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

Gerde’s To-Do List

By Gerde Applethwaite

When I am the only the one who finds it necessary in my cohort to get there on time I am referred to as “kkkkair-duh.” The key is to get a really good rolling ‘chuh’ sound from the back of the throat at the beginning. When I am the one who really would rather wear sweats and stay home watching Game of Thrones repeats I am called “Gertie.” Gertie needs a good to-do list. Here is part of it.

1.) I have to get the scratch out of my old Arai Corsair face shield because it is in my field of vision and it bugs me. TAP plastics has a scratch remover kit. I really have to get over there and pick one up. If that doesn’t do the trick I just need to replace the shield with a new one.

2.) My Sidi boots are due for some treatment. They have held me in good stead and I need to care for them soon. If you go to one of the touring blogs and search out the posts for boot care you will get chit-chat that hottens up nearly as much as an oil thread. I am not sure what to use. If anyone has the true ticket please drop a note here.

3.) Some of the stitches are coming undone on the side of the right knee of my main riding pants (textile.) I need to get in there and do a little sewing. then I need to test them to see if their water resisting capability is still there. There is a way to treat the threads with some goop to water proof the area. I may need to get some of that.

4.) I also want to try out a pair of suspenders on another pair of pants because i think they will stay up better that way – especially when they get wet. If I recall Duluth Trading has some good old red suspenders. Gotta go look that up. I will then be an honorary member of the red suspender crowd. All I will need then will be the traditional corn cob pipe.

5.) The taillight lens is getting dull on one of my bikes. I need to use some of that TAP plastic stuff on it. Someone told me to use toothpaste on the lens. I guess I’ll try that first because at least I have the toothpaste.

6.) I need a new bicycle helmet because mine now has a crack in the plastic. I want a helmet with a bill on the front like a baseball cap. I like that because it really helps to keep the sun out of your eyes when you are riding right into the light. I always have trouble finding a bike helmet I like. Some of the helmets that have a lot of holes in them also have a sort of forward projection that works like a ball cap bill. I just don’t like the helmets with all of the holes in them. I have to find a new helmet.

7.) My small portable air compressor, the one that fits under the bike’s seat, has crapped out. I need to find another one, a better one.

8.) I’m thinking about getting a small winch to fit into the head of the bed of the pickup truck to make it easier to get a bike into the truck. I need to design a sturdy mount for the winch out of angle iron.

9.) It would be good to have more visibility at the back of the bike at night. Texting clown car drivers have almost driven into me a couple of times while I’m sitting at a light waiting for it to change. Those license plate light setups seem to be a popular idea. I need to look into that and find one I like.

The New Year is around the corner. For many it is time to put the bike up for the winter and there are a series of tasks related to that; gasoline additives, bike stands, bike covers, etc. I am fortunate enough to live in California and we have a 12 month riding season so I can forgo those chores.

Another year nearly done – where does it go?

Gerde Applethwaite

Scorpion Passport Suit

 Scorpion Passport Suit

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Scorpion comes out with it’s Passport Suit for 2014 and it has Sas-Tec armor and a hi-viz version.

In general Europeans like touring riders on their turf. There is something about the whole wanderlust thing that reaches deep into the Euro-soul. This means, generally, that you get treated reasonably well when you go to a hotel or a gasthuis. When you tour on a bike in Europe you see all manner of nicely set up riding gear being sported by your fellow riders. Scorpion is a German company and they have come up with their first offering of a touring/commute oversuit for the 2014 season. I have some quibbles with this suit but I think for its price point you get a lot. I ordered one up so that I could give it the closeup once over.

The Scorpion Passport Suit is a part of their XDR line (Extreme Distance Riding.) It comes in 2 flavors; you have your standard grey with black on grey and a semi hi-viz. I am only interested in the hi-viz. The hi-viz is really well thought out and it passes my hi-viz standard in spite of the fact that it has a section of black running down the middle of the suit. The non hi-viz panels are also where you would want them to be. You will find the butt area and the inner leg area where it might contact the bike to be made of black material and this will help keep the suit from looking dirty as time goes on.

The suit comes with reflective patches but they are sparse and they are of the sprayed on persuasion. The outer body of the Passport is a 600 denier nylon material that is standard in the business.  There is a mesh inner liner for airflow when you open the vents and the suit is billed as waterproof. It may well indeed be waterproof. They have installed a gator around and down the waist which is designed to eliminate the problem of water pooling up in the crotch area of the suit when you are riding in the rain (this is a persistent problem with riding suits and pants alike.) Scorpion also touts its “H2O Blok” engineering which is a series of layers designed to keep you separated from the storm outside. There are stretch accordion panels in the lower back and in the knee adjacent real estate.

