I found this oldie when replying to a BRZ thread. Original date was 15FEB2006.

I got the email from Volkswagen last evening: I would finally find out what my fast was about. I clicked in anticipation, who knows, maybe my fast would be special, maybe I would actually get a fast. Whatever, I was off for the e-ride.

My fast looked suspiciously similar to the fast I had already seen in the forums of TCL, but whatever. It was cute, if a little bit pudgy. Certainly more pudgy than the fast I have out in my garage, although it is certainly faster than the fast in my garage. That fast is not very fast, although it is very noisy and seems to think it can talk to me. I had the sneaking suspicion that my fast looked just like everyone else’s fast. Bummer.

I worked my way through the car configurator to see how fast I was going to go. I have to admit, the configurator was nicely done. Keeping tabs on the cost, advising when an option was part of a package, showing the parts on the vehicle, and good informational blurbs about each option. Very well done. I was particularly interested in the “joy ride” selection. I knew I was off for an e-ride, but an e-joyride? What the hell is that? I clicked. A clipped, European female voice advised me that the joyride would be handled by an expert driver on a closed course. It was right there that I went wrong. My wrongness would become readily apparent in mere moments.

At the words “expert driver on closed course” I made a critical error. My mind drifted. I let myself imagine who I would want my “expert driver” to be. I drifted further, would he be better looking than Schumi? More confident than Rubens? Would he be the racing equivalent of Fabio? I admit it – the sexy female voice told me I would get an expert driver. No crime in hoping for a good looking one. If I’m going to take a fantasy e-joyride with a guy, I want it to be nice, and good looks under the helmet will be a definite plus.

Then Helga popped up.

Uh, ok.

A porn star in a nurse’s uniform with a Cinnabon on her head is now on my screen. What does this have to do with joyriding? I have heels like that, I sure as hell don’t wear them when I’m racing. I don’t generally associate wearing them with driving at all. Little problem with ankle extension on the clutch foot, you see.

I want Hans, not Helga. And now she’s a cloying kitten, teasing the ******* in the rice rocket in the next lane over. This is embarrassing. Car chicks do not behave like that. We wear our clothes when we take your pink slip, thank you.

It would not be possible to abuse Mitsubishi’s j-cool concept more heavily than the creative people did in this bit. Stereotype takes on new meaning after seeing that car. Yellow may be fast, and stickers may mean horsepower, but daaaaaayyy-um! That thing had it all! And the wigger that was driving it? Please! The Icy-Hot Stunnas could not have done a better job of creating that train wreck. Did I see diamonds on those teeth? Holy crap. If I wasn’t laughing out loud at Helga, I’m laughing out loud at this fool.

So I watch while Helga drops the flags. The cars launch. Wait a minute, now she’s back in the car? Um, story board foul-up. It’s a bit hard to get around a launching vehicle and into the passenger seat if you are the starter. Wait, it’s supposed to be a fantasy e-joyride. I suppose anything can happen. It’s also a straight quarter, not exactly what I would do with a GTI – it’s supposed to be a You-Ro-Pee-N car with that fancy handling, right? What kind of handling is required for a straight quarter mile? More racing stereotypes leave me feeling cold.

With the rice rocket slain, Helga drops me off at the starting line and speeds off with those leg-breaking heels. I guess I’m supposed to be in some state of arousal at this point, but I am not. I am laughing. If humor was the point, I’m getting it. I am emailing this silly bit of teenage-boy marketing to my car-girlfriends so they can laugh at it, too. And they will. They will laugh and email it to their car-girlfriends, and so on. We will tell Helga jokes. Poor Helga. And we will snicker about this gorgeous GTI for a long time. We will probably not buy so many of them, because Volkswagen has told us where we stand in relation to it. We don’t.

You see, we’re not the target market. We’re girls.

I posted this in the Women’s Forum at ADVrider, and I think it’s good enough for general consumption.

I can write a book but will try to keep it not too long. I am trained in patternmaking, that weird job where you create the flat fabric pieces that get turned into 3D shapes. It illuminates so many of our fit issues. Understanding your body shape can go a long way to finding gear that fits and knowing why gear doesn’t fit and might not even be tailorable to fit.

