Joe Rocket Survivor Suit Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

There was a time when I used to regularly commute to work on a motorcycle. I had an old Honda 305 Scrambler that I now really wish I hadn’t sold.  A friend loaned me a surplus Air Force flight suit to wear. It was actually nice and comfy although not at all waterproof. The suit was a sort of shiny/dull satin bronze looking thing that made me look like a space alien version of the Pillsbury Doughboy. It was difficult to get in and out of and required (after doffing footwear) a series of ritual convulsive writhings on the floor. I took that as part of the morning regimen on a workday and, yes, getting the suit off at work was a bit attention-getting and the subject of a series of predictable jokes.

My budget does not extend to the world of the ‘Stitch. I looked at the Tourmaster Centurion offering and rejected it right away because they had no hi-viz color scheme. If you are not interested in hi-viz you should look at the Centurion.too. This season Joe Rocket came out with a new version of their Survivor Suit with (altogether too little – IMO) hi-viz accent panels. I ordered it up nonetheless. Herein my first impressions of the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit.

Firstly, let me briefly spew yet another version of my ongoing complaint about manufacturers and their tardy and hesitant adoption of hi-viz.  I am surprised that it is taking so long for all manufacturers to readily and fully embrace the hi-viz color option. Joe Rocket did so (partially) with this suit and for that I praise them but this suit has hi-viz  panels sort of thrown on as an afterthought. Manufacturers please take note: The purpose of hi-viz color and the Scotchlite type reflective panels is not that of a fashion design choice but a safety feature whose object is to alert the zombies on cell phones (for one) that I am here and would very much not like to be hit by you and your your 3000 pound steel cage. Joe Rocket has taken their earlier black suit and added the hi-viz panels onto the sides below the armpit and onto the shoulders. There is nothing on the back panel or the chest panel by way of hi-viz but they they did put in some really dandy reflective strips along both sides of the back, running vertically. Nicely done. This effectively means that you have a reasonably decent chance of being seen from behind by car headlights but during the day there is no hi-viz color back there and very little to the front  that will alert drivers.  Oh, there is also is a little patch over each knee. While these panels are helpful they are not nearly enough. As a rider you need to be seen fore and aft and side to side and this suit does not do enough to accommodate that. Alas. More Hi-viz and more Scotchlite please.

Materials and durability:  The main suit fabric is constructed from something that Joe rocket calls RockTex 600 and they have it trademarked. They also indicate that RockTex is waterproof. Is it nylon? Is it polyester? Is it 600 denier? I assume the “600” means 600 denier but i’m not sure. They have a treated canvas material on the inner part of the lower leg to help prevent exhaust systems from from melting your new suit. There is an accordion stretch panel on the lower back that makes that forward lean non-binding.

Getting in and out……..zipppppers:  The Survivor Suit has a long diagonal zipper that runs from one shoulder to the opposite hip. There are also long leg zippers that run up to mid-thigh. This is easily sufficient to allow you to get in and out of the suit while seated (no unseemly rolling around on the floor.)   The zippers are sturdy YKK zips and are plenty durable. I like YKK zips: the externally exposed zippers are of the rubber (rubber-like material) coated type. Very nice. The RockTex material extends over the zippers as a flap and serves as another layer of water resistance – that’s pretty standard too. The flaps are locked in place by snaps.

I am not too fond of the sleeve treatment. It is next to impossible to remove your arms from the suit without sucking ½ the thermal liner along with it. The liner is secured with TPR (Velcro-like) and it just pops right off as soon as you pull your arms back. Most other jackets have a loop and snap setup on the cuff that prevents this but not this suit. This suit has a snap and loop setup but its part way up the arm. The cuffs are zippered though and that’s good.

Armor:  I read a report recently while doing the research for my “Traversing the Molecular Armor Maze” post that focused, in part, on back injuries and the effectiveness of back armor for motorcycle riders.  It states that the majority of spinal injuries come from impacts that torque the shoulders, hip and/or neck. The body twists radically under impact and the spine is damaged. He argues that strong back armor while recommended for protection of the ribs and internal organs is not as effective as riders think it is for protecting their spines.  He recommends high level shoulder and hip armor.  This suit has the typical place holder, thin (not CE) foam pad for back armor and you can buy and insert your own armor as you see fit. All of the armor in the suit is “CE” rated, except the back, but like most manufacturers they do not tell you what grade of CE they are using. If you have to ask then you can assume it is level 1. I am a fan of armor and I like either the D3O or the Sas-Tec gear. This is my first Joe Rocket purchase so I have yet to figure out what type of molecular armor I might be able to fit into the suit. Joe Rocket does make an armor upgrade but they do not make a viscoelastic armor for their gear. Nor do they have their armor pockets fitted for D3O or Sas-Tec. I have to research this further: more later when I have this sorted. Shoulder, elbow and knee armor are CE rated so I assume this is level 1 kit. I am only interested in level 2 CE armor and will see if I can fit the D3O Xergo in there. They doubled up the suit material on the shoulders, elbows and knees.

