23 January 2013

Kevin Ash died during R1200GS Introduction

Very, very sad - during the introduction of the new BMW R1200GS Kevin Ash died due to an accident. He was a honest reviewer, great writer, was independent, and one of my favorite motorcycle journalists.

A sad day. May he rest in peace!

19 January 2013

New Riding Gear - What a Journey

After my get-off three weeks ago, I needed to replace my BMW Rallye 2 jacket as it was ripped in just too many places, including damaged zippers and rips around buttons:

BMW Rallye 2 after a slide on the pavement

There were a few things I really disliked about that jacket and lots of things I really liked. Replacing it wasn't going to be easy. How right I was with that ...

As I couldn't ride with the broken wrist and the Tiger in the shop (it still is, they are waiting on some parts), I had to satisfy my addiction with something else. So I was online shopping and researching new gear. Things I needed or wanted to replace were boots, gloves, and jacket.

The boots didn't really need to be replaced and I can also use the gloves for a while if I don't need them to be waterproof. But, given that on the two falls I had, one in the dirt with the WR250X and one now with the Tiger, both times I got a very big bruise at my right leg where I should have been protected by the boot. Unfortunately, our Forma boots (older model of these) are very, very soft. They are super comfy because of that, but as I found out the hard way not very protective. In 2011 I got a monster bruise on the inside of my right calf, it took close to a year until I could barely feel the lump anymore. Even today, when I feel very carefully, I can feel a very small lump remaining where that bruise was. The last fall wasn't as bad in that regard, just a 10cm x 5cm bruise on the inside shin. Both areas where the boot should have protected me, and probably did, just not enough.

So, I wanted more protection and waterproof or at least warm boots (because waterproof boots are a bit warmer for my notoriously cold feet (when riding), not that it rains all too much here). Didn't want to go with a full hard plastic motocross boot, but something between that and the ones we had. I thought about the Gaerne Balance Oiled Boots, but they aren't high enough for my taste and also made from fairly soft leather, so not exactly what I was looking for. Next stop: Sidi Adventure Rain. I was able to try them on and really liked them, but wasn't fully satisfied. They use some artificial leather in some places and a not very well breathing membrane. I have read some reviews saying that they weren't waterproof over time, either.

But Sidi also has a full on GoreTex version of the boot: the Sidi Adventure Gore Tex. These are full leather, GoreTex membrane for much better breathability, protection wise between a street touring boot and a full on MX boot, and still fairly comfortable. I have them now on order from BMW San Jose (my preferred dealer) and will hopefully get them next week. The fit of the Sidi is a little bit on the narrow side for me, meaning, they are likely a standard fit, and I'm normally between standard and wide, but still, size 43 fit well enough as long as I don't have to go hiking in them. Great high quality boot with lots of replaceable parts - another thing that makes them more of a long term investment compared to the Forma where I couldn't get replacement buckles after just one year of use.

Sidi Adventure GoreTex

Now the hard part, what makes a good motorcycle jacket? Good question and it totally depends on your typical riding conditions and requirements. Here are mine:
  1. I would say about 50% of my riding is in temperatures around 20C (68F) to 25C (77F). 
  2. About 35% of my riding is in temperatures around and above 30C, sometimes way above. 
  3. 15% of my riding is below 20C, sometimes way below.
  4. Roughly 99% of my riding in the last four years did not involve rain, though I have seen snow (believe or not, I have seen snow on a trip back from Southern California).
  5. I rarely ride very long freeway stretches and I rarely go off tarmac. 
  6. After having crashed in good gear I want the best available protection.
  7. Very good fit is important so that the protectors don't move in a slide.
  8. General practicality is nice to have.
What this all translates to in my opinion is:
  1. The jacket needs to be well vented and not too warm or too insulated. 
  2. I don't need a waterproof outer shell.
  3. I want a jacket that works really well between 15C and 35C, and "well enough" down to around freezing and above 35C. I can supplement with an outer shell or a heated inner liner, but it's hard to make a badly vented jacket work in hot weather.
  4. For protection I want either D3O or SasTec or comparable pads. Especially in the price range we are talking about. I plain don't get how some manufacturers think they can put some cheapo pads in a $900 jacket and leave the back protector out completely. That's nuts. Alpinestars does it. Immediately disqualified. If people want a separate back protector, they can always take the installed one out of the jacket.
  5. I don't need many pockets. Putting things in pockets will only hurt me when I fall on them. I don't want any sophisticated buckles or straps or gimmicks for the same reason.
There were a few options out there that immediately came to mind: The Klim Badlands Pro and Latitude Misano (no D3O armor in the Latitude but a kit is available - shitty policy in my opinion from Klim, especially with gear that expensive and still made in China), the Touratech CompaƱero and Stadler Concept, and of course the newer version of the BMW jacket I had before, the BMW Rallye 3 Pro.