The basics

Women come in four basic shapes, combinations of two tops and two bottoms. Tops are either wide shoulders or narrow shoulders, and bottoms are wide or narrow hips, both measured with respect to waist measurement. When you combine them, you get the following:

Narrow shoulders and narrow hips: Column (sometimes called apple). This is the traditional boy shape. If you are a column, awesome, you can wear mens’ gear most of the time, unless you have big boobs. About 50%

Wide shoulders and narrow hips: Triangle. This is the athletic shape. You can wear guy stuff, too, But the size mismatches will get funny. Boobs usually fit, but jacket waists will be a mile wide. 5%

Wide shoulders and wide hips: Hourglass. Oh, you are screwed. You might look like Marilyn Monroe, but no one else does, so no gear for you! A very surprising 10%

Narrow shoulders and wide hips: Pear. This is the shape that is most confusing to designers, because it is the opposite of their runway models. You might have thighs, too. Yikes! Nothing fits well. 35%

How the shapes break down into patterns

Narrow shapes are based on drops (difference between hip or upper chest measurement and waist measurements) that are smaller – 6″ or less for pants, 3″ or less for jackets. These fits are often called ‘straight’ cut. Wide shapes are based on larger drops – 7″ or greater for pants, 4″ or greater for jackets. These fits are often called ‘curvy’ cut. Curvy varies from 7″ to 10″ and greater. The Silver Jeans website has a wonderful description of how these fits work for pants.

The pattern must be cut to account for the drop and enable the wearer to move comfortably. This practice is called ‘adding ease’. In straight cuts, the ease is added to the hips. For curvy cuts, it is added to the thighs. This is why curvy girls struggle with pants – low drop straight cut pants will give them swimming pool butt with large gaps at the waist, because their waists are so much smaller relative to their hips and thighs. Ladies with narrow hips will find everything is baggy below their waist, a poor choice for keeping armor in place. Ease placement is why it is so difficult to make pants fit when cutting them down at the waist. In reality, you also have to add at the thighs and reshape the entire butt. Not practical with technical gear.

The same applies to jackets, with one additional issue: backwaist. Backwaist is the measurement from the neckline to the waistine. Women are generally about 15-20% shorter in backwaist than men. It is actually a primary physical marker we recognize about women. A jacket designed from scratch for a woman will reflect this. It will also include boob room. Boob room is independent of shoulder room, though! Shoulder room is cut into the back of the jacket, boob room into the front. Boob room requires aggressive shaping of the waist line and is the bane of most patternmakers’ existence, honestly. One wrong grain line layout and nothing works. This is why many women’s jackets come with adjustable waistbands: it is possible to add boob room and still cinch the waist down to an appropriate size. Jackets are actually easier to tailor because the main issue is cutting down the waist. Note that actual shortening of a jacket generally requires it to be shortened at the waistline, not the hem.

Beginning your shapely adventure

Have a friend measure you. It works better. Stand tall, relax, and breath gently. Measure at your belly button, around your boobs, above your boobs (upper chest), and at your hips (7-9″ down from your waist). Know your drops. Know if you need boob room – typically anything over a B cup will need boob room. Bs can fit lots of places and As are lucky ducks. Look carefully at the sizing cards for gear lines. They will reveal a lot. However, they are guides and some manufacturers do actually have curvy fits.

Feel free to ask me anything about fit. Thanks are due to my mom, who still believes that a solid understanding of flat pattern is a required life skill.

My experiences….

Alpinestars Stella is pure straight fit top and bottom Size Chart

Dainese has both curvy and straight, you have to try stuff on Size Chart

Rev’It has both, try it on Size Chart

BMW has mostly straighter fits, but the new Tourshell is definitely curvier and GS Dry is too Size Chart

(German) polo – each brand line has a specific fit model, all are different

(German) Louis – same as polo, lots of variety

(German) Hein Gericke – all curvy-friendly

Olympia is big boob friendly, but no curvy fits Sizing link

Joe Rocket has some nearly curvy stuff, but the fits varied across sizes too much for my comfort Size Chart

Speed and Strength was a big surprise as they have curvy stuff Size Chart

Klim Size Chart

IXS generally straighter cuts, will note curvy styles on tag Size Chart

First Gear Size Chart

Aerostich they have not really figured out thighs yet, but seem to be trying Size Chart

Worse for Wear great jeans with well-defined fit models Size Chart

Icon Size Chart

Fieldsheer Size Chart

I will add as I try on other gear here and there.

The LA Times recently reported on a study prepared by a focus group of motorcycle industry long-timers named Give A Shift – Motorcycle Sales in the Slow Lane. The Times piece is a well-written review of what we already know: motorcycling is not growing in the US. The study documentation was well-prepared and the reports available from the group were clear. What wasn’t clear from either the Times piece or the study documentation is why the group of experts remain so firmly trapped in the 1970s.

