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.

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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

Joe Rocket Survivor Suit Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerde Applethwaite.

Dad’s Day Options

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

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

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

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

Hand Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerde Applethwaite