In 2009 I got interested in riding again. The family, specifically my wife and daughters, were not thrilled. “What was I thinking?” they asked. “Those things are dangerous.” To allay their fears I took a local MSF class, got my license, and started buying safety gear – a lot of it. If I was going to ride, my wife said that I needed to use good gear.
I looked for the best gear but didn’t know what I really needed. I first bought an Olympia AST jacket and Ranger pants, a set of SIDI Crossfire boots, an Arai XD3 Helmet (just like the one Ewan wore in Long Way Round), and gloves before hitting the street and trails near my home. I thought this would be all that I would ever need. It was certainly reasonable gear but my minimalist nature took over.
Over the years I’ve continued to optimize my gear with some clear goals in mind: increase protection, provide flexibility to deal with the constantly changing weather conditions of Colorado, and minimizing the number of items. I was looking for one set of gear that I could use in as many situations as possible. Some small bike technical trail riding and big bike trips. In both cases, dirt is the preference to avoid traffic and tarmac as much as possible. Here is my current list of gear that I wear on my person:
The Bottom Half
SIDI Crossfire Boots – first pair and still going strong. Broke in immediately and always comfortable.
EVS Fusion socks – full leg sock to provide chafing protection from knee braces
POD K700 knee braces – it doesn’t look like the K700 are produced any longer but you may still be able to find them from various retailers. If not, the K8’s would be my new choice.
Moto-Skiveez Adventure Skiveez – like cycling shorts but engineered for the type of motorcycling you do (sport, adventure, cruiser)
Klim Badlands pants – Gore-tex and stand up to plenty of abuse. My only complaint is that the front air vents are the topmost zipper on each leg. This shouldn’t be confused with the next zipper down which is actually a pocket. Take your wallet, put it into the vent, and lose it as it falls through the leg unnoticed. Ask me how I know.
The Top Half
Technical fabric short or long sleeve shirt depending on expected temperatures. Pick your favorite. Mine is a CoolMax-like technical short sleeve I picked up several years ago when supporting Ned Suesse’ Dakar efforts.
Leatt GPX 5.5 Neck Brace – my wife said that she would be sad if I were to die out on the bike. If I came back and required a lifetime of assistance she would be smokin’ pissed. Given this strong sentiment, I wear a neck brace. I recommend it and feel that I’ve already taken a couple of diggers where this prevented some potential neck injuries. It’s lightweight and not noticeable if fitted correctly.
NoNoise Earplugs – “What?!” I’d like be able to hear those around me when off the bike so I wear these when on. While cutting down wind and exhaust noise they even allow me to hear music via my iPhone and the Sena 20S.
Sena 20S – Communication with other riders, Bluetooth pairing with your phone to deliver music, and GPS app navigation. This does everything I need and a lot of what I haven’t figured out yet.
Optional – for Trail Riding
Leatt Adventure Pressure Suit – integrates with the Leatt neck brace and makes you look like a stormtrooper. I also keep an XL rain shell in my tail bag that I can throw over this and keep dry. I bought my water resistant shell at a local sporting goods for only $20.00. It doesn’t have to be pretty but only to shed the water. Luckily it isn’t pink.
Airoh Stelt Helmet – euro model and not exactly the same scheme but you get the idea. Super lightweight, reduces neck fatigue, and used with the Sena 20S.
100% Accuri Goggles – tons of lens coating options for whatever lighting conditions you may run into. I run an orange mirrored lens in the daytime. These come with a clear lens and pouch if you need to swap out for night riding.
Risk Racing Palm Protectors – with the Klim Dakar gloves and the KTM PowerParts grips (medieval torture devices) I always developed nasty blisters on each hand. Blisters be gone.
Klim Dakar Gloves – nice and light with good feel. Only gripe is that they seem to stretch out and wad up between the finger and palm, creating a perfect environment for a host of blisters.
Optional – Big Bike Exploration
Klim Adventure Rally Jacket – I have the first generation model. Had to have a couple of waterproof zippers repaired, but this accommodates the Leatt brace and keeps me dry in every condition. Can be warm/hot but has some reasonably good venting to keep your temp moderated. Heavy as hell when first put on but you get used to it pretty quickly.
Lee Parks Design Deer Tour Gloves – most comfortable gloves I have; no bunching and no blisters.
I joke that I’ve probably spent as much on gear as I did my motorcycle. While not exactly true, good gear is expensive. Personally, I think my head is worth more than a $150 helmet, so I spend the money. Do I think that everything that I’ve selected above is the absolute best and can’t be improved upon? Absolutely not. Frankly, I’ve found it highly frustrating that there are so few jacket options that play nicely with the Leatt. I’d also like to NOT be wearing knee braces, especially on the big bike. Hello, Klim? Can you make pants where the padding stays where you want it versus drifting around? My knee braces provide this but in a much more cumbersome package. Same with the jacket. How about making the elbow and knee padding areas cinch-able so we can lock them down where we want them?
Realize that this is a quickly evolving market serving the adventure riding enthusiast. Products like these will continue to evolve. I just wish we didn’t have to wait or keep cycling gear every year or two.
Bottom line – spend some money, protect yourself, get out, see the world, and make it back home to your families with that revitalized energy that we find by getting out into the wilderness and getting dirty.