Motorcycling in the United States is a victim of itself in several ways. First, the rebel culture crafted by US manufacturer(s) following WWII transformed motorcycling into a means of acting out for gang-like outside-the-law bad boys. This is not limited to black-vest cruiser clubs, it also rears its ugly head (and front wheel) in the modern stunter culture that shuts down freeways and results in ugly confrontations with Land Rover owners. Dirtbike and ATV gangs in Baltimore and other large cities are a further offshoot that also trace their heritage to the outlaw MC culture of the Vietnam era. None of this is good for motorcycling as a whole and it continues to repercuss through the US.

The outlaw trope is bad, but the toy trope (“transportainment”) is worse. The US is very unique in the fact that most motorcycles are not used for general transportation, rather for pleasure. Motorcycles and other powered two-wheelers are considered basic transportation in nearly every other country in the world. Riders in the ROW start with 50cc scooters and work up to 500cc-class motorcycles. Cars may never be an option for most people in less affluent and warmer areas – they take up too much space, money, and time. Litre-class bikes are rare in most of the world for similar reasons. The EU is a unique market where both size classes coexist – the countries of the EU espouse both the basic transportation concept of smaller machines and the luxury (toy) concept of larger machines. The EU perspective is nuanced in that motorcycles are purchased with distinct purposes in mind and the owner of a larger touring machine (toy concept) is likely to also own a smaller, more city-focused bike for local riding (basic transportation concept). The authors of the study come immediately to the question of desirability in the US (bigger is better), but remain mired in the idea that fun has to be a part of the equation. The very concept of “transportainment” needs to die a fiery death.

The authors do not address the failure of rider training in the US. The efforts of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and organizations like Total Control are admirable, but do little to grow the market. They reinforce the toy concept by setting the barrier to entry very low – no significant investment in rider training is required, so motorcycles are not taken seriously. The state DMVs are complicit in this with low level licensing requirements. A tiered licensing structure with additional training at increasing power levels would reinforce the idea that motorcycling is more than simply a hobby. This is one area in which the dealership experience could improve significantly and have a very measurable impact on the acceptability of motorcycling in the current cotton-ball culture. Addition of private instruction hours with the purchase of bikes would build confidence and acceptability in today’s risk-averse environment. The 20-hour individual training minimum of the EU is unlikely to be realized in the US due to sheer cost, however it is a good goal.

The future of autonomy is described as a risk instead of an opportunity. This is and outdated and uninformed attitude. ABS system data – speed, direction, yaw, lean – forms the backbone of the information stream that is used for vehicle-to-vehicle communication and ABS is now required on new motorcycles in many markets. RADAR cruise control on bikes has been realized in the lab. Motorcycles move at traffic speeds, unlike bicyclists and pedestrians, which cannot share any data and are wildly unpredictable. This presence of so-called dumb vehicles (those that do not broadcast data, including bicycles, older motos, and older cars) cannot be avoided at this time, which forces autonomy discussions to include them. Motorcycles are fortunately large enough to register as other traffic participants, “dumb” or otherwise.

The authors have correctly identified the need to participate in the autonomy discussion, but incorrectly assess the threat. The real threat is not that autonomous cars will squeeze motorcycles out of the traffic equation, it is that autonomy will squeeze all forms of self-directed transportation off the road. This is because vehicular autonomy is purely focused on the basic transportation concept. The industry’s refusal (aside from BMW) to engage in the autonomy discussion is a deep shame and shows profound lack of foresight. I look for future efforts from Ducati to explore this through their association with Audi and VolkswagenAG, and from Honda, who share BMW’s one-house integration. Sadly, in the US, the Harley-Davidson/Ford arrangement seems to be a simple branding affair, with no technical exchange.

The authors rightly call to the carpet the entire “shrink&pink” attitude of all motorcycle industry manufacturers. The difference between any motorcycle shop in the EU and one in the US is the amount of floor space given to technical riding apparel for women. Kids’ apparel is non-existent in the US and women’s gear tends toward fashion. Women generally approach motorcycling in a more pragmatic manner than men, and not only from a safety perspective. Firstly, rebel culture and tribe-seeking are less of a draw – women are not seeking rebellion against society, they are seeking freedom within it. Secondly, basic transportation is a greater factor – women are far more likely to see their motorcycle as a means to explore the world and their place in it rather than as a simple weekend toy. Dealerships are a huge part of the problem – until the generation of sales reps that see women as part of the toy equation rather than as disbursers of money is retired, women will continue to be turned off.

