Singin’ In The Rain

BigGuy82

Great title for an old movie, but I don’t know many bikers who think riding through a rainstorm is any flavor of fun.  Recently, I had the “opportunity” to ride 9 hours through rain (often a downpour).  Not much of a choice on sitting this one out, because the forecast was the same for the next two days and I had a job to get to, so through the rain I rode.  Along the way, I learned a few things that you might find useful.

Safety comes first.  Tires bad?  Stop.  Bad highway with pooling water? Stop.  Torrential downpour?  Stop.  Tired?  Stop.  Not confident in your ability?  Stop.  But, if you decide to ride for extended periods in the rain, here are a few things to consider.

Let’s start with luggage.  All of those great pieces of “motorcycle” luggage come with a rain cover, which helps for a while.  But for extended periods in steady rain, plan on some amount of water getting in.  Why?  I don’t have a clue, but I can tell you that with the rain cover securely fastened over the top of a quality backpack type bag that was strapped to the sissy bar and rested on the passenger pillion of my seat, a lot of stuff in the bag got wet.  Every place on the bag was covered except the bottom, which rested on a covered seat, so the water was likely forced in through the bottom due to wind pressure.  Fortunately, I put my computer and camera in heavy duty, waterproof bags. Tank bag?  Same deal, but again, the essentials were in sealed plastic bags.

Now about saddlebags.  Go with hard bags if you can find them for your ride because they will stay dry inside (as long as the gaskets are good). If you go with soft bags, your stuff is going to get wet.  I spent 150 bucks on custom “waterproof” covers from a canvas maker.  These are waterproof, well made, and fit snugly.  Nevertheless, my bags had puddles in the bottom at the end of my ride.  My guess is there is absolutely no way to stop water spraying up off the roadway, the wheels and being forced in by 60-70 mph wind from getting into any tiny opening.  I think the water was forced in between the cover and the bag and once inside, it had no way to escape.

The most important rain gear you can have is a rain suit.  Don’t scrimp … buy quality.  My Tourmaster gear kept me dry and warm for the entire ride in 60 degree temperatures (rain gear also makes a great windbreaker in cold weather).  I’m not crazy about boot covers … mine got in the way when shifting/braking and were awkward when my feet were on the ground and during rest stops.  But, they did keep my boots dry.

Other stuff.  Some seats absorb water rather than repel it.  I have a custom seat cover and it was worth it because after the rain is long gone and you’re wearing jeans, your butt isn’t getting soaking wet from a saturated seat.  ABS brakes are simply better on wet roads (and I personally think they’re better all around).  If you have them, great.  If you’re going to be an all weather rider you should consider them for your next bike.

If you ride, you’re gonna get wet.  Dealing with it properly won’t leave you singin’ in the rain, but it will make the experience less aggravating.

BigGuy82

Save a Friend, Save Yourself

Shorter:  You are out on a ride on a country road with a friend. Your friend is ahead and disappears into a sweeper turn. You come around the bend to find said pal on the ground and the bike mangled a few feet away (deer? a car? oil on the road? It matters not for this tale.) What do you do first? Quickly now. What’s first?

Do you:

A) Get off your bike and attend immediately to your wounded friend?

B) Call 911?

C) Go back up the road to stop traffic and prevent a car or two from rolling over you both?

Alright, let’s make this a bit easier.

You are riding with 3 friends and 1 is injured. You have the presence of mind to send 1 rider up the road to warn traffic as you rush to your friend on the ground with your phone in hand. Traffic is safely stopped, 911 has been dialed (you were so lucky to get a signal way out here. So lucky.) Now you need to assess your friend and stabilize him. Are you a doctor?  You are not.  Are you perhaps a paramedic? You are not? What the frack to do?

Maybe you have taken a Red Cross class on trauma care. That would be good. You know enough not to precipitously drag your bud off of the road for fear of damaging him even further, perhaps fatally. The traffic is not a problem for you now and their looky-loo impatience to both move on and also take a good long gander at the scene are of no concern. Your mind is racing. Tick Tock. Is he conscious? Airway constricted? Can he tell you where it hurts? Can he move? Is anything broken? Are you worried about how much blood he has lost?

