I love my new Ninjette, and after I bought it, I wasted no time doing some significant modifications. Most were needed to make the bike more rideable and a few were added on after I decided to enter a 12-hour rally. All are documented in a previous post, Farkles for the Ninjette.
While I was customizing the bike, I found myself having to reconsider my gear in parallel. You see, I managed to sign up for something completely crazy. My husband, Rich, is a dedicated endurance rallyist – which basically means averaging 1000 miles/day for however long the rally is. He has ridden dozens of 24-hour rallies over the past two decades, and in September 2010, he finished his first 10-day rally, the inaugural MERA 10-in-10. One of his favorites is the MERA Utah 1088, which celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2011. The Rally Master, a good friend of ours, decided to overlay a 3-day rally on top of the traditional 24-hour format. In a moment of delirium, I suggested that he consider embedding a shorter rally as well for people like me who just wanted to dip their toes in the water. I had in a mind a nice 4 to 6 hour ride, but the result was a 12-hour challenge. Are you kidding me? But since it was my idea, I was sort of stuck at least giving it a try. Yep, this dilettante is going on a very long ride on a very small bike.
Seriously, 12 hours on a Ninjette? As it turned out, very few of the farkles I ended up adding to the bike were solely motivated by this event – most notably the GPS shelf, sheepskin seat pad, and full set of luggage. The other items would have probably ended up on there eventually anyway.
But the decision to enter the rally did expose some deficiencies in my riding gear. Or as my friend Maura Gatensby so eloquently put it, “No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Here is what I’ve done to address that concept.
Problem: According to my more knowledgeable sources, after a few hours in the saddle, riders develop a condition commonly known as “monkey butt”.
Solution: The undisputed leader in monkey butt prevention is Mario Winkelman’s underwear, aka LD Comfort. The stuff isn’t cheap but it’s worth it. I wasn’t ready to spring for a full assortment, so on advice of trusted friends, I opted for a long-sleeve top and full-length tights. The assumption was that it’s better to be protected if it’s cold and let the wicking fabric do its job if it’s warm.
Ventilation / Face Access
Problem: My bop-around-town full-faced HJC helmet does not have the ventilation required for desert riding in Utah nor the flexibility required for stopping to take photos / write notes / get gas / drink water without removing said helmet.
Solution: I decided to get a flip-up helmet. Again, I wasn’t ready to fork out $500-600 for the market leader (Shoei), but I found that HJC made a perfectly adequate version in my price range. And since my everyday helmet was also an HJC, I didn’t have to worry about sizing or fit.
Problem: Hours of riding in the Utah desert, no time to stop and drink.
Solution: One of the things I loved about the Dowco Tank Bag is that it is designed with a built-in pocket for a hydration bladder and a slot for the tube. Quick trip to REI to buy a bladder.
Problem: The Ninjette cruises at 7000-8000 RPM. That’ll drive anybody crazy after a few hours.
Solution: I bought a set of custom-molded ear plugs from a Plug-Up at the San Mateo bike show, complete with a tether so I wouldn’t lose them and a cute little case to protect them. I added a small cord lock that turns the tether into a sort of a bolo tie so they don’t fall off when I take them out.
Problem: I love my Joe Rocket Ballistic jacket and pants, but the hard plastic body armor is miserable. I feel like a transformer robot in the jacket and the knee pads dig in to my legs most uncomfortably.
Solution: Rich had already discovered T-Pro soft armor from Forcefield. They’re made of some sort of space-age foam that is supposed to provide the nearly the same protection as the hard armor. I replaced the knee pads in my pants, but left the hard hip pads in place because they weren’t bugging me. And I replaced the elbow and shoulder pads to soften up the jacket but left the hard back protector in. The bad news is that we can’t find a source in the U.S. anymore.
Warmth and Dryness
Problem: In contrast to the big touring bikes, I don’t have a lot of protection from the elements. Staying warm and staying dry will be challenging.
Solution #1: I already mentioned that Rich dug up a Widder electric vest and wired a plug into a side panel on the bike.
Solution #2: I have some decent insulated snowmobile gloves and didn’t see any reason to buy fancy new expensive ones for the unlikely event of rain. Instead, I bought a pair of Aerostich Triple-Digit Rain Covers. Half glove, half mitten – they are waterproof and fit over my warm gloves. Problem solved.
So now my bike is ready, my gear is ready, I just need to get myself ready. Time for some Shakedown Rides.