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.

10 comments:

  1. A very in depth write up Guido.

    I find the hardest thing to buy for riding gear is in fact the jacket. So many variables and they very rarely fit well.

    I hope you like your Sidi boots. We have a friend who owns that style and uses them for both on and off road riding. He loves them.

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    1. I had Sidi boots like these in the 90s back in Germany and I loved them. Very protective while still being reasonably comfortable. So I'm fairly certain that I'll be very happy with these.

      Regarding jackets: there just isn't very much out there that fits tall, slim people. The available of gear seems to reflect the general trend of people getting heavier and wider. European gear seems to be available in more "metrosexual" and body hugging cuts, but it's then rarely available for trying here.

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  2. The search for good quality gear is endless..but fun!

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    1. Yes, it is. Was still fairly annoying about the sizing issues.

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  3. I know a few that love their one-piece suits since they are made to order. Normally, they have a real problem getting something that fits properly.

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    1. If I lived in a slightly colder climate, or were riding 90% in the Bay Area (instead of taking long trips inland fairly often) I might be very happy with a Roadcrafter - even though I don't trust their sizing at all. I had send in my measurements and they came up with recommending one of their standard sizes and I am about 99.99% certain that this won't fit. Not even close. I have tried too many standard sized items to believe this claim. For me that doesn't give me confidence in the ability to get me a custom made suit that actually fits.

      The other issue is handling by Aerostich: you order a standard size (and pay shipping), then you try it and tell them what's wrong with it and send it back (and pay shipping), they make the changes and send it back to you (you pay shipping). If it still doesn't fit, rinse and repeat ... paying for shipping at least three times is not something I want to do.

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  4. Guido:

    I suppose I've never had a form fitting jacket or pants so I wouldn't know a good fit from a bad fit. I have always had problems with finding a perfect fit so I just assumed that was the way it is and put up with the "problems". Most of the time my jacket "rides up" in the wind, due to air pressures, or else the waist is too tight. My last pair of pants did not have the armour in the right place but I thought it was my fault for buying one size too large so I could wear work slacks under to make it easier when I got to work.

    there is probably no such thing as a perfect anything. They are all deficient in some way but good luck in your search

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. I totally agree that there rarely is something perfect and for fit, I agree, it's hard for the manufacturers to provide sizes for the broad spectrum of people out there. But to be very clear: pretty much only BMW makes even an effort to do so by providing pretty much all sizes in standard, short, and long versions. Most of the other manufacturers don't even try and that annoys me quite a bit.

      The other is that I see a lot of jackets on the market with features that are either very dangerous or plain make no sense at all - just to make it a little cheaper here and there, safe a buck on this, a penny on that. And then still get it done in China. And sell for high end premium prices.

      I'm not certain anyone at Klim ever thought what happens when you do a low-side and fall on these plastic buckles on the back of the Adventure Rallye jacket. Broken bones? Just bruises? Damage to the spine? Let them catch on something on the road and really damage something? Or what happens to your chest / heart when you really put a Spot Tracker in that designated chest pocket and fall on it (Badlands Pro)? Pretty bad trauma? Broken ribs just above the heart? Nice ...

      Or that nice (as an idea) build in kidney belt in the Badlands Pro where the velcro chews up the internals of the jacket while it hasn't even left the store (seen here in person) and catches on all kinds of clothes and damages them? And that mainly because with a build in kidney belt you can't put them on one item at the time which means you put on the jacket while the kidney belt goes wild with the velcro, then you fish it from wherever it caught and put it on. Practicality? Not really. Real world testing? Doesn't look like it.

      There are so many things I can bring up ... and I'm not talking about "perfect". I'm talking about common sense. That thing with the most misleading name ever as it is more the "most uncommon sense".

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  5. Hi, I just came across your blog by chance when searching for DS gear. Specifically, I was searching for the Sidi Adventure Goretex, and its reviews. Currently, I am trying to decide if I should go with Alpinestars' new lightweight Toucan model. I've had good experiences with both of Sidi and Astars high end stuff, with Sidi fitting my slimmer feet a little better.

    Reading your complaint about form-fitting jackets for slim figures...I know you mentioned you wouldn't want to buy a $900+ jacket without trying it on, but have you looked into Spidi's Ergo 365 Pro jacket? I did a lot of research and comparison, and this model seemed to have the most complete package. Dainese also has their Stradon and the Finnish Rukka has a few options as well. Dainese and Spidi both would offer the fit you are looking for I think. Speaking generally, their brand fits body types best that have a slight V shape (wider shoulders, and slimmer waist). It's a very Euro cut.

    I managed to order the Spidi Ergo Pro for a reduced price compared to most US retailers at under $900 shipped. I will see if all goes well. Not that important, but I think the Spidi looks the best out of all of them as well.

    Hope you have a speedy recovery and good luck on your search!

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    1. I looked at the Spidi jacket and really liked it. But i didn't want to order something from Europe (to get a reasonable price) that I have never tried on and where I'm not clear on sizing.

      The Spidi is certainly a nice jacket and if I see it somewhere I'll take a very close look as I still haven't solved my cold weather riding gear situation.

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