I had some other options as well of course, but overall, it was narrowed down fairly quickly to these five jackets, as most of the others like RevIT or Tourmaster, or ... you name it, plain don't make jackets I fit in or ones that make sense for my type of riding.

Even though I did include the Klim gear in the list above, it was more a wishful thinking as I don't properly fit into these either. Every single American brand jacket that I have seen so far is either too tight in the shoulders and / or too big in the waist area. Most of them are both at the same time. 

Unfortunately this is also true for the Klim Badlands. That jacket (in size Large) seems to be made for people with my shoulder width, similar sized chest, and about 8 to 12 inches more waist than I have. I have a 41 inch chest and a 30 inch waist and fairly broad shoulders for my generally very slim form. This makes it hard for me to find a form fitting jacket (don't get me started on pants). "Normal men" just don't have such a narrow waist or hips. At least not coupled with my chest or shoulder width. Bummer. 

The Klim Latitude was a little better because it is wider in the shoulders than the Badlands and also has a waist belt to cinch it a little tighter. But unfortunately, in the size Large I could go camping and wouldn't need a tent while size Medium was again too tight in the shoulders. They need a size between the two, they are way too far apart.

Okay, Klim is out. Better that way anyways because I wouldn't have liked to run around looking like a billboard, these jackets have the name and logo about three dozen times all over them. Completely ridiculous. 

The Stadler and Touratech jackets are incredibly well thought out. I would have loved to get one. They have a very light, but very strong and safe warm weather jacket plus an attachable outer jacket that zips to the inner and is made from Gore ProShell. 

Unfortunately, I can't get them in the US other than from Touratech USA and as the reader knows - I don't buy from them. I could have ordered the gear in Germany, for example from biker-land.de, but I  couldn't try it out and it was insanely expensive (close to $1400 with shipping to the US for just the jacket) and that was plain too much. Another important point I read about was that the jacket is said to be not so good in temperatures around 18C to 20C, heavy with the outer attached, too cold with just the inner. I will definitely take a look at them when I'm in Germany the next time, but I didn't want to risk buying gear that expensive without having tried and seen it in person. 

What I settled on in the end was the successor to my Rallye 2 jacket. It is available right now at some places for a really good price (~half the price of the CompaƱero), has very, very good protection, works well for about 90% of my riding, it fits well enough in size 52 (EU), sits okay on the shoulders without getting too baggy in the waist, has a compatible zipper for my BMW Airflow pants, and last but not least, is pretty much a known quantity for me. 

What's nice is that BMW "fixed" most of the niggling points for me. The jacket is a tighter fit around the waist, much more tapered than the old one with a stretch area there, has width adjustment in the lower and upper arm, can attach the collar velcro when the collar isn't fully closed, has BMWs great NP protectors (made by SasTec as far as I know), has even bigger coverage of the back protector.

It also comes in a non-ridiculous color scheme. I would have liked if the BMW roundels were a quarter of the size, but so what? I can live with that - better than having "Klim" and "K" placed all over the jacket in random places.

BMW Rallye 3 Pro Jacket

Given my sermon above, I think I should really write an article about what I'd personally like to see in a riding jacket - maybe someone out there reads it and incorporates the ideas in a jacket. Yeah, I know, dream on ...

The gloves are still an open question, but I think I have settled on something - as long as I can still buy them in the new riding season.

02 January 2013

Compare the Colors ...

In real life it's even more pronounced. Click the image for a large view:

Badly bruised fingers

This is actually still really painful, especially the right index finger. Joints of thumb, index, and mid finger are badly sprained, probably some ligament / tendon damage as well.

Alright, not too bad for a get off from the bike. I can use my hand already, fracture was not dislocated, therefore I could get the removable splint, the rest will heal over time.

2013 Starts Better

First of all, no real cast, just a splint for my wrist:

Wrist Splint

This means I can take it off for showering! Yeah!!!!

The other good news is that the Tiger is repairable and that the insurance is covering everything except the deductible. Bike is being taken apart soon for the repair and hopefully there is no hidden damage.

Now I need new gear ... insurance is covering only part of the helmet, nothing else. Bummer.