The kit, taking care of it

I’ve done a fair bit of tidying this weekend, the flat, the bike, my gear. We are temporarily settled again and have therefore retrieved some of our boxes, yay! Unfortunately, some of our stuff had gone mouldy, boo! I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised as we were constantly fighting mould in our last winter-let. As some of these things are motorbike gear and other stuff with waterproof membranes, I want to clean them with special washing detergent and re-impregnate them afterwards. It all makes sense doesn’t it, it is expensive stuff so you’ll wanna take care of it. I have been to every sports shop and motorbike shop in the nearby town and further afield. I usually get Nikwax, but anything similar could do, however, there is nothing to purchase. The guy in the bike shop actually laughed at me when I said that people must want to wash their gear at some point. I actually had to go back to the same bike shop to ask for chain cleaner a few days later, same lack of success – I suspect they believe that I’m making these products up as they are explaining to me that they have never heard of these things. A rather nice guy in a mountain gear shop explained to me that Spanish people don’t take care of their kit. He actually had some re-impregnation spray, but he said that no one buys it. He’d had it since the shop opened. In the end I gave up and placed an internet order to cover all my foreseeable cleaning needs. So while I’m waiting for that stuff to arrive, I took on some general cleaning.

Firstly, I cleaned my helmet. I absolutely love this helmet, it is comfortable and it is red. It is also rather noisy, so I always ride with earplugs. But the annoying thing is that the visor is clunky. I had a similar model of Shoei before this one and the visor did not have these stages to hold it open on different levels, which is what I think makes closing and opening clunky, so much that it shakes my head. Today, I found a small silicone bottle belonging to the helmet when unpacking a box and I thought that putting some silicone on the fastenings of the visor would work wonders, but I’m so disappointed that it didn’t. The helmet cost half an arm and a leg to buy so this sucks. But it does look good though, doesn’t it 😀 and it goes really well with my Spanish bike, aka Red Fox.

After the helmet, I got working on my boots – they are the same Altbergs as I have been wearing for the last 3 or 4 years. Well, since after my motorcycle vagabonding period when we were homeless and trying to figure out a plan for living after Brexit. I actually visited the boot factory up in Richmond, Northern England, which you can read all about here. The boots are super cozy, and they accommodate my wide calves as well. They have literally been all over and they are well broken in but I still love them, and I will even wear them with a dress on occasions. Well, honestly only at motorbike events, but hey, they look good I think, and now they are prepped for the next event. Below, in addition to a boot close-up, are screen shots from the WIMA World website, me and my boots doing some official thank you’s and awards. Photographer Tracy J Wheldon

Lastly, I took on cleaning my trousers. I got some new kit in Andorra after the official hand over of the WRWR baton. Everyone had kept on telling me that these trousers were doomed, being light grey. I like grey and have been wearing grey trousers for the last 5 years or so, but a shade darker grey I must admit. I was super pleased with the comfort of the trousers, really light and airy, not attracting much heat from the sun and comfortable on and off the bike. However, they did get rather dirty, especially inside by the boot and all along the inner leg. I did wash them once in Sweden in early July, but then I seemed to forget and coming back to Spain I’ve been so busy, working full-time plus taking evening classes, I kind of only thought about how dirty they were when I sat down in class 😀 Now I finally got scrubbing. I use Galltvål, an organic soap made of ox bile, works like a treat on difficult stains such as oil and insects. I wish that I had taken a photo before washing, but you have to believe me, the hem was absolutely black before I started scrubbing, now there is only a slight discolouration. After the scrub with magical soap, I washed them in a gentle 30°C with washing detergent and voilà!

So, at least part of my gear is clean and tidy, hopefully I will not need my mouldy winter riding trousers for next weekend’s event with Mujeres en Moto, maybe I can manage with the now clean summer trousers.

Knox Urbane Pro shirt – review

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This review is based on about two months of daily use of the Urbane Pro. After I purchased it I used it every day on my tour in Ireland and England, as well as returning to Spain through France. I experienced a wide range of weather, from storm and rain in Ireland to baking heat in France and Spain. I have tried it with different types of base layers and different layers on top. I can already now reveal that I think this is an awesome piece of kit and save you reading the whole blog post – however, if you’d like to find out why I recommend it, stay put.

