I received an email the other day from a Kiara Wilson of Motorcycle House (www.motorcyclehouse.com) a few days back. She had seen our site and asked if we were interested in doing a review of some of their riding gear. They would make the gear available for free if we would agree to review it on our site giving our honest opinion.
I did a precursory check of their website and found that much of Motorcycle House’s gear is cruiser oriented, so I initially declined adding that we don’t really use cruiser gear and therefore couldn’t give an honest opinion.
Kiara suggested that I spend some more time on their site and browse through all their items and let her know if there was anything we would be interested in reviewing. While I was browsing, Kiara suggested that I might be interested in the Thor Phase Jacket. So I checked it out and it seemed to be a nice piece of enduro gear.
I reinforced the fact that I would give an honest review and that there were no promises that the review would be positive. But I did promise that the review would be honest. I also let her know that it was the middle of winter in New Hampshire, so I likely would not be able to give a full riding impression until things warmed up. Kiara agreed to all of this and as such I agreed to do a review of the jacket. Before I knew it, a Thor Phase Jacket arrived at my home.
I opened the box and was surprised at the contents. My first impression was positive. The quality seemed good, but the engineering of the jacket was what impressed me. The front of the jacket had two 12 inch long air vents complete with waterproof zippers. These types of zippers are more expensive compared to the normal zippers. The pulls are good sized and you can open and close them with a gloved hand. There was none of the “stickiness” that waterproof zippers sometimes have. The main zipper of the jacket is not waterproof but it does have an inch wide flap covering it with Velcro to hold the flap over the zipper. For normal riding it should do a good job of keeping the wet outside where it belongs. The back of the jacket has a similar 15 inch air vent zipper.
Inside the jacket is a mesh inner liner to help move the air around your body and keep the outer shell of the jacket off your body. There is also a an inner pocket lined with fleece big enough for your smart phone/music player. It even has a flap with Velcro to hold your ear bud cord in place. Nice.
An interesting feature are the zip off sleeves. So if it’s really hot out there and you are comfortable riding without the additional protection sleeves provide, they can be quickly removed and replaced when things cool off a bit.
Near the cuff of the left sleeve is a small 6 x 4 inch zippered compartment with a clear cover. It seems to me that this would be a good place to store your license or other motorcycle documents. This is perfect if you find yourself in one of those aww, sh!# situations where you have to produce documents.
The cuffs are also adjustable with a zipper and Velcro tabs to set the adjustments. So on those hot days with the sleeves on, you can also open the cuffs and leave them wide open for some cooling airflow.
In the back of the jacket is a built in ditty bag that could hold perhaps some light tools, a tire tube and similar gear. It could even hold those zip off sleeves. The compartment also contains a belt so that you can fold up the jacket into the compartment and wear it like a bum bag. This is a great idea for those “off the bike” times.
So all in all, not yet having ridden with the jacket I am pretty impressed. It seems like a good piece of kit and I am anxious to try it out.
Does the above mean that there isn’t anything I don’t like about the jacket? No, but my concerns are quite minor. This is a Thor piece of gear and has roots in the Motocross world. As such, the graphics are a bit much for me. The jacket itself is black, but there are some graphics applied that I could do without. It also has some sewn on rubber bits with the Thor logo on it that I don’t care for. But other than those niggles, I’m a pretty happy camper with the jacket and the fact that Motorcycle House made the gear available to us for free.
Stay tuned for a riding impression and video when things warm up.
I was never one to get into the ride with or without helmet argument. For me, wearing one seemed to make sense. During my short racing career, I learned that my neck was not up to the job of keeping my head from contacting the ground. That that orb of skin, bone and brain affixed to the top of my shoulders was pretty vulnerable. No matter how hard I tried, my head often struck the road whether my falling off was precipitated by a high side or a low side. So my choice was limited to what make of helmet to wear and whose rating system I should consider. Snell, ECE, BSI or DOT.
