Buffaloed

VikingCycle Skeid Jacket

So, here’s the usual thing with gear and apparel reviews, when you write for a web site like this one: someone sends you an item to review for free, and which you get to keep. In return, you are obligated to write a review of it. Most of the time, it’s no big deal. They send you a mid-range bit of riding gear, you write a review with mid-range approval, because they almost invariably send you an item that does the job it’s supposed to do, at a reasonable price.

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Xelement Men’s CF-624 Armored Race Motorcycle Jacket Review

First, for full transparency, this is a solicited review. Leatherup.Com contacted me and asked if I would be interested in having them sending me some gear to review, and I said I’d be happy to. There is no payment or quid pro quo, other than that they’d send me stuff from time to time, and I’d review it.

cf624_1What they sent me this week was the CF-624 Armored Race Motorcycle Jacket. I’m going to assume that the "Race" is merely a style name, and not referring to actual race use as this is a textile jacket, not a leather one. I can’t imagine anyone going to the racetrack and wearing anything but full-on leathers. But it certainly has a racing-style look to it, and is a fairly attractive jacket.

The outer shell is a 600-denier nylon "Tri-Tex" material, comparable in weight and thickness to the shells that Tourmaster/Cortech or Joe Rocket uses for their textile jackets. The jacket has removable CE armor pads at the elbows, shoulders, and back, with additional foam protectors sewn into the shell in front, and down the back. It comes with a quilted, insulated, zip-out liner for colder weather, and when the liner is zipped out, the inner shell of the jacket is fully lined with polyester. One thing I always look for is the back zipper for connecting the jacket to riding pants—an item usually missing in the Tourmaster stuff I’ve seen—but present and accounted for in the Xelement jacket.

For warmer weather, there are four zippered vents: two in the arms and two in the back, that open mesh-covered vents for airflow. The outside of each shoulder also mounts a polycarbonate external protector that has integral screened holes to allow additional airflow. Each side has nylon pull tabs with velcro closures to cinch the waist to your size.

cf624_2The CE armor at the elbow and shoulder has a semi-rigid outer shell, with a softer impact-foam backing, while the back protector is a removable impact-foam pad. All of the armor is CE certified, however.

The bottom of each sleeve has a zippered closure for tightening, as well as velcro tabs.

The construction overall seems solid, with well-stitched and taped seams.

I would say it compares very well with the relatively more expensive gear from Tourmaster/Cortech, Joe Rocket, and even some of the Icon Motosports textile gear. For an $80 jacket, it seems like it’s a pretty good value, as that is about $50 less than comparable Tourmaster jackets.

There are a few cons. Personally, I’d like to see some additional, thicker cordura patches in the impact areas, as well as some adjustment snaps on the arms to tighten the elbow armor more firmly. Also, some reflective material would be nice, as this jacket has none at all. Having said that, I had a Harley-Davidson textile jacket that didn’t have those things—and no back protector besides—that cost double what this jacket costs.

One caveat about buying an Xelement jacket seems to be a common complaint that they run a bit small. I can confirm that. At 5’10" and 190lbs, I generally wear a size large, but this jacket in that size is a tight fit with the liner in, and just large enough to provide adequate freedom of movement without it. I’d recommend buying a size larger than you would usually wear.

A final thought. I am a bit of a fanatic about protection when it comes to riding gear. The least protective jacket I have is the Olympia Motosports jacket I reviewed a few months ago. It has more armor coverage, and 2000 denier cordura in all the impact areas. My second jacket is a full-on Dainese hard-armored jacket with a 1" thick hard back plate, and my hot weather jacket is a Pilot mesh jacket that I got before Pilot went back to making only custom race suits, and it has so much hard armor coverage that the mesh is essentially useless, as no air flows under the armor anyway. And, If I want to to wear an unarmored jacket, I have a Six-Six-One armor set that I wear underneath it. So, the Xelement jacket is not one I’d wear on a daily basis.

