Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review: Sidi Doha Boot

This is my review of the Sidi Doha boot.

Size: 38.  I am technically a 37 but often wear a 38 because of my high instep and edema.  The 38 fit me great length wise.  They don’t feel too long at all.  This boot comes in an amazing array of sizes.  They run from size 36 to a 48 so you are almost guaranteed to find your size.

Width:  These are boxy shoes so I have no problem with the width.  I found that I really don’t want a liner and a riding sock with these boots.  The sock liner is really all I need so if you need a thick winter sock, the boot might not work for you if you have wide feet.

Comfort on  bike:  I found this to be very comfortable on the bike.  It is excellent at cutting out vibration and the sole is rigid so it has great support on the pegs.

Comfort off bike:  Ouch!  The stiffness that makes this boot so great on the pegs makes it hard on my delicate feet off the bike.  It also makes me feel a bit like Frankenstein’s monster because the sole is so stiff.  I finally discovered that a pair of super cushy inserts from the Dr Scholl’s kiosk made these boots wearable off the bike but I still felt like Frankenstein’s monster and I wouldn’t want to do just a whole lot of standing in them.   They were also a little tight across the ball of my foot. 

Durability:  My first pair lasted about a year.  They aren’t meant to be long distance touring boots and that’s how I wore them so YMMV.  The bulk of the shoe is suede but the vamp where the eyelets and laces were are made of mesh like a tennis shoe.  I got a tear in the mesh next to one of the eyelets.  Otherwise, my original boot is still fine.  I tug pretty hard on my laces because I need the compression so if you lace like a normal person I bet the shoes last you a good long time.

Protective features:  I would like the boot to go a little higher on my ankle although the lowness of the boot does give me excellent flexibility.  For long distance touring, I would rather have the support.  The toe bed is reinforced and there is a shift protector The heel is reinforced with a protective panel for the ankle ball.  The sole is wonderfully reinforced and stiff.  It is fantastic for standing on the peg.  The boot also has double stitching in high stress areas for added protection from having your seams rip open in case of a get off.

On my foot (the lace retainer was removed later)
Best used for:  I now use it for dual-sporting since I’ve found another boot I use for touring.  Of course, if  you can fit into a standard dual sport or dirt boot you will have far superior protection that what the Doha can give you.  The foot bed is all dirt but there is not enough armor for off-roading. But if you are like me and can’t fit into a normal dirt boot, then this boot is a great option.

Bottom line: Great durable little boot for short distance and light off-roading.  Heavy touring is probably asking a little too much of these boots.  There are other lace up options that work better for touring.

View from the side

Monday, December 23, 2013

This is How a Team Works

I recently had a bike working on weekend.  I’ve been having some mushy brake issues with the Big Girl since I got her.   We’ve bled the brakes numerous times but the problem never completely went away so we decided to overhaul the front brakes by installing some new spiffy stainless steel cables.  This would also allow us to bypass the ABS system.  Disabling the ABS has been on our list of things to do since we bought the bike.  I understand that ABS can save your life but I only have ABS on two of my three wheels.  There is no real way to put ABS on the sidecar wheel.  I don’t think having two out of three tires with ABS is safe.  On top of that, the ABS system has been malfunctioning for a while.  It’s a stuck piston according to the code.  I’ve had it repaired once only to have it go out again so it’s coming off the bike.  However, pulling the system is lengthy and not something we are up to right now so bypassing it was the right answer.  This was the first big work I’ve ever done on brakes so it was a good time to learn about brake fluid.  I learned that you always want to use a new bottle of brake fluid for every job because brake fluid, once opened, pulls moisture out of the air into itself.  Using opened brake fluid opens you up to getting water into the brake line.  Looking at the dark brown fluid in my master cylinder, I almost wonder if that was part of the problem I was having.  Apparently, your brake fluid should be straw colored .  To translate, my fluid should have looked like Sauvignon Blanc but it looked like Tawny Port.  Time and then some to settle this brake issue.