By the way, while we’re here let me ask — do you have a first aid kit under your seat? What’s in it? Bandaids and some Neosporin? That’s a start, bandaids are always a good idea but this is much more serious. What to pack?

There is gasoline spilling from your friends tank and 50 feet up the road one of the motorists, a well intentioned samaritan, pulls a couple of road flares out of the trunk of his car. A small crowd has gathered and starts to encircle you and your friends – back them off a little. Everyone has an idea.  You don’t need a ‘leader’ to take charge here – what you need to do is methodically, calmly, tick chores off of a mental list. Training in first aid and trauma aid will help you manage that list. You need collaborators. Send someone up the road to stop the guy with the flares. Get a couple of other people to shift the broken bike off the road and stop the gas leak. Maybe one of the cage drivers has a fire extinguisher. Find out.  It would be nice to keep that handy just in case. Many of these chores will be taken up by the people around you. Focus on your friend and apply your knowledge of first aid.

If he is in bad shape and you have ascertained that it will take some time for an ambulance to come then find out if you can get a Med-evac copter in there. Yes? Have someone scout the nearest landing spot. Is it going to be the roadway? Clear it of cars and cordon off that area. Let someone take care of that on another cell phone.

Let’s say you are luckier even still and while your friend’s bike is toast (because he is all ATGATT kitted out – motorcycle helmet, jacket, pants, boots, gloves) he has only suffered a sprained wrist. What do you do to immobilize the hand or do you just leave it alone?

Also, and I hate to bring this up, not everyone at the scene may be worthy of your trust. The scene is chaotic and it doesn’t take much for some stooge to go through your tank bag or that of one of your riding partners. Try to cluster your bikes together and see if you can get one of your buddies to keep more than half an eye on them. Yeah, its too much to contemplate that in the midst of this nightmare someone would rip you off but this is a tough planet. Don’t go all paranoid on me but just remain aware of your surroundings. Everyone in your crew should have their cell phones and any other pricey electronics on them while they wander around the site.  Your accident may not happen on a bucolic country road. The more chance there is for civilians to wander through the scene the higher the likelihood that you will get ripped off. ‘Nuff said.

Getting yourself trained up to be of help to yourself or another is a great idea whether it be at a car accident, a farm accident, a boating mishap or some bike smashingham. Merde avoir lieu. There is a guy who wrote a couple of books about first aid for motorcyclists. His name is Flash Gordon M.D. and I commend his books to you. He is a rider and it so happens that he is also an emergency room doctor. The books are: Blood, Sweat and Gears: Ramblings on Motorcycles and Medicine and the followup Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  These 2 books will go a long way toward getting you up to speed. I repeat the recommendation that you take some first aid training through your community college or a group like the Red Cross (or its equivalent) where you live. This training will hold you in good stead no matter where you find yourself. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Ride hard, ride safe and live to ride another day.

Gerde Applethwaite

Shoei Giveaway: Time to Pick Your Fav

Thank you to everyone who is participating in our Endless Summer Shoei Giveaway! The contest ends tonight at midnight.  If you haven’t entered yet, you can enter here.

We are excited about the grand prize: The choice of any Shoei helmet from the internal sunshield family!

The Shoei GT-Air, the Shoei Neotec and the Shoei J-Cruise are designed for different riding styles and each one provides an advantage depending on how and what you ride.

It may be an easy decision. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try the flexibility of a modular helmet so the Neotec would be an obvious choice. Or maybe you’re ready to upgrade the coverage and go full face. The GT-Air is one of our best full face helmets and has a streamlined aerodynamic design; if full-face helmets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Or if you want to freedom of less coverage, the J-Cruise might be the best style for you,

Let’s take a closer look at the features so you can make a more informed decision about which one you would add to your collection. It will be up to you to pick the best looking color on that model.

