Icon Airmada Chantilly

Icon does it again with the Airmada Chantilly helmet! The new graphic helmet features an impressive blend of chantilly lace, plaid and Día de Muertos-esque skulls in either Black Rubatone or Gloss White. The intricate artwork has many worldly influences, one of them being from Chantilly, France. As the name implies, chantilly lace originated from Chantilly in the 17th century; hailed for its fine ground pattern and sophisticated detail.

Icon also takes a page from Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday in adding skulls to the mix.

With a helmet this elegant yet tough, it’s no wonder that it’s in high demand to both male and female riders.

Wherever your head’s at, we’ve got it covered.

-Helmet City

SPRING THING

By Gerde Applethwaite

There are ritually repeated memes in moto blog posts; there are oil threads and there are tire posts and there are others of the same ilk that seem to keep the moto blogosphere arguing with itself about the proper course of action. They are well known enough that they are usually qualified with some eye rolling and apologies before the original poster commences. In a minor constellation there is the thread about whether or not to wash your bike. Welcome to this year’s celebration of Spring. Herein I will lean into the wind and signify next to nothing. Let’s commence.

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I come down somewhere in the middle of the great unwashed thread. The anti-washites state that you are likely to contaminate your oil system by forcing your soapy water onto and into your bike’s parts. They also mention the likelihood of tweaking something in your electrics. Good points. The washists will tell you that dirt on your motor inhibits your engine from radiating out heat and adds to ongoing corrosion – oh, and it makes your bike look like crap. I agree that you should never take your bike to the wand car wash. The pressure is too great and you are likely to mess something up. Sure, take your dirt bike there and get the grunge off of the wheels and the frame of the bike but spray carefully when you get around the wheel bearings, the engine and the electrics. I use the common garden hose and a bucket of soapy water. I have never had a problem with this method but I am careful.

California is in the midst of a drought so there is yet another reason not to wash your bike at all. I think my compromise on this is going to be to ride out to a friend’s place in the near burbs, park the bike in the middle of their lawn and wash the thing with a green soap that the lawn will not dislike.

I have a project bike with a sad seat. It is in need of a reupholster but for this season I think I just want to get it back on the road and I will deal with the cosmetics bit by bit in the latter part of the season. My seat is not at the point where the foam beneath is being shredded but the vinyl is torn in places. Sewing up the seat while the seat cover remains on the bike is beyond my skill set. I have heard that they make a vinyl, adhesive backed, repair tape. I think that might be the ticket for right now.

I don’t mess around with tires. I mean, I don’t push it. When the tires are starting to go I put on new set. When I was a young, stupid and impoverished student I ran the tires on my CL77 down to the threads and lived to tell the tale but I am no longer young and (arguably) less stupid.  I don’t want to drop a lot of money into tires on the project bike and I have been told by other CB350 cultists that there is an inexpensive Shinko tire getting surprisingly good reviews. It will give me piece of mind to get these old tires off the Honda.

Wheel bearings and steering head bearings are a lot cheaper if you go to a bearing shop rather than the dealer for your parts. Some of the bearing shops will not sell you anything if you tell them the parts are for a motorcycle. Why? Dunno – maybe its a fear of being embroiled in some sort of litigation if you put them on incorrectly and then get into an accident. My steering head bearing is notchy – has to go.

I am going with a heated gear setup on the touring bike this fall and I am not sure that my alternator is sparky enough to keep up. This has led me to investigate LED headlights and taillights. The market is growing every month and an upgrade to LED’s is in my future. Check your state’s rules before you spring for an LED headlamp as some do not yet allow it.

I have just adapted my first aid kit to fit under the seat of the CB350. There is much less room  there than in the Flying Brick so I had to divide it up into two segments. I was still able to get it all under the seat.

Springtime is the official beginning of bike tinkering season.  I live for this time of year. Get on out there.

Gerde

 

New Gear Learning Curve

By Gerde Applethwaite

honda_classic2_CB125A neighbor on my block just bought a bike. Its his first bike and he chose well. The vintage Honda 125 will be perfect to allow him to build riding skills without worrying about the weight of a full-sized machine.  He goes to college and his rides will be a combination of commutes to school, trips to the store, to see friends and also rides in the hills. Rides to the gas station will be few and far between which is smart considering his student budget.

Here in California you have to wear a helmet so he popped for a flat black open face unit because he likes the retro look of the open face. He is talking about cafeing out the bike and the helmet will be part of the look. At some point down the road he wants to swap in a bolt-on cafe racer seat kit. Its going to cost him a bit over $200.

He rides in a denim jacket, jeans and street shoes. I have forgotten what he is using for gloves but if I recall when I last saw him ride off he wasn’t wearing any.  He was stoked about getting some retro goggles to help complete the whole cafe look.

He is a new rider and he is young. He doesn’t want to think about riding gear, he wants to think about the paint scheme for his cafe racer seat.  He is going to have to make a choice. Does he go for the cafe seat kit or does he delay that and go for a jacket and some riding boots? You know where I stand. One crash and he could be out not only the bike but the balance of a semester. The gear makes all the difference.

We have jackets, gloves and boots that will not break the bank and they will go a long way toward helping to keep you out of a cast. As you get more experience (and a bit more cash) you will want to upgrade your gear — get some armored riding pants that zip to your jacket or step up to a different jacket with, say, molecular armor. If you are a new rider you owe it yourself when you are out zipping around to talk to the other riders that you meet about the gear they ride with and why they chose it.

