Road tested: Gear from Biltwell, REV’IT! and Stylmartin

New motorcycle gear recommended by Bike EXIF.
If I ask riders why they don’t wear All The Gear All The Time, most cite one (or all) of these reasons: style, comfort and price. Motorcycles are becoming less of a lifestyle choice, and more of a lifestyle accessory. A lot of riders simply want ‘casual’ gear that looks good, feels good, and doesn’t break the bank—while still being reasonably protective and functional.

So for this review, I’ve picked out three items that tick those boxes: a technical hoody, a retro full-face helmet, and a pair of everyday riding boots.

Review: The REV'IT! Stealth Hoody
REV’IT! Stealth hoody I’m not really a hoody guy, but when new jacket time rolled around, I wanted something low key and protective. Something I could wear with anything, on any bike, all day long. The specs of the REV’IT! Stealth hoody promised a denim finish, waterproofing and slim armor. And it was available in black, so I added it to my cart. (Yes, I paid for it with my own money.)

As the name implies, the Stealth is supremely understated. A cross between a bomber jacket and a hoody, the aesthetic is more akin to technical apparel than motorcycle gear. The chassis itself is multi-layer affair featuring a polycotton stretch denim outer, REV’IT!s proprietary Hydratex® waterproof membrane, and their abrasion-resistant PWR Shield fabric stitched into key impact zones.

Review: The REV'IT! Stealth Hoody
That denim shell looks absolutely killer out the box, and feels amazing too—both to the touch, and when it’s on. (The manufacturer suggests tossing it in the wash before wearing it, to rinse out any leftover dye, and the second I did I got a taste of how it’s going to fade over time.) It’s trimmed with a heavy-duty ribbed fabric at the cuffs and bottom edge. While the Velcro on my gloves did occasionally stick to the ribbing, the fabric is tough enough to avoid fraying.

A chunky zipper up front gets you in and out, with a neat leather pull-tab for gloved operation. There’s a storm flap behind the zip too, and drawstrings for the hood (for if you actually use it). The rest of the layout is basic: hand warmer pockets, with snaps to keep them closed while riding, a small zipper stash pocket just inside on the right breast, and a larger document pouch inside on the left. There are reflective strips on the backs of the elbows, but they’re oh-so-subtle. Even the branding is tasteful—a blacked-out REV’IT! logo on a rubber patch, placed on a slightly larger Velcro square on the sleeve. Bizarrely, the patch is actually stitched to the Velcro—so I unstitched it to be able to run my own patches.

Review: The REV'IT! Stealth Hoody
Thanks to the denim’s stretch properties (and relatively low weight), the Stealth’s the most comfortable motorcycle jacket I’ve ever worn. According to REV’IT!’s size chart I’m on the cusp of XL and XXL—but years of craft beer and bacon roll appreciation have left me with a bit of tubby belly, so I sized up. The fit is spot on, and although I would have preferred the XL’s shorter sleeves, the built-in flex means I have room to breathe, without the jacket feeling baggy or bunching up.

It also makes for excellent freedom of movement while riding—aided by REV’IT!’s remarkably slim and lightweight SEESMART™ armor. It’s pretty exceptional stuff—virtually undetectable, yet CE Level 1 approved. The hoody ships with elbow and shoulder protectors, but you’ll need to pony up a bit extra if you want to kit it out with a back protector. Like fellow EXIFer Matt Neundorf, I’d rather see manufacturers include back armor as standard—and I’ll happily pay a little more. But since that’s not the case here, I ordered a SEESOFT™ protector and popped it in. Or rather, massaged it in with much fiddling and cursing; it’s a tight fit in the jacket’s back pocket, which also means that it won’t accept anything other than the recommended item. It’s obviously also not as featherweight as the SEESMART™ stuff—so it’s more noticeable when fitted—but it’s still pretty flexible, and hasn’t bugged me yet.

Review: The REV'IT! Stealth Hoody
A few extra details add to the hoody’s overall comfort while riding. For starters, the actual hood is kept from flapping at speed via a press-stud on the back. I did find that my backpack had a tendency to push up against and disengage it, but even then I didn’t notice anything unruly behind my head while riding. Out back, there’s a short connecting zipper inside that you can hook up to some of REV’IT!’s trousers (or a special belt that they make). But there’s also a feature I wish all jackets would have: a small elastic loop with a press-stud, which can anchor the hoody to any belt or belt loop. No one likes a jacket that rides up at the back, so this little consideration is one of my favorite touches.

As for weather, I’ll be keeping the Stealth on hand for at least three seasons. Despite the moisture-wicking mesh liner, it can get a little toasty on hotter days, but for spring and fall—and winter with an extra layer—it’s spot on. Unfortunately I haven’t been stuck in a downpour with it yet, but it’s shrugged off light rain without fuss, so I’m pretty confident it’ll fare well. And if it does come down, it even has nifty little drainage holes built into the hood and front pockets.

Review: The REV'IT! Stealth Hoody

Honestly, if I could change one thing it would be to ditch the hood in favour of a ribbed collar. At around US$400 for the Stealth hoody (plus a little more for a back protector) it’s pretty good value though, so I can’t complain. In fact, if we dished out stars around here, I’d give it five. [Buy]

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
Biltwell Inc. Lane Splitter helmet The retro helmet market is pretty crowded these days, but Biltwell Inc. have been doing it for longer than most. Their gear always looks great, with an authentic, no-frills vibe. In the case of their latest offering—the Lane Splitter—that approach is both a strength and weakness. I’ll tell you why, right after I bore you with the basics.

