Boehm, Catterson, Carrithers & Everitt - Editors' Best - 2006 MOTY Special Section

From Aerostich Suits To Evel Knievel, 20-Plus Years Of Very Good Stuff

Editors' Best Boehm
Even though a large portion of this whole "best" concept is highly subjective-different strokes for different folks, one man's trash is another man's treasure-it's easy to pin down some of the pinnacle bits and pieces of my two-wheel world.

From the beginning, then. When I started at Motorcyclist in July of '85, the first piece of riding gear then-Editor Art Friedman tossed my way was one of the very first Aerostich one-piece suits made. It was a prototype, one of a handful Aerostich founder Andy Goldfine built to gauge interest in the marketplace. I wore it on a trip to Laguna Seca that year (Kenny Roberts won Formula 1) and I haven't really taken it off since; I've probably gone through seven or eight of the things. I've commuted in them, toured in them, sport-ridden in them, even crashed in them, and to this day I haven't found a better all-around piece of riding gear. Goldfine once told me he looked at the Roadcrafter as sort of a "tank bag for the body." And he's right. The thing's just brilliant. As for leathers, I've had good luck with Joe Rocket, Spidi, Z Custom and RS Taichi. You can't go wrong with any of these.

On my head I'm sticking to non-Snell helmets these days. This is highly controversial, and not everyone in the office agrees with me. But after our impact testing (highlighted in our June 2005 issue) I'm convinced the generally softer EPS in DOT- and ECE/2205-certified helmets will protect my gray matter better than the stiffer stuff needed to pass Snell. Lately I've been wearing AGV's Ti-Tech and Shark's RSR2 and RSX lids. They're way comfy, full of venting and features, and come with no-fog shields. I like that.

On the street I typically wear roadrace boots (Sidi and Alpinestars, mostly) and gloves (Joe Rocket, Kushitani, Alpinestars and others), but there is a less-serious glove I've fallen for. It's a gauntleted deerskin glove from Lee Parks Design. I've had mine for about three years now, wear them for more than half of all my riding, and they're still performing and looking good.

Best racetrack? I've got a new favorite: Mid-Ohio. Rode there for the first time in June and it blew my mind, especially with the new pavement. Barber, Road Atlanta and Laguna are still close, though.

Best motorcycle ambassador? Looking back, it's gotta be Evel Knievel. The guy was a rebel and considered nutty by a portion of the world, but his showmanship, bravery and all-around pro-motorcycling message has had a major impact on our sport. Knievel's nearing 70 and not in the best of health, so we've been talking to him about a feature story in Motorcyclist, which we're working on right now.

Best motorcycle movie? No contest. On Any Sunday. Best motorcycle book? Motocourse. Best tour destination? The Alps of Germany, Austria and Italy, of course. (Southeastern Utah comes close, though.) Best bikes? Naked bikes, especially now that they're meshing sensible ergos with top-shelf parts and performance. Best track bike? Gotta be Suzuki's GSX-R750. I think it should have won MOTY, but, hey, it's a democracy around here.

And lastly ... best poster boy for the pro-helmet crowd: Ben Roethlisberger, for showing everyone-in living color-how stupid it is to not wear a helmet when you ride.

Editors' Best Carrithers
For some of us, the most eccentric big-inch Superbike of 2006 just happens to be the bestI'm not much for raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Nothing against Julie Andrews, but most of my favorite things implicate twisty strips of pavement meandering as far from the toxic, brown cloud floating over Los Angeles as possible and bikes to ride on them-BMW's R1200S, for instance. Just when I was ready to give up on the idea of a sporting boxer that weighs less than 500 pounds, this thing rolls into the Motorcyclist paddock.

Nothing against Triumph's 675, but it's only slightly too big to fit in my pocket. Das Boxer, however, is roomy enough to accommodate long summer weekends on the road. Ours is barely broken in, but it's clearly one rapid piece of equipment on the street, and without the 12,000-rpm histrionics or 15 gear changes per mile of some smaller, fizzier alternatives. Factor in nimble handling, optional hlins suspension at both ends and an easy 200 miles per 4.5-gallon tank of 91-octane unleaded and I'm there, almost. Loaded up with heated grips, ABS you can switch off, hlins and the obligatory 6-inch-wide rear wheel, the price on this Shine Yellow example is $16,575. Ouch. I could live with the basic R1200S, but even that sets you back $14,700. Maybe I just need to rethink my priorities. Ramen noodles aren't that bad for you, are they?

And because my least favorite thing about summer is sweating like a hog under a layer of cowhide, I'm spending a lot of time in Dainese's Zentex jacket and Drake pants; all the comfort of jeans and a T-shirt without worrying about whether I'll have a decent view from my bed in the burn ward. Both put stout pavement protection in all the right places, plus strategically placed mesh panels for some welcome ventilation.

You still can't beat the stalwart Aerostich Roadcrafter for commuter duty. Even with tens of thousands of miles of L.A. freeway filth ground into it, I wouldn't trade mine for anything else during the week. The Kushitani two-way mesh jacket comes out most every weekend. With a waterproof layer that zips off to reveal flow-through mesh beneath, it's really two jackets. Nothing else goes from morning mist to afternoon heat as comfortably. Gloves? Kushitani GPR5 gloves because they fit and I trust 'em, which also explains the two-year-old pair of Sidi Vertigo Corsa boots sitting in the corner. My gigantic head is happiest inside a Shoei X-11 or the new HJC AC-12. It's all proven technology, baby.