The authors return many times to the need for potential buyers to want a motorcycle, but never make it past the desire to have fun. We need to change the reasons for wanting a motorcycle from the “transportainment” culture of previous generations to the basic transportation concept of today’s future owners and drive the manufacturers to participate in the technical growth of the general transportation industry. Only then will the industry be able to connect with today’s potential riders.

The 1% moniker has taken on some new meaning of late. Formerly the exclusive province of outlaw motorcycle gangs, it now includes the richest of the rich. I’m not going to talk about either of those groups. I am going to talk about something far more exotic: high school kids who drive stick shift.

I taught my older son how to drive on my old B5 wagon. The hydraulic clutch and super short solid linkage make it so easy to drive, it’s like eating cake. It spoils you, but you love it. A friend of his was learning to drive at the same time and that kid’s parents had coughed up a Dodge Dart with a manual trans. Exactly two other kids in his class of 300 had any experience with the old ballet á pied, and neither of them had routine access to a shifty car. Going out to lunch was fun because it nearly always involved the Dart and it also nearly always involved the kids who could drive it. The four of them morphed into a sort of teenage boy stick shift clique. Who knew?

One weekend when I had the wagon in the air, my son asked me why more kids weren’t interested in cool cars.

I had to think about it, because being interested in cool cars was is such a natural state for me that the idea of not being into them is completely foreign.

We worked out the population of the school parking lot.

40% of the kids had the latest and greatest safest car

8% of the kids had the most expensive car (it’s a pretty well-off place)

Another 40% had a recent hand-me-down

11% had a cheapo CL special

1% had cars that could maybe be described as interesting. Ok, it was one car. An old Bronco that a kid was working on. And a Ruckus.

We talked about his friends and what they wanted. Most did not want a car at all, but needed one to go to their jobs and back and forth to school. Some wanted nicer cars, some wanted faster cars. Only a precious few kids were actually interested in cars because cars.

I suggested that he survey kids and school and ask them what car they would have if nothing stood in their way. He said most kids just stared at him. He got some good answers, heavy on the AMGs and Teslas, but still more than just “something nicer”. More than a few wanted a car with a better stereo or better conectivity. A small handful, less than ten, wanted an older car for one reason or another. He asked why they didn’t have one, or weren’t trying to get one.

My son loves Initial D and all of the 80s goodness it features. Midway through his senior year, he discovered the cars&trucks section of Craigslist and began the hunt for an early Toyota MR2. I admit that my heart fell, I’m a Honda and VW girl. But the AW11 has pop-up headlamps, and I always allow pop-ups. Especially 6054s.

I set some rules out. It had to be running. It had to be reasonably straight. It had to have a clean title. It also had to be watertight. We looked at a lot of MR2s.

So why weren’t more kids rocking classic iron? We uncovered a set of conditions that had to be met for kids to have cool cars, and they turned out to be a high hurdle in these times. The first one is money. Fun cars tend to soak it up. Even cheap fun cars, ask any LeMons racer. Many kids cited not having the money to buy their own car as a key hurdle. The second is space. You have to put it somewhere. If your parents already got you the latest in hybrid technology, that is already taking up your allotted room. Quite a few kids were concerned about having that room, particularly garage space. That brings up part three: parental acceptance. You need parents who can feel the love. Without that, you are fighting an uphill battle against everyone, even those who should have your back no matter what. Nearly every kid said that their parents would support a hobby that they (the parents) were into, but didn’t see value in old/interesting cars. A major thread was safety. Kids keyed in on the fact that older vehicles are simply not as safe as modern ones and this was a huge barrier for their parents to overcome. The last part is tools and knowledge. If you have car-people parents, this one usually isn’t an issue. If you don’t, then you are looking at investing even more of your precious money in the hobby, money you already don’t have because you spent it on that AE86 or urQ that fills up every corner of your brain. The knowledge part is no small hurdle either, learning cars from scratch without a mentor is not something I would really wish on anyone. Here, take this complicated machine that is trying to set itself on fire and is made of about four thousand parts and sort it. Before your dad gets home so he can have the garage back. Kids felt this was the least significant barrier and felt that they could learn. As long as their parents were open to the idea to begin with.

It’s just not that easy to enable the car thing in kids, and the barriers to entry get higher every day. The kids who do pick it up are unique, their own version of 1%ers. Like the OMGs, they have to find a sponsor, commit, and do the deeds required to get in.

My son has a rusty MR2 now. I’m grudgingly learning how to read the big green book, and quite grateful that Toyota uses a slightly modified version of Bosch notation for their wiring diagrams. I’ve learned that MR stands for midship runabout. I’m reminding him that this is just his first one, so he needs to get all of the practicing out of the way so he’s ready for the perfectly clean one he dreams about. MY SON IS LEARNING RWD.

