This Hurricane Gonzo seems to be taking a while to clear the area. It’s been so windy in the UK that yesterday for the first time more power was generated by wind farms than nuclear power stations. Must be all those beanz eaten by the greens. Though right against a wall, the X bike still got blown over by a gust which also blew my boat out of the park. And twice I’ve had to retrieve the rain cover pressed hard against a deer fence on the other side of the field.
I’ve lavished the BMW with ACF-50 but actually as long as it’s more vertical than horizontal, a spell in fresh rain washes off any rain-bound salt sprayed off the Minch. Ferrous or otherwise, rust never sleeps up here, as the two bike racks on the right testify. I only bought them two months ago! Faced with the long ride south before an even longer run to Morocco, it’s good to have clothing like my prized retro Rukka waterproof (left) in which I can confidently face two days of 60mph autumnal showers. It waterproof alright, but it’s only PVC cloth so not especially good against the wind chill.
Problem is how to run the Aerostich electric vest with the Rukka without wires coming out my trouser leg. The answer: a Powerlet Luggage Electrix Connector (left) normally used for powering/ recharging gadgets stashed in your tank bag. Melt a few tactical holes in the Rukka, then screw it on with some Aquaseal for good measure (right)
With my snug Gul fleece onesie (left), I expect this set up to get me nominated for the Bake Off TV show. It may not get you invited to the best parties (unless you’re the celebrated sartorial unitarian, Austinimo, right), but it eliminates a two-piece’s heat sapping overlap and associated cold spot around the critical kidneys, while stopping you packing on so many layers you feel like a turkey trussed up for Christmas. That creates a feeling of comfort which induces relaxation and so defers fatigue and rhythm-ruining pee stops. (I think I’ve just hypnotised myself).
With my double onesie combo and heated jacket I can turn on, plug in but not chill out on winter’s long road.
On the way down to the storm-lashed West Country (left) to pick up my new X Country (first impressions here), I knew I’d be getting drenched so I waxed my Altbergs and rolled up my Rukka one-piece, along with some Armr WXP8 gloves, my X-Lite helmet and the Kriega R30 backpack. I should have taken my Kanetsu electric vest but wasn’t keen on wires dangling out of my sleeve or neck and didn’t want to hole the one-piece just yet. With just a shirt and merino cardy, the Rukka was a bit skimpy for the non-stop 280-mile ride back at 6-7°C during which I was periodically pelted with hail. It got to that point where you can’t handle the bike so precisely through roundabouts as the limbs numb down.
I like my Bell Mag 9 cheapie but took the similar X-Lite X402 GT this time. The long visor comes right down past the chin (removable chin section MIA), but rain drops eddy onto the inside surface or just run down from the top. Result at night in the rain: visibility as bad as a car with broken wipers – same as it ever was on a bike. Maybe flashier full face helmets seal better. Then there’s the deafening racket at some positions/speeds – I really ought to get into ear plugs. But I like the smoothlyoperating giant visor and pull-down sun shade. For my sort of riding and speeds, modular helmets do the job.
Kriega R30: Fail
I expected the outside pockets to let rain in, but hoped the white proofed nylon liner might do its job. Actually, I didn’t trust it at all, so put my Airbook and Kindle in an Enduristan isolation bag (right) for insurance. Even then, you’d think that sitting on my back the bag would be out of the direct line of fire, but after three hours in the rain, on arrival in Cornwall the bottom of the bag was soaked like it had been sitting in a pool of water. And inside the white liner had let water through to the Isobag which lived up to its name. Not altogether surprised, but now I know. I wonder if Kriega Overerlander System owners are finding the same?
In future I’ll have to take a spare Orlieb PVC dry sack if using the Kriega in the rain. Proofed nylon or polyester fabric with taped seams are just not as reliable against leakage compared to heat-welded PVC. In all other ways the R30 makes a good if rather heavy, overcomplicated and pricey backpack that’s designed to sit securely on your back at 190mph. £139.
(Since sold and replaced with a more conventional old-model, PVC Over-Board 30-litre backpack, right)
Rukka one-piece PVC: Pass
Good old Rukka, I knew it wouldn’t let me down but I was pleased to finally put it to the test. How could it leak, it’s lush, tactile, dolphin-unfriendly PVC! Even then it’s pretty amazing that sat for hours at 70 against unscreened rain, nothing gave way, neither a seam in the backside nor the double storm-flapped front zip. With a snood neck thing, nothing came through there either. At least thirty years old and going from £30 quid on ebay. Make sure you buy big enough ‘EU’ sizing is confusing (see link above).
