Over the last few years my motorcycle riding gear has been decidedly minimalist; safety-obsessed North Americans will likely have a fit with the following breakdown:
My kit in South Asia consisted of a vintage-styled half helmet that I bought in Nepal for 1100 rupees (about CDN $12) when I rented a bike there. Being a bit concerned about ankle protection at the time, I also lucked out in finding a used pair of Lowa hiking boots in the second hand market in Katmandu for another 500 rupees.
Those boots were a bit too warm back in Pakistan, so I used a pair of fuggly Keen sandals most of the time. My suit usually consisted of jeans and a half kurta … Most of my fellow South Asian bikers, riding with their unhelmeted families of four or five thought I was a safety nut!
Fast forward to 2013 in Canada and my reconnection with CMG. The above gear was not going to cut it in this part of the world so a rethink was required – not only for myself but the lovely Fatima as well, as she would be accompanying me on my travels.
As a result of my minimalist Asian riding gear experience, my previous gear tests, and discussions with Fatima, we decided that our 2013 gear should be easy to wear and wherever possible, multiuse; so that it could be used for hiking, cycling, or just walking around without looking overtly motorcycle-gearish.
From The Ground Up
I knew what I wanted: hiking boots. They would replace my long-suffering, much-loved pair of Lowa boots that had worn through the soles. Alpinestars had them –a pair of CR-4 Gore-Tex XCR boots. That XCR bit means the Gore-Tex is supposed to be more rugged and breathable than regular stuff while still being waterproof. Alpinestars also supplied a stylish pair of Fastback WPs for Fatima, also with a waterproof liner. Both offer proper motorcycle foot protection and seem well suited for a variety of applications. Perfect!
Pants, again easy for me – I wanted riding jeans and found a pair that Zac and Rob had not tested yet – a pair of Hood K7 jeans made in England. Yes, they still make clothes England and if you order a pair by phone, you’ll speak to Julie or Chris, the owners of the company, both of whom are fantastic people who have been working since 1999 on making what many claim to be the best riding jeans in the world.
As for the K7 jeans, they are lined with military grade woven para-aramid, which weight for weight is said five times stronger than steel. Additionally, mine came with the some lightweight, high-tech D-30 amour that is normally found in their Kyrano line of jeans. Even with all this protection, they still look like a well-fitted pair of jeans that can be used anywhere.
Fatima’s mesh pants came with her jacket from Olympia; they’re the ladies Airglide Mesh Tech pants and jacket. The cool thing about them (pardon the pun) is that the waterproof liners are designed so that they can be used as a walk around rain suit. Brilliant! Olympia gear, BTW, comes with high praise as Assistant Editor, Zac feels the Olympia AST jacket he purchased years ago was one of the best he’s ever had.
My jeans are coupled with a nicely tailored Scott Summer VTD jacket; it’s a mesh item with something called a Triphase liner that is said to be windproof and waterproof. Sadly though, this liner cannot be used as a stand-alone. No worries though as these under-suit waterproof liners are only good for cooler weather, IMHO. This is especially so when it comes to mesh pants. I mean really, who wants to pull off their boots, drop their pants and install their waterproof liners while the clouds are starting to open up?
Our solution for the hot months of summer was to get additional over-the-suit rain gear and leave the under-suit liners at home. Both Fatima and I opted for Frogg Toggs Toadskinz pants. Not especially stylish, but affordable and highly functional with reflective strips and bootstraps. And they can be easily pulled over riding pants without having to take off our boots.
Our rain jackets are both quite unique; Fatima’s is a Klim (pronounced: Clime) Stow Away jacket that can bundle up into its own pocket and hung off the bars until you need it. Nice trick! It also has a hood zipped into the collar of the jacket for when her helmet comes off. Klim also sent Fatima a very well tailored Sundance shirt that is said to be a “highly breathable fabric that allows moisture transmission away from the skin allowing an outerwear Gore-Tex shell to provide a fully balanced microclimate.” Again, a stylish piece of kit that can be used anywhere.
Deeley Harley Davidson supplied my rain jacket. As you may know, much of the Harley gear is rebranded gear from other manufacturers, but this FXRG rain jacket seems unique. It uses a new technology called Cocona polyester to keep the wet stuff out and this material is said to increase breathability, shorten dry times, add UV protection and increase odor management. The Cocona people claim a 30-50% increase in performance compared to anything in the marketplace.
The jacket also has a removable plush liner and a hood in the collar. A very nice piece indeed! Another plus point is that the branding is decidedly understated. There’s no giant orange Harley logo or eagle on the back.
No sense having waterproof suits without gloves to match, so Scott provided Fatima with a set of women’s Rubis TP gloves. These also use the Triphase technology, so we’re keen to see if they offer the breathability and weather protection that is claimed.
My waterproof gloves are a pair of Mad Max specials courtesy of Klim. These Element gloves certainly aren’t cheap but they are definitely impressive looking and I am excited to see if I now finally have a truly waterproof pair of gloves. As the Element gloves have multilayers and are thick, I also got a pair of Scott SPV mesh gloves for the warmer stuff.
And finally, the lids. As mentioned, I was used to a pudding bowl in Asia and I couldn’t get my head around (or into) wearing a claustrophobic full-face helmet just yet. Shoei came to the rescue by providing us with what, in my opinion, is the most nicely styled open face helmets on the market, their new J-Cruise. The helmets feature a distortion-free screen with what is claimed to be an industry-first integrated air dam. The J-Cruise also has a retractable sun shield, and a fully removable liner. Sweet.
As Fatima and I wanted to be able to communicate with each other while traveling, we managed to acquire a set of Sena SMH10 Bluetooth headsets. Along with being able to wirelessly communicate with each other, we can make and receive cell phone calls, get nav directions, and listen to iPod tunes. Welcome to the 21st Century…
Initial impressions of all the gear are highly positive and we look forward to putting some serious miles on this kit over the upcoming season. A complete breakdown on how it held up will follow at the end of the season.
Cheers, Mr. Seck
Many thanks to Tom and Maureen at GP Bikes in Whitby, Ontario for swapping some of our gear to get the perfect fit. Much appreciated!