On Balance  

The road to Christmas

You know the sign that makes you nuts on a busy multi-lane roadway, right? “Road narrows, lane closed.”


There’s two different ways we deal with this. One way is the “early merger,” the dutiful citizen who sees the sign and right away starts to heel over into the open lane. Proper protocol, timely response, the egalitarian taking of turns.

The second way is “late merger,”  who hauls on past the growing line of vehicles in the open lane until the last moment, just before the barrier, and then quickly slides into the other lane. The efficiency expert.

By now, you’re into opinion mode. One or the other of these two, depending on your thoughts and feelings on the subject, is right. The other one’s off your Christmas list, and should be kicked off the freeway, too.

Well. Turns out there are whole schools of thought and research on the subject, and to sum it up, we’re both right. And wrong. Depends what you’re trying to get done, apparently. Traffic flow is a cruel mistress.

Same thing for shopping, like for Christmas. Or other big gift giving moments in your life. I have a plethora right now, so this is when I think about this stuff.

Some people did their shopping in August, and that worked for them. Others, well, it ain’t the 24th yet, right?

For folks in the second camp, and for those looking forward to some future gifting moment, like say, Valentine’s, I thought we’d use the present narrowing in the road, the urgency about getting it done, to talk about gifts for the rider in our lives.

Riders hoping for a relevant goody under the tree, it’s up to you to figure out how to get this column under the nose of the Significant Other.

So, shopping for riders. Let’s do categories.


Go with the rider’s friend, merino wool. Base layers, buffs, socks, all that sort of stuff, none of it has to be “branded” with the motorcycle logo to be absolutely choice multi-season riding gear.

Or leather, being renewable, natural, and so on. Also important for safety. Support our ranchers and farmers, go with leather goods top to bottom.

Leather gloves, for instance. Riders who don’t have gloves should, and riders who do are always looking for better ones. The best are leather, full-finger, and preferably armoured. Instructors’ observations: Probably most riders in the Okanagan need better gloves.

Or boots. Again, essential safety gear, very often just on a wish list. Leather, above the ankle, avoid fabric/stretch inserts. No need for bike company brands  to get good protection, but riding-specific boots have some sweet features, like armour, and waterproof liners.

And jackets. Whoa! If you’re spending that kind of wad, don’t waste it! Thick, well-made leather jackets are still the cat’s, and they’re good safety value.

Get a genuine riding jacket, with armoured elbows, shoulders, and back. More important than fancy embroidery. Avoid the light, soft leathers in fashion garments.

Warm and cozy:

As above.  Or consider that electricity is still a wonderment. Heated vests, jacket liners, and gloves are huge favourites. Some plug in to the bike, some have their own batteries, some do both.

They all make riders happier and safer. They don’t need to break the bank to work well, either.

Heated grips are available as kits for any bike, ideal for the tinkerer.

All of this heated stuff is solid gold for people, some of whom are female, who tend to chill a little easier than others.

Bright and shiny:

Safety research tells us to like bright colours and lights. So, more of us have learned to love our high-viz vests and jackets, but it’s still a fashion challenge for some.

Your call, you know him/her best, but there are some really cool vests out there for not much moolah.

Less touchy choices are the (increasingly functional and stylish) lights and reflector packages, again ideal for the tinkerer, if not the minimalist.

LED fog lights mounted low on the bike are a brilliant route to style and safety, so lucky are the few.

Along those lines, brake light modulator kits are cheap, easy to add to a bike, and a useful defence in traffic.

And don’t forget chrome. Lots of us are just magpies, can’t resist anything that’s shiny chromed, so there’s a sure bet. Except maybe underwear.


Generally, some riding gear is better than none; good quality, tested and approved riding gear is better than costume stuff; retro-reflective and high-visibility elements work, as does armour.

Good fit is crucial, and around here flexible stuff, that lets you adapt to big temperature swings, makes good sense.

An Australian site about riding gear quality, MotoCap covers lots of stuff available here, and tells us what to look for: 

Now, this lane’s closed up ahead, and I need to get to town, so I’m going to leave you with this:

The best gifts are mostly about enjoying time together, and I really appreciate the time you’ve spent with me.

Play safe, and Happy Holidays.


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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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