Transition from right turn to left turn in a Lee Parks Total Control clinic


Gear and Accessories

Often in a class, someone will ask about some aspect of my gear. Here's the list. Where I give a web site, I ordered the item from the maker. Other items were purchased from local shops.

Personal Gear and Accessories

I wear a RoadCrafter suit made by Aerostich. Mine is a custom size since I'm so skinny. They have a sizing tool to get in the ball park, and if you're a standard size, you're golden. If the automatic tailor indicates that you might want modifications like shorter or longer sleeves, they'll send you the nearest standard size. You put it on and get on the bike and see what doesn't fit. Return the suit with indicated modifications (like the additional 2 inches in the legs on my suit) and they'll make up a custom job for a little extra money.

My boots are the Matrix model made by Oxtar. Waterproof, comfortable, a little wide for my skinny feet. I ordered mine from Newenough, a reliable source of motorcycle-specific gear.

My helmet is made by HJC. It's a so-called modular helmet, meaning the chin bar moves up and out of the way. I like it much better than a rigid full helmet because I can go into a store or gas station without removing my helmet, and without making the clerks nervous because they can't see my face. I wouldn't be caught dead in a 3/4 or 1/2 helmet.

I wear earplugs while riding if I'm going to be going more than about 40mph. It is well-established that wind noise will damage hearing over time. The disposable foam earplugs greatly reduce that, but do not prevent hearing things like traffic noises, sirens, that sort of thing. Think of earplugs as being sunglasses for the ears. They reduce the intensity of the signal, allowing you to hear better, not worse.

I can't wear the foam plugs all day; they irritate my ears eventually. I also have a set of custom plugs which are far more comfortable in the long haul, but don't block nearly as much noise.

I have heated clothing made by two companies, Warmnsafe and Gerbing. I use the jacket and gloves routinely when the temperature is 70F or below. On long trips when it's below 45 or thereabouts I wear the heated pants and socks as well. I have dual heat controllers for several reasons. First, it gives the best flexibility: I can independently regulate the heat from each of the garments. Second, it gives some redundancy because I have two controllers in the event that one gives trouble. And finally, I found through experience that the power wire to the controller won't handle the current required for all four garments.

The Gerbing gear is not perfect. Clothing gets folded and stuffed, and the wires eventually break. Gerbing has a lifetime guarantee to repair any electrical problems; I have never had a problem getting repair work done.

I use rain gear made by Frogg's Toggs. I've tried gear made by a lot of different companies and so far, this is the best. Not too expensive, the jacket and pants cost about $60. Waterproof, breathable. Popular among hunters and anglers. My first set lasted two years before it started to leak. That's a good run for someone who uses rain gear as much as a MSF coach who teaches 6 days a week in the spring when the classes are full and the New England weather is wet.

I use Aerostich's Triple Digit glove covers in the rain.

Motorcycle and Accessories

My motorcycle is a 1997 Bandit made by Suzuki with (as of October 2008) 130,000 miles. Reliable as a — well, as a Japanese motorcycle.

It's equipped with a headlight modulator made by Kisan and a brake-light modulator made by Signal Dynamics. The headlight modulator makes the headlight flicker at a rate of 4 times per second, only on high-beam and only during daylight. It's legal in all 50 states, according to Kisan, per Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 (49 CFR Part 571.108 S7.9.4). Installation requires unplugging the headlight power, plugging the modulator into the back of the headlight, and replugging the power. Then you have to zip-tie a photocell someplace so it'll know when it's dark and shouldn't flicker. The brake-light blinker requires cutting a wire to the brake light and inserting the small box into the circuit. It causes the brake light to flash 3 times, then stay on for a couple of seconds, then repeat, as long as either brake lever is active.

When I purchased the electrically heated pants and socks, I was concerned about the electrical draw depleting the battery so much, even while riding, that the engine would no longer run. I purchased a voltmeter to keep an eye on that situation, and mounted it behind the windscreen on a crudely-made mount. (It showed that at idle speed (1250 RPM), with a lot of electrical gear running, the charging system could not keep up with the draw. In even low-speed traffic, 2000 RPM or more, there is no problem keeping the voltage at 13.5 or higher, which is plenty adequate to keep the battery fully charged.)

There are plenty of choices for such a meter. Mine is a made-in-China unit with clock, timer, and thermometer in addition to the voltmeter. It isn't waterproof but the mounting location I chose, low behind the windshield, has prevented any problem so far. You can see it at BigBikeParts. I have seen two examples, including mine, which are rather inaccurate, reading quite high when heat is high. A more popular maker among the very serious motorcyclists in the Iron Butt Association is Datel. One source is Digitalmeter.

I could not get along without my luggage by Givi. The rack is specific to each model of motorcycle which they can accomodate, but the bags are universal. I have two side bags and a top bag. The hard plastic waterproof bags hold all the stuff I need (or think I need) for teaching and traveling from Massachusetts to Texas or New Mexico and back over about 3 weeks, camping along the way.

I have a bicycle speedometer made by Sigma. Go to a bicycle shop and look at the choices; you'll pay $15 to $30 depending on the capabilities of the unit. The real attraction is the accurate speed reading. Like many motorcycles, the Bandit's speedometer is grossly inaccurate, giving readings about 10% faster than reality. (The odometer is accurate.) The little Sigma unit also has a trip odometer, max speed, a clock, trip time, trip distance, and total miles.

For many trips I use a small hand-held GPS receiver made for hikers by Garmin. I use a strap to keep it on the tank so I can glance down at it while riding. I produced a waypoint at the north pole and mostly just keep it set to that, so that I can see my direction at a glance. I also have other waypoints set for places such as relatives' houses, workplaces, etc, and a convenient way to spend an entire afternoon traveling 40 miles is to have the receiver point to one of those places and then try to get there as closely on a straight line as possible. In this way I have found that the capability of the Bandit on dirt roads, foot trails, and goat tracks is amazing.

Many serious riders in the long-distance community use the fancier gps units which provide maps, audible directions, a database of driver amenties like fuel stations with hours of operation, hotels, motorcycle shops, etc. Garmin is the main source for such machines.

In the summer of 2008, when fuel hit and then exceeded $4/gallon, I looked at the 1990 Yamaha Radian in my garage, which had been sitting there for the last 8 years (much to the displeasure of my wife), remembered that it once got 50 miles per gallon, and wondered whether it still would. After cleaning the carburetors, replacing the tires, changing the brake fluid, and other tasks, I found that it still does get 50mpg. I use it for most of my short trips, taking the Bandit for longer trips and when I need the greater cargo capacity of my Givi bags.


I carry a lot of tools in my Givi bags. When I do maintenance on the motorcycle in the garage I try to do it with only the tools on the bike. As a result, when I'm on the road, I have the tools to adjust the chain, change spark plugs, remove either wheel (to give to a shop to replace the tire), replace brake and clutch fluid, change oil and filter, replace control cables like the throttle linkage, plug and inflate a flat tire, replace brake pads, and find electrical faults.