The choice of helmet has been made even more difficult with many manufacturers claiming that they have premium protection over the competition. You could spend less than $50 on a DOT sticker beanie, and less than $100 on an open or full face helmet. The choice is made even more difficult with helmet manufactures making all kinds of claims about the certifications they’ve obtained, while others have remained silent on the subject.
I used to think that having a Snell or ECE sticker on my helmet marked it as a quality helmet. Having a DOT or BSI sticker was OK, but not a sign of cutting edge protection. But over the last couple of years a debate has broken out as to whether these ratings were based on good science and real world situations. Some claimed that the Snell certification did not represent real world scenarios and resulted in a helmet that was too “hard” that would transfer more energy to the rider than a “softer” (i.e. DOT/BSI) helmet.
A major magazine did an article that questioned the ratings systems and postulated that indeed, the generally cheaper and softer helmets DOT helmets were a better alternative to the harder more expensive Snell helmets. From there a major firestorm erupted. If the ratings system didn’t tell the truth, what can we rely on when choosing a helmet?
Well arguably there’s a new sheriff in town and it is gaining wide acceptance throughout Europe and perhaps soon in the United States. It’s called the SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme. It’s based in the United Kingdom and it claims that it takes the best elements from each of the safety standards, while using a more rigorous targeted testing process.
SHARP evaluations take testing one step further than the other major certifications. Using a 5 star rating system, instead of just earning a “certification” SHARP ratings compare helmet performance against the SHARP standard and assign the helmet from one to five stars. Because of this, you can compare the tested results not only against the standard, but against other helmets.
So with all these choices, certifications and claims, what do you use to help you make a decision as to what certification you should trust when choosing a helmet? Want to know how your Arai RX-7 GP rates against an AGV GP Tech? You can compare them right on the SHARP website and get the star rating for each (in this case 4 stars for the Arai RX-7 GP and 5 stars for the AGV GP Tech). You can review all the helmets tested so far here:
The only problem is that they are still testing many makes and models of helmets so you may not find yours or the one you want to purchase. But we now have another source to assist us in making our helmet choices.
Are you even more confused now? I don’t know a lot about the exact science of helmet testing, but I do like having the ability to compare helmets against each other. What do you think?
When morning came, we were in no rush to get out of bed. We both knew that our little adventure would end today. All we had to do was to ride back to Barcelona and drop off the bikes. Much of the riding would be on larger and more traveled roads, particularly as we got closer to Barcelona. Neither of us rushed to get ready for the day, it was like without saying anything to each other, we were both trying to avoid the inevitable. Our wandering adventure would soon be over.
“It’s almost over Kim. I can’t believe we’ve used up two weeks already. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been traveling two weeks, but I know we have. Soon we’ll be back to the grind, doing our workday things and dreaming of another adventure. I can’t wait until the next one.”, I said sullenly.
Kim, as always was more upbeat than me. “We’ll be on another adventure soon, don’t worry. We’ve ridden all over the world so far and there’s nothing stopping us from doing another adventure. Don’t feel bad, we’ll be riding somewhere else in the world in no time.”
I paused and thought for a while.
“Thank you Princess, you always make me feel wonderful. You are so positive about everything, you always encourage me to look at the bright side. I love you so much.”
I don’t know what was getting into me, but it seemed each day on this trip, I loved Kim more and more. I thought I couldn’t love her any more, but each day on this trip, the depths of my love for her became deeper and more vast. I didn’t know how she did it, but she made me feel more in love with each day that passed. I had to ask myself, “How lucky could a man get? To be able to ride all over the world with someone who shared your love for out of the way places and have that travel be accomplished on a motorcycle.
I had to break myself out of my thoughts and get us onto the road. We had a light casual breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant and made arrangements to have our bikes freed from the hotel’s garage. Fifteen minutes later, we met the hotel receptionist in front of the garage and she opened the doors for us. It didn’t take us long to load up the bikes and we were quickly underway for the last time on this adventure.
The ride back to Barcelona was very quiet over the communicators. Neither of us said much of anything to each other. I think we were both lost in our thoughts about where we’d been and what we’d seen.