I did do some of the hands on
Old Cables
I had wanted/ expected to be doing most of the work myself.  Mr. Man wound up doing a lot of it while I watched and asked a bajillion questions.  I was ok with this at the end because I learned a whole lot even if I didn’t get as dirty as I wanted.  The whole process started me thinking a bit about the concept of teamwork and how it works between Mr. Man and myself.  A  lot of the reaching up into the bike and unfastening things was done by him while I held the light and asked about a billion questions.  His arms are longer and he’s more bendy than I am so that made sense.  Also, he’s the main mechanic for the bike when we off road so it makes sense that he works on Nightingale more than he does on Skylark.  Some things are easier with two people, like bleeding the brakes and he had my full help and cooperation there.  Some things, I need to do myself so I know how to make basic adjustments if I’m traveling by myself.  My biggest job often does seem to be asking about a billion questions. This time I also helped by going  inside and getting dinner in the oven so we could eat when we were finished.   Sometimes Mr. Man’s job is looking up schematics on the computer.  Sometimes he’s handing me tools, sometimes I hand him tools.  Early in our relationship we had to establish that teamwork does not mean equal.  That fair is not always 50/50.  He has always made more money than I have so to establish an equal power dynamic in the relationship we set up roles and duties.  He puts in a higher percentage of his income into our joint account than I do but I take care of paying bills and most of the grocery shopping.  When we travel, we are responsible for different things.  When we work on the bike, especially Nightingale, we are responsible for different things.  I like it.  I like the fact that in our relationship we are allowed to bring our strengths to the table, not an arbitrary 50/50.  We don’t keep a ledger.  I don’t think, well, I picked up all that oil and filters for his bike so he has to pick up the groceries for me.   At least, I don’t think that too often.  I am, after all, still human.
New cables

In the end, I had shiny new brake cables and my goodness, my brakes work well now!  I also had a better understanding of my braking system and that’s maybe the most important thing for me to take away.  I know why we moved to stainless steel lines from rubber.  I know why we went with two lines instead of one line and a splitter and I understand how we bypassed my ABS system.  Also, I have a much better comprehension of the mechanics behind a braking system and what brake fluid does.  So even if I didn’t turn every wrench and run every line, I educated myself making myself a better partner for off-roading.  My better familiarity with the brakes will help me troubleshoot on the road.  Mr. Man helped me learn and isn’t that what a team should do?  Shouldn’t it make you better?
Always remember, safety third!
 I totally want to  give a shout out to the great guys over at Boxer Metal for the speedy delivery of the parts.  Feel free to check them out here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Das Boot

First, a bedtime story

When I was first looking a motorcycle, I wasn’t looking at sidecars.  At that point I wasn’t sure sidecars were a possibility even though I had always loved them.  When I first started this journey, I looked at what Mr. Man had always ridden, Harley Davidsons.  I had, in fact found a bike I really liked (I can no longer remember what it was).  I reached the ground pretty reasonably on it but my little legs couldn’t quite reach the forward controls.  I could hit the pegs but not the shifter or the brake.  By this point, I had a pretty good idea that anything on a bike could be re-arranged for the right price so I told the salesman (who had been pushing me onto small displacement Sportsters before I insisted on sitting on something with enough displacement to move my sizable self on down the road) that I liked the bike but I really needed the controls moved to mid controls.  He shook his head and said, “Oh no. That would totally ruin the line of the bike.”  I thought to myself “It will totally ruin the line of the bike when I can’t shift or brake and hit at tree.”  At that point I got up off the bike and left.  In fact, I left the thought of Harley’s altogether rather soon after that and then left the idea of two wheels completely.

The story above illustrates something I’ve learned about bikes:  Everything is a compromise but some compromises you make because you have no choice.  Yes, moving the controls would have altered the line of the bike.  For some people, that would be a choice to make.  For me, it was not a choice, it was a fact.  If I was going to ride that Harley, I had to have the controls moved.  No choice, just compromise.  In the dance of gains and losses that is motorcycling and motorcycling gear, boots are my biggest point of compromise.  I have to make the worst compromise in my opinion:  I have to trade safety for fit.  And it really, really sucks.  I have, however, come to understand that being on a sidecar means that those compromises are a little safer to make than if I was on two wheels.  I can’t have 90% of the wrecks that two wheels can have.  I can’t low-side, can’t slide, can’t drop the bike in a parking lot.  Boots are designed to protect mostly against accidents I can’t have.  The accidents I can have….well, I’m not sure boots will save me in those cases.  Also, I don’t have to put my feet down so I don’t have to pay a lot of attention to the tread on the bottom of my boots.  It’s a feature that doesn’t factor into my boot decision and trust me, I need all the wiggle room with boots that I can get.