Gerde Applethwaite

Get-Offs In Slo-Mo

By Gerde Applethwaite

A guy falling off his motorcycleI was watching the Olympics a while back and the crashes of the downhill skiers caught my eye.  The slo-mo replays of somebody biffing it on a downhill run have some resonance with a motorcycle get-off. You got to see the way in which the body automatically, in the absurdly brief time available, attempts to set up for the fall.  Arms and legs splay akimbo but there is often just enough time to put out your hands or feet in a defensive posture.

The yootoobz be full of slo-mo viddys of motorcycle get-offs. They run the gamut from CCTV of Chinese scooter accidents on busy streets to wobbly Isle of Man TT high-sides or the fixed camera setups of weekend riders who go wide out of a turn on Mulholland. There is a similarity between many of the bike get-offs and the downhill skiing fly-offs. Basically, in both you have yer low-sides and yer high-sides. The low-side skiers (if they maintain consciousness and are fortunate enough to remain unbroken) are attempting to push against the slope in a braking maneuver. The high-side skiers, when slowed down enough, often have the look of an old slapstick cartoon where the poor boffo is swimming in air.  Also the high-siders will put an arm down to broach the distance between themselves and impending doom. Its an automatic reaction – skiers do it, skateboarders do it, bicyclists and motorcyclists too. If you watch professional football you will all too often see a receiver on the edge of the field catch a pass and then step one foot out of bounds to maintain balance. The pass is ruled ‘not a reception’ because you need 2 feet inbound at the time of the catch. The better players have trained themselves to drag that second foot keeping 2 feet inbound and just taking the fall. It is counter intuitive to just take the fall. The football players earn 6, 7 and 8 figure salaries and train for this sort of stuff constantly but on the day they will still, instinctively, put that foot out to brake the fall or prevent it.

I recently wrote a post about road rash and one of the pieces of information I decided not to include in that post (not because I deemed it uninteresting but in a rare attempt at keeping the post brief) was Dr. Flash Gordon’s* information about the ways in which infection can cause serious permanent damage to your body.  If you have a full thickness road rash on your hand or you have torn up the area around a joint be very careful; infections consequent to this can cause permanent damage to your hand.  So there you are in mid-air in the midst of your soon-to-be expensive high side as you and your CBR part company and you reflexively (in the micro-seconds afforded to you) stick one or both of your ungloved hands out toward the approaching pavement. You snap a wrist or two, tear open the skin and then pivot onto your t-shirt covered shoulder; some sliding …. and you stop – let’s say partially under a parked car. Just for the purposes of full disclosure I should say that something similar happened to me. The details are a bit different: it was a parked semi-tractor trailer, it was raining, and I was all ATGATT’d out but the sense is the same – one second you are riding blissfully along and then somehow you are the star of your own brief, slo-mo, get-off cartoon.

In a low-side you will quite often not have time to pull your leg from between the side of the bike and the pavement. This is an ugly sandwich. Its the luck of the draw whether or not you break your ankle and mangle toes. It really depends upon where your leg just happens to be, the shape of the bike, the terrain of the road bed and, not least, your foot wear. The skiers often have time and free room to do that kicking, braking, steering motion but even if you could it will be of little avail to you with one leg trapped under your bike. Maybe in your low-side the bike slides out ahead of you or off to the side – that could be lucky. You see it on the race track frequently enough – Rossi slides on his back at 80 MPH and lives to sign autographs later that day. I mean it could be lucky if your chosen path did not lead toward an impact with something that will mangle you. Good luck. I find it somewhat comical when I see a guy on a sport bike wearing shorts and a t-shirt but he has frame sliders installed on his bike. He is aware that a crash might happen and he has taken the time to install something that will help minimize the damage to his costy fiberglass but he has thought not one wit about what will happen to his body in the same scenario. DOH.

Women, you’re not out of this either. You think your jeggings and cute boots will protect you in a crash? It is to laugh. The pressure on women to look good while doing anything and while being anywhere is crazy-making. It discombobulates any reasoned approach to the purchase of riding gear. When I commuted to work by motorcycle I wore an old Air Force flight suit, helmet, gloves and boots. I kept a pair of shoes at work. My commute was fully suited out in protective gear but underneath I wore my work clothes. A Joe Rocket Survivor Suit is my current kit and it does the same duty. I really didn’t care all that much how I looked on the bike although I like the look of the Joe Rocket.  I wasn’t out there to look gooey nectar on my commute. These days I am astonished at the number of women who wear clothing that will do them less than no good when they are riding. She wears the helmet and a pair of leather garden gloves and no other protective gear. Believe me they will cut those pricey jeggings off of you in a heartbeat in the ER.

I used to like one particular Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach. The first time I showed up there to meet friends I was confronted just inside the front door by the maitre d’ who politely explained to me that there was a dress code and that my flight suit was not appropriate. I laughed and told him that I expected to check it and then started to doff the suit. Underneath I was wearing clothing acceptable to management and everybody was happy.  It is possible to plan an evening out on the town and still wear riding gear that will help keep you safe – they are not mutually exclusive. The maitre d’ got to know me and would make a comic flourish out of welcoming me when I came in. It was fun for us both.  Yes, my boots were a bit out of the norm but it became my look. Trust me, you can wear your motorcycle boots to the opera and as long as everything you are wearing is black you will get away with it just fine (note: boots with lotsa buckles can make a sound that is annoying to those sitting next to you.)