As we rode, I was truly re-living our wandering adventure of Europe. Even with an open visor, I barely heard the wind noise as it rushed through my helmet. We’d been to new places and met new people. The bikes had faithfully carried us wherever we’d asked them to never skipping a beat. They hadn’t only been our transportation, they’d been our partners on this journey. They’d introduced us to new places and even new people as the locals often came to us to chat about the bikes.
The miles melted away as we rode and before we knew it, we were approaching Barcelona. But we wouldn’t arrive without one last adventure. Less than an hour outside Barcelona, the winds began to rise. They were not insignificant and they were not steady. Heavy gusts pelted us from various directions, causing the bikes to shimmy and weave. The problem for Kim was worse for Kim since she only had a little over her 100 body holding her bike in place. Even with my 200 pounds on the bike, it was moving considerably.
It was actually better to have our speed up to make maximum use of the gyroscopic effect of the wheels to stabilize the bikes. On a different trip, we’d ridden though the Chile and Argentina and faced the Patagonian winds on our way to Ushuaia. Those winds were far more intense, but they were constant and on barely traveled gravel roads. Here we were in four lanes of traffic with wind battering us from all directions.
But we soldiered on and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Barcelona. Now the traffic was heavy and we trundled along in the right two lanes. As a sort of last challenge, we rode across a long high bridge. Totally out in the open, we got the maximum impact of the winds.
The winds blew from all points of the compass. In fact it blew so strongly that my head was involuntarily shaken left to right by the swirling wind. This was getting a bit intense. We knew that we did not have much farther to go and pointed ourselves towards the center of the city. The closer we got, the weaker the winds became. Finally, we were able to relax and enjoy the end of the ride.
We exited the highway, and quickly found the hotel. We pulled up onto the sidewalk and parked the bikes. I slowly got off the bike and pulled off my helmet. I walked over to Kim. As soon as she had her helmet off, I gave her a gigantic hug.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a wonderful ride.” was all I could muster. “Thank you for coming along with me. It’s been a wonderful ride.” Kim just smiled at me and I could see that she was getting a little emotional. Truth be told so was I. We hugged again and started to unload the bikes.
As I unloaded my bike, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He wore the same smile and accumulation of stubbly beard. His left hand still had its homemade hook fastened with tie wraps. He’d lost his first hook somewhere in Patagonia (but that’s another story) and he had gotten a new one while we slept. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
We’d carried all we needed for the two week wandering of Europe, and now it was time to bring it back home. Arms filled, we walked into the hotel with our gear and checked in for the last time.
After freshening up, we decided to grab a quick dinner in the hotel, pack our gear into our luggage and turn in early. We had to return the bikes early the following morning so we could catch our flight back home.
When morning came, we put on our helmets and rode the short distance to where we had rented the bikes. As I got off, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
I looked back at him, grabbed my little wire cutters and freed him from his place on my handlebars. “Yes, we’re done for now Mr. Cotton, but we’re going to have many more adventures until you retire. So you should rest up because this was an easy trip. I know you yearn to be back on the gravel roads of the world and I’ll make sure that you have more adventures in more remote places next time. I wouldn’t want you to jump ship like you did at that other cold place.”
I stuffed Mr. Cotton in my pocket and went inside to complete the final paperwork on the bikes. Our hosts were very accommodating and had us underway in no time. As we walked back to the hotel, our wandering adventure was truly over. But as I told Mr. Cotton, there were many more places to go and ride.
All we had to do was to figure out; where to next?
Over the years, things in my life have changed; a lot. I’d like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned quite a bit, hopefully become somewhat wiser, experienced life’s ups and downs and generally lived the life that I wanted, to the fullest. However, what is important to me now may not have been so important to me years ago and vice versa.
This came to me a little while ago as I passed through a small space where we keep the bikes and much of our motorcycle gear. A part of the garage that we lovingly call “The Shrine”. While there, I was hit with a revelation (pun intended) of sorts that over the years, perhaps my motorcycle helmets said something about me. For some reason that resides deep in my subconscious, I’ve kept almost all of my motorcycle helmets as well as many of Kim’s. Seeing them all sitting there lined up on the shelf, they spoke to me. You’ve changed, you’ve abandoned us!