These three models round out Shoei’s “advanced integrated sunshield” family by providing a full face, open face and modular style all with the same state-of-the-art technology.  The integration of this sunshield was done without any compromise. They didn’t thin out the shell or the liner to accommodate the retractable shade. It’s perfectly seamless with the design of the helmet.

The built-in dark smoke visor provides instant relief from sun glare in one quick motion with an easy to reach switch. It’s operated with a steel cable which was built to withstand heavy use. This drop down visor is the only one on the market that meets the ANSI standard for non-prescription eyeglasses. It’s distortion-free & blocks 99% of harmful UV rays.

All these helmets were developed in Japan using Shoei’s in-house Wind Tunnel to maximize aerodynamic performance. They all use Shoei’s Advanced Integrated Matrix - a high performance fiberglass/ organic fiber blend that creates an ultra-lightweight, rigid and resilient shell structure. The ventilation system on these helmets is exceptional. The front and rear vents work together by scooping the fresh air in from the front and creating a vortex to move the air out of the back of the helmet for maximum cooling.  There’s also an exhaust port in the neck roll.

Each helmet uses the 3-D Max-Dry liner which is antibacterial and wicks 2 times more moisture than standard nylon liners on the market today. The foam cheek pads provide a secure fit, which means less road noise, and are eyeglass compatible. They also feature removable ear pockets to accommodate a communication system, if needed.

Now some specifics.

The chin bar of the Shoei Neotec is held in place with an easy-open lock release button. It feels solid, as do all of the moving parts. It truly has a full face feel when the chin bar is down. It feels very secure. The Neotec comes in all the Shoei solids: White, black, anthracite, light silver, wine red, and matte black. It also comes in one “hi-viz” accented graphic, the Borealis TC-3.

 

The shell of the full face GT-Air was sculpted specifically for the US market with a focus on aerodynamics, stability and ventilation. The GT-Air comes with a chin curtain, breath deflector, the CNS-1 pinlock ready shield AND includes a clear pinlock lens.  The base plates on the shield are self adjusting and draw in the gasket when the shield closes for a better seal than we’ve ever seen. The dual ridge, rubber beaded eyeport seal is exceptionally airtight. The GT-Air comes in Shoei’s solids but it’s also offered in 3 Journey graphics and 2 Wanderer designs. (We personally are drawn to the stunning good looks of the Shoei GT-Air Journey TC-2, but don’t let that influence you.)

The Shoei J-Cruise “leaves absolutely nothing to be desired,” according to one reviewer. He goes on the say:

“The aerodynamic design and thick padding deaden wind noise and make the inside this helmet far quieter that with any other helmet I have owned. The aerodynamic windscreen design really does redirect air down from the rider’s neck and also helps provide a quiet ride. The optically correct screen and sun shield really do seem to render a clearer picture of the surroundings. The sun screen mechanism is extremely smooth and the shade itself does not hit my eyeglasses which is a very annoying aspect of many built in sun screen helmets. Everything about this helmet says “quality”, from design to fit/finish to performance. It is the most expensive helmet I’ve ever owned and well worth the extra bucks. The J-Cruise comes in all the standard solid colors offered by Shoei: black, white, wine red , anthracite, brilliant yellow, matte black and matte deep grey.

That’s a very high recommendation from a serious long distance rider.

If you are torn, don’t hesitate to call us and discuss the features of these three models: 888-343-5638. We hope that even if you don’t win, you will consider adding one of these quality helmets to your collection.

Good luck and ride safe.

Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer – Rider’s Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The CE rated Scorpion EXO-900 is really a Swiss Army knife sort of helmet with a variety of features and plenty of versatility. The price seems more than reasonable to me too.

I took note of the Scorpion EXO-900 when it came out but I didn’t focus on it because I wasn’t interested in a modular unit. Now that I am an eyeglass wearer (see my previous post entitled Eyeglass Update) I have taken a closer look at the whole modular helmet scenario. I like the Scorpion because it is versatile, well thought out, CE rated and (absolutely mandatory for me) comes in a hi-viz flavor.

