Monday, October 19, 2009

Anchorage, Part 2

After a couple days down on the Kenai Peninsula, I was back in Anchorage. I'd actually gotten back into town in the middle of the night, setting up my tent again at the Harley dealer just as the sky was starting to lighten at around 3am on Friday.

After waking up and greeting the others at the campsite (Hogman and Norm were still there), I went about spending lots of money.

First step was to head over to Alaska Leather for a tire change. The store isn't really a motorcycle repair shop, nor do they only sell leather. It's a small place that's packed to the gills will all sorts of riding gear, from the cosmetic-leather vests for the pirate crowd, to full-on touring suits.

And I thought my Olympia Phantom suit was expensive, goddamn.

This shop has a big following amongst the ADV rider crowd, and for good reason. The owner of the shop is there most of the time, is very friendly and helpful, and while the tire prices are about 3x what you'll pay stateside, most of the other gear is in line or below MSRP. And while they don't really advertise it, they do have a tire changing machine in back and will put new rubber on for half the price of anywhere else in town (and a quarter of the price of the Harley dealer). The catch is that, well, they're not a repair shop, so you have to pull the tires off yourself.

Not a problem for me!

While I was waiting for the new front tire to be put on, I poked around the store some. First order of business was some new cold-weather gloves, to replace the ones I'd lost somewhere south of Whitehorse. After trying on all the gloves they had, I picked the most comfortable and best-fittings ones . . . which of course happened to be the most expensive gloves in the whole store. And knowing that they'd probably get soaked after an hour in the rain (no matter what the big "Waterproof!" claim on the gloves say) I got some rubber over-gloves as well.

And then I did something kinda stupid. I started looking at proper riding pants.

While in the southern USA at the start of my trip, I'd been wearing Draggin' Jeans for protection. Contrary to what the pirates claim, even the thickest denim is no match for pavement, and will wear through in just a few feet when you're sliding along it. To combat this, Draggin' Jeans are lined with Kevlar in the knees and hips, the two spots most likely to wear through, to protect you from the worst of the road rash in the event of an off.

But truth be told, many riders don't consider this adequate protection, and after some time on twisty roads I understood why. When you're hanging off the inside of the bike at 60mph with your knee just a few inches from the pavement, that Kevlar and cotton doesn't feel like much protection at all. While they might protect you from some road rash, you're still at very high risk for shattered kneecaps, fractured hips, and all sorts of unpleasantness. To count as adequate protection, you need to have some sort of armor or at least padding.

After poking through endless selections of 42" waist stuff (I guess the manufacturers assume that everyone riding a motorcycle is fat), I settled on some Olympia Airglide 2 pants, which I'd heard stellar reviews of from people online. Padding in the knees and hips, with huge mesh sections for tons of airflow and a zip-out wind/waterproof liner, similar to my Phantom suit. And damn did they fit well. Of course, what was the size that ended up being perfect for my scrawny ass?

Women's size 8. (And that's my front tire with it's new rubber in the bottom left).

By the time I walked out of Alaska Leather, I'd spent over $500 there, counting the tire, mounting, gloves and pants. *sigh*

I had to wait until the next day to get my rear tire mounted. It had turned out to be cheaper to have my dad buy the tire in Chicago and mail it up to me, and it had been shipped to my friend Etherwolf. I stopped by his place of work to get it from him, and strapped it to the bike in a way that would make an Indian feel right at home.

I didn't get any pictures of changing the rear tire, because . . . well it's complicated, but let's just say I was very distracted for the next couple of days by someone pretty special.

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