~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old T-Shirts Are Sacred

Few things in life are as comfortable as an old motorcycle t-shirt.  They have stretched where they should, get baggy where they need to, sometimes display stains of oil changes past, and generally present the rider as someone who has been around and doesn't give a rip or tear about fashion.  Most of my regular wardrobe is made up of shirts like that.  

My "good t-shirt" for riding advertises a BMW shop and dates from 1992 and thankfully has lots of life left in it.  But my BMW '49er Rally shirt from 1993 is starting to show it's age and has me worried.  A good bike t-shirt that fits well, is frayed in the right places, and shows it's miles in the faded colors is a noble thing.

A few days ago my friend Donson wrote this in recalling an old Triumph he crashed during his misspent youth:  “Sadly, a week later I had a pretty bad crash on it and pretty much totaled it, and I still have numerous scars........Both hands got in the spokes, broken front brake lever slashed across my upper chest, header burns on right arm, removed most of the skin from both shoulders and part of my back.  It destroyed my favorite T-shirt.  Had I not been wearing a brand new Yamaha full face helmet, I think I would be in Terminal Dreamland today.”

Donson's skin grew back, the Triumph was parted out but lived on that way, a new helmet bought, but a great motorcycle t-shirt was gone forever.   The loss of a favorite bike t-shirt is a serious matter and one that I'm certain regular readers here do not take lightly.  If you're not wearing a proper riding jacket for your own hide, at least wear it to protect your favorite t-shirt.

When my old bike shirts get too thrashed to wear in polite society (weddings, funerals, the occasional bris), I take them into the backyard and place them on the ground in a small stone circle made of used bricks gathered from the ruins of the original Indian factory in Springfield.  The t-shirt is laid out, main logo up, and always facing west. Why west? Amongst the brave pilots of World War I the phrase "He's gone west" indicated a final flight from which there was no return.

To my trusty t-shirt, my long suffering friend, revealer of travels, scarred and battered on the ground, I add a cup of premium gasoline or gas/oil pre-mix if the shirt portrays a 2-stroke bike or brand.   I set it alight with a spark made by striking a flint against an old iron connecting rod.  With a smack and spark the grand old t-shirt explodes into flames, often taking my eyebrows and arm hair with it, and thus begins it's journey into wherever it is that great t-shirts go when they die.

In the next life people often imagine that they will wear silken gowns or robes of white, I hope to be reunited with all my old motorcycle t-shirts, especially the red Bultaco shirt that is near it's end.


Unknown said...


Ok, I get your message . . . why don't you just come out and ask ? I don't know where to find a brand new red Bultaco T-shirt but if I come across one, it's yours.

we can't have you wearing bare threads

Riding the Wet Coast

Geoff James said...

Great post Doug!
You'll wince but most of my old bike T shirts end up as house-painting shirts when they end up as too disgusting to be worn in genteel company - normally indelible curry stains or similar.

I do still have my first 1000 miles in 24 hours T shirt for obvious reasons but it appears to have shrunk :-).

Do you keep treasured beer-drinking an' BBQ shirts? I have one from about 20 years ago that my wife won't let me wear and keeps threatening to throw it out. I personally think it's quite cool, even if you do have to wear sunglasses to look directly at it!

mq01 said...

hmm, sigh, i lost my old t's in home burglaries :( it still feels like a huge loss whenever i think of it... hold onto those fab old shirts if you can friends! im with you doug, i hope to be reunited with those t's when im gone. great fun post!

Unknown said...


A fine way to ease the passing. I believe my wife wishes that I had a similar ceremony - most of my old shirts tend to disappear. I can't say she's to blame, but sometimes I wonder.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Affer said...

I collected sundry T-shirts on my Route 66 ride a few years back - most of them seem to have shrunk around the waist section.....but I can't stand the idea of relegating them to polishing duty - particularly the one from the Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell.

Couldn't see me ever buying one from my local Shell station though!

Jac Brown said...

Great subject.

Not only brand shirts, but those made up ones are great fun when they get old. You probably don't remember, but Buser's group once had a shirt made that said "V.D. (small letter, Vehicle Development),Catch it in Phoenix" Of course, this was before Aids, so VD was something terrible and the wives wouldn't let most of the husbands wear them. I still have two of those shirts, although too worn for even the garage.

By the way, I find myself on the road without your private contact info. Please send me an email to my private address.

bikerted said...

T shirts, like rally badges help to recall stories. Ian has a few favourites including two from our first trip abroad, to Norway, and a Nimdus t shirt picked up in Denmark. He will not be helping with the global warming problem with one of the above as it is now paper thin and ready to naturally disappear into the ether.

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