My head girth rings in at 60 cm.  This usually puts me right on the cusp of the medium and large dome sizes. Scorpion’s size chart steers me to the large. I popped it on and found, voila, the best fitting helmet I have ever had. The EXO-900 fits my head perfectly. I am what is known as a medium oval and this helmet feels as though it was custom crafted for my skull bone.

Ok, let’s start going through the features. The EXO-900 has a drop-down, fighter pilot, style of sunvisor. You work it with a modest push or pull on a left side lever and its easy with a gloved hand. The action is quick and smooth. When the visor drops down it pops gently off of your nose and then back up a little. Your nose may vary but for me it was just a gentle tap and then it was resting without contact. It retracts pretty easily too. The visor never got in the way of my eyeglasses. The visor is not polarized but it is dark enough to cut down on bright sunlight and its a neutral grey color. I would have preferred a nice brown lens but that’s me.

The whole modular unit hinges up and down by pulling outward on a red button on the chinbar. This too is easily done with a gloved hand. The chinbar moves up and rests on the top of the helmet. The motion is easy and sure. Scorpion goes you one better and once you have positioned the chinbar in the right place and pulled back on the 2 safety catches you can remove the chinbar unit in its entirety thereby leaving you with an open-faced helmet (with the drop-down sun visor.) That’s a neat trick. The mounting points are two bayonet style tabs in the chinbar. The tabs work in combination with the spring loaded safety catches that open up the receiving holes a bit so that you can insert the tabs. This whole operation is a bit tricky at first…and second … but by the fifth time I had it knocked. Please note that I have a bit of a hard time with shield swap outs and I have always found my Arai shields a bit of a test so I am clearly not the standard by which this process should be judged.

When you have finished removing the chinbar its time to install what Scorpion calls the “3/4 Peak Visor.” This is a plastic crescent that sits atop the upper ridge of the helmet’s face opening and snaps down along the sides of the face opening of the helmet. This makes the helmet look more like an open-faced helmet with a mini-bill, like the Shoei RJ Platinum-R. The Peak Visor uses the same bayonet and latch points that the chinbar utilizes. Once you suss the lineup, and with some practice, it also pops on and off pretty quickly. Make sure its all fully seated before you put the helmet on.

There are only two vents on the helmet and that makes sense – if you want more air take the chinbar off. Both vents open and close easily with a gloved hand: a top vent and a rear vent. I rode with the chinbar down and both vents open on a 78° day and it wasn’t stuffy inside the helmet.

The helmet has Scorpion’s air pump “Airfit” system that inflates segments of the padding around the lower part of your chin. There is a rubberized, red, circular button on the rear helmet padding: push the button – inflate the air bag. Press a small button next to the big button and release the air, hey presto. You do this with the helmet on your head and you stop when it feels right. The action on my test helmet was pretty minor so I took another Scorpion off the shelf to check it out. Apparently the inflated bag isn’t huge and the effects are subtle. I assume it will work to keep the helmet in place when you land and I can’t find any reason not to like it as long as it holds up. This is yet another clever idea from Scorpion. I have been an Arai person for years and years but I am starting to like these guys. I recently reviewed one of the Scorpion jackets and I liked the way that was put together too.

Having said that I must note that because the helmet is a modular it is necessarily heavier than my Arai. Because the Scorpion EXO-900 is a modular it is also noisier than my Arai full-face. I wear custom molded ear plugs and I also have tinnitus (life takes it tolls) so I may not be the most critical evaluator of wind noise. My testing equipment has been repeatedly and foolishly placed next to too many mega-concert speakers and has been hung out in the wind on too many unhelmeted motorcycle rides. Ahh, that’s all behind me now – sorry, what did you say?

I have two bikes, one has a moderate sized windscreen (bigger than a sport bike thumbnail but smaller than, say, a Vetter) and the other has no screen at all. The wind coming off of my screen at freeway speeds hit the helmet at an angle that seemed to catch under the ¾ Peak Visor and push my head back more than I am accustomed to. I am going to go for a ride without the chinbar and Peak Visor just to see what the wind does to the helmet on both bikes. The wind thing is tricky and you really have to match the helmet to your bike as well as to your head.

