MO on Tour : Okanogan Co. : part three


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After four hours of riding I become strangely aware of my own comfort. Comfy boots, comfy denim and, more to the point, a comfortable motorcycle jacket. I am not twisting, tugging or shifting around in it. Like an old pair of boots it is. And that is a very rare thing  indeed. For most of my riding career I have fought my jackets. They never fit properly. Invariably they are too long in front. The torso is as wide as the shoulders (thanks to the typical American physique...). They balloon up like the Michelin man at speed. They flap in the wind. You name it, I've wrestled with it. Finally I decided I'd had enough. It was time. Time for my last jacket. There is only one place to get the last motorcycle jacket you'll ever buy. Langlitz Leather in Portland, Oregon. 

"a haze of black leather, biker machismo..."

Six months prior to this trip I visited Dave Hansen in his small Portland shop. That sealed the deal. If there were any lingering doubts in my mind they were quickly put to rest (more like shot, dragged into a ditch, and left to die). The Langlitz shop is the epitome of a craftsman's workshop. Huge stacks of cow and goat hide piled on every horizontal surface. Jackets of all shapes and sizes surround you in a haze of black leather, biker machismo. It smells good. The only open spaces are reserved for walking paths. And the factory floor? You're on it. Ladies in the center of the room sit at sewing machines building jackets one at a time. A mere six handcrafted jackets are produced each day.

The craftsman's workshop
Mounds of dead cow hide
A perfect fit
They offer three grades of leather: light, medium and heavy duty. Cow or goat skin. There are two basic styles, the traditional Marlon Brando "Columbia" (base price $800) and the more Euro-styled "Cascade" (base price $700). Then there are the options: elbow and shoulder pads, epaulets, fur collars, Sam Browne belts, and pockets. Map pockets, gun pockets, wrist pockets, secret money pockets, bicep pockets, leather-lined pockets, even pockets to store extra pockets.

Dave asks me what I am interested in and offers me a few similar jackets to try on. Oh yes! This is just what I thought a real jacket would feel like. Hard as nails. It settles on your shoulders like the closing of a car door. Thump. You feel safe and secure. Yet your mobility is not restrained in the slightest. Other than the stiffness of the new leather you have complete freedom of motion.

As I relay to Dave what I think I want he calmly steers my thought process. Without making me feel like a complete moron he lets me know why I don't want this feature or that change. This approach is in everyone's interest. Obviously the customer wants to be completely satisfied by the end product, but Dave too has an interest - Langlitz unconditionally guarantees satisfaction. He will proudly relate stories of customers who insist on option XYZ, get the jacket and then decided they hate option XYZ. Not a problem. The product is taken back and re-built or their money is returned. Amazing. Simply amazing. They cover your mistakes. The jacket will cost a small fortune, but not only will it be worth it, you are guaranteed to love it.

"It settles on your shoulders like the closing of a car door."

He has me sitting on a large motorcycle seat/chair behind the counter. I assume my usual riding positions and point out my concerns. The front of the jacket must end at my waist. With my feet on forward or mid-controls, my legs must never push up on the jacket. Bent sleeves with snug wrists are of course a must. Let's add extra room on the left wrist for my fat TAG Heuer. In a crouch position the back must never ride up above my waist. The torso must be comfortably snug. The back must be wide enough for an ape-hanger riding position. Dave has heard it all before and just nods as he takes measurements, neither with approval nor disdain. All of this can be done over the phone or by mail. About a third of their business is not done in person.

I went with the Cascade style with shoulder pads, elbow pads, and an extra pocket on the right bicep. The jacket is a marvel in this modern world of mass, mass production. All the leather is hand sorted and only the best gets through. All pieces are cut by hand using a pattern and sewn on a small machine. Every seam shows individual attention. Where stitching needs to be doubled, it is. Zippers are thick and sturdy. As if to underscore the classiness of the garment, there are no logos on the outside. Only a understated tag on the map pocket denotes its origin. It is the last jacket I will ever buy.

Mucho macho padding In one of my hands I hold



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Left turn. The river that is. Where the Columbia River turns right and heads east, I turn left and head northwest up the Methow River. Gorgeous fly-fishing country flies by while the great town names continue: Methow (met-how), Twisp, Winthrop, Okanogan, Omak. The shiny red twin looks distinctly out of place in the old west-styled Winthop. I stop for gas and prepare for the last Pass of the day. As I refold the map on the tank bag I see that this one is going to be a fun one: Loup Loup Pass. A 6% grade for six miles! Damn. This should be one hell of a run! I load the map into the tank bag view window and head down the road.

I should come clean here. I am a tank bag newbie. At the start of this trip I had no idea what to expect. I'd heard strange rumors about how riders are fanatical about their bags. Fanatical? About a piece of luggage? Now I get it. The Guzzi is naked without its Marsee tank bag.

The landscape always changes Like most bikes my pride and joy arrived without the ability to hold so much as a spare quarter. On this day I am packing no less than a cell phone, sunglasses, map, t-shirt, shorts, sandals, power bars, and a digital camera. The "25 Liter Rocket Pocket" Marsee is brilliant. Its excellent mounting system adapted well to the odd shape of the non-metallic Guzzi tank. The straps stay on the bike while the bag is unzipped carried away. Clever that. For metal gas tanks a magnetic

The bag has all the signs of the well thought out product that has evolved over many years. Features like the small patch of Velcro that holds the bag on the mounting base while you zip it on. And a "toughtek" bottom material that doesn't scratch paint. And the reflective piping and zipper pulls. And the shoulder straps that convert the bag into a backpack. And the laced expansion seam that expands the bag from 5.5" high to 10". The bag is just plain functional. I am happy to report that it securely hold four bottle of red wine without expanding the bag.

The build quality is exceptional. The side walls stay rigid and upright. The zippers and carrying handle are beefy beyond necessity. My only complaints with the bag are minor. The water-proofing flap under the zipper, while nice for keeping the rain out, jams up in the zipper every time if you are not very methodical about closing. Also, the cost of the product definitely reflects were it was made. At $132.00 we know we are supporting American workers with our purchase. Which is never a bad thing. Though also rarely a cheap thing.

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End of the road The ride over Loup Loup Pass is astounding. Up, up, up! The trees get thick and the traffic gets non-existent. My torquey twin makes the intense grade more fun than should be legally allowed. Slow arching curves. Out of the sun into the shadows, then back again. The ride down the other side is a balls-to-the-wall blast without a single blind curve, gravel hazard or logging truck. Hot damn! Who laid this road? Well done.

Back along the river I head back south again. On to my final destination - the family cabin. The trip has been more than I could have hoped for already. All the new riding equipment has worked out wonderfully. The roads, the weather, the bike have all been a dream. All there is left to do is kick back and enjoy the lake.

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