That sound you hear coming from your garage is your motorcycle calling you. “Doood, winter’s over. It’s time to ride. Get out here. I miss you!” The first motorcyclist was spotted along the Pusatonic Throughway weeks ago. Attach the trickle charger to the tiny battery and start that thing up. But be sure you’re well protected before you head out. Get some of this stuff below.
Your body needs this. Your body will thank you.
Alpinestars GP Tech Leather Suit -– Your skin is pretty important stuff -- if you ride motorcycles, you really want to make sure it’s protected. Don’t be like those guys we see in LA splitting lanes on the 405 in tank tops and shorts. Yeesh. And while motorcycle jackets, pants and boots are all good things to have, at some point you will want to step up to the best protection your skin and bones can get -– a full, one-piece leather suit. We needed just such a setup for a track ride where it was required (many track days won’t let you on unless you have one). Alpinestars heard we were looking and offered one of their new-for-2015 GP Tech Leather Suits. We have never felt so secure on a bike. This suit incorporates the same stuff worn by Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa in MotoGP. When those guys go down, they just slide along for a while then pop up, more often than not unhurt, and run over to restart their sickles and get back at it. While no rider wants to go down, it’s best to be ready with one of these.
The Alpinestars GP Tech is made mostly of leather, both perforated kangaroo leather (!) and “bovine.” There are accordion stretch panels wherever you bend, along with strategically placed stretch Aramid fiber for breathability. CE-certified protectors are held firmly in place at the shoulders, elbows, forearms and knees. That is perhaps the biggest advantage of one of these suits -- the hard parts stay precisely in place. Looser gear allows hard pads to move around a little. We also got the Bionic Back Protector. At any high-impact area where sliding is preferable to grabbing pavement, the suit has polyurethane sliders to allow you to slide instead of flipping over and ragdolling.
When properly fitted, a leather suit only feels right when you’re in the crouched, riding position with arms forward gripping the handlebars. So spend a lot of time at a really good store with a knowledgeable sales person to make sure yours fits. It also takes awhile to get this thing on your body, since the fit is so precise to your every joint and carcass-point. It’ll be time well spent should the day come that you need it. We also got a pair of S-MX 6 Waterproof boots and GP Plus gloves. The MSRP for the Alpinestars GP Tech Leather Suit is $2,199; the boots $299.95 and the gloves $189.95. If that seems steep, consider the cost of skin grafts and then write the check.
The Scorpion EXO-R710 helmet is an excellent, affordable brain bucket.
Scorpion EXO-R710 helmet –- Now that we’ve covered your skin, consider the most important part of your being, your head. We had ordered a $199 helmet off the Internet, the ad for which claimed it was a “motorcycle helmet.” The HANS screw points and lousy vision suggested it was a car helmet. Motorcycle helmets are built differently, as we learned when we visited the offices of Scorpion Helmets in SoCal. We borrowed a Scorpion EXO-R710, which retails for as low as $189.95 –- a better price for a much better motorcycle helmet! The EXO-R710 is meant for both road and track, and as such it is a very snug fit. You’ll notice the first time you put it on that the base opening seems too small, but that’s only because your head is round like a soccer ball, not cylindrical like a roll of shop towels. Once you slide it all the way on your noggin, it will fit right and not move at all. The cheek padding is pretty snug too –- all the better to keep things in place –- and is removable via marked pull tabs should (God forbid) the paramedics need to get the helmet off you gently. The visor is thick and incorporates anti-fog and UV protection -- we’d have liked a bigger tab to flip it up, but that’s a trait common to many helmets. Ours came with various inserts to block airflow up from the chin area, but we removed those to get more air in. The helmet itself has four air inlets and three exhausts to keep your head cool. The visor hinge is very well engineered. The shell is a proprietary mix of fiberglass and Aramid for strength. While casual cruisers might want a looser-fitting setup for more comfort, for those who charge hard and occasionally hit the track, the EXO-R710 is an excellent value.
They look just as preppy as L.L.Beans, yet protect your skin like rider pants.
Aerostich Protekt Khakis –- While motorcycle blue jeans with ballistic knee inserts have been around awhile, Minnesota-based Aerostich has come out with a new twist on casual riding gear with its Protekt Khakis. You zip the zipper down the side of the knee, slide in the CE-compliant TF impact armor knee pads, zip 'em back up and off you go. The triple-layer knee and seat areas hide 500D Cordura middle layers for enhanced abrasion resistance. So these offer the same protection as a lot of regular riding pants but with the benefit that when you arrive at the office you simply remove the knee pads and go about your day, dressed just as preppy as any of the other law partners. They feel just like your regular khakis, only thicker.
The knees of the Aerostich Protekt Khakis zipper open to accept tough knee pads then zip closed to keep them in place.
We would have liked hip inserts, too, and Aerostich may add those later, but as they are, these offer both comfortable cotton and serious protection. Much better than the blue jeans you may occasionally wear, though Aerostich also offers both ballistic blue jeans and protected canvas pants. Khakis are $127, jeans $117 and canvas pants are $87.
Eyelab Rx knows the glasses motorcycle riders need and connects the right specs to the right heads.
Eye Lab Rx –- We met Bill and Joyce Wood at the Long Beach Motorcycle Show and ordered a pair of prescription sunglasses on the spot. We’d had trouble finding an optometry chain store that would sell curved lenses. Bill and Joyce said, “Sure!” The pair of 7eye Panheads we ordered not only offer excellent peripheral vision but came with foam inserts to keep the wind out when riding. Since we ride with a full-face helmet and flip-down visor, we don’t really need the inserts but they’d be good for those who use open-face helmets or, in some states, no helmets at all. We’ve worn them in 30-mph winds out on the ocean, and they stayed on perfectly when faced into the wind. For side-gusts above maybe 20 mph, you’ll want the keeper straps.
Bill and Joyce know what you need on your eyeballs when riding, and with a wide variety of specs available they’ll set you up just right. Prices are competitive, too: with 7eye Panhead frames, single polycarbonate prescription lenses and shipping, getting a great pair of glasses to mount on our massive noggin was $234. You can get cheaper specs at Eyeball Barn, but they won’t stay on your head and won’t offer the peripheral vision riders need.
Bill is a licensed optician who lives in Colorado Springs when he’s not traveling the country at motorcycle shows or traveling the world as optical director for Medical Missions at Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Calif., literally bringing eyesight to the blind worldwide.
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