All the gear, all the time (ATGATT) can mean different things to different riders. For some, it means denim jeans and work boots instead of shorts and flip-flops. For others, the hide of a cow reinforced with padding or armour are a necessity over every inch of skin below the neck. Whatever a person’s preference in materials, the bottom line is, dress for the slide, and not the ride. One of the most common questions I get asked when arriving somewhere in a leather jacket when it’s 30C is, “Isn’t that really uncomfortable?” My answer is always, “Far more comfortable than multiple skin grafts.”
In the past, my personal street riding wardrobe for the upper body was always a leather jacket at minimum, because the thought of melting nylon sticking to my skin in a crash was a bit unpleasant. However, many advancements in materials and design have produced better and better textile alternatives. The Olympia Expedition II jacket is one of the latest examples to give cowhide a run for its money. But will it replace leather at the top of my personal ATGATT list?
The Expedition II is certainly feature-packed. It starts with an outer shell made of Cordura®, in both 500 and 1000 denier count material. Integrated into this shell are CE approved level 2 “Powertector” armour pads at the elbows, shoulders, and back. CE stands for “Conformité Européene” and is the European motorcycle safety standard required for road used in Europe. “Level 2” is the higher level of CE standard that requires a lower level of force transmitted to the rider under certain impact tests. These pads are removable for washing and are a big part of what makes this jacket a viable alternative to leather, in terms of crash protection.
Our test sample came in black with bright yellow 3M Scotchlite® reflective strips down the sleeves, shoulders, chest, and a curious thick strip in the middle of the back that was only visible by unzipping and tucking in a vent panel. Seeing as this back strip might be the most important reflective panel to have, it was strange that it would not be visible at all times. The jacket also comes in a version with grey reflective strips instead of yellow, for those who are looking for a bit more of an understated look.
Along with the aforementioned rear vent panel, the Expedition II also has zippered venting with two large panels on the chest and along the inside of the arms, all with mesh backing. On particularly hot days, the combination of nylon construction and zippered venting outperformed most leather jackets I’ve used, which is admirable considering the amount of protection provided. Yes, lots of sweat was still inevitable, but the jacket also dried quicker than leather, so more bonus points there.
For colder days in the saddle, the Expedition II comes with an insulated inner vest, a must for those early spring or late fall rides. For rainy weather, it also comes with a waterproof rain jacket in a handy nylon sack that can be used over or under the outer shell.
Sizing was close to average, if a bit larger. I normally wear an XL jacket with most brands, but this example fit slightly bigger than most. I tried on a size large and it fit, but was borderline snug, so any layering of clothes underneath, or increase in girth, would deem it too small. The jacket also features cinch straps around the waistband, upper waist, lower arms and cuffs, to adjust the fit as necessary.
From the first ride onward, the Expedition II became my go-to jacket for everything short of track riding. The versatility of being able to ride comfortably in cool, hot, or rainy weather, along with the peace of mind you could feel when the padded armour slipped into place, made me re-think my reliance on leather. Trip to the Haliburton Highlands with the CMG crew? Grab the Expedition II. Quick blast up the road on the Panigale? Expedition II. Off-roading on the dual-purpose CFR250L? Expedition II it is. Stylistically, it seemed to look at home on any style of bike which also added to the allure.
Drawbacks? At $559.99 CDN, it is not what some would call inexpensive, but safety and comfort don’t come cheap. For the features, protection and versatility it offers, the value proposition is high.
The back-protector padding was bent out of shape from being packed in the box which was a little uncomfortable until it worked itself flat again. Take it out and put it between your mattress and box spring for a day or two to remedy this, or just ride it like I did until it flattened out. Finally, make sure you test for fit before you buy.
On the track, a high-quality, one-piece leather (or even better, kangaroo) suit is all I will wear, fitted like a second skin. At a more casual pace on the road, I could live with the Expedition II as my only jacket, which is something I would definitely not have said in the past. OETATT – Olympia Expedition II All the Time.