Thursday, August 30

The road to AEROSTICH

Visiting Aerostich RIDERwearhouse in Duluth, MN was one of the highlights of my recent Lake Superior trip. If you've been riding a motorcycle and surfing the 'net for motorcycle related gear and accessories, you've undoubtedly run across the name Aerostich. Think of any item related to riding, particularly long distance and adventure riding and the folks at Aerostich have thought of your needs. And if you look through their mammoth catalog, you can find it.

Once while riding in a heavy rainstorm, I wondered why no one had thought of a windshield wiper for helmets. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found the VeeWipe Squeegee, a little do-dad that fits on your thumb or index finger to wipe off rain! Or, the Finger Visor Wipe, a two finger rubber squeezee--very cool!

I sometimes strap an old wristwatch on the handlebar of my bike. I thought this ingenious as I lack a clock on my instrument panel and looking at my wristwatch while riding isn't easy (or safe) with my jacket cuffs strapped down. I pulled out my Aerostich catalog and found "compass/thermometer/clock clips, ranging from $10 to $15 dollars! They snap right onto the handlebar! I'm ordering one soon. Aerostich is one of only two places I've found over-the-fuel-tank panniers that eliminate having to remove your tank bag to gas up. If you trying to do an Iron Butt ride, for example, where minutes counts, this is a neat invention.

So, when I arrive in Duluth , Aerostich was tops on my list. The looks of the place might surprise you. I had been warned that it's an "old warehouse," that has seen better days. It is tucked away in an old industrial part of Duluth. I passed it once, not expecting something so worn. The place has loads of charm. It strikes you as a place where folks labor. Hard.

I never saw a front door to enter, but a side door was open and a few bikes were parked outside. It can look unwelcoming at first as there was nothing that immediately invites you in. But this is Aerostich and I've slept with their catalog--we're on intimate terms! Besides, I've come a long way, surely they will admit me. I park Queenie next to a row of bikes and find my way inside.

It is definitely an old warehouse with people buzzing around engaged in work. I glance inside and could see people packing items. Stuff is ubiquitous! At first glance, the place can appear disorderly but soon your eyes settle in and you feel the form and logic of the space.

Behind a glass counter, a nice woman spoke to me and offered me coffee, soda or water. It was a water morning and I accepted the bottled water she handed me. She left me to drool over all the items I had heretofore only seen in the catalog. A father and teenage son were trying on Italian Sidi boots and I refrained for telling them how much I loved mine.

Peruse Aerostich's catalog at your own risk!

The only problem I see with Aerostich is that there is a high probability that you will experience considerable downward economic mobility! (See, that degree in sociology has not gone to waste--I can still speak the language). I'm convinced it's not possible for most people close the catalog without convincing her/himself that you need something and because prices can range from a few dollars to about $800 (for a Roadcrafter two piece suit) or over a thousand for a GPS, every budget can feel included. They don't just have gear and bike accessories, they feed my other addiction: books on every topic related to motorcycles from personal adventure narratives to instruction. I get through the winter with videos on motorcycle instruction, adventure rides, and a few Hollywood moto movies. You can find it all at Aerostich! Aerostich--my new addiction.

Before leaving, I purchased a couple of tee-shirts--one that proves I "Rode There." But I left with a list of things I will surely order later. I was given a gift for dropping in, which I will not reveal. If you go there, you'll get it too.

Back out on the street, I observe a man who appears to be in his late sixties, looking over Queenie. As is my custom, I size him up and think: I could definitely take him down if he is up to no good. As I approach my bike he kindly greets me and tells me that recently someone recommended he check out the SV. He looks her over and gives his approval. We talk about riding f or a few minutes. He lives in Duluth and hangs out around Aerostich (Aerostich groupie?). Before long, another rider, who looks like he has just stepped from an Aerostich catalog, exits the building and mounts his dualsport. He overhears the older gent telling me the best way to Hwy 2. The dualsport guy says he is going in that direction and offers to lead me. His bike is packed with the soft waterproof luggage, the kind you find in the Aerostich catalogue. Gear is hooked on his bike neatly, with straps more sophisticated than bungee cords. He looks like a serious adventure rider. Yes, I would follow him anywhere.

I say goodbye to my new friend and follow the dualsport guy but first I have to navigate a turn on a bumpy, gravely road in front of some Aerostich workers who appear to be on break. They stand along the warehouse wall, talking and watching the motorcycle tourists. I take it slow, not wanting to be remembered as the woman from IL who dumped her heavily loaded SV. Success!

Safely on the road, I follow the dualsport. Eventually, he toots and motions to my exit; I toot back to signal my thanks.

Order an Aerostich catalog! Even better, visit Aerostich, at 8 South 18th Avenue West, Duluth, MN. They treat you well.

It's an adventure!