Weather seal….waterproof and/or resistant.  On a ride last year I got to chatting with a woman who was wearing a ‘Stitch suit. I asked her what she thought about it and I discovered that while initially pleased she said she wouldn’t do it again. Her main complaint was that the suit was not waterproof and that for all of the money spent she fully expected it to keep her dry (I didn’t ask her whether or not she Nikwaxed it.)  I would expect the same for that money. The Joe Rocket suit is substantially less expensive than a ‘Stitch and while I would really like it to keep me completely dry I have limited expectations that it will do so. Online I have read a couple of reviews from folks who have ridden in the rain with their Survivor suits and claim complete non-wetness. Amazing. It remains to be seen. My suit has only just arrived and while I might have the neighbor kids turn a garden hose on me I just haven’t found the time. So, a waterproofing review will likely have to wait until our next rain storm. I assume though that I will have to go after the new suit with the Nikwax treatment if I want to make an effort at waterproofing.

I should say on their behalf that Joe Rocket has taped all of the seams and they use the rubber-like coated YKK zippers. The pockets have an inner pocket of some rubbery material and I have every expectation that the pockets are waterproof.

Pockets:  The Survivor Suit has 2 waterproof cargo pockets on the left thigh and one small waterproof chest pocket with a small zipper. The thigh pockets are reasonably easy to get into when you are on the bike.  Phone, wallet, passport and change can go in there. The external pockets have triple closures.  I generally do not put any hard items (cell phones) into my bike wear pockets because I don’t want to land on them. Inboard of the Big Air vent is a chest slash pocket.

Neck seal: The neck seal is comfy around its inner perimeter, with that soft material, mmmm.  I actually like the way that Tourmaster handles the neck closures on their Defender suits more than I like the Survivor set up. Tourmaster has a big flap, a gator, that you can swing out across your neck to block the elements from getting in. This is a great idea and obviates the need for a scarf or a neck-lacava on cool or wet days. With the Survivor suit you will need to do the standard neckerchief thing the way you do with most jackets. The closure is a snap and all the big snaps are rubber coated on the facing side. There is a nice little elastic band, a small loop that the tongue of the collar snap folds into in order to double it over out of your way when you are riding with the jacket at all unzipped which you will do often when you are using the Big Air vent.

Venting: More about the “Big Air” vent: it is the name for Joe Rocket’s proprietary venting system and on this suit. It consists of a zippered mesh panel right underneath the main zipper  in the front of the chest. Zip the main zipper down to your navel and (after you have snapped the weather flaps out of the way [pro-tip: try to do this with suit off if possible] then zip up the mesh panel underneath with the hi-viz colored zipper — you have the thing half done. Unzip the 2 slash vents on the back and Bob’s yer uncle, lots of air flow. The suit is mostly black and on a hot day it is going to absorb a lot of heat. So, this venting scheme is the thing that will give this suit 3-season (in some climes 4-season) service. I cannot comment yet about the suit’s ability to keep you warm in the cold weather because its nice and toasty outside these days.

Warmth and liners:  The liner is removable. It consists of a lightweight satiny quilted material. Don’t ride with the liner in on a warm day if you can help it. If you leave the liner out and zip open that Big ole Big Air vent in front and also zip open the 2 slash vents in the back then you will be pretty comfy despite the fact that the suit is black and absorbs the sun’s heat. The liner isn’t overly thick but it definitely makes thing toasty when you are in and zipped up.

Heat Shield matter on inner leg: The inner, lower leg heat shield is made of a type of canvas that is treated. It will keep you from burning through your RockTex but if you have a scrambler I would check the alignment before you fire up the bike and your pipes get hot.

Cleaning: When it is time to clean your suit just go with the Nikwax system. Clean it with the Nikwax cleaner and then re-waterproof (or water resist – I haven’t done it yet, just got it.

I am pleased with the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit and my quibbles are small ones. I am still more than a little surprised that they can make a suit this nice for this price.

Gerde Applethwaite.

Pinlock Shield Upgrades

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I put a pinlock shield on my Arai helmet and there is no more fog. It’s worth the money you spend on the upgrade.