Why did I buy it? I saw the Knox Urbane Pro in an ad on the internet before the summer and trying it on was one of my goals during my holiday. Knox is not yet available in Spain and is not easy to get hold of in Sweden, so I contacted Knox prior to my trip to Ireland to make sure that I would be able to include a visit to a retailer on my route. They pointed me in the direction of Overlanders AMI in Gorey, Ireland, where I could try on the shirt before deciding whether to purchase it or not. The Knox layering system appealed to me as I was tired of the armour not fitting securely in my summer riding jacket. I was looking for a safer solution but without giving up the comfort of a ventilated jacket. I’m sensitive to the heat and get heatstroke easily, so I need something fulfilling these two practical needs. 

The fit: I found the size L a very good fit, sizes available range from S to 3XL. I strongly recommend trying it on before buying as the Urbane Pro Shirt fits differently from conventional jackets. Because I was used to wearing my loose riding jacket I thought it felt too tight at first. The sizing advice I got in the shop was invaluable and I soon got used to the snugness of the Urbane Pro. The shirt is worn with only a base layer underneath and because of this the armour is always in the right place, protecting the elbows, shoulders and back. With my body heat, the protectors quickly mould perfectly to my body contours and I hardly notice them. I even slept in the shirt on my early morning ferry crossing from Poole to Cherbourg without any discomfort.

Safety: As the fit is snug, the armour is always in place. The armour is CE approved and the shirt itself has an A rating, which means for urban use. You kind of get that in the name, I think. As the shirt is abrasive-resistant, no extra layer is needed J at least not at speeds up to around 70km/h. However, while cruising on the highway through France I did feel a bit under-dressed and could have done with an additional abrasive-resistant layer, as my speed could hardly be compared to urban riding. But it was way too hot to wear additional layers that day and, like I said, I’m sensitive to heat.

The design: The Urbane Pro comes inthree different designs; black, black with denim details, and grey and black with denim details. It is available in male and female versions. The women’s jacket has two side pockets perfect for pocketing small things such as your keys or small wallet. I’m wearing the women’s jacket in grey and I give extra points for the cool design with black armour pockets on the grey jacket, which I think looks futuristic in a sci-fi kind of way and matches my personality. Plus, grey is my favourite colour for summer gear, it stays cool and doesn’t show stains much.

Functionality: The Knox kit works by the layer principle in a similar way to when you dress for outdoor sports; base layer – armour – warm layer/windproof/waterproof. I have tried several variations of combinations depending on the weather and I’ve been using the clothes that I had with me in my panniers, plus the Knox Olivia jacket which I will review separately later on.

I appreciate the flexibility, after putting on the base layer and the Urbane Pro I can choose other layers depending on the weather, some days in Ireland I was lucky enough to get away with only this, but honestly most days I needed a warm and/or waterproof layer.

As the Urban Pro is fully ventilated, i.e. ventilated everywhere, not just panels like other ventilated jackets, the wind cools you very effectively. Therefore, I would need a sweatshirt on top in a temperature lower than 25°. If even cooler, I would add a windcheater or perhaps a vest to keep my chest warm. In cold and rainy weather, a fleece and a rain jacket will do nicely, or the purpose made Knox Olivia jacket which fits perfectly on top and is fully wind and waterproof.

On a hot day, which for me is 28° and above, I would use the Urbane Pro with only a base layer. My favourite base layer would be a long-sleeve silk top. In temperatures above 32°, as I experienced at the end of August when riding south through France and into to Spain, I would soak my base layer with water for added cooling and/or wear a wet neck tube. As the shirt is fully ventilated, the wet base layer enhances the cooling effect nicely. With this in mind, a warning is in place – if you’re going out riding all day and the temperature is likely to cool off in the evening, pack a windcheater or you’ll get a very cold chest on your return ride. In addition, bring a neck tube to protect your neck from the insects that buzz around at dusk as the Urbane Pro doesn’t have a collar.  