My name is Sidecar Adventures and I have problem feet

I have on again off again Plantar Fasciitis.  What is that?  Well, it’s pain personified is what it is.  Plantar Fasciitis is a condition where the fascia (connective tissue) in  the bottom of the foot “falls” instead of being springy up against the muscles of your foot like it should.  What causes this?  Weight is a factor but not the only one and not always the primary one.  Folks who play sports where their feet take a pounding are at risks.  Think soccer, running, rugby.  Putting your feet on pegs that are vibrating?  Guess what?  That qualifies.  So even if I am not having a flare up, if I ride a lot, I will get one.  Go me. 

There are a few treatments for this painful condition and I’ve tried many of them:
1.       Rest.  Please, like that’s going to ever happen for me.  I can’t exactly call into work because my feet hurt.  I do take measures to stay off my feet as much as I can but that’s as good as I can do.
2.      Ice. If things are going bad I have been known to freeze water bottles and then roll my feet over them.  It’s helpful short term.
3.       f Stretching.  Yes.  This.  I found that stretching is one of the number one ways to alleviate the pain of Plantar Fasciitis and to help the healing process.
4.       Taping.  My other number one solution.  A simple taping on the bottom of the foot in the shape of an X can suddenly vanish all the pain.  It’s the miracle of Christmas wrapped up in athletic tape.
5.       Cortisone shots.  No thanks.  This is an injury that is healing.  Inflammation is secondary and while the shots can mask the pain, they won’t fix the problem.  There is also anecdotal evidence that in some cases, cortisone shots can rupture the fascia.  Um…no thanks.
6.       Better shoes.  There could be an entire blog post about shoes and my plantar fasciitis (and someday there may be) but for now let me just say that quality shoes are a must.  Arch support and lateral heel stabilization have become very near and dear to my heart.  Such factors weigh heavily in my riding boot choices.

I really could do a whole post just about how plantar fasciitis has impacted my life and my riding….I’ll save that for another day.

Aside from Plantar Fasciitis I have some other foot issues.  I have very small feet so from the start I’m hard to fit.  I wear about a 6 ½ woman’s although I often order a 7 because of some other fitting issues I have.  I can wear about a 5 kids and that can be handy.  Some manufacturers are starting to make kids touring boots.  Kids boots are almost always wider and shorter so they come a little closer to fitting me.  I wear a 38 European although I’m actually a 37 (it’s that fit thing again.)  If I have a choice, I like to wear things that are fit to European measurement because they are more exact and universal.  A 38 is a 38 is a 38.  Doesn’t matter who makes it, they don’t run small, large or otherwise.  I can’t say that about an American size 7.   Because my feet are so small, many manufacturers don’t carry boots in my size especially because many gear companies don’t make women’s boots that fit my needs.  I have to hope that the men’s boots come in a 38.  If we are talking American sizing then I can forget about it.  How many men’s boots come in a size 5?  Um…none.  So unless it’s European sized or a woman’s line, I can’t buy their boots.  My short feet are also wide however, that’s not the biggest issue.  A lot of people have wide feet and a lot of motorcycle boots can accommodate that.  I just make sure I read the reviews and the descriptions carefully.  The biggest problems are my insteps and my calves.  My insteps are high so I have a hard time getting my foot into a boot if the vamp is too low.  And trust me, the vamp is always too low.  My calves are huge, 23 inches around.  That is massive.  That  means even if the boot will go on my foot, it won’t fasten.  On top of the big calves, I have pretty bad edema on my legs affecting mostly my ankles and lower calves.  It’s pretty ugly and most people think it must hurt.  It doesn’t but it can be uncomfortable and a little embarrassing.  Yes, I’ve seen a doctor about it.  It is water and it is due to my weight.  As a matter of fact, yes, I am aware that I am overweight, thanks for asking.  Since I’ve been more active, my edema has gone down, a lot although it is hardly gone.  I get a little tired of telling people that don’t know that yes, the state of my legs is better than it was.  Compared to a year ago, they are downright svelte.  Not that I’ve had to have to conversation way too many times or anything.  So there you go:
Short, wide, and puffy does not make it easy to buy Motorcycle boots.
My Problem feet and Ginormous calves...and a tattoo