The Clever Dutch have given us the Pinlock shield system and its arrival on consumer helmets has been a while coming. Pinlock has yet to be adopted by all helmet makers but as of 2012 both Arai and HJC are incorporating Pinlock as standard on some of their helmet models. It is available on many helmet brands – more every day. I am riding with an Arai RX-Q and I have retrofitted my helmet to Pinlock. What is Pinlock?

 Its a two piece shield system that provides a clear face shield with two nipples on the left and right sides of the shield that yet another shield clips into. The inner shield is smaller and is available in multiple shades. When you want to swap out your internal shield component you just: remove your shield from the helmet, bend the shield a bit flat, pop the old shield out from under the 2 pins and then swap in the new one. Its really easy.

What’s the advantage? Well, there are 3 main features. The first is that the inner shield is rimmed with a silicon bead that traps the air between the two shield components and like a double paned window it provides an air insulation barrier which minimizes the contrasting temperatures betwixt inside and out. This barrier prevents fog from layering up on the inside of your helmet when you breathe because it removes the temperature differential that condensation is so fond of. This reduces or eliminates the possibility of condensation buildup from your breath. Nifty, right?

The second and third points are that the inner shield is smaller and its easier to pack a swap-out replacement of a different shade in say, your tank bag. Finally the inner shields are substantially less expensive than your non-Pinlock type face shields so when you are thinking about adding another shade: dark grey, light grey, amber, yellow, etc. it won’t cost as much.  (Yeah, of course, the standard inner shield that comes with the pinlock when you buy the main shield setup is clear.)

When I bought mine I ordered up the Arai SAI Pinlock shield for my RX-Q and replacement shields in amber and in light grey. I like the light grey on sunny days and I really like the amber on foggy days. I am going to have wear eyeglasses for riding at some point in the not too far distant future and I don’t want to buy prescription sunglasses. So, if I have to ride with glasses then a shaded shield seems like the way to go.  Also, if you wear sunglasses when you ride and your helmet is a tight fit then using a shaded shield eliminates the annoyance of trying to squeeze the sunglass arms down between your cheek and the helmet foam without jabbing your ear. We’ll have to see which works best in the rain but I suspect its going to be the amber. Its just seems to make everything a bit more vivid, clearer. Sure makes the clouds stand out.

Gerde Applethwaite

Dad’s Day Options

My friend Marianne has a dad who rides. He has been riding motorcycles for a long time and he has all of the gear he needs. He doesn’t want a new helmet. He likes his jacket. His boots fit just fine thank you. We gave it some thought and she decided to go for a Bluetooth set. The idea was that when she occasionally rides with him they can talk about where to pull over for coffee and wot not or how beautiful the trees are  or…that her feet itch. When he rides with their mom he can talk about his itchy feet. Hmmm, I somehow just managed to make this sound a little less appealing, didn’t I? Thing is – she’s not sure he’ll like it. His hands signals are fairly well evolved and he always leads so it isn’t hard to figure out what he wants. He will smile politely and it will stay in its box. Then we realized that this thing will give her a chance to say to him stuff like “did you see those cops over by the overpass?” Or maybe she could even say “we’re pulling off at this offramp cuz I have to pee.”  For that and that alone its worth getting him the Bluetooth gear.

Dads who ride invariably need stuff for to make their ride just a little sweeter. It may not be a big ticket item like a new helmet (although if his helmet is more than 5 years old it should be replaced.) How are his face shields? Scratched? Get him a new one. Even better, if his helmet manufacturer makes them try stepping him up to a fog-free pinlock shield and a couple of differently tinted lenses. No fog, sun shade – sweet.

This isn’t really the season for heated gear but a pair of heated gloves is most welcome on a cold morning start or at the end of a long day when the sun has gone down. Keeping your hands warm on a ride can make all the difference between the miles tripping pleasurably by and hand cramps that harsh dad’s buzz completely.

Take a stroll through the accessories pages. You’ll find something there for even the most seasoned dad.

Hand Up

Sarita recently posted about the importance of riding gloves and I couldn’t agree more. The human hand is, per square inch, the most complicated and fragile mechanical part of the human body. It is also our most complex physio-dynamic instrument. I occasionally see folks riding with a helmet and a decent jacket and no gloves. Clearly they do not understand how fragile our hands are and they have given little thought to what their lives would be like if one or both of their hands were wrapped up in a cast for 2 months.

Scooter riders seem to be the worst. There are lots of scooters in my neck of the woods and altogether too many of them are dressed as though they are somehow invulnerable and immune to harm on the road.

Think about all of the stuff that you do every day with your hands and think, for just a moment (I don’t want to scare you) about what your first reaction is if you fall out of a chair. In most falling accidents your first reaction is to put your hands out to brace your impact. Often the first thing to make contact with the ground are your hands, palms down.

