Monday, January 16, 2012

Refreshment On The Road With Your Motorcycle

When my buddies and I first started going off on week-long motorcycle trips we were ignorant and unprepared. We didn't have proper gear: nothing to keep us dry in the rain, nothing to protect us in case we went down on the bike.

And we had no idea of dehydration. The only fluids we carried with us was about a pint of water in an Army-surplus canteen I wore on my belt. We'd stop out in the middle of the desert in Utah with the sun blazing and temperatures in the 90s and we would each take a couple sips from the canteen. That was it.

Of course, we were on small, old bikes at that time, too. Nothing like the big touring bikes of today, the Suzuki Boulevard C109RT or Kawasaki's Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS. Ours were just little 750cc bikes we had picked up used, and lacking luggage, we just strapped things on with bungee cords.

Trust me, this has all changed now. One by one we all bought bigger, new bikes with bags for storage. One by one we all got good leather or textile riding jackets, rain suits that will actually keep us dry, and a lot more. We also figured out we needed more than just an occasional sip of water.

The first step in this evolution came when I decided to try strapping a small soft cooler on my rear rack along with my tent and sleeping bag. This thing had a soft plastic cover and thin foam lining, with a zipper that went around the top. It was big enough for a six-pack, or, in our case, three cans of pop and some ice.

Funny thing, though. It was worth about what I had paid for it, which was nothing. The insulation was thin, so the ice melted quickly, and it leaked all over my sleeping bag or whatever else was underneath it. That cooler never went with us again.

The following year, Bill showed up with his own take on the matter. My approach hadn't worked but he liked the idea of having more liquid, and having it be cold, so he actually spent some money and got a larger cooler that he strapped on the back of his bike. This one also had soft sides but inside was a rigid bucket sort of thing that-most importantly-did not leak. The ice still melted, but because it was bigger he could put more ice in, which would at least last longer. Of course, the bungee cords he used to strap it on progressively bent the sides of the bucket down over time, so after a few years it was looking pretty sad, but for a while at least it served us pretty well.

It was Bill again then who made the next step forward. By this time he had bought a new bike that was bigger and had a good, solid passenger backrest, or sissy bar as they are sometimes called. He bought a bag that had a pouch on the side designed to slip over the sissy bar. This allowed the bag to hang off the back unsupported and it unzipped at the top. The bag itself was not waterproof, but he found a thick plastic bladder somewhere that fit very nicely and with that inside, he could pack in a lot of ice, about a dozen cans or bottles of a variety of liquid refreshment, and it worked well enough to stay cold all day.

What a difference that made. Now it became the norm, when we would pull off somewhere, to cluster around the rear of Bill's bike and pull out whatever you were inclined to use to quench your thirst. Plastic, resealable bottles work best: you don't have to drink it all and you don't have to worry about it spilling. Yeah, we've come a long way, baby.

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