink about 5 litres of water a day whilst on tour, so there’s always plenty of moisture to wick away !
I carry a full set of waterproofs in my panniers. My preference is a two-piece suit simply because I find a two-piece set is much easier to climb into than an all-in-one. Also, there are times, when slipping a light weight waterproof jacket on over your mesh jacket can be just enough coverage to help you maintain a more comfortable body temperature, by blocking the wind.
I also have a pair of nylon, calf-length waterproof overshoes. I only break these out if we’re heading into some serious rain. They are overkill and a bit ridiculous but then again, they do work and when you’re all wrapped up against horrible conditions with good kit, you can ride pretty snug and warm. If possible and time allows however, I’d rather hang off riding for a wee while over a coffee or a burger and let the worst of a rainstorm pass on by, than fight my way into a “Roastabag” suit! Rain or shine, I apply a thick layer of Banana Boat SPF 30 facial sunscreen every morning without fail. As we ride, none of us ever notice just how harsh and damaging the sun and wind can be to our skin. I ride on purpose, completely covered up but my face is most definitely exposed to the elements all day long. Skin cancer is not a good thing and I don’t plan to make it easy for the sun’s radiation to harm my fabulously, handsome face.
Everything else on my list so far has been placed there to suggest some possibilities and choices but a high factor sunscreen is actually the one essential thing to pack and wear every day. Banana Boat works for me because it absorbs easily and moisturises as well and I have no reaction to it. Some of these products can cause irritation and my research has led me to this product. Find one that suits you and then plaster it on maybe even two or three times each day irrespective of the temperature or level of sunshine. Exposure is the risk, so limit the risk and cover up. There we are then. My Touring Wardrobe explained. I hope you have enjoyed reading this little article and that you will find it useful when you hit the road on tour with Hadrian.