I’ve always viewed motorcycle gear as an extension of both my bike and me. I want it to blend seamlessly with what I’m riding, and lend itself to the ‘where,’ ‘how’ and ‘why’ I’m riding in the first place. I wouldn’t slide into race leathers for a trip through the backcountry, and my Aerostich onesie isn’t exactly A-list, downtown loungewear. Either way, it needs to be proper gear—so the Red Wings and tuck-rolled Levis get left at home.
To start out this spring riding season, I’ve been toying with a couple of different kits that have raised my brows. Some of it has been around, used and abused by me, for a while now. Other bits are brand new but come from a trusted source. Here’s the gear I’ve been riding with lately and how it’s performed—just in case it’s caught your eye too.
Icon Airframe Pro I currently own seven helmets. Four of those—and the ones in heaviest rotation—come from Portland’s Slabtown district, courtesy of Icon Motosports. In fact, over the last 15 years of my riding career, six different Icon lids have called my melon home, and they remain my go-to recommendation for any rider. That’s because Icon makes helmets for almost everyone. Correction. They make affordable, full-face helmets, built to a world standard, for almost everyone. They offer multiple shell sizes for each model and their models vary in the type of head-shape they are built for. The model I’m currently sporting is the Airframe Pro and it is one of the finest buckets on my shelf.
Even if the racy lines of a competition full face don’t gel with your curated cafe racer look, you’ve gotta admit the AFP is damned sweet. Especially with the bare bones ‘Construct’ finish. Since I’ve slipped mine out of the box I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit just admiring the fully exposed, hand-laid layers of its composite shell. There’s a rawness to this treatment that makes the bucket absolutely bad ass.
And it’s light, too. Tipping the scales at a tick over 3-lbs, the AFP is one of the lightest helmets of its kind around. Combined with the notched rear neckline, it also makes it incredibly easy to ride with. That neckline was designed to keep the helmet from bunching up on jacket collars and it works like a charm. I took the AFP with me to a track day at Willow Springs to give it a full shake down, and was amazed by how effortless it was to pivot my head to link corners together.
The venting is also top notch. There are nine intake vents—seven of which can be opened or closed easily with a gloved hand—and seven exhaust ports. Doing what I could to muscle a Yamaha XSR900 around Willow in the California sun had me sweating in my leathers, but my noggin was kept calm, cool and collected. When temps dipped on the ride back to L.A. (and when I’ve been able to sneak out a Spring ride in Toronto) closing the vents kept enough heat in to be comfy without fogging up.
Should things get a little sticky, inside the Airframe Pro is a ‘HydraDry’ moisture-wicking liner, providing a soft and comfortable pillow for your cheeks. The padding is removable for washing and is replaceable, should you ever wear one out or need to adjust internal sizing. The chinstrap is a standard double-D ring affair, complete with a snap to keep the excess strap from whipping your neck at speed.
The eye port provides an expansive view, whether you’re trying to drag knee or just anticipate the actions of rogue cagers who’ve long forgotten about signals. The visor shield has an integrated lock and swapping from clear to smoke is a simple procedure. My only gripe is the difficulty removing the side panels: It’s tedious to say the least, and painful if you do it wrong.
With the shield locked down, chin curtain installed and the vents closed, helmet time is a pretty peaceful place—although I’d still recommend earplugs, especially if you ride a naked bike. That being said, few helmets outside of my Schuberth provide a cone of silence anyways. And you won’t score one of those for a price like this. [More]
Spidi Metal Jacket Like it or not, the influence of fashion and trends from the eighties are creeping into moto culture. And while I won’t be growing a mullet to flap in the breeze anytime soon, the all-new Metal Jacket from Italian manufacturer Spidi is a piece of kit I can totally get behind.
Just look at it. Those tuck-rolled panels at the shoulders and elbows are simply gorgeous, and the raw metal zippers would win over any Ramones fan. As Wes so eloquently put it when we spoke, “This jacket is lit.” And it’s even better in person.
The goat leather Spidi uses here has been tumble-washed before tailoring. That makes the Metal incredibly soft and pliable to the touch, and doesn’t inhibit movement in the saddle. It also creates a muted finish that’s both subtle and elegant. You will want to wear this all of the time. Bike or no bike, I guarantee.
For us riders though, Spidi has involved their proprietary Safety Lab techs to make sure the Metal is as functional as it is flash. The leather may only be around 1mm in thickness, but goatskin is tougher than cowhide, and it weathers better—thanks to the natural presence of lanolin. And there are pockets at both the shoulders and elbows outfitted with CE Level-1 rated armor, right out of the box. The armor is slim in profile and barely noticeable by either the rider or the general public.
