At CMG we like to test gear over the riding season, as we believe that this is the only truly effective way to see if what the gear claims it can do, it can actually do! Sure, you can slap something on, go for a ride and declare that yes, it is comfy, waterproof and still looks like it did on the day you bought it, but where’s the testing in that?
For 2012, I found myself still in search of the holiest of Holy Grails for the motorcyclist – good waterproof riding gear! Something that actually remains waterproof after a long season of use and abuse, and hopefully for a good few years to follow.
My anticipated salvation was bet on an Icon Patrol jacket and pants combo with Ridge boots courtesy of Alpinestars. Thankfully full-face helmets are inherently waterproof, so since retiring my Arai full face I opted for a sporty Icon Airframe. Gloves are a pair of Icon Pursuit summer gloves that are anything but waterproof, but they are cool (as in temperature).
The test season kicked off early with a trip to Morocco in April, where it was hot and dry. Back in Canada we also had a relatively dry summer, save for my two trips to Quebec, where I got pissed on and really got to test the gear.
ICON PATROL JACKET – $399.95
I was instantly smitten with the Icon Patrol jacket. Waterproof, loose fitting, long enough to cover yer arse, detachable liner, armoured (with the option to put an aftermarket back protector in) and well vented to boot. What more can you ask for? How about a hydration pocket on the back? Check. Detachable hood for walking about post ride in the rain? Check. Magnetic closure storm flaps (no need to pop the front flap down)? Check.
Impressive indeed. And then there’s the usual reflective logos/strips, tall microfleece-lined collar, insulated liner, jacket/pant interlock system and a multitude of small to large storage pockets (12 in total!). And, oh, what’s this? A dry pocket… Great place to store the wallet and it swings out from a Velcro retainer for easy access too.
Most of the zippers are of the waterproof type, but there are a lot of them and they don’t have any covering material at the ends where the zipper is more prone to leakage. There are also two, rather large zippers at the front that are the standard rather than waterproof type, although these are covered by flaps.
Six of the zippers are for venting purposes, located on the arms, chest and back, so the jacket should certainly remain cool.
The cuffs are really well done and are easily cinched up with a large Velcro strap (making it easy for gloves to go over them), and when loosened they open up, making it easy to get into and out of the jacket.
There are also a couple of cinch straps on the sleeves, which are on the baggy side, so these should stop the sleeves from flapping around wildly. Oh and let’s not forget the removable liner that I didn’t use as I find a good fleecy does the job and has multiple other uses.
The Patrol jacket comes in black, red, gray or hi-viz yellow. Yes, the “Loud pipes save lives” brigade will be rejoicing at the hi-viz yellow no doubt, as it will make a useful addition to their safety conscious loud, flatulent machines. Imagine, loud and visible, surely the safest of all combinations!
All joking aside, I went for the hi-viz option. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and have kids, but if you can increase your chances of being seen just by wearing your riding jacket, then why not? Yes, you look like a radioactive banana turned super hero, but the older I get, the less I care.
Godammit! I absolutely love this jacket. It’s fit, comfort, flexibility, all great, but…
As you’d expect, my trip to Morocco didn’t give me the opportunity to test the gear in wet conditions (not too much rain in the Sahara), but it did allow me to test the venting and it worked very well. Still a big jacket with a few vents is going to be on the warm side, but I found that as long as I was moving, I was fine.
The hi-viz yellow proved to be a good move, ensuring that I was easily seen – especially handy in the chaotic streets of Morocco’s cities and the armour fit so I didn’t really know it was there (but was reassuring to have).
Now to the “but” part… It’s not waterproof! Admittedly it only eventually gave way after a whole day of riding in torrential rain while in Quebec, but the jacket subsequently failed every time it got hit with anything more than a light shower.
I suspect that the main leakage came in through the collar (it was that wet when it initially failed) and through the two covered, non-waterproof zippers on the chest. However, in subsequent rain storms I double- and triple-checked that all zippers were zipped (there are a lot of them), and that the collar was tight and the sleeves cinched, but I still got wet.
The jacket is somewhat shower proof, but you will still have to pack a set of purpose-made waterproofs if the weather turns really nasty.
Wear-wise it’s looking a little sad after only a year. The material has gotten rather fuzzy, with some fine fibres hanging at the edges and the hi-viz yellow has faded significantly.
I have also had some issues with the main zipper that doesn’t always stay together at the bottom and unzips itself upwards, but that was only when I didn’t get it right when zipping up – it’s never parted in use.
Best – great design (best of the jackets I’ve tested to date).
Worst – not waterproof, material deteriorates quickly.
More Info – rideicon.com
ICON PATROL PANTS – $299.95
The pants are a similar loose fit, and although they also come in hi-viz, I went for the black just to tone down the whole radioactive Bananaman effect. Like the jacket, the pants come with waterproof zippers on the front and cargo pockets, and the full-length side zippers that can be used for cooling as no vents are built in.
Flaps are similarly sealed by magnets, with the leg openings using in-built gaitors to stop splash from coming up the bottom. There are adjustable knee armour pockets (as in several openings at different heights in which to place the armour) and a couple of pads on the hip area.