However, I realize that most of you aren’t as paranoid as I am about armor, and aren’t interested in shelling out $500 bucks for a Dainese jacket. So for the vast majority of you guys, this jacket will be perfectly fine. I’d say it’s every bit as good as a Cortech jacket at a much better price. It’s lightweight, comfortable, and better armored than many budget jackets. I would also note that a quick check of customer reviews at Amazon shows that—size issues aside—people rate this jacket well.

Oh, my chick also says it looks nice—and she’s far more of an authority on that stuff than I am.

Riding Gear Review: Olympia Moto Sports GT Air Transition Jacket & Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Overpant

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an ATGATT guy. I put on all the gear every time I ride, and I ride every day, a minimum of 50 miles. So riding gear is kind of important to me.

Because I ride a motorcycle as my primary transportation, my gear has to be relatively tough, and, considering the expense, durable and reliable. So, when it came time to toss out my 4 year-old set of riding togs last week, I went immediately to the BMW dealership, where the more high-end apparel is readily available, and picked out a new Olympia Moto Sports GT Air Transition Jacket and Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Overpant, both of which are textile items, made from 500 and 2000 denier Cordura® fabric. They are both provided with removable CE armor as well.

(Click on the pictures to see high-res versions)

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I’ve personally crash tested Olympia riding gear on the street, so I know it works. It didn’t prevent my big toe from getting broken, however. But the rest of me came through with nary a scratch, no thanks the driver of the transportation van for the handicapped, who decided stop signs didn’t apply to him.

But, I digress.

The pants are pretty straightforward, so I’ll tackle them first. The Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Overpant is an armored mesh pant with hard, form-fitting knee armor and soft hip armor. The knee pads are not a single hard outer shell with a foam backing. Instead, the armor consists of connecting hard plastic, squarish "bubbles" with a gel backing. Take them out of the pants, and the knee pads lay flat. When worn however, the pads wrap themselves around your knees, and fit to the countours. IMG_6783The pants have a wide adjustment area, so the pads can be moved up or down the leg approximately 8 inches, which should assure knee coverage for just about anyone. One neat idea they incorporate is that the hard plastic actually has a velcro cover, so when you move the knee armor to the desired position on the leg, there is velcro sewn inside the armor pocket to secure the kneepads where you put them. The hip armor is simple memory foam padding, sewn into pockets on each side of the pants.

Unlike my old set of Airglide pants, the removable nylon liner, while water and windproof, is not, sadly, insulated. Still, it is a mesh pant, and I live in Southern California, so really cold temperatures are pretty rare. And, really, it’s only suitable as a summer pant for most regions, anyway.

The zippered front pockets and capacious snapped rear pockets will hold just about anything you might ask of them on a motorcycle. I especially like the fact that, unlike other brands of pants I’ve tried, the side zippers go all the way up to the waistband, which makes getting into and out of the pants a breeze, even with the big, clunky, felt-lined, Czech army jackboots I wear in the winter.

The waist has expandable gussets as well as a two-position snap closure. This, along with the well-anchored belt loops, make the pant suitable for wear without street clothes underneath, if you’re feeling sufficiently naughty.

Unlike the pants, which, while of excellent quality, are fairly simple, the GT Air Transition Jacket is much more complicated and feature-filled.

Like all of the Olympia Moto Sports "Transition" line of apparel the outer shell of the jacket has panels on the front and back that zip away, and can be folded down into integral pockets during warmer weather. When zipped up, each panel contains an additional zipper in the middle of the panel, which turns them into rather large breast pockets. When zipped up, the top of the outer panels are secured under the yoke with long velcro closures, making them relatively secure pockets as well. When unzipped and folded down into the integral pockets, there is reasonably good airflow across the chest. Similarly, the arms have zippered vent closures that open up to expose more mesh for extra airflow around the elbow and shoulder armor.

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There are waist, chest, and arm adjustments to make the jacket looser or more form-fitting, as desired. The adjustment straps have snaps for the chest, while the arm and waist adjustment is velcro, as are the wrist and neck closures.

The jacket I bought, as you can see, has hi-vis orange panels along the yoke, the sides and the arms, though those looking for more subdued colors can find them, as well as those looking for hi-vis yellow. All colors, however, are trimmed in Scotchlite® reflective piping across the yoke, across the waist, and down the arms, with an additional large patch of it at the rear of the neck.