What I’m not impressed with though, is the fact the Spidi doesn’t include a back protector with this jacket. Sure, there’s a pocket to accept one but it’s an add-on item. This is a huge oversight by a number of gear manufacturers that honestly needs to stop. The selling price of Spidi’s slimline spine protectors hovers around $70-$80 (depending on CE rating level). In my eyes, adding an extra $50 to the retail of the Metal would cover inclusion, lend an extra dose of essential protection for riders, and not hurt sales.
Outside of the back protector, I’d only ask that Spidi consider a better inside pocket. The one in the Metal sits at the jacket’s hemline, which isn’t the most convenient spot to stow a smartphone. Personal gripes aside, I’m still impressed by the package that Spidi has created in the Metal Jacket. It ticks just about every box for style, comfort and functionality, and the zip-in/out Primaloft liner is a nice little bonus. [More]
uglyBROS USA Motorpool Pants Riding pants are a tough thing to get right. You take off your jacket, helmet and gloves when you park your steed, but unless you’re headed to the beach or your office has an extremely liberal dress code, the pants gotta stay on. So they need to work both on and off the bike.
Armored riding jeans are one way to stay out of trouble, and if you’re looking for something a touch different, uglyBROS USA has you covered. I’ve been putting their Motorpool pants through their paces over the last few months and I’m more than impressed.
The cut and style of the Motorpools is a fashion-forward take on the cargo pant, designed specifically for riders. That means they deliver a slim fit and their ‘cargo’ pockets are angled for easy access from the bike. In most cases I usually try to avoid pants that fit like they’re painted on, because they’re constrictive on the bike and I’m not Bret Michaels. But uglyBROS elasticizes the 11oz denim they use for the Motorpools and incorporates accordion stretch panels at the back and knees, which combine to deliver all-day comfort. In the last few months I’ve not only ridden through parts of Spain, Mexico and California with them on, I’ve flown to these destinations wearing them. In cattle class, no less.
The biggest selling feature with the Motorpool pants is with their armor. There are pockets inside the hips, fully equipped with CE rated padding, and exterior pockets at the knees with a set of equally effective cups to slide in and out as you please. That’s right, you can pop out the knee protectors when you’re off the bike, without dropping trou. That way you don’t look like you’re wearing moto gear, and you can stroll comfortably through anything. Even airport security.
The only disappointing aspect of the Motorpool Pants, in my eyes, is that they are not bolstered by Kevlar, Dyneema or some other miracle fabric to literally save my skin. That may be a deal breaker for some of you, but uglyBROS says the decision to tailor these pants this way is based on research. They studied motorcycle accidents in parts of Asia, where two-wheeled traffic is arguably higher, and found that impact-related injuries were more prevalent on riders’ lower halves than those from road rash. If you think that’s bunk but like the look, uglyBROS does have a number of similarly styled, Kevlar reinforced options. [More]
Alpinestars J-8 Riding Shoes I’m a self-confessed sneaker head. So, when I saw that Alpinestars have released a riding shoe that could easily double for a pair of Nike Dunk SBs, I knew I had to have ’em.
The J-8 Riding Shoes are a leather and mesh high top that fit and wear exactly like your favorite sneaker. They’re lightweight, breathable and pack a different visual punch than the oiled leather and welt soles that everyone else is sporting these days. That alone may be enough to pique your interest, but they’re more than just fresh set of kicks.
Alpinestars have integrated an internal toe box and a reinforced heel counter to provide support and protection. They’ve also used full grain leather on the uppers, and some fancy rubber to form the cupped sole. Both of which go a long way to adding durability, comfort and some increased protection. Personally, I would have like to have seen some ankle discs molded into the mesh collar but if you’re currently rocking a pair of Chucks or Vans, these are a huge improvement already. [More]
Racer Gloves Mickey Gloves I know I said riding pants are the trickiest bit of kit to get right, and I stand by that. But for me specifically, gloves have become the bane of my existence. I can only guess that I have weirdly shaped hands, because it seems that no manufacturer has a glove that fits me…like a glove. Or maybe I’m not alone.
Enter Racer Gloves USA. If you haven’t heard of them before, know this: Racer Gloves make the best-fitting gloves in the industry, full stop. Unlike the issues I’ve had before with small palms, elongated fingers with short thumbs and stitching that, somehow, always finds its way just under my nails, the Mickeys feel like a second skin.
Crafted from a combination of textiles, leathers and hardened armor throughout, the Mickeys are also one of the most comprehensively protective shorty gloves on the market, too. Integrated palm sliders are placed at the most likely impact areas, there’s armor at the knuckles, and the pinky finger features a double-layered leather treatment for added support.
From behind the bars, the synthetic, clarino leather palm is both flexible and breathable. I’ve been riding with these gloves almost exclusively for just over a year now, and they’ve still got miles of life left in them. If you want a lightweight, breathable glove that actually fits and offers levels of dexterity and ‘feel’ you never thought possible, these should be the next thing you buy. [More]