Motorbike MackintoshesIn about 1975 I was given an elderly motorcycle by an old chap who had given up riding because of age and ill health. My wife agreed that it would be useful for me to go to work on, but I would need to be properly dressed up. She herself had ridden a moped for a while, so she knew about being dressed for the job. She bought me a Belstaff suit, the old waxed cotton type, with a long belted jacket with a collar strap. and overtrousers, and I had to buy a pair of wellington boots and a helmet. I had a fortnight's holiday when I learned to ride, and after the first couple of days just up and down the road getting used to the gears, I was sent out each day to get used to riding and handling the bike. I had to wear my full suit, wellingtons, and an old headscarf of my wife's tied over my mouth and nose under my helmet, which was an open face type. I also had a big pair of leather biker gloves. After the fortnight, when I went back to work, I was dressed up in my suit each morning, and my wife was very careful to check that my collar was buckled snugly round my throat, with my scarf tucked in warmly. This was fine for several months, until one very wet evening on my way home my suit simply gave out, and within a mile or so it had leaked like a colander leaving me wet from my thighs to my chest, my bottom and privates swiming in icy water. I got home and my wife was appalled. Fortunately it was a Friday, so the following day we set out to buy me some better gear. I had a pair of Helly-Hansen salopettes, the sort of waterproof trousers worn by sailors coming right up to the chest and held up by its own pair of braces, a gaberdine mackintosh from an army surplus store, and a rubber topcoat. The gaberdine mac was double breasted and belted, with a wool lining, and buttoned up to the neck with a buttoned flap on the collar to make it stand up and fit snugly under the chin. The rubber coat was long, well below my knees, also double breasted with an extra flap inside so it had to be buttoned up on the left hand side first, then the proper front of the coat was buttoned across up the right hand side. Again, the collar could be worn up, with a big flap buttoned across to keep my throat warm. The final buys were a pair of waterproof overmitts to go over my gloves, and a thermal balaclava which my wife decided I ought to have anyway, to give extra protection to my head and also to provide an extra la
I had to wear this set of clothing all summer, as my wife had no real concept of dressing for warm weather. Mackintoshes were for everyday wear, and this meant every day, not just when it rained or when we felt like wearing them. That autumn, I was treated to a Peter Storm suit, a one-piece suit in PU proofed nylon, like the cagoules which were becoming popular at the time. It had a hood as well, which I had to wear under my helmet over my balaclava. I also had to replace the headscarf with a much heavier wool scarf. My colleagues at work ( by some strange chance I was the only man in my section) were very good, nobody seemed bothered by my la
By this time my waterproof lining of my nylon suit was beginning to peel away, and the hood had become completely porous and a bit thin, so it was dispatched to the bin. My wife also decided that a new suit for riding was in order, and we went to a local motorbike shop which was closing down. The idea was to get a smart clean new riding suit to go with my new suit for my new job. We got one which was reduced in price (like everything in the shop), a PVC suit with a cotton backing and a thick quited lining right down past the knees. The lower part (salopettes again, right up to just under my armpits) were a closer fit than my old unlined ones, and the legs, wide enough to pull on easily, then closed tight with a zip from just below the knees down to the ankles. This made a warm, very snug fit, and together with the zips at either side of the body from the waist up, the trousers fitted almost like a second skin. The jacket was also quite close fitting, the sleeves closed with zips for the last seven or eight inches down to the cuffs, and a press stud connection rather than an adjustable strap on the collar. With my balaclava and scarf it was still beautifully warm, and I continued to wear my wellingtons inside the trouser legs, which made them fit even more tightly. My new colleagues were again not really bothered, but I did usually get to work a few minutes early to get undressed and ready for work, so they rarely saw me wearing my gear. I started in early September, so I was quite warm, not really a long enough ride to get cooled off at all. One morning, after about three weeks, I got dressed up, and then decided that I would wear my old rubber mac, so I put it on over my suit. My wife watched me, checked my buttons and belt, made sure my collar was buttoned up, and then said " That's much better. Well done. It will keep you lovely and warm. You like your big rubber mac, don't you?" I had to nod and admit she was right, I loved to wear it, although by now it was showing signs of wear. A couple of weeks later she came home from work one Friday evening with a big heavy bag, which she took into the cloakroom, followed by her own boots and macs (she nearly always wore a trench coat with a nylon mac over it). She told me that after tea there was a surprise for me, but I would have to wait. After tea, she told me to get dressed up for riding my bike, which I did, but as I went to put on my rubber mac she stopped me, and told me to close my eyes and put my arms out behind me. I assumed that she had bought me a new rubber mac, which you could buy then for about three or four pounds, but when I got it on and opened my eyes it weighed a lot more than my old one. It was an ex-military dispatch riders coat, double textured (rubber between two la
About four or five years later I had gone somewhere on the bike, and hung my outdoor clothes in the public cloakroom. When it was time to leave, I was one of the last to go, and when I got to the cloakroom my coat was gone! Someone had taken it, leaving my suit, scarf and wellingtons and helmet. I had to ride home without it, and there were tears from both my wife and myself over it. Although we reported it to the police and the place where it happened, I never saw it again, and I never found another. Luckily my wife managed to find a rubber one like the old one I had worn previously, and I continued to wear it for quite a few years. Indeed, for sixteen years I rode the four miles each way to and from work in my PVC suit, wellingtons and rubber mac, until I retired due to illness. Since my wife died and I remarried, my new wife does not share my love of macs, so I have to ride my bike in a modern suit with a waterproof suit over the top, although I have a waterproof nylon cagoule to wear underneath once I get away from home!