The hot rod-inspired Lane Splitter is Biltwell’s second foray into visor-equipped helmets (after the Gringo S). Let’s be honest—it looks a lot like the iconic Simpson Bandit, but it’s pretty badass in its own right, so I’ll give it a thumbs up. More notably, the Lane Splitter’s ABS outer and EPS inner shell earn it both DOT and ECE approval—something we haven’t seen on Biltwell helmets before.

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
I ordered my Lane Splitter in Metallic Bronze, and decided to go all-in with an extra mirrored gold visor (it ships with a clear visor). As I’ve come to expect from Biltwell, the finish is sublime—the metallic bronze pops like crazy in sunlight, and I was instantly chuffed with my selection. The brushed lycra liner is pretty plush too, with a classy hand-stitched diamond pattern inside. It’s removable, and Biltwell have even included pockets in the ear recesses for comms system speakers. There’s also a padded chin curtain—something you don’t often see on retro helmets. A standard D-ring strap system keeps it on your head, with a snapper for stowing excess strap.

My melon measures in at 62cm, which makes me an XL in Biltwell’s world. The Lane Splitter fits me true to size, sitting snug without squashing my face. I have noticed one or two stiff spots in the liner, but they’re not hurting me, and I expect they’ll break in a little more over time. I can cram sunglasses in there if I want to, but it is a bit of a squeeze. The chin section caught me by surprise too; it’s a bit shorter than it looks in photos, and if I don’t pull the helmet down just right, my (admittedly large) nose does occasionally touch the tip of it.

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
As for that no-frills vibe, Biltwell have taken a bold, old school approach to many of the Lane Splitter’s features. It has vents on the chin—and exit vents on the sides and back—that work really well… except you can’t close them. (It’s winter in Cape Town right now, and I’ll be covering my face for this weekend’s riding.) It’s also pretty noisy at speed, and with no Pinlock insert to prevent fogging, I find myself cracking open the visor at traffic lights.

You can see these as negatives, or you can see them as compromises. I choose the latter—the Lane Splitter is intentionally retro, and that means if you buy one, you’ll need to live with some of its quirks. Call me a hipster if it makes you feel better, but I don’t think Biltwell are targeting BMW R1200 RT or Yamaha R1 owners here. Their target market is guys on choppers, bobbers and hooligan Sportsters.

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
The visor is an area where I think Biltwell could improve the Lane Splitter. On the up side, the eye port is massive, and visibility through the injection-molded visor itself is perfect, with no distortion. And aside from looking totally off-the-wall, the mirrored gold tint hits that sweet spot between dark enough and total eclipse.

On the down side, I find the visor’s locking mechanism fiddly. It’s basically a brass peg on the helmet that corresponds to a hole in the visor, with a small tab to lift it. Sometimes it’ll snap into place with an audible click, but sometimes I won’t feel it engage—and other times it won’t lock, no matter how hard I try. It’s also locked too well before, and I couldn’t open the visor until I stopped and used both hands to fettle it. The whole setup also sits too far to the left, making it hard to reach quickly.

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
Like most helmets, the visor moves up and down in increments, albeit pretty vaguely. Once it’s up though, it stays there. And once it’s down, it keeps out wind and water. My only other gripe is that I noticed a little rubbing on the paint just above the brow, where the visor seems to be connecting on the way down.

Swapping visors is straightforward, but a bit of a chore. It involves unscrewing an actual screw on each side, removing a small disc and plate, lining it all up with the new visor and then screwing it back together (a coin works too). Biltwell suggest adding some Loctite each time—I didn’t, and found that after a couple of weeks the screws needed some tightening. Again, it’s a compromise; there’s no denying how cool the hinges look, and it’s not something you’re likely to do often. You can also ditch the visor altogether and run goggles, if that’s your thing (and you don’t mind the exposed mounting plates).

Review: The Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet
I have to hand it to Biltwell though. For around US$250they’ve built a retro full-face with a visor, plus those all-important DOT and ECE stickers. And it looks so good, I find myself reaching for it time and time again. [Buy]

Review: Stylmartin Red Rock motorcycle boots
Stylmartin Red Rock boots Each season seems to bring with it an avalanche of new gear, but there are some standbys that have sold for years on end. Icon’s Elsinore boots are one example, and Stylmartin’s Red Rocks another. I’ve had my Red Rocks for just over two years now; in that time I’ve used them around town, toured in them and taken them on multiple press launches. I’ve put them through some light flat tracking, flown in them, done the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in them, and even used them as casual wear.

With full-grain leather uppers, the ankle-high Red Rocks are styled like everyday work boots. They’re waterproof too, and even have gussets alongside the tongue to keep muck out. The leather itself is pretty cool—it discolors easily wherever it’s rubbed or scuffed, so the boots look better the longer you abuse them. And if you’re fashion conscious, the boots ship with two sets of laces (brown and red).

Review: Stylmartin Red Rock motorcycle boots
There’s a Vibram anti-slip sole underneath, which means you can get them resoled at any self-respecting cobbler. (Mine still look pretty fresh, even after two years of regular use.) Even though my Red Rocks have broken in nicely over time, they’re still pretty stiff. So I generally won’t spend an entire day walking in them—but they work well on the bike, and don’t tire my feet out.

As for protective features, they’re devoid of hard toe and heel cups, and Malleolar protectors—so I’d place them a step up from a pair of Red Wing Iron Rangers on the safety front. And at £179 (US$194 at the time of writing), they’re a cheaper option too. [Buy Stylmartin boots]

Photos by Devin Paisley.

Retro motorcycle gear review