Take a look at the online videos of riders going down and make some reasoned decisions about how you want to look when you are the one staring up at the sky after a crash. Do you want to be she who is wearing very little riding gear and has to be carted off to the ER or do you want to extend the chances that you will not be carted anywhere and wear the ATGATT? There are ways to wear the gear that won’t inhibit your social life or your look.

*Note: Dr. Flash Gordon’s book Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists is available from White Horse Press.

 

Gerde Applethwaite

Scorpion Leather Jackets – Serious Riders Only

Helmet City is pleased to announce its latest additions in apparel from Scorpion! We now have even more to offer both our male and female riders in leather jackets. (Sorry, you’re on your own in the love department).

Ladies, say hello to the Scorpion Women’s Vixen Leather Jacket.This jacket offers the perfect fit, form and flexibility for female riders with various stretch panels, adjustable waist belts and multiple perforation points for maximum ventilation. The Vixen is available in three different colors: white, black and pink.

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white

For gentlemen, we have the Scorpion Men’s Clutch Leather Jacket. Similar to the Vixen, the Clutch is superior in comfort and fit. It also offers Powertector GP AIR HUMP for even more airflow, additional padded panels, internal pocket storage and external hard warmer pockets. The Clutch comes in three flavors: black/neon, black/white and white/red.

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black/white

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white/red

Made from top-grain leather, the Vixen and Clutch are meant for serious riders with only the best in mind. For riders seeking the thrill of the road while maintaining safety and comfort, be sure to check out the Vixen or Clutch!

 

Road Pizza: A Most Unwelcome Roadside Treat

 By Gerde Applethwaite

“Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle
first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for
Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter
starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis.”

The Weather on the Left Coast at the time of writing is still mostly dry and mostly warm. In other parts of the country the cold havoc reigns supreme. The scooter evolution is in full swing here and for reasons somewhat beyond my understanding scooter riders seem to have a penchant for Teva’s and cargo shorts. The vast majority of motorcycle/scooter accidents occur at under 30 miles per hour. The bi-product of the under dressed and the over-accelerated is road rash or as we affectionately call it – road pizza (you will know why if you have ever seen it.)

Once again I race toward Dr. Flash Gordon’s brilliant motorcycle first aid book entitled Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  I suspect it is no coincidence that his first chapter starts with road rash, pavement dermatitis. This is a really common condition for the under dressed who ride – whether it be on bicycles, skateboards, scooters or motorcycles. What I wasn’t aware of were the complications that can ensue from an improperly treated road rash. Yeah, you should wear the right clothing and we sell the right clothing but for right now let’s just focus on a few select notions from Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear.

(Picture Taken from Wiki How)

You need to get as much of the dirt out of the wound as you can. Any leftover dirt can produce scarring at best and complications from a serious infection at worst. I knew a guy in high school who did a face plant while on his bicycle; he hit a poorly designed road grate. They didn’t get all of the gravel out of his road rash wound and years later you could still see the occasional dark bits of gravel on the side of his face. Sometimes a little chunk of gravel would work its way to the surface causing intense itching until it finally broke loose of the skin – some bits stayed where they were. The broken skin is incredibly sensitive to stuff like Betadine or even tap water. It alone will send your nerve endings howling. Saline solution is better.  Contact lens solution is actually good. I now carry a bottle of it under the seats of both bikes, along side the small first aid kit.  Again, this is thanks to having read the Flash Gordon MD. book/s. Read them – no foolin’. The idea in this first phase is to get as much of the dirt and germs out of the wound as possible. The longer the microbes party in your road pizza wound the more you will pay for it later. If all you have is tap water then use that – get the wound clean.

Yes, the next phase is to protect the wound. Dr. Gordon no longer recommends antibiotic ointments like Neosporin for this. I didn’t know this. I knew enough to try clean the wound but then my first reaction would have been to slather it all up with something Like Neosporin then put down gauze 4×4′s and finally pave it all over with tape. Wrong. The wound needs to be cleaned but not dried out. The ointment will actually dry out the wound. You have a couple of ways to go here.

One is something called a semi-occlusive dressing like Tegaderm or Opsite for example. You apply the film onto and around the wound. It adheres to healthy skin around the wound both protecting the area and allowing the wound to breathe. This can be packed into your first aid kit as well as the saline solution and your other stuff. It really doesn’t take up that much room and if you don’t need it for yourself you may one day need it for someone else.

An alternative means to protect the cleaned wound site is to spray on some stuff out of a can that films over and will rapidly give you some protection. The products noted in Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear are 3m’s Nexcare or something called Medi-Stat. I have the Nexcare in my kit. I haven’t seen the Medi-Stat in my local pharmacy. Gordon mentions that the added advantage of using the spray is that if you are the wounded one and you find yourself without help you will have an easier time of it by spraying something onto the wound site than you will applying a sheet film because you can one-hand it. Good tip.

You’re not out of the woods yet. You still risk serious infection and the potential consequences of infection turn out to be more than a little startling. I’m not going to go into it here because I want to keep this piece brief. Read the book (have I said that already?) or at least go online and do some research. At some point, either at the time of the initial accident or later when you suspect infection you may need to seek medical help. Do not hesitate to get it.