The human hand and wrist are fascinating structures. There are 27 bones in the hand. Add to that the maze of muscles and tendons and the hands become a somewhat miraculous structure. I think of it now as I bang away on the keyboard. Then there is the wrist.

On Emedicine they say this about the wrist:
“The wrist is the most complex joint in the body. It is formed by 8
carpal bones grouped in 2 rows with very restricted motion between
them. From radial to ulnar, the proximal row consists of the scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, and pisiform bones. In the same direction, the distal row consists of the trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, and hamate bones. ”

Any skateboarder or roller skater will tell you about the time/s they tried to avoid a full face plant by sticking out their hands. A decent pair of riding gloves for a motorcyclist or a scooter rider seems like the most reasonable of ideas and it is an idea you do not want to have while you are bare handed and in mid-air.

I currently have 3 pairs of motorcycle gloves. They are all different. The pair that I ride with the most are the Firstgear Navigator (gauntlet style) gloves that I picked up not all that long ago. I still like them, they are soft and they are broken in – they fit great. We have all manner of styles and types of gloves for you to choose from. My next pair will be heated gloves for winter riding.

If you do not ride with gloves please take a look at our offerings. We have so many to choose from I feel confident that you will find something to your liking.  If the gloves you currently ride with are wearing out please consider upgrading before you get too far into this riding season.

Gerde Applethwaite

To Pink or Not to Pink: An Unmanifesto

When I lived in So. California I would, upon a warm Sunday morning, see a bunch of folks gathered in the parking lot of a large local motorcycle dealership queuing to go off on a ride together. I think community is a grand idea. More community – less strife. I sadly have, somewhere deep inside my rusting lizard brain, a sort of judgmental anti-fashion fashion mechanism. I am learning to overcome it — really I am. Many of my favorite quotes in life come from either Yogi Berra, Dororthy Parker or Fran Lebowitz. One Lebowitz quote is especially trenchant for this post. She said: “Your right to wear a powder blue polyester leisure suit ends where it meets my eyes.” [Maybe she said mint green – I can't recall.]

At this dealership there were a couple of couples in matching fringed leather jackets. Oh, I have no problem with that — really. I am generally not too enamored of the idea of couples dressing alike but I certainly have more valuable things upon which to focus my attention – do I not? Oh please, do I not? I couldn’t help but notice that my stomach was acting up when I saw not one but two women who were wearing fringed leather jackets only differentiated by the intensity of their pastel color schemes — one in pink and the other in a disturbingly intriguing robin’s egg blue.  Thankfully they were not together like some mannered Rock Store Hummel figurine bookends from out of the mind of a Jeff Koons. I digress.

Beige is the hardest working color in the universe. Beige not black, it was discovered a few years ago, is the predominant color of the universe. Orange/yellow is the color of our solar system as El Sol works tirelessly to illuminate and warm us. On our little orb and amongst human kind it is pink that never sleeps. Yup, pink. Pink is singularly declarative. Pink stands resolutely at the bar, eyes darting back and forth across the crowd to see who’s watching. Pink is endlessly judgmental in its need to control the impression. Pink works across class and income to monitor and maintain the borderland of gender. Pink.

The reason for this post is to expiate my soul on the one hand and on the other to reinforce the notion that women have the right to wear whatever they danged-heck-want-to when they ride. As long as that gear is designed with some sort of rated armor and out of a material that will not shred in the off chance that you do an aerial pas de deux with your fringed partner then I don’t really care.

Here’s the thing though: women will, many women will…some women will… sacrifice any modicum of common sense for the sake of annunciating and articulating their femininity. Don’t get me started about shoes and the cult of the shoe — that phenomenon goes well beyond your garden variety commodity fetishism. The need to assert one’s womanliness by compulsively wearing pink is a syndrome of a larger social malady and while I would like to lean forward into rant mode over my keyboard I will not or at least not too much. Should you have the time and the interest though I highly recommend a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called “Bright-sided” for among other things its insight into the way pink is used as a marketing tool in women’s health care.

Motorcycle riding has largely been a testosterone basted male bastion and there are too many women who feel the compulsive to need to state “Sure, I ride but I’m really a girl.” Motorcycle gear designers have come up with satchels full of pretty gear designed to calm that neuroses. Again, I say, if you like the pink then go ahead and wear it – do not let my personal aversion to the color and its implied cuteness dissuade you, you’re stronger than that. Go for the pink, you’re worth it. The point I want to make is that your gear should fit you properly and be designed for riding no matter what side of the gender corral from whence you have roped it in.