They may be right. What was the single most important thing to me when I was younger was high speed performance. My fear of death or injury was practically nil. I can recall pavement escapades that today seem like insanity. Nowadays, high speed performance is not nearly as important to me. I now know when I fall off, it takes longer to heal and it really hurts! My focus is more on the ride itself and what happens during it, than going from point A to B as quickly as possible. Pavement riding, once the sole realm of my motorcycle riding is now secondary, and riding the gravel or woods is what really burns in me.
So as I stared at the helmets on the shelf, they spoke to me without speaking. Sleek, solid black Simpson Bandits in different versions cloaked with dark visors reminiscent of Darth Vader glared back at me. Several Arai RX series helmets adorned with factory racer replica colors practically screamed high RPM. The ones with the deep scratches from falling off during the years that I was competing in road racing told a story of excitement and falls. Then there were the helmets painted to my specs based upon my somewhat bizarre sense of humor; including one with an attached 18″ black braid of hair which contrasted with my bald head. Finally there were the visor-less dirt bike helmets and helmets designed specifically for adventure riding.
As I stared at them, I think they had a story to tell. They told me that my life had changed and my priorities were different. Perhaps they also reflected the importance I’ve assigned to taking things as they come instead of trying to catch a glimpse of life fueled with adrenalin at warp speed.
So do our helmets say something about us, or was that shrine driven revelation merely a dream?
Oh, yeah; one other thing. My current helmet is a fluorescent “Don’t Run Me Over” yellow. What does that say?
Ride2Adventure – Shrink the planet one ride at a time.
It’s no secret that Kim and I have been wearing Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suits for years. You probably know that we really, really like them, so we wanted to be up front with our “bias” towards this piece of kit. That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to compare and contrast the differences between the standard Roadcrafter one piece suit and the newer Roadcrafter Light suit. We’ve literally ridden these suits tens of thousands of miles in extreme heat and cold. We’ve also ridden them for hours on end in dry, damp, rain and bucketing down rain. As such, we’d thought we’d offer our impressions of the suits.
Both of our original Roadcrafter suits have handled the years very well and we still use them on a daily basis. That being said, we’ve been riding in hotter and hotter locations and heat has become a more significant issue. Our recent trip along the Trans American Trail in the hottest, muggiest weather we’ve ever experienced, made checking out a lighter weight option almost mandatory. Ten or twelve hour days in the saddle in significant heat certainly makes the riding more difficult and potentially more dangerous.
So it was with some excitement that I ordered an Aerostich Roadcrafter Light for Kim for our wandering trip across much of Europe in mid July heat. Kim has a pretty off the shelf size frame, so I was able to order one right off the rack for her in grey and hi-viz yellow. It arrived in just a couple of days ready to wear.
The standard Roadcrafter is made with 500 denier cordura Gore-Tex with 1050 denier cordura in the ballistic areas (i.e. high impact areas). Both these deniers are much thicker and heavier than the 200 denier outer layer cordura Gore-Tex of the Roadcrafter Light. Aerostich claims that the Roadcrafter Light is has roughly two thirds the abrasion resistance of the 500 denier cordura. They don’t publish the denier of the ballistic areas for the Roadcrafter Light, but it seems to be similar to the ballistic material used in the standard Roadcrafter, meaning it is very sturdy.
There are significant differences between the standard Roadcrafter and the Roadcrafter Light. Think of the Roadcrafter Light as the evolution of the standard Roadcrafter. According to Aerostich, there have been numerous improvements including:
snap down collar,
removable rare-earth magnetic collar clasps,
water-resistant inner wallet/phone/iPod pocket,
adjustable impact pad positions,
inner pocket hook for accessory pocket
and a mini-carabiner helmet holder clip.
There are additional options, including:
Integrated Boot Raincovers,
Chest Impact Pad,
Chest Insulation Pad (Standard and Electric/Heated versions) can also be incorporated.