10 days. 2,952 miles. 3 states. Countless climates and geographic regions. 1 motorcycle. With such a limited amount of space, packing for a trip like this can be quite difficult, especially if you plan to camp along the way. Add in the fact that I've never been described with words like "tough," "outdoorsy," or "not a complete sissy" and it was going to take a lot to get me through this trip (part 1 and 2) without being totally miserable.
I have been a huge fan of the REV'IT brand lately and they were my first choice for gear for this trip. The Defender GTX Jacket ($699) and Pant ($599) is their Gore-Tex, four-season, two-piece, textile suit. It had removeable thermal and rain liners so you can mix and match the layers to provide the amount of air-flow or rain/cold prevention that you want. For this trip, I rode with both liners in knowing that most of my trip would be spent in colder climates. The REV'IT fit, while still too boxy in the torso (as is everything else out there that's off-the-peg), was the closest I've found to at least being long enough in the arms and torso and a medium fit me surprisingly well. The outer shell is a mixture of 500D and 1000D Corduras as well as Teflon coating on the joints, and felt incredibly durable and, paired with armor in the shoulders/elbows/hips/knees and a space for a back protector, I felt safe knowing that should the F6B get the better of me; I would be alright. For warm weather riding, something I have yet had a chance to try, you can zip all of the liners out and open the vents in the arms, chest, legs, and back to provide airflow.
One of the things that drew me to the REV'IT brand was the thought they put into their product. The vents on the legs and arms of this jacket are some of the smartest, most wind for the size of the opening, vents I have ever seen. The snaps are all spring loaded, the zippers are all beefy and, in places like the arm, they have them on both sides so you can use one to open the zipper and the other to separate the zips while keeping the zipper connected at the front and back. The use of reflective material on the jacket and pants is placed unobtrusively but provides a surprising amount of illumination at night. The suit also comes with straps at the waist on the pants and mid-torso and in the arms on the jacket so you can cinch down any areas you may be unable to fill with a lack of body mass.
Overall, I have been extremely pleased with the jacket. The "touring fit" makes it a little bit longer which really helps keep cold air out, even when worn with regular pants. I have been wearing the jacket to work in the mornings because I'm still freezing in the morning and it has been a huge improvement over my Dainese leather jacket. That morning it was 35 degrees and I had to pack up camp and get on the bike? No problem and I warmed up quickly (excpet for my hands). I feel like I have to admit that one of the reasons I went with the Defender over other options was that I liked that it came in all black and I could make it double duty: on long trips like this and as my commuter jacket during the winter. It is pretty much perfect for both except in heavy rain.
As you read, the last leg of my ride from Rocklin to LA got really wet and I ended up having to turn back, dry my gear, and try again. REV'IT's system for waterproofing is to make the shell out of Cordura and then include a waterproof liner so that, when it's hot out, the shell breathes better and is lighter. The only flaw in this system is that, since the Cordura isn't waterproof, it soaks up some of the water, which spreads throughout the liner through the process of diffusion. In this case, that meant the water spread into the space of the liner covered by my gloves, soaking them from this inside which then, through the same process, transferred that water to my base layers. By the time I got back to my mom's house my hands were freezing, the bottom of my sleeves on my base layers wet, and my torso was completely dry.
Sidenote: As I mentioned, I went with the Defender GTX Jacket and Pant because I wanted the gear to do double duty and use it for both trips and cold weather commuting. Should you not care about looking like Captain Adventure or only want to use the gear for adv riding, I highly suggest you look at the Sand 2 Jacket and Pant. It is there newest adventure suit and they have continued to come up with new and thoughtful features that I wish came on the Defender. It also happens to be $200 cheaper ($489) which makes everyone happy.
Back Protector - REV'IT Tyronic Feel 3.7 Back Protector
Most of my time on the bike was spent trying to find a way to prob my backpack up against the luggage I strapped to the back of the bike to create some kind of a back rest. I have not worn many back protectors like this, so I don't have much of a reference point to review this particular piece of gear. I can tell you it was extremely comfortable and I rarely remebered I was wearing it. Luckily, I never required it to protect my spine, but it helped keep my back straight and the compression straps felt nice and supportive around my waist which helped keep me comfortable during the long miles. My only complaint is with the placement of the waist compression straps as they seemed a little too high for me. I would have also appreciated some kind of connection at the chest to keep the shoulder straps from pulling back on my shoulders, but this sense was heightened by the fact that I was wearing a backpack and sitting so upright. Had I been on a sportbike, I would have appreciated the sensation. The Tyronic Feel Back protector retails for $199.
The Gloves - REV'IT Bastion GTX Gloves
The Bastion GTX gloves ($199) is REV'IT's top of the line winter gloves. The gloves are made from a mixture of Gore-Tex, goatskin, 1000D cordura, suede leather, and Teflon and the insulation is a tri-fleece liner. They were as waterproof as one could hope (at least the Gore-Tex shell) and kept me warm down into the mid 40s (anything below that and I need heated gear to be comfortable). I wear an XL in most gloves for length, and the XL Bastion's were quite a bit bulkier than any other brands gloves which I suppose is necessary for warmth, but makes my hands feel a little clumsy (especially on morning commutes to LA on sportbikes). Protection wise, there are PU inserts on the fingers, knuckles, and at the back of the hand. The palm has a dual composition slider, and there is extra foam padding in the thumb and wrist. I wouldn't say these are the most protected gloves I've worn, but for winter gloves they did a pretty good job. Best winter gloves I've worn to date; even better if they fit you better than they fit me.