In hot weather you are going to be a little too toasty in this suit but it should be a 3 season riding suit if you bulk up the layers in the really cold weather.

The main zipper on the suit runs from the neck down the body and across to mid-thigh. This is plenty deep enough to allow for booted entry and exit (although unbooted ingress and egress is the only thing that makes sense and helps calm fears of tearing anything up inside a suit and its so much easier.) Its always a bit of dance getting in and out of riding suits but Scorpion has placed zippers on the inner side of the legs as well so once you get the thing zipped open its merely a matter of artfully dumping yourself into the flexible origami you hold before you in your hands (pro-tip: once you have arrived at your destination for the evening I recommend taking the suit off before you start with the quaffing of the beers.) Where are my pink bunny slippers?

The main gator closure on the front comes with Scorpion’s signature neodymium magnet flap seal.  Obvious cautions apply for folks with pacemakers. The vents come in pairs: there are 2 chest vents, 2 back vents and 2 sleeve vents. These zippered vents are sufficient to flow air through the upper body and cool you down in all but the warmest weather but it seems odd to me that they placed the rear vents directly behind the back armor. Doh.  The suit also comes with adjustable sizing straps in the waist and the arms.

Sizing? I am 5’10” tall and weigh in at 150 pounds. My review suit was a medium and the fit without the liner in and while wearing a t-shirt, Duluth work pants and Sidi On-Road Goretex Boots was tight from crotch to the back of the shoulder when on the bike. It looks like I am a large. Bear this in mind when you try to figure out what suit will work for you. These suits come in bulk sizes (S,M,L,XL) and not in graded sizes. Scorpion has a sizing chart for this suit so look it up and make your best guess as to your size and of course call us at *888-343-5638* with any fitting questions.

One of the great advantages of this suit, at this price ($430-$445), is that it comes bolt stock out the door with level one Sas-Tec molecular armor. I am quite fond of Sas-Tec kit and to have it come stock in a suit was a smart move. I think we will find more and more manufacturers going with molecular armor in the future and the moves by Scorpion and Firstgear (D3O) really help this along. If I bought this suit I swap out all of the level 1 Sas-Tec with a Level 2 upgrade. That’s just me. The back protector is your standard place-holder perforated flat foam that cries out for replacement with something… like Sas-Tec’s new SCL line (the yellow colored stuff) that is rated at level 2. I am not sure whether or not it is a straight swap fit as I do not have any of the SCL to hand. Note: If you swap in armor that has no venting holes then it will only make the already poorly located rear vent strips even less viable.

What’s left? There is a boot gator to keep the water from creeping up your boot and into the suit in the rain. The bottom of the gator has a silicon band that really cinches the seal – nice touch. There are some wear/anti-slide patches where your butt bones (‘Ischial Tuberosities’ – for those in the house who ride bicycles with any regularity or those who are pre-med, or both) hit the seat. The zippers are YKK and none of them are rubberized except the zips on the inner leg..  The thermal liner is quilted and zips out. The suit has a mesh liner inside to keep you away from the walls of the suit itself and to help wick away internal moisture. I’m not sure how you plan to keep your suit protected from the hot bits on your bike as they do not appear to have installed any sort of canvas buffer material, or the like, on the inner leg. Is that possible? There are a few large Captain Kangaroo pockets for your cell phone and your trail mix and your eye drops. Atop the left thigh pocket is piggybacked a clear plastic outer pocket that is a befuddlement to me. It is designed to accept a Butler Map (you get the option for a free one when you buy the suit.) I like the Butler maps and we are seeing more and more of them these days but I really think this pocket is a mistake. When are you supposed to look at it? When you are riding? Heck, no! You have to take you eyes off the road and look too far down to get a bead on the map while you are riding. That just doesn’t seem like a savvy move to me. I’d rather have the map right up there on the tank bag. Also, this clear plastic outer cover is bound to dull out and go opaque in time with the unrelenting beating of the ultraviolet sunlight — in the manner that all of my old tank bag map holders have. Then what do you do?

If you are in the market for a moderately priced touring suit give this first time entry from Scorpion a look.

Gerde Applethwaite.

Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-Viz Vest On The Road

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Vest and took it out on the road to see and be seen.