In the Beginning There Was…

My foot in my combat boots
When I first started riding, Mr. Man’s past history with riding informed my gear choices.  We wore leather jackets, jeans, and combat boots.  Soon we both embraced better riding through technology and were wearing armored textiles and while Mr. Man was content with his combat boots for a while longer, I soon started looking for other options.

Check out the gaps in the lacing
But I get ahead of myself. The combat boots I wore were fine boots and for many riders would have fit their needs perfectly forever.  I wore Corcoran 2 Field boots.  They are jump boots so the soles are meant to take a pounding and they are fairly flexible through the ankle.  All good things to have in a boot.  There were many things I liked about the boots.  They are tall and provide good ankle support and protection for a boot with no armor.  They are made of high quality leather and are durable and affordable boots.  The toe bed is roomy and pretty sturdy so it protects your toes from the shifter and allows plenty of wiggle room.  The lateral heel support is excellent and they were roomy enough on me to take a Birkenstock insert for my problem feet.  They are also comfortable off the bike and provided great compression form my edema.  I wore a size seven woman’s and had enough room for thick socks when it was cold but it also did well with thinner summer socks.  So it’s a great boot.  There were things I didn’t like about it and after a while, the bad outweighed the good.  Because of my mighty calves, the tall boots didn’t close all the way and because of the edema, it was hard to even get the boots tied first thing in the morning.  This meant I would get the boots on my feet,  breathe a bit, walk around an bit then start to tighten them.  I would get them tied as best I could and wear them for a few hours.  At our first gas stop I would ask Mr. Man to help tighten them.  By that time, the compression from the boots would let him tighten them down and tie them off properly.  Because my legs are short but wide, the height of the boot never fit me well.  The boots would end up creasing over at my Achilles tendon and press on my heel (ouch).  I would get blisters and raw spots and a lot of pain.   The boots weren’t armored.  I would have liked some armor over my ankle bones and some reinforcement on the toes where I shift.  Because of the edema I could never get them tight enough.  At the end of the day, no matter how hard we tried to lace them down they could be pulled off my feet without untying them or loosening them.  So guess what they would do in the case of a get off?  They would get off my feet and then I would be really unprotected.  I tried to fix this by buying a pair that were actually 6 ½ thinking that would help.  The vamp on the smaller boots was so low that it hurt my feet way too much to wear and the calves were so small that it was comical.  In fact, I bought a pair of hiking boots at a Wal-Mart on the first day of a road trip because the 6 1/2 boots were so painful.  So I went back to my size sevens and lived with clown feet and pain in my heel while I figured out what else I could wear.
These Hiking Boots where motorcycle boots for one trip

The Little Doha that Could

This is the story of how I found salvation in a pair of boots.  We were, as we often are, at our local BMW/Triumph dealer on a random day looking for nothing in particular.  As I often was, I was in the boot section looking wistfully at the Alpinestars, Sidis, and Daineses that would never fit me.  We knew, we had tried.  All of their staff knew too, because they had helped us try on boots.  While I was over there sighing and moping I saw a pair of low stunter boots by Sidi that looked for all the world like high top suede tennis shoes but with some armor and reinforcement that provided some protection.  I glanced through the boxes and surprise, surprise, I found a size 38.  To this day, my guess is that someone special ordered that size and then didn’t want them because I don’t find shoes that small on the shelves regularly.  I tried them on not expecting anything and….they fit.  They. Fit.  I walked around and found them stiff and not super comfortable off the bike but I could live with that.  When I sat on a bike they disappeared off my feet like I wasn’t wearing anything.  I showed them to Mr. Man and we looked at the Velcro restraining strap that would secure the laces down.  It was in no way long enough to go across my ankles but it looked like I could pick the stitches off.  So we bought them.  And I wore them.  And wore them.  And wore them.  I discovered that they still came off my foot to easy but they were more secure than my combat boots.  I discovered that with a cushy Dr Scholls insert they were comfortable to wear off the bike as well as on the bike.  I liked the security of the stiff sole, in fact, I found out later that the Doha was based on the footbed Sidi uses in their off road boot so it was great for dual sporting.  For a while I still wore the Combat Boot when off roading but comfort won out I and was wearing the Dohas exclusively and loving them.  Until…one sad day, I found a tear next to one of the eyelets.  It was time to replace them.
New Doha boots
I still need to remove the lace retainer