Boots - Alpinestars Toucan GTX Boots
"Praise sweet baby Jesus I got these boots!" I thought as I sat down to eat after just having finished my little offroad excursion. I'm used to wearing my regular 8-hole boots, Dainese racing boots, or my Icon waterproof boots so when I opened the box for the Toucans, I thought they may be a little excessive. I couldn't adjust the shift lever on the F6B, so the toebox was a little tall and would require extra effort, and compared to my other boot options they seemed on the heavy side. Still, better to be safe than sorry, so I decided they were still my best choice. These boots were fantastic, from the moment I left my door til the moment I returned to it. My feet were not uncomfortable at 35 degrees or 80 degrees and they did not get wet when I got soaked or when I tried my hand at dirt-goldwinging. The weight seemed to disappear when I put them on and I really appreciated the extra support after doing large sections of riding.
The Toucan's are some of the lightest adventure boots to date, but still manage to utilize super high tech features. The protection and support is literally the best available, provided by Alpinestars' biomechanical link between the upper boot and lower boot, medial side structure, TPU layering in the heelcounter and toebox, and advanced instep and Achilles accordian flex zone. They have thought of every imagineable way to protect your ankles from being crushed or twisted, to keep your heel and toes protected, and to make the boot impenetrable by any type of terrible weather. On top of all of this, they included a wide entry aperature so the Toucan is easy to take off and put on. Anyone in need of adventure or off-road boots needs to seriously consider these.
Helmet - Bell RS-1
You've already read my review for the Bell RS-1 helmet ($399), so I'll be brief. This helmet was perfect in every way, throughout the entire trip...until I got soaked. It is the first helmet I've worn that didn't create pressure spots after the 2 or 3 hour mark and was comfortable and whistle/boom free for the entire trip. The photochromatic visor adapted to the ambient light and remained fog free as long as I made sure to clean all the bugs off of it at gas stops and I was very happy overall. However, it only took 20 minutes of heavy rain before I had a consistent drip on the inside of my helmet and another 10 before I could feel the liner starting to soak. The helmet also didn't breathe as well as I'd hoped during the only 2 hour period of my trip I was hot. I'll stick to my original summary that this helmet is absolutely amazing for everything except for extreme weather.
Along with the Alpinestars Toucan GTX boots, these base layers were the real stars of this trip. I've beaten a dead horse repeatedly with how cold I get, so when a buddy who had recently purchased the shirt showed it to me I was ecstatic. The material almost feels like wetsuit material with the front piece given some additional wind-stopping treatment. The arms are actually long enough and the thumb holes help keep the sleeves down and cold air out without digging into your hands. The higher collar is great and creates a nice seal around your neck. The fit of the shirt is very slim so heed their warning when ordering, but I really appeciated the warmth it gave without adding bulk. The shirt was so warm that I wore it instead of a sweatshirt around Seattle the days I was being a tourist and was comfortable the entire time. The pants were fantastic as well, though I didn't need to wear them nearly as much. I cannot recommend this gear enough. I literally wore this shirt for 10 days straight. The shirt retails for $90 and the pants for $50 and I'll absolutely be ordering another pair as soon as I wear these out.
The Bike - 2013 Honda Goldwing F6B
Wes already reviewed the F6B and I won't even pretend that I can offer insight he couldn't. In terms of this trip, the SkinnyWing was pretty much perfect for this kind of a route, though I would have enjoyed maybe being on something a little more ADV oriented and a little smaller. While packing, I found myself wishing I had the full size model so I'd have more room to pack gear, but once on the road I was happy for the lower windscreen and slight weight advantage. The new, wider, seat was extremely comfortable, though it did make parking lots and super slow speeds a bit more nerve racking as it definitely effects your ability to get your feet planted firmly on the ground; a worthwhile trade none the less.
As described in my ride report, I put the F6B through a wide variety of different road conditions and it handled each one with poise and perfection. My only complaint could be that it felt a little too perfect and roomy and it detracted a bit from some of feeling that it was just me and my motorcycle, out on the open road. If you're considering a big tourer, I couldn't imagine wanting anything else unless you were planning to cross the country and were spending a much greater time on the road or riding all boring freeways where you'd want more insulation from the boring road, in which case I'd go for the F6B's big brother.
Other useful gear I used, should you be interested:
Luggage: Kreiga R25, US-20, 2 US-10's
Tent: Poler 1 Man
Sleeping Bag: North Face Snow Leopard
Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-rest Z Lite
Pillow: Therm-a-rest compressible pillow
Chair: REI Flex Lite
Flashlight: Foursevens Quark AA2
Headlamp: Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp
Battery Pack (a must for any trip): Mophie Duo
Knife: Sog FieldPup II