I love autumn. I love how the scent of the air changes, the changing colors of the leaves, sleeping with the windows open instead of running the air conditioners. Riding on back roads, the smells of fireplaces and, sometimes, smoke houses waft their way into my closed helmet, but by the time I have noticed them and breathe deep, they’re gone. This is, after all, New Jersey, and scents and scenery change quickly and constantly. We are too small to linger.
Of course, along with the cooler temps of fall comes the cooler weather riding gear. No more T-shirts and jeans (or for you crazies, shorts). The changeover is gradual, at least here in the Northeast. We go from shorty helmets and no jackets to ¾ helmets and leather vests (aside from those worn with every patch and pin ever acquired, which get worn no matter how hot it gets) and maybe chaps. I personally have a First Gear mesh jacket with body armor and a liner that is perfect for early fall. But here it doesn’t last long, so out comes the leather.
My classic black leather riding jacket is almost five years old. I have never stuck a pin in it, never glued or sewed on a patch and never will. I bought a man’s jacket because the women’s was wimpy, too soft and had no liner. Plus, being tall, the longer sleeves on the man’s style serve me quite well. I never put it on a scale, but I would be willing to bet it weighs a few pounds, compared to the women’s, which seemed to weigh ounces. I never want to part with it, and therein lies a problem.
In the past four years, I have gone from a hectic, running around for five hours a day retail job to a desk job. I sit in front of a computer for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. I am on a second story of a two-story building, so stairs are used frequently, but there is no real exertion. Ever. Because of this lifestyle change, I have become more of the woman I have always been. A lot more. “That’s fine, you were way too skinny anyway,” is a phrase often tossed my way, probably to make me feel better. But my jacket! Each time I put it on I am reminded of how things used to be, and I don’t feel better; I feel worse. I completely sympathize with sausage meat. Crammed into its casing, it’s no wonder that when you poke it with a fork as it cooks, it almost explodes.
My chaps didn’t fare much better. In fact, I had to sell my first pair when I could no longer let the back laces out and the front buckle was on its very first hole. Unlike the jacket, however, I bought a woman’s style of chaps by Xelement. There is a back zipper on the thighs plus a stretchy triangle of fabric that give them just a little more give to accommodate those extra…uhm… increases in femoral circumference. A woman recently asked me where I had gotten them as she loved the zipper and the stretchy triangle. Guess she too had circumference issues.
So now, along with cooler temperatures come more visits to the gym. Slacking off over the summer, I forgot what awaited me until I had to dress for a day’s ride that began in the cool mist of an early morning. By the time I was done stuffing and zipping and adjusting, I felt like the little brother in A Christmas Story being consumed by his snowsuit. As I walked out the front door, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “I can’t put my arms down!” It hasn’t come to that quite yet. I will make sure it never will.
By Louise Reeves