The padding material is wicking, removable and washable and feels like flannel pj’s. against your delicate skin. No, really.  As I said at the top the helmet’s interior fit me perfectly and yeah, way comfy.

The visor is billed as super strong and optically correct. From what I hear Scorpion has the visor thing down. It is also equipped with an anti-fog treatment called “EverClear” (no, not the same stuff) that they guarantee for a year. I have just gotten used to my Arai Pinlock system and fog is a thing of the past for me but riding around with EXO-900 I noticed no fogging either with the sun visor up or down. There is a chin curtain that snaps into place as well.

There are a variety of colors but quite frankly all I care about is hi-viz. They have it – I like it.

Oh – lest I forget, there are also external ports built into the helmet for a communication system. Just pop out the cover plates and install the comm.system. Scorpion does not make its own proprietary system but a host of manufacturer’s have designed adapter plates for this helmet. If you want a comm. system this should be a straightforward alteration.

All in all this is a dandy helmet and it is another of those products that I find to be well made and feature packed. Helmets keep getting better every year.  If you are already a modular wearer this one is a fine replacement and if you wear glasses this is a strong candidate for your next helmet.

Gerde Applethwaite

Must-See Motorcycle Rallies

Summer may be winding down  but thankfully the motorcycle community doesn’t stop for any season. Motorcycle rallies are held all year round throughout the United States and cater to a wide variety of different riders and different interests. Sure most riders have heard of Sturgis at least in passing but what other fun gatherings are there? Let us enlighten you:

 

1. Biketoberfest is coming up soon as a way for riders to escape the imminent winter by cruising on out to Daytona Beach, Florida. Attracting visitors from the world over, this event has rallies, track events, and a myriad of other attractions. You can learn more about it here.

 

2. The Cannonball Bike Run, held abroad in places such as Morocco and Spain, is a six-day celebration that’s the Gumball 3000 for motorcycles. This is a rather wild event from what we understand and having the right gear to bring out your adventurous side is a must (say perhaps our Arai XC & Bell Rogue helmets?). While you may think you’ve seen everything, you definitely haven’t seen this. Learn more about the ride here(unfortunately the 9th Cannonball Bike Run just happened at the beginning of July. Next year anyone?).

 

3. One of the biggest rallies is Daytona Bike Week, an event put on by the Daytona Chamber of Commerce. With over 500,000 attendees, this isn’t your local club’s backyard BBQ. Featuring concerts, races and street festivals, this is a must-see gathering. It runs every year usually during the first week of March. For more information, click here.

 

4. And (of course) Sturgis. We may have mentioned it as a well-known event but it’s still worth talking about. The 73rd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is actually at the beginning of August (yes, right around the corner!) With concerts, rides, competitions, bike shows, and plenty of vendors, Sturgis is a mecca for motorcyclists. If you have a flexible schedule and some extra money laying around for a great time, here’s the link to the official event website.

 

The events highlighted above really bring it home for us why riding is so amazing: we all have a common passion. From weekend warrior to daily commuter, all of us have a love for motorcycles and these rallies are a great way to connect, have fun, and share that passion.

Ride safe and have fun,

mikey/Helmet City

P.S.: We always like it when you ride in style so don’t forget to check out our Arai XC& Bell Rogue helmets before you head out!

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.

—–

* 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

Vested Interest

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Hi-viz vests are relatively inexpensive and increase your visibility when worn over your lo-viz jacket.

What do construction workers and reasonably smart motorcyclists have in common? Construction workers wear helmets to help protect them if and when something lands on their heads. Motorcyclists wear helmets to help protect them when they land on their heads. Construction workers wear bright hi-viz vests with reflective tape on them so that they can be readily seen on site and it helps avoid accidents. Reasonably smart motorcyclists wear hi-viz apparel, like vests, to be seen on the road and it helps avoid being struck by idiots on cell phones or idiots who might otherwise make left turns into them or idiots who are backing out of driveways or….