Armor at the shoulders, elbows, and forearm consists of the same type of hard plastic/gel system employed in the pants, making the armor both form-fitting and comfortable. The jacket also has a back protector, which consists of a hard protector sewn into the back of the inner lining, as well as additional foam pads sewn into the outer shell.

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The jacket also comes with a two- piece, removable inner liner. As you can see from the picture, the liner consists of a water- and wind-proof outer shell, and an insulated liner that snaps into the shell. As such, you can remove the insulated liner for warmer days, while keeping liner shell in the jacket for wetter days.

One extra plus to this two-part liner is that the layering makes it significantly warmer than an insulated liner alone. So, it can do service in temperatures down into the 30s. Even without the liner, the outer shell of the jacket is wind-resistant enough to be serviceable for riding with temperatures down to the mid-50s.

Assuming you zip up all the vent panels covering the mesh, of course.

The downside of the two-part inner liner is that it is noticeably more bulky than a one-piece liner, but the chest, arm and waist adjustments for the jacket are versatile enough to loosen the outer shell to comfortably make room for the added bulk.

All of the zippered closures for both the pant and the jacket liners are waterproof, as well, so they are both suitable as wet-weather gear. The jacket, with its large mesh panels front and back, along with its two-piece insulated inner liner, and wind-resistant outer shell, should make for a great all-year jacket for those who live in more southerly climes.

Manufacturing quality and materials are exceptionally good for both items, as is comfort, and the ability to take a fair amount of abuse. They are, however, priced accordingly, with the list price for the jacket at $329, and the pants at $199. Happily, I got them both on sale, and saved a substantial amount over retail. They can be found online for significantly cheaper, as well.

Considering the quality, features, comfort, and durability of these riding clothes, I’d say they were well worth the money, and can heartily recommend them.

Too Much of a Good Thing

I yield to no man in my advocacy of the philosophy of “All the gear, all the time” (ATGATT).  When I went down after being hit by a driver who ran a stop sign, back in December, I ended up in much better shape than I otherwise would have because I was in full gear.  As badly as I got worked, not wearing all the gear would have ended up worse.

But still, there are limits, and I think Universal Pictures has transgressed those limits with this:

Dark Knight Motorcycle Suit
Dark Knight Motorcycle Suit

Yes, it’s a replica of the Batman motorcycle suit that Christian Bale wore in “The Dark Knight”.  And it apparently isn’t just a pretty piece of clothing. According to Universal, the suit is a real, functional set of leathers.

  • Strong Cordura Mesh Base with Heavy-duty 4 way stretch Spandex inserts.
  • Removable CE Approved Body Armor in both Jacket and Pants
  • Highly detailed, removable lightweight interior lining.
  • Form Molded Leather and Kevlar Armor Sectons [sic].
  • Made from Quality Tanned Cow Hides

It looks like it even has knee pucks for racing. So, granted, it’s functional, and with CE armor, provides appropriate protection.

But if you buy and wear a Batman motorcycle suit, I can’t really decide if it’s just super-geeky, or…teh ghey.

Modular Helmet Testing Results

I’m one of those people that needs to wear a modular (flip-up) helmet.  I have two of them, a Harley-Davidson Stealth, which is OK, and an HJC Sy-Max II, which I like a bit better for the lower wind noise.  Unfortunately, I have to wear glasses or contact lenses, and, even with my contacts, I’m kind of light-sensitive, so I need to wear sunglasses.  A full-face helmet makes that a bit difficult.

But there’s always been some controversy as to how well modular helmets poerform in a crash.  This is kind of important, since about a fifth of crashes involve the biker taking one to the chin.  I’d kind of like that bit protected,  since chicks dig guys with chins.

So, I am interested to learn that, over in the UK, SHARP is testing modular helmets for crashworthiness, and rating them.  They’ve already started putting ratings up, so you may want to amble over and see if your helmet appears, and how it did in testing.

If you are wearing a KBC FFR, or a Duchinni D601…well…you may want to go to the dealership and see how much a BMW System 5 helmet or a Caberg Trip will set you back.

I’m just saying…