I wrote recently about the wisdom of buying a hi-viz vest and just popped for the Firstgear version. Wait? What! More hi-viz chatter from Gerde? Yup. Hold on – this is a nifty sixty-some-odd dollar solution to your hi-viz needs. This time I flipped my hi-viz ride test scenario. Instead of riding around with it myself and asking folks how well they could see me on the road I reversed it. I loaned the vest to various riders on a few rides so that I could judge its visibility over that of conventional jackets. As predicted it makes a huge difference. I am now a big fan of the hi-viz vest for substantially increasing your visibility while wearing one of your no-viz jackets. Firstgear says that it provides you with visibility at a thousand yards away. This is not hyperbole, I tested it out and yup it’s true.

The design of this vest is the best I have seen to date as regards the placement of both the hi-viz fabric and the reflective material. The design is savvy all the way around – including the side area below the arm pit which is hi-viz, black and reflective. It is your standard CE EN-471 hi-viz color.

First gear makes this in three doubled sizes, I mean; extra small/ small, medium/large and large/2XL. I bought the medium/large and its a snug fit on my old medium Tourmaster jacket. They have sets of adjustment straps on the sides so you can easily snug it up to fit your jacket.

The vest is constructed mostly of a double layered mesh material so it will breathe air right through to the vents in your jacket. The mesh also gives it low wind resistance and I don’t get any annoying flapping at all – the vest zippers closed. They have placed an ID wallet on the chest (that’s required for the Mil.Spec. Part.) It is Velcro’d on and you can just pull it off if you do not need to have your id immediately available. If you have any particular medical needs in case of an accident I think its a good idea to leave the wallet in place and put that info in this chest wallet thing on a laminated card. I ironed a Flying Spaghetti Monster patch over the front of mine. Voila.

There is a long narrow pocket on the back and it just fits my empty helmet bag. It will instead fit a pair of gloves

Ask yourself this: how many times have you idled past drivers on a clotted freeway or at a stop light and looked over to see folks banging away on their cell phones? I see it every damned day! For something a bit over sixty dollars why wouldn’t you want to enhance your visibility in the face of the half-wits on phones in car cages across the land.

Gerde Applethwaite

This I’d Like to See: Thoughts on Motorcycle Gear

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: A random collection of things I’d like to see in the world of motorcycle gear.

1) I’d like to see all manufacturers offer a full (solid) hi-viz version of each of the helmets in their line.

2) Isn’t it about time that helmet design technology advanced beyond the simple EPS liner?

I’d like to see manufacturers come up with a helmet that replaces the conventional EPS liner with Sas-Tec or D3O viscoelastic material. I know D30 makes a helmet liner – let’s see it in some motorcycle helmets. Also, there must be new energy absorption technologies on the horizon that can be mass produced. Let’s have them.

3) I’d like to see the manufacturers of cameras that are designed to be used on helmets come up with standardized universal mount that helmet manufacturers can then universally embrace and make a space for on their helmets.

4) I’d like to see a federal standard and standardized testing for helmet wind noise so that we can evaluate a motorcycle helmet more objectively.

5) I’d like to see replaceable, drop-down helmet sun shields that come with swappable dark and light brown polarized lenses.

6) I’d like to see more Scotchlite type reflective material on the back and sides of most jackets.

7) I’d like to see an inexpensive but durable solar charger panel (about the size of an ipad) that I can mount onto the tail of the bike that will allow me to charge my phone and/or GPS while I ride or while I am parked at the camp site.

8)  I’d like to see a major manufacturer of motorcycle gear come out with an LED hi-viz vest with wireless brake light and turn signal capabilities. Do they have those already?

Aye, now that we have that all sorted next up will be my list on motorcycles and then pastry. Mmmmm, pastry.

Gerde Applethwaite

Answers and Updates

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: A collection of updated information to recent posts and answers to questions from readers.

1) Joe Rocket Survivor Suit

I am surprised by the number of questions about the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit. They seem to be coming from both touring riders and commuters alike. No, I haven’t really done a water/leak test as yet. Summer will be over all too soon and I will get that drenching test done then. I like this suit more than I thought I would. Its actually really easy to get in an out of once you get the routine down. I had thought that because its a suit I would wear it less often than my jacket and overpants combo, but no. The Survivor suit has been subjected to temps in the mid-eighties and even though it is black for the most part I am well ventilated with all of the flaps and the “Big Air Vent.” I have been wearing it much of the time with the thermal liner out but have on a few occasions worn it in the evening with the liner in. Its plenty warm.

The reflective panels seem adequate to give you decent visibility in traffic although I haven’t changed my mind about wanting more. I am just a big hi-viz freak.

2) Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket

I have done some rudimentary field tests on the visibility of this jacket in traffic. It involves friends loitering on a corner in a busy part of town and then waiting to see how long it takes to catch sight of the jacket as I come toward them on the busy road in both day and night tests. It is as you suspect. The jacket is a real winner in the vision tests. The only downside is that the black reflective tape is nowhere near as bright as the silver tape you see on so many other jackets. I would like to see Firstgear move to a higher visibility reflective tape in the future.

Ventilation is good and I haven’t had any trouble on warm days with the vent zippers open. On warm days, of course,  I just zip out the thermal liner. The jacket seems a bit bulky (its a full ¾ length touring jacket) until you are up and riding and then you really don’t notice it.

3) Pinlock Shield setup for my Arai RX-Q helmet

Yup, I still like my Pinlock setup and I do wind up changing them out on long day rides. Recently, I have done a few rides up and over Mt. Tamalpais of late and I started out with the light grey replacement visor on but when I got to Marin the weather was foggy. I stopped and swapped in the yellow visor and it changed the whole ride. Online you will find folks who pop Arai SAI shields in and out like buttah but it is still a bit of a cumbersome project for me. I am getting better at it though – practice.

Now that I have the Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag I just leave my two most used shields in the bag – being careful how I fold and store the bag.

4) Sas-Tec VS. D3O

This is another one where people have written in quite a bit for further clarification. I suspect this is an indication of the level of confusing info out on the interwebz regarding the stat’s for both Sas-Tec and D3O. Here is the bottom line:

Some of the high end Sas-Tec armor (according to their own ratings) affords more protection than does the high end D3O armor (according to their own ratings.) The Sas-Tec Prestige SC-1/42 joint armor gear comes in at an impressive 6KN (the lower the number here the better.) It has a universal-fit design and it can be used for shoulder, knee and elbow. That’s nifty.  Their SC 2/07 hip protector is 9KN. The SC-1/06 knee is 11KN. The Back armor comes in 5 sizes and has prefixes that are either SC or SK (SK-1/55, SC-1/11, SC-1/12, SC-1/16, SC-1/13.) It bells in at 6 KiloNewtons of transmitted impact to the anvil. So, by my way of thinking I can get pretty good coverage with 3 sets of the Prestige SC-1/42 and one SC-1/16 back pad. Throw in the hip protector and I am done. The newest Scorpion textile gear comes from the factory with Sas-Tec Level one armor.

D3O’s Highest end gear is their Xergo (joint armor) and Viper Stealth Pro (back armor.) They ring in at 11-12 KiloNewtons (the lower the number the better.) I have to believe these numbers because they are done by independent labs contracted by the European Union and not done by the manufacturers of the gear themselves.  This is still within the range of the CE Level 2 cert’s. The newest Firstgear TPG line has their T5 EVO- Pro molecular armor installed from the factory – this is level two armor in all but hot weather where it just drops into the level one category..

I am ordering up some Sas-Tec armor to swap into the Joe Rocket suit (crossing my fingers that it will be a swap fit) as I seem to be riding a great deal with the Survivor these days. More on the fit and feel of that trade out when the armor comes in. I hope this finally makes sense of the numbers game with the molecular armor for those seeking the most highly rated gear.

5) A while back there were questions about heated gear. I will research this and order some up before the fall chill hits. Hang on for a heated gear report in a couple of months.

Please Keep the questions coming.

—–

Gerde Applethwaite

Tourmaster Select Lid Pack Helmet Bag

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: After shopping it out I bought a Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag to protect my helmet.

I recently put Pinlock shields on my Arai RX-Q (mmmm, shiny new shields) and I wanted to provide adequate protection for my helmet and face shields when off the bike. I looked around on the interwebz and found that helmet bags run from about $16 to over $125. It wasn’t my intention to spend a lot of money on this – I just wanted something in which to put my helmet.

The Tourmaster Select Lid Pack, at $31.00, became my ultimate choice. It is sort of teardrop shaped and is made of your standard woven black nylon material. The interior liner is a soft flannel-like stuff and it seems durable. The liner extends over the zippers and protects the helmet and shield from zipper scratches – amazingly some helmet bags do not have covered zippers. There is also an inner pocket of the same soft material to store an extra shield. I put two of my (sleeved) Pinlock inner visors in the pocket and now I have a protected place to store a change of visors when I am on a ride.