The waist has some adjustable cinches and removable suspenders in case you want to keep a lose waist but don’t want your pants to fall off. The pants can be connected to the jacket via several clips. Logos and insets are reflective
Well, sad to say, much like the jacket, after that torrential downpour they finally gave way and let the water in and have done every time since. I don’t think this was helped by the two front pockets with flaps that seemed to face the wrong way and collected rain water a result.
On the plus side, the design is not bad but they didn’t grab me as much as the jacket did, and the lack of vents meant that they were a little ‘boil-in-the-bag’ when things got hot. The large side zippers offered some relief, but their main advantage was the ease with which you could put your boots on.
The built-in gaitors also worked well and the pop connectors meant that they could be sealed around the boots – very useful for when I used them on the KLR and rode through water at speed, sploooossshhhhh!
I’d prefer to see a zippered connection between the jacket and pants. Although the clips did work, they were somewhat tricky to undo when I inevitably tried to remove the jacket and forgot it was connected to the pants. I tried the suspenders but found that they couldn’t be loosened enough and they constantly pulled on my shoulders.
Unlike the jacket the material seems to have held up better but that could be because they didn’t get used as hard and were not always used in conjunction with the jacket, as the material appears to be the same.
Best – okay design, nice built-in gaiters
Worst – not waterproof, bulky and sweaty in hot weather.
More Info – rideicon.com
ICON AIRFRAME CARBON HELMET – $529.95
Made with carbon-fibre, the Airframe Carbon is Icon’s lightest lid, weighing in at a mere 1,450 grams. The removable liner is moisture-wicking and the shell comes with large intake and exhaust ports for cooling.
There’s also a breath deflector and fog-free shield to prevent misting up, though Icon have not gone so far as to use the Pinlock dual-shield system that you find on high-end helmets such as the Shuberth S1.
The helmet meets U.S., European, Japanese and Australian safety standards, though it’s not Snell approved, for what that’s worth.
The helmet is very light and as a result it’s easy to forget that you have it on, save for one issue. It appears that the shape is for those of the Shoei-type head, not the Arai type — I am the latter. As a result, despite being light, I found it tight around my forehead and after a day’s usage it left me in some discomfort.
That wasn’t an issue when I ‘raced’ (and I use that term lightly) in the east coast round of the Honda CBR250R Media Challenge. There the great airflow, lightweight and unobstructed vision were a blessing.
The liner and padding are snug and comfy but even without the tight forehead I found that the lid didn’t quite match the level of quality of my Shuberth or Arai helmets, though the price is still a chunk lower.
Although the shield feels a little notchy when opening, it means that it stays put at most speeds and incorporates what Icon calls the Prolock, which helps to keep the visor shut even at high speeds. Oh, and it’s quite noisy, though to be honest, no noisier than 90 per cent of the helmets out there.
Despite being a person who many would consider to be low on the styling ladder, I did find the helmet quite attractive, with the exposed carbon-fibre and wing on top. It’s a pretty good medium-priced lid as long as you have the right head to fit.
Best – lightweight, styling
Worst – not my head shape, lacking that je ne sais quoi of the higher end helmets.
More Info – rideicon.com
ICON PURSUIT GLOVES – $64.95
What do you get when you cross a sheep with a goat? You might think the answer is a shoat (really, look it up) or possibly the Pursuit glove, if you do the cross-breeding posthumously.
Made using heavily perforated sheepskin with a tougher goatskin palm, the Pursuit gloves also have plastic knuckle armour under the leather for additional (and subtle) crash protection.
These gloves are designed for warm and hot days.
To be honest I wasn’t overly impressed with the finish, some of the fingers looking like an ex-racers deformed digits, but despite a tight fit initially the gloves soon formed to fit my hand perfectly.
If you’ve never tried this type of glove I cannot recommend it highly enough as it is cool on a hot day, while still offering a decent level of protection. These gloves got used quite often last summer without any signs of undue wear.
Best – Great fit (once broken in) and cool riding all summer.
Worst – Finish a little rough around the edges
More Info – rideicon.com
ALPINESTARS RIDGE BOOTS – $179.95
Despite the Alpinestars Durban boots from last year’s long term test ultimately leaking a tad at the toes, I thought I’d give the brand another chance and try out a pair of the shorty-style boots.
I’ve always defaulted to the long boot, mainly because I ride off road a lot, but they get hot and can be a little uncomfortable on the long haul, so this year I thought I’d go for comfort.
The Ridge boots have leather uppers with vulcanized rubber soles and include ankle cups. The soles are shank reinforced. Two Velcro straps on either side open the boots up so that you can get your feet in, and a third smaller strap at the instep is used to snug them up.
There’s a reflective insert at the back and Alpinestars reckon they’re waterproof too.
Wow, these must be some of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever had. I’ve never given a second thought to shorty boots before, but you get comparable foot protection without the mass, heat and clunky walking of a tall boot.
However, there were two rather major faults I found with them.
1) The large Velcro fasteners gradually lost their stick over the year and I would find them coming apart in relatively easy use, which left me wondering if they may actually fall off in an accident!
2) They leaked. Granted, you need a long-legged pair of waterproofs to ensure that the rain doesn’t just flow in from the top, but sure enough, by the end of the summer, rain meant wet feet.
Best – Very comfy and easy to walk in.
Worst – Leak. Velcro straps lose stickiness.
More Info – alpinestars.com
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