Finally a word, directly from my experience, about hospitals. Not all hospitals are created equally. I am given to understand that ambulance crews are not obligated to take you to your hospital of choice – they are obligated to take you to the nearest hospital. Now its roulette. If you are unfortunate to be taken to a crappy hospital or to one that has an overburdened emergency room (often one and the same) then you are really at the mercy of the fates. I happen to live in an area where the local hospital — the one that I would be taken to in the event of a neighborhood accident — has a stupefyingly poor reputation for everything except gun shot wounds – they appear to be good at that and they get a lot practice. If you show up with a road pizza shoulder and/or face you could realistically wait for 12 hours before you are seen depending upon who got shot before you showed up – or while you waiting. Do you want to risk that just so that you can feel the warm breeze blowing up your cargo shorts? Buy some riding gear, fool!

Gerde Applethwaite

The Hi-viz Conundrum

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Why wouldn’t you wear hi-viz? After I bought a Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest for a friend as a Christmas present I got to thinking about hi-viz…..again.

I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest because it is my favorite amongst our hi-viz vest options. My pal’s gear is pretty much all black and I thought It would be smart to help make him more visible on the road. He thanked me for the present and then made a self-deprecating joke about his reluctance to wear it not because of some sort of fashion choice but because its just too visible. Yeah, we both cracked up. This lead me to wonder about what keeps people from buying hi-viz gear. I see more and more folks kitted out in hi-viz every day especially bicycle riders. Whether on Motorcycle or bicycle I only wear hi-viz these days.

For a mere $60.00 you get an instant upgrade for your lo-viz jacket or suit. For me this is a no-brainer yet there are plenty of folks out there who do not see hi-viz as a viable option. I am sure that moto gear manufacturers take this into account when designing their new gear. How they go about this I do not know. I imagine gnomes in Alpen caves looking into vats of bubbling future-predicting goo to suss the trends for the latest Alpinestars lineup. Who knows? I guess they hire fashion consultants (who may or may not ride) in order to get input into the designs for the latest looks. If you read my stuff at all you know by now that I constantly rant about the cluelessness of gear manufacturers when it comes to both hi-viz and reflective tape use. This seasonal design thing quickly becomes an odd game of cat and mouse though: when does consumer desire tilt the scales for manufacturers and when do the fashion mavens wholly dictate product design? Mostly I suspect it is the latter.

The fashion bonzos are not asking questions like: “What percentage of cage drivers who strike motorcyclists say to investigators “Golly, I just didn’t see him.”  Instead I am convinced they are saying stuff like “if we add the farkle X graphic scheme to this helmet how much can we expect it to bump up our sales in the 18-24 demographic or ”Sure we have to put some reflective stuff on jacket Y but “If we only put a little bit of reflective tape on this jacket we can save an extra .02 cents per unit.”

Another way that might work in the effort to coax manufacturers toward the bright would be to have insurance companies offer riders a discount for wearing hi-viz clothing and helmets. It would certainly be to their advantage but I don’t know how you would enforce it.

I am convinced that unless the push comes from the consumer side my vision of a hi-viz option in every part of a manufacturer’s line is a very long way off. The next time you go shopping for riding gear think for a moment about that half-wit in a cage texting his way down the road – right toward you.

Gerde Applethwaite

Tourmaster Centurion Suit Review

by Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I think the Tourmaster Centurion riding suit is a good deal for the price. The weather has turned seriously cold in many parts of the country and its time to take yet another look at a riding suit that won’t break your wallet.

There was a time in ancient history when I used to ride in a beat up ‘Wild One’ style leather jacket, 501′s and a pair of Chucks. On my head I sported a bruised silver Bell Custom 500 helmet when I wore a helmet at all. That was it, that was my total commitment to gear for many years – oh yeah and Serengeti Driver sunglasses. Ever have a bee smash itself into that space between your nose and the nose bridge on your glasses at 60 MPH? Very disconcerting. Riding gear has improved since then and my inclination has improved as well. I am, as you likely know by now, all about the ATGATT and the hi-viz. In my slowly expanding collection of riding gear there is a pile of Tourmaster/Cortech textile kit. I am not a big spender on gear: I just don’t have a Klim type budget. I have found over the years that I really get major bang for my buck with Tourmaster gear. I am often amazed at what they are able to crank out for their price point. My #2 go-to is Firstgear with Scorpion coming on strong.

The Tourmaster Centurion suit has been around for a while and I see it often on touring riders. It comes in just below $400.00 and for that price you get whizzbangs not seen in many of the pricier suits. The suit that I have been riding around in is the Joe Rocket Survivor suit. It is slightly less expensive than the Tourmaster and its a good suit. When I was shopping it out I thought about getting the Centurion suit but decided almost immediately against it because they do not have a hi-viz model. When Joe Rocket presented its semi-hi-viz version I jumped on it. If you are looking into suits and are not interested in hi-viz riding gear then the Centurion should be an option for you.

The shoulder, knee, and elbow armor is puck style with a cushioning layer on the wet-ware side and Tourmaster says it is CE rated. They say no more than that so it is safe to assume that this means it is Level 1 CE armor. It appears that the back armor is some version of the standard place-holder foam. The hip pads are also place-holder foam. Were I to buy this suit I would have to replace all of the armor with CE level 2 armor. That’s why its irrelevant to me whether or not the back armor is just a place-holder pad – it would have to go anyway. The armor in the newly released 2014 Firstgear TPG Expedition suit is CE Level 2 except for the back armor which is (disappointingly) Level 1. The Firstgear suit is also ALL molecular D30. You pay extra for that but I think this is the direction that all quality makers will be heading toward in the not too far distant future. The armor in the Centurion resides in Velcro’d pockets in the mesh breather layer. The mesh layer is gauzy consequently the armor has the tendency to float around. This is not good. Floating armor means you are playing roulette with fate and your bone surgeon while you are in mid-flight: maybe you’ll land on the armor … then again.