I have a few motorcycle jackets that are not hi-viz, indeed for the most part they are quite lo-viz. Pop on a hi-viz vest like the Fieldsheer, Fly Racing or Icon vests we offer and your old jackets are now brighter and more readily readable on the road. If you are not ready to buy a new hi-viz jacket you can get vastly improved visibility with a hi-viz vest at a substantially reduced cost. You need to be visible from your 6; if you are riding with a pillion passenger who is not wearing a hi-viz jacket put a hi-viz vest on them to make you both more visible to approaching traffic.

I recently bought a riding suit that didn’t have the level of visibility that I wanted so I popped for a hi-viz vest to wear with the suit. It works a treat. I wish that more hi-viz options were available but until they are the hi-viz vest just might be the thing to make it right.

The U.S. Military has sussed the value of conspicuity on their bases. They require that all folks on base who are riding a motorcycle or scooter where an approved Mil. Spec. hi-viz vest. They do this because they can….and because they do not want or need to have their people laid up in hospital. Its inconvenient. On the other side of the fence in civilian land no one can make you wear a hi-viz vest when you ride. we can only plead with you and show you the wisdom and sanity of the notion.

Broadly speaking hi-viz vests come in two flavors: you’ve got yer orange vest and you got yer  bright lime yellow/chartreusey vest. Either vest will do the trick but I have opted for the yellow/green vest because I believe it can be seen better at night than the orange.

As far as I am concerned the more reflective tape on the vest and the jacket and the pants the happier I am. The military spec. includes requirements for a certain size and intensity of reflectivity of the reflective tape. They do this to ensure that the reflective component isn’t merely stuck on as a sort of fashion afterthought. They want the tape to be there to aid in your visibility. Some of the non-Mil Spec. vests are better than others about this.

Gerde Applethwaite

 

 

Firstgear Kilmanjaro V. Scorpion Commander 2: Side By Side Comparison

by Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The Firstgear Kilmanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 jackets are comparable in so many ways but they vary enough that you will find one with features you prefer.

Hi-viz motorcycle clothing is the only flavor that interests me right now – at least for my own personal use. I don’t expect that I will ever buy anything other than hi-viz moto apparel and I have written about this previously. If you want to know more take a look at my previous posts but on the off chance that you are not inclined or especially motivated in that direction let me briefly reaffirm my Conspicuity Mantra. It is as follows (or at least resembles the following): I want to be as bright and visible out on the highways and bi-ways of this great land as a massively outsized, nearly phosphorescent, chartreuse lollipop. I can be no clearer.

I have purchased a new jacket for the current riding season and in the process have taken note of all of the new hi-viz offerings. Among them are two jackets designed roughly within the same price range and for the same market. These are the Firstgear Kilimanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 textile touring jackets. I like them both and either one would be a great choice. Because they are so similar in so many ways I decided to take a really close look at both of them. I have them both before me now and while I have spent a fair amount of time reading up on them online no comparison can be adequate unless you have them in meatspace.  Looks aren’t all that important here but I have to note that the Scorpion jacket just has more styley style than the Firstgear. There are other considerations, in fact there are many. I will endeavor to be succinct.

Price: The Firstgear is about $60 less than the Scorpion. (the Scorpion is also slightly more costy for the uber large and/or tall sizes.)

Material: The Kilmanjaro is made of Nylon and the Commander 2 is of the polyester persuasion. Nylon is noted to be a stronger more durable material than polyester but polyester does not absorb and hold water the way that nylon does. This means that once your nylon jacket gets wet the longer it will stay wet. A wet jacket will draw body heat and make you colder. Nylon material will pill-up when frayed, the poly will not. Polyester absorbs and holds odors more so than nylon. They are both 600 denier across the main body panels.

Color: They Both share a bright hi-viz color (virtually identical in color) and both are equally visible from a distance. My lollipop visibility requirements are more than amply met by both. They are both a combination of black and hi-hiz and have sufficient hi-viz in front and back to make them effective. The Scorpion though has mostly black on the side panels below the armpit and this makes the jacket less visible to traffic from the side — a definite deciding factor for me.

