Posted On 29 Apr 2024
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This entry is part 27 of 29 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#28


It came to me at about 2am just the other week. My friends and I were on our way to the Dawn Service in Canberra and had left Sydney sometime around midnight.

We had pulled over beside Lake George to take our ease and stare at the impossibly beautiful night sky for a few minutes. We were ahead of schedule because we had been speeding – which is how the devil makes work for idle throttle hands on deserted roads – and it was probably time for another belt of rum.

It was also brisk. I could feel it on my face because I still wear an open face helmet (Yeah, yeah, spare me your infantile censure. When your views on my riding apparel begin to matter to me I’ll let you know), but the rest of me was comfortably warm.

This was not the case with my beloved friend, The Punisher, who was busily stomping the feeling back into his legs and tearing apart his luggage while he searched for his wet weather gear.

He does this every time we ride to some frost-beshitted hell-hole, and it is an endless source of wonderment and amusement to me.

The Punisher is a man of middle years. He is also a man of means. That he chooses to dress like a homeless gypsy is entirely a matter for him. I have ridden many tens of thousands of kilometres in his company, many of which have seen him hurtling along at speed seemingly dressed in flapping garbage bags – which is what cheap wet-weather gear looks like when it’s being torn to pieces by cruel velocities.

I was once like him.

Hell, I started riding when the only alternative to leather was that waxed cotton stuff only the most bearded of BMW riders were permitted to wear, or an army-surplus greatcoat. Wool was everywhere. I wore so much of it back then I was like a Kiwi sex- fiend. I could see ewes in paddocks quivering with desire.

Thick woollen jumpers, greasy-wool socks, and fleece-filled Rossi flying boots were my world. My hands froze because that’s what the hands of motorcyclists did in the ’70s and ’80s.

Gear has come a very long way in 30-odd years.

I am now able to spend my winters with just a jacket over a T-shirt.

Unless I am heading off into the mountains where the temperature is often in the double-digit minuses, in which case I will add a thermal and a sloppy Joe. And a second bandanna.

I have also become a fan of heated hand-grips. It is true that I once held them to be the domain of the soft and effete. But as I age, and the rheumatism in my hands brought about from many years of punching things begins to take its toll, I have changed my view. Of course, if you’re under 30, you really have no business using heated hand grips, but when you’ve paid some dues, you’re permitted some comfort.

And if they’re not on the bike I’m riding, I have gloves that work a treat – wet or dry.

In short, if you ride in the cold, there is gear that staves off hypothermia with relative ease.

You’ve just got to buy it. It ain’t cheap, but it is good – which is the nature of gear, women and whiskey.

Just buy it and make your life less of a misery.

Which is what I tell The Punisher each and every time he’s stumbling around on the side of the road trying to get his wet-weather gear on before he dies.

“Buy some gear,” I say to him. “It’s not like you’re poor.”

“Yeah, I really gotta,” he replies, anchoring himself to a motorcycle while he struggles to get his boot through a twisted vinyl pant-leg.

“You remember the time your zipper failed and we used duct tape to keep your jacket closed?” I asked.

We had been hiding behind the only tree in Kiandra as ice-hell descended on us. It was bad. I was actually considering de-boning him out and wearing his soggy remains to Thredbo.

“Yeah, that was shit.”

“You’re still wearing the same leather jacket with the same zip.”

“I love this jacket. I’ve had it for years. I fixed it at home. It only breaks sometimes now.”

“Like now.”

“Yeah, like now.”

“If you come to my house on the way home, I will give you one of my jackets. I will do this because I love you and I want you to be warm and jolly. I dig the whole raggedy-man thing, don’t get me wrong, but I cannot stand to see you suffer when I have spare jackets sitting in my cupboard.”

But he never came to my place to get the jacket. And he never will. He will continue to hop around on the side of various roads as he puts on his wet-weather gear each time the temperature drops and the wind rises.

Each time his zipper fails, I will duct tape his jacket to his body.

He is one of the greatest men I know.

About the Author
Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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