The Centurion has a thermal liner. This is as it should be. I think all suits should have a zip-out thermal liner. Some do not: The Expedition does not, in spite of the fact that it is over $150.00 costier. The Tourmaster offering also has a few other nifty features that please me. They have incorporated a rain hood under the collar (the Expedition has one too), it zips down into place once you curl it back up. I love the rain hood idea. If you have ever ridden in the rain and had the cold wetness slither down the back of your neck you will truly appreciate the foldup-rain-hood-in-the-collar. They have also designed a truly nifty (removable) rain and wind gator that comes across the neck. I haven’t seen this elsewhere as standard on factory gear. This is a great feature and it is so simple. Clearly aspects of this suit were designed by riders or by people who actually listened to riders. Go to any rally and talk to the gathered over the course of a weekend and you will get enough information to design the perfect riding suit. Some features of this suit seem to have been designed by riders – others not so much. Tourmaster has also incorporated a small zippered pocket on the left forearm sleeve. Inside is a key hook on a bit of elastic string. This is a great pocket for a small wad of bridge toll cash or change for parking meters, for my eye drops and even a key or two. If you attach a small day-glo disc to the key ring and leave it outside of the zippered closed pocket it will serve as a visual reminder not to leave your keys in the ignition when you go to the coffee shop. If you see the disc when you are off the bike then your keys are not back in the forearm pocket – where are my keys? It might also be possible to fit a moderately sized Li-on battery pack in there for a heated glove.

The zippers are sturdy YKK and the exposed areas are rubberized. The Captain Kangaroo pockets are fold over style with Velcro but are not zippered. They have an angled, zippered foldover pocket on the chest. That zipper is not rubberized. Pockets abound for those who are into that sort of thing. If you need to carry a tuna sandwich in one pocket and a set of 3/8′s drive metric sockets in another then you will have no trouble here. The main zipper runs from neck to the top of the right thigh. The leg zippers run from ankle to the top of the hip. I like this because its a nice long run and the suit is easy in and easy out but it does cause some bunching when you’re seated on the bike (combine this with the floating armor and you are fidgeting for just a bit to get yourself situated before you set off.) The big zippers have rain/wind flaps secured with Velcro to keep out the weather. The crotch area has a big rain gator and I cannot testify to its efficiency at keeping you and the rain from commingling. I don’t get to ride the review suits in the wet.

The sleeve cuffs do not have a zipper but a pie slice shaped expansion insert that cinches over with Velcro. Some folks like the velcro cuff closure better because they ride with their gloves tucked under the the sleeve and the zipper cuffs make that harder. I have gauntlet gloves and it only makes sense to me, aerodynamically, to ride with them out over the cuff. I like the zipper style better because it makes it easier to reach in and grab your sweatshirt to pull it down. That’s just me. The legs do not have an inner gator panel to protect against water infiltration. It is expected that a good tug on the Velcro cinch will be sufficient to keep the wind and rain from crawling up your boots.

The collar has the traditional soft flannel type lining – no complaints there. Tourmaster has also included a Velcro tab to allow you to secure the top front of the collar on one side to the shoulder when you are riding on a warm day with the zipper partially open. This suit comes in both black with black on black and the suit that I received which is grey with black on grey with a silvery material across the shoulders. The shoulder vents are nice when you are leaning forward on the bike and in combination with the rear shoulder vent you get plenty of airflow. Tourmaster has added a snap in the middle of the front shoulder vents to keep the vents pooched open on warm days. This is easily a 3 season suit but stretching it into a full time four season might not work. in really warm summer weather you might cook too much – especially in the black on black version. My Joe Rocket suit is black with black and some hi-viz panels and in warm weather with a t-shirt and jeans on underneath it gets a bit toasty out in the valley on those long, endless freeway stretches. The tarmac can be a cruel mistress in the summer. Underneath the waffle weave silvery stuff on the shoulders are some foam pads that may or may not help you in a get-off but at a minimum help to give you something of that je ne sais quoi Transformer elegance. The material is 600 denier throughout and as a bonus a doubled layer of 1680 denier material at the main potential impact points. They have done a very nice job with this: the knees are covered in this extra layer and the pattern is a sort of overlapping chevron. The silvery stuff on the shoulder is an additional impact layer too. From the elbows to the wrist on the outside is more of this extra layer. Kudos. The lower back has accordion “Carboflex” material to help with the stretch over to the handlebars. They have also put accordion material at the elbow and knee joints. I read online somewhere that one rider complained that the accordion pleated material was the source of leakage into the suit on a rainy day but I have seen no such complaints elsewhere. I cannot testify one way or the other. I don’t get a chance to torture test these review suits – only the gear I ultimately buy for myself. Tourmaster has included a long thin strip of heat resistant material on the right inner calf (some suits do not have any) but if your exhaust pipes and hot bits happen to be on the left, well … there you are. Finally, bringing up the rear is a layer of black durable material on the butt side to reduce wear through. You know some suits do not have an extra layer here – how is that possible? Do they talk to anyone who rides? These suits are being bought by people who commute to work every day or by folks who are long distance riders. Why wouldn’t you reinforce the sitzplatz area? Again Tourmaster has clearly paid attention to some of the practical details.

