Hot Chillys
by Brian Agron

No, this is not another grub review that got misplaced, besides, I would not knowingly eat at Chili's anyway. This is actually a product review and we are not talking food or hot sauces either. Spring is just around the corner, but it is quite cold and for riding the iron horse on cold winter days (and not freezing your cojones) we all have to dress extra careful. Even so, becoming chilled is not that difficult if one is going to ride long enough to satisfy ‘the urge’.

I have a friend (Ryder... it’ the tall feisty redhead) who recently took a long stroll up Mt. Kilimanjaro to watch the sunrise from the summit. We are talking a four day hike up and a three day hike down. The summit, by the way, is over 19,000 feet up and it does get cold at night at that altitude. She wore a product that she ranted about as to its ability to keep her warm, so I took note and thought that perhaps gear suited for crazy hikers who do such things would work for aging bikers who cruise near the ocean on winter days. Geez... would our bikes even run at that altitude? Can your fuel injection even compensate for that height? I wonder. But I digress.

So I figured if there is something that could keep her warm under those conditions, perhaps it could have a use for us down here at sea level. Had to check it out. So what are we talking here? There is a line of light thermal ‘undergarments’ called Hot Chillys that can be found for sale in ‘outdoor recreation’ stores such as Sports Basement in San Francisco, which is where I went. Located in the Presidio of San Francisco in the old PX building, this place is sort of a cross between WalMart and REI. You got to wander around awhile and check it out. I soon found the Hot Chillys I was looking for. I bought a men's long sleeve turtle neck and pants. They are called ‘PeachSkins’ because of the smooth and soft finish and the name is quite appropriate for the tactile sensation of their surface finish. The fabric itself is 100% polyester and quite sheer and light and my impression is that nothing this silky could possibly work. I put on the turtleneck top in my cold room and was quite surprised at how warm it felt against my skin. I was warmer than if I had on a cotton turtleneck and a heavy cotton t-shirt with some sort of Harley-Davidson logo on it. The pants reminded me of the sheerness and lightness of pantyhose (Hey! These have a fly!) and quite warmer than pantyhose. Please don’t ask me why I know they are warmer than pantyhose... it is a long story, but I suspect most of you graying perverts know what I mean (Ryder's note: Brian, remind me to ask you about those pantyhose? Sounds like another thrilling story for the BCMCT website. It might even do irreparable harm to your Harleyesque image....<grin>....). But I digress.

I decided to try them out by going for a mountain bike ride in the damp chilly air on a late January afternoon, in waning sunlight with a temperature measuring 58 degrees and dropping rapidly. I put on the Hot Chillys and did not put on the cotton turtleneck and Lycra bicyclists shirt that I would normally wear, figuring one layer of Hot Chillys was worth two heavy layers of something else. There was two layers on top of this however. I felt too hot as I drove out to my usual parking area. Temperatures were now measuring 48 degrees and damp, a good test for its thermal properties. As I pedaled along, making my way slowly up Mt. Tam, I was writing this article in my head, making note of the great job it was doing of keeping me warm, with a lot less weight of clothing. My mind soon wandered off to other things, and frankly I forgot about the Hot Chillys, the temperature, all that stuff.

This is significant! I did not notice that it was dark, cold and damp... totally forgot about it. Did not even notice that temperature was an ‘issue’ whereas in the past, I sure would have been cognizant of the dropping temperature. I always yearn for a really hot shower as I pedal my frozen butt back to the car, only today, wearing the Hot Chillys, that was not the case. There is no doubt in my mind now that when I wear the turtle neck top (and a t-shirt with a Harley-Davidson logo on it) under my goose down vest and leathers and wear the Hot Chillys under my Levis, I will be toasty warm all day astride The Beast. I wholeheartedly recommend them for cold weather motorcycling as a protective thermal undergarment. At this point I would like to have included a representative and flattering photo of the Hot Chillys on a suitable model, say Michelle of ‘The Worlds Best Burrito’ fame (read the article under ‘Grub’), but I doubt she would agree to pose in just the Hot Chillys. Besides, oil stained grungy burlap would look good on Michelle...On the web, you can find the Sports Basement at http://www.sportsbasement.com

You can get the map to the Sports Basement in San Francisco at http://www.mapquest.com

For internet sites that sell Hot Chillys, I suggest you just Google it and take your pick of the multiple sites. For some strange reason, the Sports Basement does not sell Hot Chillys on the internet. Go figure.

by Brian Agron

Normally the first thing I think of when the subject of shoes comes up is a pair of red or black pumps with about 4 inch heels, ankle straps optional... However such C.F.M. shoes are not the subject of this article. This is a family sort of web site devoted to the love of motorcycles, so onto something a little more relevant. If you do not know what C.F.M. means, do NOT ask your mother.