Tour Master made this bag with two long adjustable straps and it is more like a back pack than a suitcase. That’s what I wanted, hands-free carrying scenario. It makes sense to me to be able to sling this thing over my shoulder rather than being forced to lug it around in my hand. This backpack feature and the visor storage were the main things that sold me on this particular bag, yeah and the price.

The construction is simple and sturdy and it comes with 2 zippers. The larger zipper gives you enough room to nestle a full-face helmet into the bag while the shorter second zipper gives you access to the same compartment but on the opposite side. I use it put my gloves into the bag once the helmet is in.

If I am in an area where I trust my kit and kaboodle unlocked around my bike I simply sling the straps over the handlebar and let the bag dangle. If I am in any other environment I just take the bag with me. That’s the idea. I don’t want to leave my Arai RX-Q dangling from its d-ring on the side of the bike even if it is locked up.

The bag cost me less than a replacement shield – what’s not to like?

Gerde Applethwaite

New For Fall 2013 – Icon Jackets and Gear

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The Moto gear manufacturers are starting to release their fall stuff and here is a look at some of the kit from Icon.

Icon Jackets:

Icon is always very good with the naming thing. It’s unrelentingly evocative of… something. They have an entire new line called “Overlord Resistance” (see what I mean.) The jacket has the look of tactical armor to reify the product name. The line runs from helmets to jackets to pants to gloves to boots. You can be Overlord resistant from head to toe.  Sometimes the creative enthusiasm of the folks in the ad department runs away with Icon but I have to giggle along with them under my breath. When you are deciding whether or not to buy this Icon gear you will have to interpret the practical meaning of terms from their marketing wizards like; “Attack Fit”, “Fighter Mesh” and “Tactical Front.” I want to work for them. I want to be a part of the team that sits around the Cheetoh-laden table and comes up with this stuff. It must be two and a half hoots. I could be “Gerde the Indomitable, Ruler of the CE-EN471 Dominion and Grand Panjandrum of the Viscoelastic Knights.” Yeah, that’s me – Indomitable wot’s it.” Where do I sign?

Once again, as I mention every 10 minutes, I am really only interested in full hi-viz gear for my personal riding kit but I am attempting to overcome my personal bias while I look toward the new offerings from the major gear makers.

Having said that let’s take a look at the Icon Overlord Resistance jacket with EN471 hi-viz accents. This jacket is complete with D3O armor all around. Yup (!) all around — the back armor too! Hallelujah. I wish they all had it. Thank you Icon! This D3O is only level 1 but the form factor should allow you to swap in the Level 2 D3O if you are interested in the high end molecular armor (for more about the differences in viscoelastic armor see my earlier post “Traversing the Molecular Maze.”)

This Overlord Resistance jacket is a sport-bike rider, waist-cut, design. The jacket has pre-curved arms so that you are not fighting with your jacket in order to get comfortable on the bike. The neck is your standard sport bike style crew neck. The hi-viz inserts are not enough for me but I am suppressing my urge to lecture about hi-viz. In this case I am just thankful they have a hi-viz offering at all. According to the Icon video for this jacket you will want to: “approach, engage and vanish” from The Overlord with this look. There are 4 other options including; a white with black accents, a solid black, a red with black accents and a wild looking thing that is blue with pink accents.  Yes, you can resist The Overlord in the pink and blue jacket. I am the Indomitable Wot’s It and I say so.  For more details about the construction and fit look to our Icon jackets pages.

Icon Citadel Mesh Jacket:  They come in; full black, black with hi-viz, black with red and grey with grey. There is, like the Overlord jacket, a removable thermal vest for those days when the weather starts to get a bit chilly. This is a mesh jacket so you get plenty of venting here – they call it “large hole Iron Weave Mesh” and the only thing that keeps me from the temptation to hyphenate every word is that the first two are not capitalized

Icon Overlord Pants: The Icon Overlord jacket zips to the Overlord Resistance pants and for some reason I am now conjuring up an image of Eddie Izzard on stage in Overlord Resistance pants. This too will pass. The pants are are equipped with D3O armor in the knees and its also level 1 D3O. Unusual for standard street fare is the inclusion of pucks in the knees. The armor is a molded puck but has something called Battlehide Leather and Fighter Mesh. Come on, tell me you don’t want to work for them too? The pants are black and have the standard back zipper to mate them with the jacket. These are not overpants.

Icon Insulated Denim Pant: Don’t want to wear leather or textile riding pants to your mother in law’s BBQ later in the month? Icon has a pair of Insulated Denim Pants that have a removable insulated liner, D30 armor and an Aramid fabric inner patch over the knee.  They look like your standard blue jeans but there is armor inside.

