When I was prepping for my recent ride on the Mid-Atlantic BDR, I wanted to pack as light as possible. Minimalism and preparedness are often mutually exclusive, which is why motorcyclists of the Boy Scout mentality can be seen taking half an hour to figure out where to pack their extra layers, camp chairs, and cheese boards. Preparedness is important but it can go too far. It’s the same mentality that afflicts couples putting together their wedding registries. “We’ll definitely need a silicone mold for baking madeleines and a crystal punch bowl that converts into a cake stand.” Or maybe not.
There’s nothing worse than filling an entire pannier with T-shirts and clunky hiking boots, so I concentrated on slimming down my off-the-bike wardrobe. My guiding principle was “less but more functional.” I wanted everything I packed to be appropriate for multiple purposes. I grabbed a couple of merino tees and a pair of travel pants from Mission Workshop and a pair of Boulder Boots from Lems, and other than socks, undies, and a cold-weather layer, that was all I needed for a week on the road.
Was it enough for eight days?
Lems Boulder Boots
The perfect pair of off-the-bike footwear needs to be rugged enough to hike in, packable enough to occupy as precious little space on the bike as possible, and stylish enough to wear around town (if style is something you value).
Lems Boulder Boots are the only shoes I’ve discovered that meet all the criteria. With a thin flexible sole, they can be folded onto themselves to become about the size of a coffee mug (each) or folded flat to be barely larger than a sandal. At 9.9 ounces, they’re also incredibly light.
The Boulder Boots are considered minimalist shoes, so their zero-drop heel and barely there sole might take some getting used to. If you plan on hitting the trails, make sure to let your body get acquainted with them first. For around town, however, they’re immediately comfortable. The wide toe box and thin sole mean they feel more like slippers than shoes. After a long day of standing on the pegs in bulky riding boots, they’re a treat for the feet.
The standard Boulder Boots are constructed in leather and canvas, but I opted for the all-leather version to class things up a bit. After being folded up and thrown in a pannier, they creased slightly along the folds as you’d expect, but still look good. The standard canvas/leather model would probably fare a bit better.
The Boulder Boots are lined in a soft flannel. I’ve only worn them in fall weather, so I can’t attest to their breathability in warmer climes, but they’re super soft, even if the plaid pattern seems a bit overkill. I like plaid as much as the next guy, but I don’t need every element of my wardrobe to be done in it.
Now that the trip has ended, the Boulder Boots have become a staple in my everyday wardrobe. I love my Red Wing Iron Rangers, but next to the Boulder Boots, they feel like cinder blocks. At $150 ($125 for the canvas/leather versions), the Boulder Boots are reasonably priced given their functionality and comfort. In terms of durability, they seem well-constructed, but I’ll have to put more miles on them to see how they hold up.
The Boulder Boots’ utility and packability make them required gear for the touring motorcyclist. One for the Aerostich catalog (that great compendium of moto paraphernalia), I say.
Mission Workshop Signal Five-Pocket Pants
Bringing more than one pair of pants on a motorcycle trip seems excessive. But what to bring? Jeans are too heavy and aren’t comfortable to hike in. Travel/hiking pants look out of place anywhere but on the trail, and even there they can look a bit Old Navy circa 1999—baggy and with too many zippers and pockets.
The Signal pants from San-Francisco-based Mission Workshop have a modern, slim silhouette but with all the functionality of typically unstylish technical apparel. Constructed of a four-way stretch nylon with a water-repellent finish, the Signal pants are perfect for parking the bike and hitting the trail, or for a night on the town.
For the motorcyclist who values off-the bike apparel that’s technical, stylish, and well-made, Mission Workshop’s Signal pants are in a class by themselves.
Hand pockets are lined in mesh (think bathing suit), and they have a discreet zip pocket built into the seam on the right leg—a good spot for stashing a few emergency bucks, which, unfortunately, you’ll have few of left after buying the Signals.
Urban style and backwoods functionality come at a cost. As in—wait for it—$225. Yikes.
It’s a real shame they’re so pricey because they’re the only pants you’ll ever want to wear. Every pair of pants should be this comfortable. Finally, there’s a pant with pajama-like comfort that isn’t pajamas—something a self-respecting grownup can wear on an airplane; to the grocery store; or, I don’t know, on a hot date at the farmers’ market where, if you accidentally squish an heirloom tomato against your crotch, you can wipe it off and not suffer the indignity of having a crotch stain while on a hot date. So there’s that First World problem solved.
The takeaway is, if you can afford them, they’re perfect for stashing on the bike, and tackling whatever comes your way when you’re off it. For most of us, we’ll just have to wait for Old Navy to make something similar (and of lower quality).
Mission Workshop Sector Merino Tee
Two T-shirts. Two thousand miles. That was the goal. As with the other apparel, the tees needed to be a bit technical—no wrinkled, reeking schmattas that would make me unpleasant to be around after a day in the saddle. Mission Workshop once again comes through with a stylish, functional upgrade.
The Sector tee is constructed of a unique thread: lightweight merino wool spun around a core of nylon for added durability. If you think merino wool is only for cold weather, think again. It’s breathable, helps regulate body temperature, and is naturally odor resistant.
The Sector tee has a slub cotton look with a slight sheen that differentiates it from standard cotton tees. In terms of odor resistance, the Sector does a commendable job. After sweating all day under an airbag-equipped riding jacket, I didn’t smell fresh as a daisy but the zone of stench was confined to my personal space. The tees didn’t pass my own pit test but other people (apparently) couldn’t smell me. I’ll call that a win. A regular tee would have let me down; each morning I would have put on a clammy rag of a T-shirt and known I’d be the smelly kid. The Sector tees felt “clean” every morning without looking like something gym rats would wear to crush their dailies in.
I wish the collar was ribbed to help it keep its shape, but other than that, it’s a great T-shirt, which for $72 it’d better be. Mission Workshop makes expensive clothes.
At the end of the day, for motorcycle travel, the minimalist wardrobe can be put together well. So even if Mission Workshop’s wares are priced beyond your means, or offend your sense of frugality, they offer a model for the type of gear that can take you from saddle, to trail, to table.
|Mission Workshop Signal Pants
|The Signal pants are an A+ pair of pants, but their high price makes them out of reach for most.
|Mission Workshop Sector Tee
|MW’s merino tees mate high performance with low-key looks, but could use a ribbed collar and a more down-to-earth price.
|Lems Boulder Boots
|The only travel boot on the market that’s as stylish and comfortable as it is packable. Panniers rejoice.