Is there room for improvement? I’m super pleased with the shirt, but if I would ask for one improvement it would be for the possibility to attach the shirt to my riding trousers. I didn’t find this necessary when using the shirt on its own, but when wearing many layers I missed being able to zip the shirt and my trousers together to keep it in place. Edit: there are two loops which you can use to attach the shirt to your belt, a very discrete and clever solution. (So discrete that I didn’t notice it myself).

In conclusion: I appreciate the versatility of the Knox layering system and I think the Urbane Pro is the core piece of kit. I ride all year and in all kinds of weather, I travel extensively by motorbike and I commute to work, buy my groceries and, very occasionally, I’ll go on a Sunday ride. I need great, flexible gear that fills my needs on all these different occasions. When I started riding 20 years ago, I was happy to put on whatever gear was available on the market, most of the time ill-fitting men’s gear. Times have changed though, now I want good quality gear, designed to fit a woman. I think the Knox Urban Pro shirt fits the bill.

You can read the full specs on Knox’s website and you can also download the homologations certificate for the A rating.

WIMA rally in Derbyshire, England

Finally it had arrived, yet too soon it would fly by, the International WIMA Rally, that I’d been looking forward to since buying my ferry ticket back in February.

Parade day! Photo courtesy: Okunishi Sonoko

It is hard to capture the essence of a WIMA rally in words and do it justice, I struggle every year while typing up my blog post. WIMA is an organization with a long history, indeed it will be celebrating its 70th year in 2020. The international rallies started in 1958 and I’ve been attending them since 2005 (Sweden and New Zealand) and I’ve become addicted to them – but what is it that brings me back year after year and makes me plan my summer around being able to attend the rally?

Our international rallies are always a shade under a week, arrival on Sunday but official opening on Monday night. This includes the welcome dinner and speeches, and a party. During the week we have trash night with silly performances, the parade with national flags, visits to local cultural places, suggested ride outs and a treasure hunt, disco, live music and more. It ends on Friday night with a farewell dinner, awards and presentation of next year’s rally. Departure is Saturday morning. There can be some variations to the content during the week, but I would say that the opening and closing evenings are rather fixed structures, as is the parade. Quite a lot of stuff is crammed into the rally week, most of them included in the fee, plus you get a goodie bag. I love the way we have lots of social activities on offer and I can choose to take part or just hang back and chill with friends, some I only meet every two or three years. 

If I were to choose one element that I valued the most from this year’s rally, it would be re-connecting with old friends, making new friends and meeting some famous people.

For the opening cermony WIMA GB had invited Anna Zee, president of FEMA, to give the welcome speech. What a treat to be seated with her during dinner and learn about motorcycle culture and FEMA’s work in different countries. It was so interesting that we re-filled our wineglasses and withdrew to continue our discussions in a more quiet place. I believe there was a band on that evening that I missed.

The red wine was very tasty and I ended up in the office, having a few more glasses while discussing motorcycle travelling and rallies with Tiffany Coates and Caroline Carver. Tiffany has attended plenty of Horizons Unlimited events, so has Caroline (she is also the organizer behind the massive HU event in Baskerville Hall in Wales). With this background, their view on WIMA rallies interested me, what they found similar, different and the demographic of the participants. We concluded that the events are vastly different. The HU events are based on presentations and workshops whereas the WIMA rallies are based on social activities, fun and games. In addition, many of the HU attendants are round the world travellers, in WIMA most of us are more modest in our distances but still dedicated travellers.

So, already on the first night I had met 3 famous people! This resulted in a serious headache the next day, totally self-inflicted by too much delicious wine – Carolina and Tiffany had no blame in that at all, nor had Anna. The next day was a busy one, oh dear: first a visit to the Blue John Cavern in the morning, then an assessed ride with an IAM instructor after lunch, followed by the Pikilily presentation, national presidents’ meeting and dinner back-to-back. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how it was possible to muster the energy for all the things scheduled but somehow I managed to get through it all.

Some rock information: The name of the stone, Blue John, comes form its colors and the fact that there were many french miners working in the mines in the early days. In french blue is bleu and yellow is jaune 🙂 linguistics is fun! Blue John is only mined in 4 places in the world, all in this area, there were quite a few circumstances that needed to coincide for the stone to be created therefor its rarity. In a few years’ time this cave will be fully excavated and from then on only used for guided tours.