Armr WXP8 gloves: Pass-ish
The Armr gloves I also expected to succumb to the torrent, even though they were protected behind hand guards. On arrival the insides were damp but not outright soaked. A complex shape like a glove must be a nightmare to seal securely with a cheap membrane. The smart answer is those naff looking handlebar muffs or hippo hands. If I was riding each day in winter as I used to, that’s what I do. Other than that, the Large size has fingers a bit too short for me, the velcro strap seems redundant against the larger velcro flap but I guess is there to keep the glove on in a heavy crash. £40.
Here in the south of England, 2012 had the rainiest April and June ‘since records began’. It hardly ever rains in the southern UK these days, but when it does I still can’t resist looking out of the streaming window and delight in the fact that I’m not out riding for a living anymore. Although, in a way, I suppose I still am.
I still recall a despatching June in the late 70s or early 80s when it rained every single day. At some point every day of that month I had to haul myself into my plastic body sack and splash about the streets of greater London, delivering stuff. I still hate wearing waterproofs any longer than absolutely necessary, but if you’re riding 10 + hours a day you’ve got to at least try and keep dry.
Back in the late 70s before Gore Textiles pulled off one of the biggest illusions in the history of rainwear, London despatchers by choice wore the classic silver-grey and black Rukka PVC waterproof, most commonly the lightweight jacket, or the one-piece (left). Have a look at this gallery of despatchers from 1986.
As elegantly cut as you can expect, neither took too much space in a top box, nor constricted you too greatly once worn. I myself was too dim or tight to make this smart choice; I can’t recall what I wore, either a £5 trawlerman’s PVC smock, or a compressed polystyrene, one-piece balloon which, when allied with the ring-ding-ding of my MZ, would quite rightly irritate nearby drivers so much that they couldn’t resist taking a swipe at me just on general principles. On the right: 1980 review of the Rukka one piece from Bike magazine.
PVC seems to get singled out for not being ‘green’ but it is waterproof like a bottle of beer is beer proof. If it has a hydrostatic head, like proofed nylon or polyester tent fabric, it would be measured in miles, not inches. Of course PVC breathes as well as a canary in jam jar and so what you perspire stays close in a muggy microclimate which I grew to detest, especially when schlepping artwork up to the 5th floor with no lift to some receptionist that I thought I fancied.
Actually I’m not sure it was just the inner damp that put me off. My vanity could also not bear being swathed in the amorphous, baggy blob. Whatever I looked like, it certainly wasn’t Tom Cruise out of Top Gun. More like Walter White (right) suiting up prior to cooking up another batch of Blue in the superlab.
Now I’ve finally caught up with my sodden past and picked up a used Rukka one-piece off ebay. First one at EU52 was too tight as an over suit. I wore the legs only with the top wrapped underneath my waxed Falstaff jacket through a 3-hour downpour and from the waist down at least, I wasn’t surprised to get home completely dry.
Who says men are crap at buying clothes but I now know EU52 equals UK chest 42 inches – a common trap when buying Rukkas. So I sat on ebay until a XXL EU 58 turned up for under 40 quid. (left). Plenty of space to easily climb in fully clothed without stressing the welded seams.
Construction-wise, what a great garment it is! I don’t know when they stopped making them (they still produce ‘civilian’ cags in what is probably the same PVC polyamid fabric), but let’s assume my one-piece is some 25-30 years old. The material is still pliant, the leg map pocket has yellowed but other than that, the studs are all still there, the half zip runs smoothly and you have an overall feeling of quality that I’m not sure you’d get today in the similar proofed-nylon one-piece suits. PVC is thickly layered from the outside and is easy to repair with glued patch or piece of tape.
The front of the Rukka one-piece has an ingenious sewn-in, chest-high tongue/bellows (left), a bit like a hiking shoe, to eliminate anything getting past the studs or zip, bringing on that unwelcome cold-drip-in-the-crotch sensation. It rolls up and tucks in behind the studs with a zip, effectively making a chest-high waterproof barrier. Very clever.
Not sure if anyone still makes anything like the classic Rukka. Cheaper proofed nylon seems the current way, and what Rukka make today for bikers is the usual over-designed, over-techincal and over-priced gear which, being based on breathables, will fail in the long run and requires special cleaning.
If you’re looking for used Rukka pvc on ebay they usually turn up in great, barely used condition as anything less is barely worth selling. Avoid anything heavily repaired, dirty or with rusty studs. One problem was running my Aerostich Kanetsu electric vest without wires coming out the sleeves. Solution on the right and detailed here.
And also search under ‘Protectorl (of London)’. They seemed to make identical garments in blue – same fabric and quality and era. I came across a brand new Protectorl lined jacket for 25 quid (left) but it was again a little too small. Wait long enough and you’ll get what you want. Both brands come with quilted linings. Me, I prefer unlined to roll up into a compact waterproof for rainy days only. My onesie weighs 1300 grams. The day I start wearing a Rukka as a regular bike jacket is the day I start eating with a spoon.