More to the point is what we wear on our feet when we ride our beloved iron horses. I used to wear a pair of engineer boots that I first purchased several decades ago. They had been resoled several times, restitched once about 15 years ago and served as my tourney boots (ask Ryder about that) and were even used during my Renaissance Faire performance days. They had a smooth sole and tended to cause me to slip when I stopped my bike at an intersection that had those white slick arrows that point the drivers in the proper direction. You know what I mean, we have all slipped on them from time to time. These boots were uncomfortable to walk in, having no cushioning at all, were too old and cracked to hold a polish for any length of time and frankly needed to be retired, but I loved them as we had had shared many an adventure in our lifetime, besides they looked like something a Harley rider would wear and they made me appear like I had been riding Harleys for a long time. Cool. Look closely at that sepia toned photo of me elsewhere on this website.

But alas, one day I pulled them onto my feet and the stitching gave way and all I had was a leather cuff around my calf and a floppy slipper on my foot. The time had come. So I took a hike out onto one of my favorite trails here in Marin and left them behind a tree that was off trail and gave them a proper burial. I had not the heart to just dump them in the trash. I intend to visit their grave site from time to time. I hope you understand.

Time to get new boots.

I have a friend who rides a HD Fat boy who had just had several thousand dollars of custom paint done to his fenders and tank. Last October, while out on an informal ride one evening AND NOT WEARING PROPER BOOTS, he slipped and rolled his Fat boy and in the process momentarily had his foot trapped between his footboard and the pavement. The Harley did a complete roll, landed upright on its tires, dropped the kick stand and shut itself off. My friend was left face down on Highway 1 with his foot almost completely severed from his ankle. Trashed his custom paint job too. That was last October and now eight months later, he has just started to ride again. It has been a long and difficult rehabilitation. What is noteworthy about this story is that (according to the orthopedic surgeon, (who meticulously reconnected all his arteries, veins, nerves, tendons and ligaments back together) if he had been wearing proper motorcycle boots, he would have just had his ankle broken and it would have been a simple matter of bolting and screwing the bones back together and he would have been back riding much sooner with a shorter recovery time.

So off I went in search of a new pair of boots that would be appropriate for motorcycle use. Now as most of you know, The Motor Company (Harley Davidson to you greenhorns) is set up to provide (make that sell and make a profit) its customers with any and all the accouterments necessary to enjoy the biker lifestyle. I did not want an HD logo on my boots thank you... Shopping around Marin (an upper middle class Yuppie hell) there was only one place that probably had the product I was seeking, and that was the Red Wing shoe store in the Northgate Mall. So off I went in that direction.

I have a hard to fit 9EEEE foot and my wife (now long gone EX-wife) said I looked like a duck when I walked. So I did not have high expectations when I walked into the store. I announced to the two guys there (who were probably wanting to close up early) that I needed a pair of motorcycle boots that would fit my 9EEEE foot and after a short trip into the back room he brought out a pair of 970 boots for me to try on.

It was a perfect fit and it did not feel as if I was slipping my foot onto a piece of leather lined concrete either. These boots had their own gel padding built in and they felt like I was putting on soft fuzzy slippers. A perfect fit too. Nice deep Vibram sole so I would not slip on those annoying white road markers (and heaven forbid, drop my bike at a stop sign!). The leather is heavy and well oiled to provide water resistance (Ryder, are you reading this? they may not need Mink Oil) and they even have some tacky aluminum metal logos on the heel that give it a biker look without the Bar and Shield logo. What is equally important I discovered is that they do not scuff my hardwood floors and leave impossible to clean black streaks. Slam-bam thank you mam, I'm outta here. When the shoe fits, you know it! My wallet was lighter by less than $200 but not by much.

So after wearing them for several months, I have a great pair of boots designed and appropriate for riding motorcycles that fit and feel great. My feet no longer get achy and tired either if I wear them for long periods of time (and walk around in search of food and drink as often happens when we stop during our rides), like they used to do with that pair of decidedly archaic and ratty engineer boots.

There is a Red Wing Shoe store at 2200 cleveland ave in Santa Rosa and if my memory serves me, they even had a booth at the recent Sonoma County motorcycle show. You can check out the Red Wings line of motorcycle boots at http://www.redwingshoes.com/motorcycle/ if you are so inspired.

Brian Agron enjoys setting off car alarms
in Kaiser's garage when he rides his
motorcycle to work and knows first hand
that chrome is a very addicting drug....