Icon Citadel Mesh Pant: These pants are the mate to the Citadel jacket. They hook and loop to the jacket. They are not overpants.

Icon Helmets: The helmet for the Overlord ensemble is an Icon Airframe Helmet in a matt black with a yellow visor. It is called the “Airframe Ghost Carbon.’ Yup, its a medium oval, carbon fibre version of the Airframe helmet and it weighs 1450 grams. The helmet has all of the standard cert’s. Not the least of which is the ECE 22.05.

The Icon Airmada Helmet line has not been ignored. You will find no less than 14 new graphic schemes to complicate your choice.

Icon Gloves: There are new gloves that are a part of both the Overlord Resistance and the Citadel Mesh packages. The Overlord Resistance Gloves are wrist length and the Citadel Waterproof Gloves are gauntlet style. The color schemes of the gloves are in tandem with those of the Icon jackets. I am more a fan of gauntlet gloves these days so let’s look at those.

The Icon Citadel Waterproof Glove has a Hipora liner to keep the water out. It has their Battlehide leather on the finger tips and to help prevent knuckle damage in a get off they use TPR that is bonded to the glove in this new welding process that we see on all of the fall gear. They are just under $100.00.

Icon Boots: The New boots are called “Field Armor 2 Boots.” They come in a grey and a black and are equipped with a steel shank, 2 buckle closure system and a Goodyear welt. Oh yeah, they are just above the ankle style boots.

Next up – What’s new from Alpinestars.

Gerde Applethwaite

But what about the pants?

BigGuy82

OK … I’m not a big fan of wearing a motorcycle jacket, especially when the temperature is 90 degrees and the humidity has you feeling like you’re in a sauna.  I’m a big fan of T-shirts when it gets hot (I also like to show off my ink).  Remember, I’m a motorcycle “libertarian” … I think adults should evaluate a risk and make their own decision as to accepting that risk.  That said, there’s no arguing that a leather or Kevlar type jacket with armor in the right places can save you from some serious pain and disfigurement.  But, even though the first thing riders think of when considering these jackets is usually safety and/or looks, there is also a strong case to be made for comfort.

On a recent journey, I rode through rain and temperatures that ranged from the low 50’s in the Rockies to 105 in the Texas panhandle. For this trip, I selected a Tourmaster Intake Air Series 3 Jacket.  While there are a lot of brands to choose from out there, if you’re looking for comfort, you should ensure that whichever one you choose has similar features that will make your ride more comfortable.

This jacket has a mesh shell that is very well ventilated and that means it remains relatively cool on a hot day (when you’re moving).  When the temperature gets cool, you have a choice of two liners that can be inserted separately or in combination for maximum insulation.  The lightweight liner provides great wind resistance and is also rain resistant (not at the level of a quality rain suit, but it does keep you dry in light or moderate rain).  The lightweight padded liner provides insulation and when these two are used together, the jacket provides comfort at temperatures as low as 45 degrees (for me).  Stick a thermal T-shirt under it and your good to go down to about 40.  For hot desert weather in the 90’s or higher, you can wear the mesh outer jacket over a wet T-shirt to keep cool and hydrated.  This jacket provides the advantages of three different pieces of clothing resulting in less required storage room and lighter weight, both premium requirements for long road trips.  Both liners can be rolled up tightly and take up very little room.  During my trip, I actually wore the jacket in extremely high dessert heat and at 12,500 feet in the Rockies, where I went from the high 70’s in Ft. Collins, CO to the low 50’s at 12,500 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park and then back down, all in less than three hours. I was able to adjust my clothing for comfort in just a few minutes and then easily readjust as I descended.  Very convenient, very compact and far less expensive than multiple jackets.

For those of you who also value the protective aspect of outerwear more than me, this particular jacket offers construction of Armor Link, 600 Denier Carbolex and 1680 Denier ballistic polyester with CE approved armor at all the strategic locations.  Hell, I don’t have a clue what all that means, other than it offers you some great protection from impact and road rash.

Comfortable long trips on a motorcycle don’t take any luck at all … they take careful planning.  The correct choice of equipment is critical.  You must pack lightly, compactly and efficiently, meaning that everything you bring along should preferably have more than one use and leather doesn’t fit this description.  This premium jacket certainly fits the bill (all right … leather looks a little cooler, but even without the liner and with the vents open, it is still hot as hell on a warm day).