Reflectivity: I don’t get this: both jackets are woefully lacking in reflectivity stripes. Why? If you are concerned enough about safety and visibility to buy the hi-viz option wouldn’t you want a bunch of 2” wide, really bright, reflective tape on your jacket as well? I say yes – both Scorpion and Firstgear disagree. Scorpion is woefully out of tune here and Firstgear isn’t much better. The Commander 2 reflectivity patches are sprayed on and more than half hidden under the top front pocket closures – although, even the Commander’s sprayed on the material is substantially brighter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The back and the arm bands aren’t too much better: Scorpion has sprayed on the reflective stuff in a 3/8” wide stripe at the shoulder (the junction between the black shoulder material and the hi-viz) and this thin band wraps around to the arm bands. Firstgear utilizes a reflectively weak black tape reflective sewn in. It glows anemically under light in the dark but during the day it blends fashionably with the black segments of the jacket. Firstgear seem to want to hide their reflectivity panels and blend them into the black bits. Scorpion seems ashamed that they had to put them in at all and hide them under a pocket flap.  Is this a style choice? Dunno why, as far as I am concerned the makers should flaunt their reflectivity touches not hide them.

Armor: The Commander 2 is set up with Level 1 Sas-Tec armor in the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders while the Kilimanjaro sports D3O. [See my post about armor “Traversing the Molecular Armor Maze” for more detailed information about armor.] They are ostensibly comparable and their armor is better than you will find in many jackets. Having said that Its worth noting that I swapped out the D3O (level 1) for the Viper Stealth Pro D3O (level 2) and the Xergo D3O (level 2) in the Kilimanjaro. I want the maximum protection available.

Cinching and Closures: Both jackets have adequate cinching belts wit TPR (Velcro-like) closures. They pull up just fine when you need to adjust the jacket. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro has a reputation for being Tent-like but I tested a medium in both jackets and they fit about the same. No excessive room in either.  I could wear a t-shirt and a fleece hoodie under each but not too much more.

The main zipper in both is the standard sturdy YKK. Kilimanjaro has one snap at the bottom and the hidden snaps all the way up. The Commander 2 has a 2 button snap on the bottom and nifty magnetic closures the rest of the way up. The magnetic closures work really well and they make opening and closing the front flap with cold and/or gloved hands really easy. The Kilimanjaro has a water seal flap across the front zipper and that gives you an extra water barrier. The Commander 2 has but one flap. On the inboard side of the zipper though the Commander 2 has an extra wall of flaps. It is a different approach to the same problem and I suspect that they are both equally as effective.

Fit and Feel: When you get them adjusted up for your body and riding position they both feel fine. They both have rubber coated buttons on the bottom to prevent damage to your gas tank when leaning forward. The Scorpion has a nice little stretch accordion panel above the elbow to make arm flexibility easier.

Pockets: I am not a big fan of lots of pockets on jackets because its too tempting to put stuff in there. If you land on your phone in a get-off it can bruise your ribs upon impact (or worse) to say nothing of destroying your phone. The scorpion has 4 big pockets on the outside front, the Firstgear has 2. Neither is lacking in pockets but the whole design of the Scorpion is a little sexier than the Firstgear. Both Manufacturers state that their pockets are waterproof.

I do like the reverse kangaroo pouch on the back of the Commander 2 and wish the Kili had one  too. these big pockets are really handy for storing your liners when you are riding on a warm day. They are also handy for storing your gloves when you get off the bike.

Waterproofing/Resistance: The Kilimanjaro has its waterproofing applied to the backside of its outer shell while the Commander 2 has a separate zip-in waterproofing liner. The Commander 2 has 2 liners and the Kilimanjaro has one. There is some discussion online about which is better – the separate waterproofing liner or the waterproof backing. One suit manufacturer dropped its separate water lining in favor of the bonded waterproofing. I cannot testify to the worthiness or the lack thereof of either. I haven’t given either jacket a water test.