They have included the typical waist cinching Velcro to snug the suit into fit. There are also snap closures on the arms for adjustment. Oh, and they include a little bag of extra snaps for repairs down the road. That’s a thoughtful touch.

There is reflective material on this suit and in any of the suits I have reviewed no maker seems to offer enough of it to satisfy my standards. This is easy – the closer you get to a standard construction worker’s hi-viz vest reflective scheme the better. The Expedition suit and the Tourmaster suit seem to be fond of the blackout type of reflective material. Its a fashion choice and not a full tilt safety choice. Did they do a survey and find that touring riders blanched when seeing 2” wide stripes of highly reflective silver safety tape sewn into their clothing? I doubt it, so where does this come from? I think the fashion drones back in the main office have decided that lots of reflective material are not syley style. They take the subway to work or they park their cage in the company lot. They are clearly not riding around on motorcycles at night. The black reflective material is not as reflectively effective as the silvery stuff. Scorpion’s Passport suit uses silver type reflective stuff (not enough by any means) but it is sprayed (or silk-screened) on and I worry about its longevity – even though I must say this sprayed on stuff from them really catches the light. Joe Rocket’s Survivor suit utilizes a combination of sprayed on and sewn on reflective materials. They went with the silvery stuff and although there is far too little of it the stuff they used is highly reflective as well. Firstgear has an unyielding affection for the lesser reflective black material.

Remember this is a $400.00 suit. I have quibbles with every suit I review, some more than others, but I always try to balance price against features. Of the 4 suits available to me I have chosen the least expensive one among them as my preferred choice. Price should not be the main deciding factor when you shop for any gear. Really take a close look at features and the quality of construction and then look at price. Tourmaster and Cortech seem to consistently do a good job at this balancing act. This suit may seem a bit dated in terms of its armor, its leg and sleeve closures and the way in which the thermal liner is secured to the suit with Velcro on the legs but all in all I am impressed. Were it offered in a hi-viz version I might have jumped on it for my personal ride. I am eager to see what lessons Tourmaster takes from this suit and from the advancements in armor in recent years for the design of their next iteration Centurion suit. In the meantime If you are looking for a touring/commute suit at a reasonable price I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one

Gerde Applethwaite.

Other suit reviews:

Firstgear Expedition

Joe Rocker Survivor Suit

Firstgear TPG Expedition Suit – Up Close

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: NFL games in the snow and freezing rain – yup, its time for another riding suit review. In my ongoing quest for the best touring/commute suit I got my hands on the 2014 version of Firstgear’s Expedition Suit. Here is what I found.

This iteration of the Firstgear TPG Expedition Riding Suit is not perfect but it certainly is one of the better choices out there. My notion of the right suit is a hybrid combination of the various suits we offer. If one of the manufacturers came to me (hah) and said “Gerde, please tell us what we should include in our suit for this season and what we should leave out” I would be tickled sideways. As it turns out no suit that I have run across so far is quite right – some more so than others.

I want a suit that is; hi-viz, is made of a quality textile cloth, has inner leg protection material against hot exhaust pipes and hot bike parts, has large (2” wide or more) patches of quality sewn-in reflective material across the back, sides and front, has rubberized YKK zippers in all areas where rain might infiltrate, a thermal inner suit that zips out, a fold-up rain hood under the collar, enough zippered venting that the suit can truly be used as a 4 season riding coverall, a gator section at the gut/crotch level that will really keep rainwater infiltration out, an interior gator at the cuff that cinches up against your boot to keep out the wind and water, a pullback loop at the top of the front zipper to keep the suit from flapping against your neck when you ride on warm days with the zip partially opened, Level 2 CE armor in ALL of the armor pockets (including the back), doubled material in the likely impact areas, full main zipper that extends from neck to knee, an accordion pleated stretch panel in the lower back, and more. These are the basics and comprise the bulk of my checklist when I get a suit for review. Its pretty simple, I look at the suit for fit and feel and I go through the checklist: some suits do much better than others. Another consideration for me is price. My budget isn’t very high but I still want a respectable suit.  As a suit approaches ‘stich prices it better have ‘stich-like features – otherwise what’s the point?

The Firstgear TPG Expedition Suit was initially and recently re-introduced into the market place at a price point that brought it entirely too close to a ‘stich offering. They have since whittled a chunk off of the price as I suspect they came to a better understanding of the market place and their place in the market. This now makes the suit worth a genuine look-see.

Let’s get out of the way the 4 things that I dislike the most about this suit and then I can stretch out and spend the rest of the time talking about what I like. Firstly, (and this is the most egregious thing by my way of thinking) there is no hi-viz offering. The only color available is your typical no-viz grey with grey on grey. I really don’t want any riding gear that is not hi-viz. My days of riding with no-viz or lo-viz gear are done. Many of you may not care about this and if that is the case then this suit is a candidate for you. Second, Firstgear has once again designed some riding clothing that skimps on the reflective materials. There are tiny, thin patches on this suit but they are absurdly small and they really seem like an afterthought. I don’t know why Firstgear continually has such a hard time with this – for the money you are paying on this suit you should expect wide reflective panels in the appropriate areas. Third, I will sing Firstgear’s praises down a couple of paragraphs or so when I talk about the armor in this suit because it comes stock out of the box with Level 2 CE D30 armor except in the back where it is only level 1. Again, for this money I would expect them to upgrade the back to level 2 as well. [For more about molecular armor see Gerde's earlier post entitled “Traversing the Molecular Armor Maze.”] Finally, I think a four season riding suit on the moderately pricey end of the spectrum should come stock with a zip-out thermal liner (My $360.00 Joe Rocket Survivor Suit has one and its also has hi-viz panels.)

