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

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Identity crisis

I’ve done just weekend riding and no overnighters for about two years now.  Time and other matters seemed to make traveling by bike an impossibility for awhile.  Health issues had me thinking for a bit that my motorcycle days might even be over.  Happily, I’m still rolling along and expect to be for a good long while yet.
Thinking I would ride the bike to California next week to see my mom I made assorted preparations including getting it serviced at the Kawasaki dealer.   The bike has LeatherLyke hard saddlebags and a small sissy bar on it but no luggage rack.  Needing a bit of extra storage space I looked through my old packs and tank bags, all of which were found to be in a sad state at this point.  I shopped a bit and wound up buying a new Nelson-Rigg tank bag and seat pack on-line.  I’ve got to say that I’m impressed with the quality of the N-R stuff and the price is not bad either.  Both pieces cost me a total of $150 including shipping.
My leather jacket is a basic, heavy duty item with no removable liner and no zippered vents.  Way too much jacket for this time of the year.  In truth, I’ve never been one to wear a leather jacket at all, preferring textile jackets of one sort or another.  The leather jacket I’m wearing in the picture at the top of the blog is the first and only one I’ve ever owned and I only bought it because it was on sale for $99 and I couldn’t resist a bargain.   Darned nice jacket for $99.  Weighs a ton but is great in the winter months.
My medium weight (textile) jacket is getting a little threadbare so I decided it was time to renew the wardrobe at least a little.  I went off Saturday to visit some shops and look for a new jacket. Current motorcycle clothing for the street seems to fall into two main categories: Faux biker and Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger.  Both categories suffer from an extreme case of label-itis. 


Motorcycle rider or Power Ranger?
The faux biker thing is the traditional black leather but with a few embellishments to make it look more aggressive and tough.  Yeah, nothing like a black leather jacket and a H.O.G. patch to tell the world how tough you are.   The Power Ranger look is for the sport bike guys and to me looks silly on guys my age.  Yes, I know bright colors are safer but I have to resist the idea of going down the road looking like I just crashed through a paint store.
No one in town seems to stock normal motorcycle clothes like Belstaff makes.  Normal isn’t cool.  In order to stand out and be individualistic everyone must dress into their category.  Consequently the shops all carry the usual stuff from Fox, Joe Rocket, Alpine Stars, and someone named “Frank Thomas.”  Every manufacturer feels compelled to label as garishly as possible the front, back, sleeves, collar, cuff, liner, seat, or ALL of the aforementioned areas on their product.   Poor old Frank Thomas succeeded in putting his name on the sleeve, both the left and right sides of the jacket front and his indeterminate logo on the back and one sleeve of a jacket I otherwise liked and might have purchased.   Frank, feeling insecure?
I liked the F.T.  jacket well enough but as my name is not Frank Thomas, it seemed ludicrous to walk around labeled like I was.  Even if my name was Frank Thomas I’d not label myself to that extent.  I know who I am and if I want someone else to know my name I’ll introduce myself.    Why riders tolerate being a rolling billboard for other companies and pay for doing so is beyond me.  It looks silly.  I’ll save my thoughts on Harley-Davidson branding for another day.
Mind you, I don’t mind a discreet label on a product, every company has a right to label their product in some reasonable fashion.  A good craftsman always signs his work if he's proud of it.    If a company’s product is of good quality and design people will know what it is without turning it into a billboard.   Take Rolls-Royce for example: Rolls-Royce have never felt the need to emblazon a giant “R-R” in 3D neon letters on each door of their motor cars.  To their credit, Nelson-Rigg didn’t go too overboard on my new luggage although I did subdue the bright white stitching of the logo with a laundry marker anyway. 
I  know the sport bike guys like the racer look on the street and the cruiser crowd finds a lot of their identity in black leather.  Personally, I never could and can’t bring myself to slavishly follow fashion in any form, but especially in motorcycle clothing, functionality not withstanding.  I wonder about people who, on bikes or off, find too much statement of who they are in someone else’s product logo or name.   I’d rather go nekkid than wear a Tommy Hilfiger shirt.
OK, I admit I do wear a Bultaco t-shirt regularly but that’s because Bultaco is dead and gone (the new edition of the company doesn’t count) and I think they should be remembered.   Besides, I raced Bultacos and it reminds me that I was once young, skinny, and had all my hair.
What I’d like before I leave for California next week is a nice Belstaff jacket but no one in town carries them and I’m sufficiently oddly shaped to make ordering one on-line a dicey proposition.   Most likely my old jacket will see me through this next trip just like it has the last  17 years of riding.   One thing is for sure, when I do find a new jacket it won’t make me look like a Might Morphin’ Power Ranger, Marlon Brando in "The Wild One", or get me mistaken for someone named Frank Thomas.


Steve said...

Ahaha! You're a hoot! So... how do you REALLY feel about labels?

Ride Safe!

Anonymous said...

I am about as old/young as you are. We share thoughts about labels and wearing a jacket like we crashed into a paint store....I am laughing by myself here and my wife thinks I am getting crazy......

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