And though it's been far too long since I've been up that way, one of the best reasons to slip into all that kit is San Benito County Route J1-aka Panoche Road-running east/west between California Highway 25 and the western edge of Fresno County. Or if you're headed farther north, pick up California's Highway 36 near Red Bluff and head west toward Fortuna. I may have to plan an expedition to see how the R1200S likes that bit.

Editors' Best Catterson
A collection of cool swag from the Cat Man's lairMuch as I hate to admit it, I'm a bit of a Luddite. Although I make my living testing the latest, greatest sportbikes in flashy new riding gear on racetracks all over the world, when it comes to everyday street riding, I tend to find products I like and stick with them.

Case in point, my daily commute. The Motorcyclist garage might be bursting with 160-horsepower superbikes, but I typically ride something more practical. I've put hundreds of miles on Charles Everitt's long-term Ducati Multistrada 1000 and Mitch Boehm's Kawasaki ZRX1200R, for example, while my MV has only seen the lavish Primedia parking garage a couple of times.

Ditto the gear I wear: I got a BMW Kalahari textile jacket a decade ago and have worn it almost daily ever since; gotta love the zippered vents that run the length of the sleeves. Then there's my well-worn pair of Daytona Modul Vario boots, which transform into ankle-high paddock boots at the tug of a zipper. As for gloves, I've been wearing the same pair of basic-black (fading to brown) Olympias for as long as I can remember. In fact, the only new piece of gear I regularly don is my Schuberth S1 helmet, which I value for its integral sun visor that flips up beneath its clear faceshield. That sort of versatility is invaluable when you find yourself riding home from the orifice after dark.

I'm also something of a hypocrite. I often wear off-the-rack leathers at the racetrack, and would recommend a number of them for sporting street riding and the occasional track day. But whenever an aspiring racer asks me what brand of leathers I'd recommend, I tell him (or her) to spring for a custom suit. Why? Repairs. Racers fall down and go boom, and the best people to fix their leathers are the ones who made them. The finest custom suit I've ever worn was made by Helmut Kluckner of Helimot, who learned the ropes by repairing other makers' wares. Coincidence? I think not.

My Ludditeness extends to my toolbox, too. Anyone who works on his own bike appreciates quality tools, and I couldn't do without my Michelin Vigil tire gauge. It's probably 20 years old now, is still as accurate as the day it was new, and it doesn't talk like the one Everitt gave me to try for a while. Tire gauges should be seen and not heard.

Not that I'm immune to new products, mind you. I long swore by UniPro lap timers, but now admit that AiM Sports' MyChron system is superior-not to mention less expensive. I've also recently embraced frame sliders. Sportbikes that get totaled in tipovers cost us all money in higher insurance rates, so until such time as the OEMs make crashproof motorcycles-or subsidize the cost of replacement bodywork-these plastic appendages from companies such as Vortex and Pro-Tek are our last line of defense.

Of course, education is our first line of defense, and amen to all the riding schools that are doing their part to help motorcyclists improve their skills nationwide. I just took the Freddie Spencer High Performance Riding School at the new Miller Motorsports Park west of Salt Lake City, and would have to put both of those on my personal Best Of list ... though Boehm says the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School is really, really good as well.

Clearly, more research is needed.

**Editors' Best Everitt
A geezer rejoices in motorcycling's stuff
You should know, kind reader, that what follows are the ruminations of the 52-year-old senior editor, who started riding motorcycles in 1969 at age 16, and returned to the fold about two years ago after a self-imposed 10-year exile in the Pacific Northwest, where I rode my bicycle far more than my motorcycle. That should help explain why the following observations range from the merely disingenuous to the bleedin' obvious.

Because, where my comrades in arms have taken pains to mention specific things they consider bests, these days I'm more thoroughly smitten by all the stuff associated with motorcycling. Certainly, the capabilities of current motorcycles are so far off any normal scale that it should go without saying riding itself tops my list of bests. This is truly a Golden Age for fans of performance on two wheels, with no end in sight.

Yet to me what's every bit as incredible are the number and quality of motorcycling's accoutrements. Apparel? Jaw-dropping. Everything from one-piece leathers for a track day to a complete head-to-toe ensemble for a 'round-the-world trek, and virtually anything in between. Just as remarkable is that the best of it fits, is functional and even comfortable. It wasn't that long ago such marvels simply didn't even exist, let alone being available and in-stock at your friendly local dealer.

Or on the Internet, itself another boon of inestimable value to motorcyclists in ways impossible to count. In an instant we can get up-to-the-moment weather reports, manufacturer-created and -maintained sites with new-model information and history of older ones, live video coverage of MotoGP races halfway around the globe, event calendars and reviews, near-limitless numbers of owner's sites with good, specific advice for practically every motorcycle ever made, and on and on.

There's been almost as much progress in the last 10 or so years I've been riding than in the previous 30: hundreds of books, dozens of magazines for every type of riding, potions and lotions to waterproof your kit or make leather more supple than the day it left the tannery, microfiber towels for ease of cleaning and polishing, one-step cleaners and polishes ... the list is endless. It's a positively mind-boggling glut of choices which we once could only dream of, and now have come to take for granted, as if they've always been there. I assure, they have not.

To many of you, this orgiastic outpouring of praise for what are everyday conveniences might seem little more than the simple-minded twaddle of yet another rheumy, myopic graybeard who apparently read by candlelight, ate dirt and was thankful for it, and had to walk to and from school in the snow, uphill, both ways. "Yes, Charles, we know things have changed since you started riding in, what, ought-69 wasn't it? Are you high or just stupid?"

More the latter, I'd guess. But stick around and keep riding for another 30 to 40 years, and see if the changes you witness don't leave you just as pleasurably astonished. I certainly hope they do.