Our excellent IAM instructors! I got Linda Ashmore and I know hear her voice my head when Im riding, which is a good thing! Btw, Linda is also famous! Photo courtesy: Keiko Osawa.

Throughout this summer the weather has been rather chilly wherever I’ve been (apart from a few days in Spain and France). England was no exception, we had plenty of rain and some rather chilly nights when I had to layer up with all my clothes to stay warm and cosy in my tent. I slept well, though, and my tent didn’t leak. I find it super cosy to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag listening to the rain. A side-effect of the rain was the slugs, more about that later.

Clear sky and full moon – we’re in for a cold night at the campsite. Photo courtesy: Sue

Losehill Hall was a perfect venue for the rally, especially for such rainy weather. Lots of rooms, nooks and crannies where we could socialise indoors. For example, Sue and I spent a long morning drinking mug after mug of coffee and catching up on things. Then we dragged Georgina with us to take in the view from Lose Hill. 1 1/4 of a mile, yeah, we were all sure it was much longer. It was admittedly quite a hike and I wasn’t quite prepared, wearing my running shoes and woolly long johns however my new Knox Olivia jacket kept me warm and dry. In fact, I wore the jacket all week, both on and off the bike, very flexible piece of gear!

Another highlight of this year’s rally was meeting Hayley Bell, founder of the Women Rider’s World Relay, and listening to her talk about the relay and beyond. As international president of WIMA, I have been involved from the start and spent a lot of time networking both within WIMA and for the WRWR and I have followed its development with great interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the next step will develop. The WRWR can best be described as a movement and it is highly dynamic, involving and connecting women from different cultures and countries and broadening the horizons for everyone. As well as showing the market how many women we are and that we want better adapted products, the relay is showing us how many strong women there are out there and how different our situations can be just depending on what country we are born in. In Western Europe we want gear without pink and at the same quality as men’s gear. In Pakistan they want gear, any gear, because the availability is very poor. This gives greater awareness of the inequality in the world, we might not have the gear we want, but they don’t have anything.

One way that WIMA as an organisation is making an immediate impact is by our support of MJ Piki. We were fortunate to be able to hear Anne talk about the latest development in the Pikilily workshop and the progress of the women riders at MJ Piki. There are now 6 trained women and WIMA continues to support them, aiming to raise money for the training of another woman and to fund a motorbike. The rally successfully raised money for MJ Piki – the fundraising was split between our official WIMA World support project and the Derbyshire Air Ambulances, a local charity. So we are working towards our goal already. We also collected protectors that can be sewn into their riding gear, I find it amazing how crafty they are in creating their own riding gear when there isn’t any on the market.

On a more personal aspect of women empowerment, Tiffany Coates held a workshop on how to keep yourself safe and how to act in a dodgy environment. We learned about how to show security through body language, break free when held by the wrist and other tips to deter an attacker. The old tip, key between your fingers, was something I used all the time when running the trails in the Gothenburg suburb where I lived before moving to Spain, but I had no idea how easy it can be to break free from a wrist grip if you know how to do it. Tiffany was fresh back from India, where she led a ripple relay from Chandigarh up to Khardungla, probably the highest altitude ripple ride yet performed – they called it “the Ultimate Ripple”. I hope that, in the future, I will have the possibility to travel with Tiffany in India on one of her tours. She is an inspiration, and it was amazing to finally meet her, she is such a humble person yet extraordinary. As you can see, I had to take some photos of her famous bike Thelma as well.

Too quickly, the rally began drawing to a close. There was the farewell dinner, awards ceremony and concert, this time I didn’t miss out! Thor – the gods of rock kept us well entertained with their 70s and 80s rock, they’re seriously one of the best cover bands I’ve seen.

The first impulse of me and many others was to photograph or film the band, later on the dance floor was full with rocking women!

Thank you WIMA GB for an amazing rally, you did brilliantly!

Also, please accept my humble thanks for the “Slug in the boot award”. Very much appreciated 😀