Pants are a whole other subject …

Traversing The Molecular Armor Maze

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: When buying armor purchase the CE – En1621-(1 and 2), level 2 gear and you will get the highest level of protection currently available.

The main goal in doing the research for this blogicle was to sort through the data and info about armor in order to find the best (most impact resistant) padding to insert into my new motorcycle jacket. I didn’t look into the separate, strap-on, back pad units that you see racers or dirt bikers running (like the Knox or Forcefield types) – I wanted armor to swap into the pouches of my jacket. I am not going off road – at least not intentionally. It gets a bit confusing but I hope to sort it out here and now.

My objective is pretty straightforward – I need to be as visible as possible to distracted drivers by wearing hi-viz clothing and I also want to protect myself by wearing good impact and abrasion resistant toggery. ATGATT. I am pretty well covered with a hi-viz Arai RX-Q helmet and a hi-viz textile jacket. The next thing is to dial in the armor.

The armor that comes with nearly all jackets is not the most highly rated you can get. The cost is kept down this way and if you’re really interested you can swap in better kit. In relative terms this replacement armor is not all that expensive. Compared to a hospital visit the armor is ridiculously cheap. This means pulling out the factory armor (with back armor it is often just a slice of place-holding foam with some holes in it) and replacing it with something designed to fit the pocket in your gear. This can be limiting because your pockets may not reasonably fit your replacement armor: it boils down to either doing some sewing work to change the pocket or cutting the armor to fit the pocket. The former is the smartest way to go but its also the most work and will of course void your warranty. Online you will find riders who talk about taking a knife to their new high end armor in order to make it fit the existing pocket.  I am reticent to do this. This means, for me, buying a jacket that has pockets designed to fit the form factor of the armor I choose. Now all of a sudden moto gear shopping becomes a matter of firstly finding the armor I want and then finding moto apparel makers that make clothing designed to fit that armor. This is a little backwards from the manner in which most of us shop for motorcycle clothing but it guarantees that I won’t be sitting at the kitchen table with a Sharpie and an electric carving knife.

The Europeans generally do the consumer protection stuff substantially better than do their stateside counterparts. They have come up with a European Union standard for motorcycle armor called CE: EN 1261-1,2 etc. The CE standard is used worldwide now to judge armor’s ability to withstand impact. Be advised though that there are various levels of CE rated armor and just because some guy on the interwebz tells you that some manufacturer’s gear is “CE rated” doesn’t mean that it is the most highly rated. “CE” is now used as part of the product hype and you should look a little deeper to find out what actual CE rating the gear you’re interested in actually conforms to.  Bear with me, I will try to make it as un-boring as possible.

In their labs the Euro tech gremlins (The EU fonctionnaires hire independent labs to do their testing) place the armor to be tested upon a round dome for hip, knee shoulder and elbow armor and upon a sort of rounded prism for back armor*. This anvil is loaded with sensors that detect the impact and the results are rated in Kilonewtons – earlier measurements were in Joules/metre (1 newton = .001KN or 1 Joule/metre.)  The armor is whacked with a hammerlike device and the results of the impact are measured. With this technology all motorcycle armor can be rated by its ability to withstand the transmission of the impact force from the impact hammer side to the anvil/sensor side. This is precisely what you want to know when you are out shopping for good armor. You are the anvil – asphalt be the hammer.

The human rib cage can withstand 4 kilo-newtons of force before ribs start to break. The only back armor that comes anywhere close to that is the stuff that passes the CE-EN1621-2, Level 2 test. That’s the stuff I want. For an additional $15 or $20 over the cost of the CE Level 1 armor why would you bother with Level 1?

CE has two broad categories for armor: the back armor is in one group and the hip, shoulder, knee and elbow are in the other. The testing scheme is a bit different and the expectations are different. Teh back armor regime is called CE-EN1621-2 (2003) and all of the other armor is categorized under CE-EN1621-1 (1997) [note too: there is a new provisional standard as of 2011, with 2 levels within that standard.]  We’re not done yet. As armor improved the CE added Levels to (now) both categories. There are Level 1 and Level 2 to tack onto the aforementioned number sets. The strongest armor in both groups is Level 2. Its not easy to get a Level 2 and one way that you get there is with the so-called molecular armor. From wikipedia comes this:

Level 1 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 18 kN, and no single value shall exceed 24 kN.

Level 2 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 9 kN, and no single value shall exceed 12 kN.”