Having said all this let’s move on to the stuff that makes this suit a reasonably good buy. I have a bunch of Firstgear gear and I respect their attention to detail for the most part. Firstgear has also always been in that middle ground when it comes to price. This suit is now priced out at $552.xx.

The main zipper runs on a slant from neck to the top of the right thigh. Ingress is not too difficult when you unzip the main and leg zippers and dance your way in. The normal cautions apply about wearing your boots when you try to get in – don’t do it. You really need to get into any suit wearing your socks and not your boots. This just keeps you from snagging stuff inside the suit. I tuck my pant’s cuffs into my socks first and then its easy going sliding into a suit. The zippers are your traditional, durable YKK type and are rubber coated where it counts. The leg zippers are really nice because they run the full length of the leg. The leg zippers also have an internal panel that runs the length: it is designed as yet another barrier to the wind and rain. The panel closes up with intermittent Velcro. The waist cinches to adjustment with the standard Velcro’d belt on each hip. Firstgear has not included an accordion stretch panel at the lower back.

There is plenty of venting on this suit. Its pretty clear that you can wear this suit in the warm summer weather too. If you are touring in a climate where there are big changes between daytime and evening temps this suit will not disappoint.  As mentioned above the suit does not come with a thermal liner, alas. So layer up.

Oddly, at the time of this post, there is no suit box in the sizing chart from Firstgear. Wha? I am 5’10” and 150 pounds (more since thanksgiving, thank you) and I threw myself upon the wisdom of the distributor to send me the right sized review suit. They sent me a large. My standard riding toggery is usually a t-shirt (or more depending upon weather), a pair of Duluth work pants and my Sidi On-Road Goretex boots. The large Expedition suit seems a little swimmy for me but when, for cold weather, I add: a sweat shirt, a vest and sweat pants I start to fill up the room inside the suit. I wish Firstgear would make our jobs over here a little easier by supplying a sizing chart for their suit – come on guys.

The suit is made of “Hypertex” (a proprietary name) nylon 420 denier material which is touted as waterproof and breathable. It is down from 600 denier in the previous model. I have to do some research on this because I would like to resist the simple-minded temptation to make this a numbers game: 600 is better than 420 denier because it is more. This topic is worthy of a separate post and I am surprised that I haven’t done one yet. The suit also has material on the sides of the legs just below the knee that resists heat burn and melting from hot bike parts. This is good and cannot be taken for granted anymore because some suit makers have foolishly left it out. I wish Firstgear had actually made it larger than they had but at least they have it.  Firstgear has included a very small note on the tags that warns you if you burn the suit its on you. Obviously they are thinking about it and covering their liability here but if so you’d think they would make the safety/heat panel longer. The suit material is not doubled in impact areas like the shoulders, elbows and knees – too bad. The suit fabric is bonded to a waterproof internal layer and this seems to be the way that everyone is going these day. The age of a separate waterproofing layer are being cut out as the industry figures that a single layer makes the suit more waterproof while simultaneously reducing bulk and weight. Of course there is an internal mesh layer to keep the bugs out when you are riding with the vents open.

The cuff end of the legs have an internal rain skirt that is cinched up with a snap and Velcro to give you a good seal against your boot. In addition the gator has an elasticized bottom that is coated on the inside with a few, thin, running beads of silicone. The exterior cuffs of the Expedition suit have a Velcro cinch to further help in snugging the pants leg up against your boot. You don’t ride with boots? Don’t be ridiculous – of course you do.

One of the things that I really like about this suit is that they do not go nuts with the Captain Kangaroo pockets. I don’t want to land on the stuff in my pockets if I have a get-off. I really just need room for some keys, some cash, a thin wallet (and/or passport), and my eye drops. There are, thankfully, no pockets on the legs and just 2 pockets on the chest. These pockets are closed with a velcro’d overflap and a waterproof zipper – they are plenty roomy enough. There is a safe pocket inside the main zipper on the left chest. This is generally where I keep stuff like ID, credit cards and emergency contact info. There is also a cell phone sized flap pocket on the deep inside of the suit on the right chest. I never use those.

The neck has a great rain hood that rolls up under the collar.  I really like those things – you can find one on the Tourmaster Centurion suit but not much elsewhere. It is superb at keeping the rain from crawling down the back of your neck in a downpour and its out of the way when you don’t need it. The centurion suit also has a nice addition that you don’t see elsewhere – a removable neck gator that bridges across the top of the neck line and acts as a wind/weather break. I wish more suits had them but I seem to be doing ok with my necklacava. The collar also has an elasticized loop that hooks onto a catch further back to open up the neck when you are riding in warm weather and to keep the collar from flapping. The interior neck line is the standard soft flannel-like material that your skin will really appreciate after four hours of riding.

Finally, the armor. Firstgear was an earl adopter of the molecular armor tech. They have jumped the game with this suit because ALL of the armor (except, sadly, the back armor) is CE-LEVEL 2 D30. This is great! Gear manufacturers are slowly heading in the right direction and at some point I speculate that all armor will be be CE-Level 2 as standard. It is a combination of consumer awareness and demand in tandem with economies of scale that will lower the wholesale prices of molecular armor. This in turn will insure the ready availability of decent armor in the gear made by reputable manufacturers. Firstgear is leading the way.  Having said this I would not hesitate to ditch the D30 level 1 armor in the back and replace it with a D30 level 2 slab.  The armor adjustment in riding gear can be a nuisance. If you do not get your armor lined up properly it does you little good when you find yourself on the descent side of your involuntary air borne launch. The Expedition suit has the armor in pouches with Velcro on the front side. They have slathered the inside of the suit with enough mating Velcro that you can really align the armor precisely where you need it. Another suit that I recently reviewed was pretty lazy about this and it was nigh on impossible to get the armor lined up on my knees. Kudos to Firstgear.