I Would Like to Thank all the Stunters

Have you see those crazy guys who do wheelies and stand on their moving bikes while going down the highway?  Those are stunters.  I love watching them in empty parking lots or abandoned airstrips doing their crazy thing but I hate them out on the open road.  Ranting aside, part of their aesthetic is to have a very street look.  So yes to helmet and short gloves but no jacket or pants or boots.  What you don’t see is that under their t-shirts they may be wearing body armor or their jeans may be armored or be made of Kevlar mesh…or they may just be wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  They like to wear tennis shoes or boots that look like tennis shoes.  Because of this aesthetic, there has been a lot of financial reward for gear manufacturers to start producing lower stunt style boots that lace like tennis shoes.  Commuters often like this style of boot as well because it transitions from bike to casual office easily.  This was not the case when I started riding seven years ago and the shops we frequent don’t carry gear like that.  They carry racing and touring inspired boots.  So all this was happening and I had no idea until my Dohas had to be replaced.

Revzilla has become one of my favorite online stores.  They don’t charge shipping over a certain amount and returns are easy and hassle free.  I also love their video reviews.  Check them out  Here.  I hopped online to order more boots and low and behold, pages and pages of low lace up boots that I can wear.  I’ll give you, not all of them are in sizes I can wear but enough of them are.  Even better, new styles seem to be coming out all the time.  Suddenly, my inner shoe lover has blossomed and I own three pair of boots with an eye to buying more.  Are they as great as full coverage touring boots or as sexy and heavily armored racing boots?  Nope.  But they fit me, and they provide protection and comfort.  What more could a girl ask for?
I'll do a post soon that reviews the boots I now own but that's another post for another day. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Confessions of a Short Squat Rider

I've been doing some housekeeping on the blog.  I've added a link list that is in it's infancy but it will grow.  I've also changed the about me section a bit because I'd like to broaden the scope of this blog.  So much more goes into getting me on the road than trip planning and actually putting rubber to tarmac.  There's something you should know about me at this point.  I'm short.  I've got short legs, short arms, ridiculously small hands and small fat feet.  I am not thin.  I am no longer terribly unhealthy.  I work out, I try to eat right and I try to live my life with joy.  It's a journey, a struggle, and on occasion I really want to bash my head against a wall.  I struggle with the age that is starting to show on my face, the chub that shows on my body and some really wicked edema on my legs.  I love my purple hair and I love my sense of style.  I love my life and most of the time I love myself.  But I often really, really hate the motorcycle industry.  Especially the gear industry.  I'm 5'2" and around 300 pounds with a 24 inch inseam.  Fit me in gear I dare you.

To be a rider and to buy gear you must be:  male, of medium height and of middling build and not over 300 pounds.  I am none of those things.  Recently there has been a surge of gear made for women but very little of it will fit me.  I have learned to make do.  To endlessly hunt for jackets, boots, and pants that fit .

It occurs to me that I can't be the only person who struggles with gear.  So, with the encouragement of Mr. Man, I want to do a series of blog posts on gear and places that I've found it.  Because, if you can learn from my struggle maybe I can save you some heartache and endless hours on google.  Do I have perfect solutions?, not really.  There are only two companies that make jackets that will remotely fit me and no women's pants are made in my size.  No.  Pants.  Are.  Made.  Anywhere.  No one makes boots that will fit my short foot, wide width, tall instep and extreme calves.

Since it's winter and not much riding is going on in some parts, I may also do some reviews of items I've found to make packing easier.  We'll see.  I've set a goal of a post a week.  Let's see how I do.