VikingCycle Warrior Motorcycle Jacket

Riding Gear Review

Motorcycle House contacted me and asked me if I’d be willing to review some of their gear. They wanted me to review a set of their leather saddlebags, but, since I ride a VFR1200, that wasn’t possible. So, they asked if I’d be willing to review a jacket. They even let me pick the jacket I wanted to review. Since I’m a sucker for a nice leather jacket, I chose the Warrior motorcycle jacket. There was no quid-pro-quo for a nice review. The deal was that they’d send me a jacket, and I’d review it, as always.

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Review: Freeze-Out Zipped Gilet and Inner Glove Liners

Cycle Gear is running a sale on their Freeze-Out line of motorcycle under layer clothing.  I picked up the zipped jacket gilet and the inner glove liners.  Cycle Gear’s web site touts this line of gear with the following description:

FREEZE-OUT® utilizes cutting-edge membrane laminate barrier technology to block wind and retain warmth while allowing internal moisture to escape. Brushed poly interior facilitates moisture transfer and is supremely comfortable. Thin and light with flat-lock seams to layer easily under riding apparel and equipment. Extend your riding comfort with FREEZE-OUT® accessories.

giletI guess it does all that, but you should be clear. This is not a replacement for the thermal or quilted liners that come with your outer gear. It is an additional thermal layer. If you need a lighter liner than the stock one, it’s OK, but it’s not best suited as a cold-weather replacement for that stock liner.

It’s actually a pretty cool little jacket for 30 bucks. It’s relatively tight-fitting, but comfortable, and is a nice fleece inside. I’ve taken to wearing it as a light jacket after I get off my bike. It’s got a techy, futuristic look, and I’ve gotten several admiring comments on it. Worn as an additional underlayer, it does keep you pretty toasty in the 30-degree range. Otherwise, the "barrier technology to block wind" sounds better than it actually is at highway speeds.

The tighter fit, however, allows it to fit well under your regular jacket/liner, and adds a comfortable thermal layer that’s not too bulky, and keeps you warmer. Another nice feature of the gilet is that the arms both zip off, leaving you with a thermal vest, instead of a full liner.

Likewise, the inner glove liners are fine for some extra warmth under a good set of windproof gloves. I tried them out with my perforated leather sport gauntlets, and they didn’t seem to help all that much.

Used as intended, however, they are both adequately good at what they are designed to do, which is to provide a good, additional, thermal underlayer to your regular riding gear.

The best thing about them is the price, which is under $30 for the gilet, and $15 for the glove liners. The second best thing about the gilet is that, when you get off your bike, you can wear the gilet as a comfy jacket, and it gives you a cool, "I’ve come from the future" vibe.

In a positive, Star Trek way, not  a dystopian, 12 Monkeys kind of way.

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.

21st Century Protection

Compared to the way the world was when I was a kid, when helmets were optional, and leather vests & blue jeans constituted protective gear, we really do have a wide option of riding garments, protectors, armor, and helmets.  The thing is, aside from the invention of some tough new fabrics like Cordura and Kevlar, protective gear remains mired in the mid-20th century.  Helmets are still essentially a fiberglass shell with a styrofoam backing, while crash protection is some padding–even if the padding is gel–behind a hard plastic cover.

But in the past several months, that’s really started to change, and some new products are about to appear that constitute a real step forward in applying 21st century materials science to protective gear.

Del Rosario Helmet
Del Rosario Helmet

This helmet, designed by Del Rosario, is a completely new breakthrough that incorporates a radically new approach in helmet design.

The first layer of protection are gel inserts intended to to eliminate vibrations and other small forces that current helmet technology utterly ignores. While these kinds of forces are unlikely to cause injury, they do cause fatigue and discomfort.

The second layer of protection is a multi-layered laminate liner. Capable of flexing, crushing and delaminating, this liner can deal with a wider range of forces than a traditional styrofoam liner, which can only crush. Through the controlled destruction of this layer, a lower level of force reaches the helmet’s main level of impact absorption.

A carbon frame of arched members composes the Del Rosario helmet’s main safety mechanism. Through the magical power of science, theses arches can be precisely tailored to flex or break in a predictable manner, coping with both high and low energy loads.

Also notice the non-traditional, extremely aerodynamic lines.

Knox Kinesis Armor
Knox Kinesis Armor

Knox Labs has created the Kinesis line of armor, which incorporates a floating shell instead of the fixed shell in current armor offerings.

Kinesis is a revolutionary technology that mimics one of the most successful and natural safety systems which occurs in the human head. When the head is subjected to an oblique impact, the brain can slide along a membrane on the inner surface of the skull, which reduces the forces transmitted to the brain.

Similarly, Knox has created the Kinesis protector which has a ‘floating’ shell. When this is subjected to an oblique impact the shell moves relative to the core protector, creating an alternate load path for the energy. This significantly reduces the force transmitted to the body part in question.

But, that’s just the outer shell.  There’s new goodness on the way from d3O labs for the gel backing, as well, in somewthing called “shear thickening gel.

d3o Armor
d3o Armor

Shear Thickening gel is soft and pliable as can be, right up to the point it is subjected to a sharp impact, at which point, the bonds between the molecules harden, instantly stiffening the material to distribute the impact. FirstGear is already implementing a line of motorcycle clothing that incorporates 3dO armor.

It’s nice to see such progress on all fronts after 50 years of stagnation in protection design.

Speaking of tires…

The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin
The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin

…I’ve noticed something odd when I go to the shop with my FJR.  That’s my rear tire over there.  Now, that’s not an extreme-to-the-edge wear pattern, although it does reflect some peg scraping.  But I have a 650-pound touring bike, and, while I’m nowhere near the poster-boy for conservative riding, I’m not willing to sacrifice my life to Mr. Inertia.

But every time I go to the shop, I see a number of literbikes and super sports that are worn all the way down to the cords in the center of the tire, and with three untouched inches of tire on either side of the center.

So, I guess I’m just curious.

What, exactly, is it that you sportbike guys are doing when you ride?

Are you just doing burnouts in the parking lot, wasting 100+ bucks per tire in a few days? Or do you just never turn, and ride in endlessly straight lines?  How on earth does someone burn through a tire, while leaving the outer two or three inches untouched on either side? And, by the way, you do realize that if you can see steel cords on the surface of your tire, then riding it–even to the shop–is a gamble, right?

I just have this image in my mind of someone who hauls his ZX600 from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds at every stoplight, and then slows to 5 MPH every time he approaches a corner.

Seriously, I’m not trying to be an ass. I really do wonder how you can actually ride a sportbike for any distance at all, and have pristine, untouched, 3-inch chicken strips.  You simply have to be doing something stunty, and not using the bike as a daily ride.

And while we’re on the subject of weird riding habits, what’s with the shorts and tennis shoes?  I realize that we live in a desert here in far southern California.  It’s hot.  I get it.  But I constantly see guys tooling around in shorts and tennis shoes.  And I’m not talking about squids on super sports.  It’s almost universal.  I see guys on Gold Wings, Harleys, sportbikes, and BMW GSs wearing shorts and Reeboks, tooling around town, and on the highway. And I’m not talking about dumb young kids.  I’m talking about guys my age (mid-40s) riding 800 lb tourers.

I mean, granted, I’m a paranoid old woman who wears a full Olympia Motosports suit and full-face helmet to ride 2 blocks to the 7-11, but seriously, why on earth would you hit I-15 on a bike, wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and a ratty old pair of Air Jordans?  Even if you’re a super-skilled rider, the roads are full of cager morons who’ll run you over without even seeing you.

You are aware that we are involved in a rather dangerous sport, aren’t you?