This a well made suit. It is not by any means my ideal suit but I live in hope. The price adjustments have made this a good buy and as I edit this on a Sunday morning I have the NFL games on in the background. Snow is coming down in a serious way on the field and there is no better time to write about a good riding suit.

If you have questions about the fit of this suit just call us up and we will get you into the right size.

Gerde Applethwaite

Nelson-Rigg Tank Bag Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter:  I bought a tank bag to replace my tired old unit.

I thought I could get through one more season with my aged tank bag but It was to not to be. I have had the old one for many years and the plastic see-through map cover turned a nice opaque mustard color somewhere circa pre I-phone (I know! was there a pre I-phone?) The zipper did not zip so much as it rammed to a halt mid-way one day and decided to stay there.

Shopping for a replacement bag was sorta fun. I only really look at tank bags out in the wild when we go on a ride and find ourselves up at Alice’s Restaurant or at a campground somewhere with other riders. Then I take some notice of what folks are using. My old bag is not very large and it does not have the potential to accordion out to make itself bigger. My personal preference is not to carry a lot of stuff up front on the tank and although folks with a more forward riding position will rest on their tank bags when they ride that just doesn’t work for me: my riding position is more upright.  So, a smaller non-accordion bag was in order.

My 3 mandates were: 1) I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a tank bag, 2) I wanted something compact and 3) I wanted to be able to unsnap the bag from the tank and sling it over my shoulder with a carry strap when I walked away from my unattended bike. I’m really sold on the notion of hands-free gear and if the option exists I weight that heavily. My experience as a beast of burden has taught me to put it on my shoulders whenever possible.

The Nelson-Rigg Mini Tank Bag (CL-1010) was tempting but too small for me and I didn’t need the Expandable Tank/Tail Bag  (CL-903) so the porridge I chose was the Nelson-Rigg (CL-904) Standard Tank/Tail Bag. It’s just right at 12”x 8.5” x 4.5” and is advertized as capable of squirreling away 7.52 liters of maps, trail mix, zombie DVD’s and sunscreen.  One of the little blurb cards that comes with the bag mentions that it is capable of holding up to 10 pounds.

The bag itself is only $50.00 (well within my range) but the mounting kits are extra. When you buy the bag you have to specify which mounting system you want: magnetic, strap or suction cup (oh, and they even have a tail bag strap option – nice.)  One of my bikes has a steel tank and the other is aluminum. I didn’t want the bag to be a dedicated unit for the steel tanked bike so the magnetic option was out. My old tank bag was a standard strap mount type and I do not mind having the small straps and connectors hanging out a bit when the bag is not hooked up so I went with the strap mount kit.  Nelson-Rigg was smart to set it up this way. Why spend extra money getting a bag that has all of the mounting options included as standard when you know you will only be using one style of mount? I ordered up the bag with strap kits (it is a pull-down option window on our website) but when the bag came there were no mounting kits. Wha? I didn’t think that was possible. So, we had to go in and adjust the order and order up the strap kits separately. The prices all worked out the same but the time delay was a nuisance. Make sure when you place your order that you confirm your mounting kits.

The exterior is made of something Nelson-Rigg calls “UV-treated Tri-Max® ballistic polyester with reflective piping” and it seems like your standard durable, black, woven poly material that has been designed to help resist the ravages of UV sunlight. The zipper seems sound as well but it is not rubberized and there is no flap that covers it over to help shed water. The assumption is that you will use the supplied rain cover (comes with drawstring) when things get sloshy.  On the two long side walls of the bag there are 2 lines each of a reflective piping. That piping, along with the circumferential black piping on the bottom of the bag, serve to give the bag some rigidity as the walls are soft. The top of the bag is the traditional clear plastic map cover. The map cover measures 7-1/4” x 10-1/2” and can fit one folded standard road map easily and about 1/3 of another one. The map pocket has a Velcro(-like) closure.

The interior of the CL-904 is lined with a thin tight weave polyester material and it looks like it will take well to a cleaning with soap and water and a garden hose.

The bag has an anti-scratch base to help protect your gas tank and it appears to be a rubberized version of the inner bag material  but I bought a sheet of Snider’s Paintguard to protect the tank on one of the bikes. I put a lot of pazzoozas into the paint work on that bike and the Paintguard sheet will let me worry less.  Paintguard is just a plastic sheet that is held down by static electricity and it is designed to eliminate the possibility of those rubbing scratches.

At the front of the bag (toward the headlight) is a pouch that looks big enough for a cell phone  but more likely is an ideal place for any of those stray wires from your GPS, bar mounted phone or camera setup. It is also the ideal location for a supplemental Li-on battery and most of its feed wires. The opposite side of the bag has a carry handle so if you really want to lug it around by hand you can. More importantly the bag has a shoulder strap that snaps on and that makes so much sense to me. Finally, Nelson-Rigg offers a “lifetime no-hassle warranty.” Can’t beat that.

Gerde Applethwaite