Zippers: YKK all around. The Commander is easy to get in and out of but the Firstgear takes a bit of work to wriggle out of the sleeve. The Scorpion has zippers at the cuff while the Kilimanjaro  an accordion pleat. They both Have TPR cinching at the cuff. I prefer the Commander’s cuff setup.

Venting:  The Kilimanjaro circulates more air through the body because its vents are just longer.  They have 4 long vents on the front whereas the the Commmander has 4 short 4” vents. In hot weather you can shove a lot more air through the Kilimanjaro. In the front the Kilimanjaro features 2 – 10” vents running vertically along the chest and also 2 – 6” horizontal vents at the shoulder. that’s plenty of breathing room. On the back of the jacket its the same story; The Commander has 2- 4” vents whereas the Kilmanjaro has a long vent flap with a zipper that extends clear across the shoulder. One more thing: the Kilimanjaro has flaps covering all of the vents which is helpful in keeping out the driving rain and also in keeping the bugs from fouling your zippers.

Cuff Sealing: As stated I like the way the Commander handles the cuff sealing thing. The zippered cuff makes it easy to get in there and unsnap the liners and it opens up the jacket for easy exit. The Scorpion also has this nice fillip: the liner ends in a loop at the end of the sleeve so that you can rest the loop like a stirrup between your thumb and forefinger. This means it will stay down on your wrist when you put your gloves on and lean forward. Nice. I used to use a cutout pair of crew socks to do pretty much the same thing

Neck Seal: The neck closure on the Commander is Velcro-like and its an easy close with a gloved hand. You can also wrap the Velcro’y (TPR) tongue around to the inside to get it out of your way when you are riding with the zipper partially open. The neck closer on the Kilimanjaro is a button snap type with an adjustable housing for different neck sizes. It is fidgety to close with a gloved hand.

Thermal Liner: The Commander 2 has two liners as mentioned above. The inner liner is a thermal that seems about as thick as the Kilimanjaro. There is little difference to report but for the fact that the Commander’s liner is approx. 6” shorter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The Firstgear liner extends to near the bottom of the jacket while the Scorpion’s only goes as far as the zipper. This makes zippering your pants to the jacket a bit easier in the Scorpion but when riding without pants zipped to the jacket I would rather have the extra length in the thermal liner that the Firstgear affords.

All in all I think you will be fine with either jacket. I decided to go for the Firstgear Kilimanjaro because: it is nylon, It is $60 less and I really like the built in rain hood in the collar. The jackets are that close in most details that it becomes a coin toss. Just to give you an idea – I almost went with the Scorpion because it has brighter reflective material on it than the Firstgear and because I like the Commander’s Cuff seal system better.  I think the thing that really pushed me over was that the Kilimanjaro had more hi-viz material on it side panels. I think it just comes down to a personal choice between 2 excellent jackets. For the price these motorcycle jackets really come packed with lots of features you used to see only on the highest end gear.

—-

Gerde Applethwaite

Pinlock Shield Upgrades

By Gerde Applethwaite

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerde Applethwaite

Annual Ride To Work Day: Turn That Dull Commute into Something Exhilarating!

We love riding and we know that you do too!  Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a daily rider, we can all agree that riding down the road or highway with our street helmets on, watching the city or countryside fly by is both fun and exhilarating. Easier parking, great fuel mileage and feelings of freedom are just some of the amazing advantages that make us passionate about motorcycling.

Coming up is the Annual Ride to Work Day which was first started in 1992. Here’s a chance to celebrate what we love. Just some of the reasons to come together on this amazing day:

  • to show that riding is a great way to cut down on traffic in cities
  • to demonstrate that  riders come from all different walks of life
  • To share that we’re a large group who should matter to politicians and the public.

We at Helmet City are in full support of reducing traffic and having a great ride in the process.  Turn that dull commute to and from work into the best part of your day and let’s ride together while having a great time in the process.

So put on your street helmets and scooter helmets and join us on June 17, 2013 while we ride through the streets together and have an epic time while doing it! Who’s in?