The college version of the high school stick shift club is the autocross club, and there are apparently quite a few kids in it. More than the high school survey would predict. It’s nice to know that there are more of these kids out there. I think I want to meet their parents. We can trade notes.

Every year I add to my motorcycling story. I learn something new, or I reinforce something that I knew, but didn’t use enough or forgot or just never really understood. This year, it’s that thing with the knee. A catch, though – I don’t mean my inside knee.

Some years ago, I was rounding a hairpin in the Alps and was headed for a wall. I managed to jerk my head around at the last minute, put some weight on the outer peg, and force myself to relax and let the bike do its thing. Of course, the moment I did those things, the bike magically came around and I went on through the curve like I was supposed to. There was one peculiar sensation that I felt that had me thinking – as I relaxed on the bike, I felt it holding me up. As I came out of the turn, I felt the bike stand up under me, pressing into my outside knee. My first thought was that this must be what hanging off feels like! Not that I was off the seat or anywhere near hauled over, but that the bike was doing the work for me. I was just piloting.

I made a lot of assumptions there, but the thing with the outside knee has been a point of interest for me since then. This year, I tossed up my riding calendar quite a bit and put a long, twisty trip at the start of my season instead of waiting until the end. Instead of spending my summer commuting on Michigan’s boring, straight A-to-B roads, I pushed myself into the fun stuff right away. The (wonderful) result is that I remembered that thing with the knee and have been (and will be) playing with it for my whole warm season this year, instead of only remembering it at the end. 

Technique is important to every rider, on the GP course or a sandy trail or anywhere in between. Clearly, it is not sufficient to relax and drape oneself over the bike and pray. This is effective, but kind of scary. One must control not so much the bike, but one’s body position relative to it. I learned early on about gripping the tank with my knees instead of deathgripping the bars. That is nice, but what about when you don’t want to go straight or sit in the same position all the time? How do you grip the tank with only one knee? There is way. It requires good boots and a little sense of geometry.

Gripping the tank is important because it stabilizes your lower body on the bike and allows your upper body to relax and freely move while still maintaining some form of referential position to the steering head and bars. It extends the frame of the bike up through your hips. Simple geometry reminds us that there is now a triangle of femur, femur, and tank. Triangles are very stable constructions! Additional fixture points are your feet on the pegs (more triangles!), as any dirt rider who prefers to stand on the bike will tell you. One your body is fixed to the frame, you can move around quite a bit up top and still be sure that you will not have any wierd steering inputs. 

Fixturing to the bike frame with one knee is not so obvious, unless you are the aforementioned dirt rider. I start by insuring a solid grip on the outside footpeg. This is where decent boots come into play – if you cannot gain purchase on the footpeg or your boot slides under force, you will struggle with this. Both hooking (your arch on the peg) and balling (up on the ball of the foot) are just fine for this, although balling allows you a bit of finesse that hooking doesn’t. It’s your outside foot and you won’t grind it off. The goal is to have a solid contact point with the structure of the motorcycle. Once the foot is in place, press your knee (of the same leg, natch) into the tank. Hard. This forms a triangle of lower leg, footpeg, and frame (ok, motor/frame/tank, it’s a solid thing, ok?). You are fixtured to the outside of the of the motorbike. From this point on, it’s what you do with your top and inside halves that makes the riding magic. The fixturing is the base you build on.

The fixing to the bike in this case has the same goal as gripping the tank – fixing your lower half to the bike in a manner that allows free motion of the body parts that will impact steering geometry (shoulders, arms, etc) in the desired way. Once the outside knee is solidly mated to the tank, even the outside femur is free to move (!). This, of course, leads to that other thing with the knee, the grinding off of knee pucks, when motion of the outside femur results in sideways displacement of the hips from the motorbike’s seat. 

This one-sided fixturing technique is hardly rocket science, but it can lead to more confident riding in all conditions. It forces the rider to put pressure on the outside peg – a key component of pro cornering. It encourages the rider to move around on top of the bike, improving balance skills. And it gives the rider a more profound sensation of what the bike is capable of by transmitting more of the bike’s willingness to both drop in and stand up to stand up to the rider’s body. Instead of moving the hips – a somewhat disconcerting feeling to many newer riders – this moves the knee and imparts the feeling that the bike is supporting the rider, not the other way around.

I’m enjoying it, even in Michigan, on our profoundly boring roads. What few turns we have are more interesting and more engaging. I might even get around to hanging off one day, who knows. You know, do that other thing with the other knee.