Again, let me state for the purposes of clarity that the EN-1621-1 (1997) (2011) rating is for hip, knee, shoulder and elbow armor and the EN-1621-2(2003) rating is only for back armor. Then on top of that there are the 2 levels applied to both the 2003 and the 2011 standards. The higher the level the greater the protection. Some folks on the interwebz seem confused by this. If you want the strongest gear you need to look not only for 2011 provisional standard for the joint gear and the 2003 standard for the back gear BUT ALSO the level 2 rated stuff as well.

D3O and Sas-Tec are the primary manufacturers of molecular (viscoelastic) armor and they are not owned by any of the gear makers. D3O is designed and made in the UK and the Sas-Tec stuff is made in Germany. Molecular armor works in an intriguing way** and the cornstarch and water impact demos on youtube are worth a look. The armor is soft and pliable to the touch (making it more comfortable to ride with than hard puck type armor) but upon impact it hardens briefly and then returns to its original state. This property distributes and reduces the force of the impact dramatically. Old style hard armor has now been bested by this armor – but only when you go for the Level 2 viscoelastic armor.

Which is better the D3O or the Sas-Tec? Sas-Tec has a more competently laid out and informative website than do the folks at D3O. It was easier to get concrete information from Sas-Tec. I cannot clearly say at this point which one has the better high end armor than the other and my ultimate choice was also made by other factors, like different features on the jacket that I opted for.  At one time D3O was the only kid on the block. When Sas-Tec came along it is alleged that German miltiary bomb defusers used it on the soles of their shoes. The D3O is now being used as joint padding in some of the British miltary’s combat uniforms. As innovations continued apace. D3O came out with a generation of stronger armor and then another. D3O armor now comes in T5 (lightweight, lower protection), T6 (with a hard plastic shield on one side to help limit penetrations) and Xergo (thicker, Level 2 kit that gets you nearer to that 4 KN goal) flavors – each offering a bit more protection. Sas-Tec certainly has leading design innovation as well.

Sas-Tec’s high end joint armor is labeled Prestige SC-1/42 and when I squint at their chart (note: their charts are much more readable than are D3O’s) they indicate that the armor transmits a mere 6 KN to the body. Their SC and SK level 2 back armor rings in at about the same: 6 KN.

At this point I can tell you this. If you buy armor that is rated to CE-EN1621- 1 and 2, Level 2 you will be getting the highest rated armor currently available. The Scorpion Commander 2 jacket that I recently tested has Level 1 Sas-Tec armor in it when you buy it. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket that I just tested comes stock with Level 1 D3O armor. With either of these jackets if you wanted the top end armor you would be able to swap out the scorpion with Sas-Tec Level 2 and the Firstgear with D3O Level 2 – they will swap straight out. Of course you cannot do a straight swap for the Sas-tec in a jacket that was designed for D3O and vice versa. You can also upgrade your old jacket to Molecular but it will require some time on the blogowebz to figure out the fitting constraints. You must also factor in your willingness to go at your older jacket with a scissors, needle and thread or alternatively your new armor with the electric turkey carver.

Here’s what I did: I researched jackets within my budget that had either D3O or Sas-Tec armor and then, after some waffling between the Firstgear Kilimanjaro (D3O) and the Scorpion Commander 2 (Sas-Tec), I popped for the Kilimanjaro. I then bought the D3O Viper Stealth Pro back armor (the “Pro” series is level 2 rated). Next up I will be ordering the D3O Xergo hip, knee shoulder and elbow inserts and they will all swap into my Firstgear clothing. Whoop-La, done and done.

I ordered my back armor insert from Klim because they actually had it in stock. Klim is one of the maker’s of gear that lays D3O armor into their motorcycle clothing and it is not surprising that they do so. D3O, in its its early day was often seen on the ski slopes and boarding half-pipes. Klim is a big maker of snow wear and Klim’s adoption of D3O into their motorcycle clothing was a natural one. Other makers are following as riders demand the best in protection. Demand the best in protection.

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* It is important to note that during my poking around on the webz I found documentation and commentary to indicate that the relative value of back armor to prevent or substantially reduce the possibility of spinal injury is, surprisingly, quite low. The majority of the damage to the spinal column is initiated by severe torquing of the head and neck and/or the hip. Back armor aids more in limiting injury to the ribs and also helps in both lowering bruising and organ damage. It is not as substantial a contributor to the prevention of spinal injury as most folks think.  [NB.: Cambridge Standard For motorcyclists Clothing, Roderick Woods.]

** I don’t want to make this post any more unwieldy than it already is so if you are interested in learning more about the unique property of the molecular armor take a look at wikipedia’s entry for “dilatant.”

Gerde Applethwaite