A friend of mine doesn’t like women’s riding jackets because the cut of the jacket gives her what she so eloquently describes as the uni-boob. I am not as well endowed as she but I am not too fond of the uni-boob look myself. I have preternaturally long arms and women’s riding gear never fits me right. I buy the men’s version of the jacket in a size smaller and I invariably have a better fit. There is also a wider selection in the men’s gear line. If you are riding up the PCH with a group at 60 miles an hour how important is it really that you show off your svelte hour glass figure? Maybe it is and in such case I want to make it absolutely clear that we are chockablock with jackets and pants and helmets that will fulfill your desires.  Please just make sure that no matter what you choose to cover your body when you ride that you opt for gear that is designed for use as motorcycle kit and that it has the proper safety armor.

This goes for you under clad scooter vixens too. You know who you are. Just because your wheels are smaller and you are closer to the ground doesn’t mean you do not need the protection from a get-off. I don’t care if your scooter is pink too. Please gear up.

Coming up in the very near future I will doing a shootout post between the hi-viz Firstgear  (men’s) Kilimanjaro jacket and the  hi-viz Scorpion (men’s) Commander 2 jacket. I have no idea which one will win but I like them both: they will both be subjected to the tyrannically rigorous dictates that are the hallmark of the Applethwaite family way but I have to say right off the top that, without laying my hands on them, the Scorpion jacket has the fashion points all over the Firstgear. Does that matter to me? Tune in.

A final Fran Lebowitz quote before I go.

“The conversational overachiever is someone whose grasp exceeds his reach. This is possible but not attractive.” On that note I think it best that I take my leave now.

Gerde Applethwaite

Firstgear Navigator Gloves

HC BLOG First Gear Navigator Gloves

There is a scene in Steve Martin’s L.A.Story wherein his character, Harris K. Telemacher, a weather guy at an L.A. TV station, talks about last night’s temperature drop. He says in part “… and when the weather dropped down to 58 degrees last night how did you cope?…”  I live in California and the vast bulk of my riding these days is in-state. Which is to say that I haven’t had a chance to test my new gloves in any sort of rigorously cold weather so I have never been inordinately cold with my First Gear Navigator gloves.

I don’t have too many sets of riding gloves: well, in fact I have two pair. I have a pair of older black leather gloves that come right to the end of my wrist and I have another pair which are gauntlet style gloves that go up and around the jacket  cuff – the First Gear Navigator gloves.

There are myriad choices when it comes to riding gloves. The prices run wildly from a bit under fifty dollars to somewhere in the near four hundred dollar zone.  I opted this season for a pair in the just under one hundred dollar range  with the First Gear Navigator’s.  I do not regularly need a cold weather glove. For the cold weather First Gear makes a couple of nice gloves in their TPG range  called, not coincidentally, the “TPG Cold Weather” glove and also their aptly named “Tundra.” Then there is the toasty category of heated gloves which I have yet to experience but about which many on the interwebz have sung their praises. ‘Mmmm, heated gloves’ (insert your best Homer Simpson donut voice here.) My old wrist high gloves were just not cutting it anymore. They let rain and wind in under the cuff of the jacket and in a get-off they have the potential to leave a part of your forearm exposed to the menace of road pizza upon the eventual and dreaded landing.

The First Gear Navigator gloves, the gauntlet style gloves, are goat skin for the most part and they are soft and pliable. The fit seems to run just a bit small but after you break them in, wrapped around your hand grips for a few hundred miles, they fit like they were made for you.

As mentioned in a previous post I like the quality of construction of the First Gear equipment. These gloves are well stitched and have some nifty features bolted up to them. There is a small strip of rubber sewn in on one glove that acts as a sort of windshield wiper. The times when I have found that little device most useful were on those rainy days on the freeway. I am reticent to wipe the rain off of my helmet because it just smears everything and makes the vision a bit worse but with the little windshield wiper doodad on the First Gear Navigator gloves I can, especially when the freeway throws up oil and crud into the mix, wipe a clean spot onto the face shield and keep riding.

These gloves do not have the big carbon or plastic knuckle protectors and that makes them easy to store into the backside kangaroo pocket in my jacket – no more lost gloves. They Have a siliconized grip pad in the palm that makes holding onto to the hand grips that much easier. The First Gear Navigators are also flexible enough to allow me to readily work the vent latches on my helmet as well.

All in all I am content with the First Gear Navigator gloves but if I did much riding in really cold weather I would look into either their Cold Weather glove or the Tundra. I am quite comfortable in my  Cali. quasi-Mediterranean climate and I suspect I won’t be glove shopping again for a while but then again…heated gloves, mmmmmm.

*****

Gerde Applethwaite