Riding gear update

As you may have read in the TAT post mortem, I need to update my riding gear. Specifically, the jacket and pants.

I was considering a few different jackets; my main criteria is that the jacket shell is waterproof (when the vents are closed) and that a liner can be used for warmth. I don’t want a jacket where the liner is required to make it waterproof. Good ventilation is also a necessity, as is proper protection from impacts and sliding.

The candidates (so far) are:

  • Olympia AST
  • First Gear Kilimanjaro
  • Aerostich Darien Light

I have an Olympia Air Mesh jacket now, and I like it. The things I don’t like are that it’s black and the liner makes it waterproof so the jacket shell soaks through in a downpour. The AST has a waterproof shell and is available in a light color.

The Kilimanjaro seems to have the features I’m looking for, but I’ve not seen one in person so I’ve relied on reviews. I will need to see one before using any of my plastic money.

From all the reviews I’ve read the Darien seems to be the top of the list, unless style is a primary constraint. The fact that the Darien is made in the USA (and can be altered and repaired by the manufacturer) is a huge factor in it’s favor. The time-proven reliability and quality are undeniable.

Pants will be the second part of the equation, and the Darien pants seem to fit the bill as well. I’ll continue to read and ask questions so that, hopefully, I’ll make a good decision and can ride both the road and trail in comfort and safety.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Eastern TAT – post mortem

The short version is that our planning was very good, but some changes will make it even better.

Navigation: Making tracks using the paper maps and then converting them to routes for use in the Nuvis worked very well. No real changes necessary here. It would be better if we could mark the fuel stops so that there was an alert when you are close, but that’s about it.

Tools: We had the tools necessary. John patched a screw hole in his rear tire using the tools he brought. I didn’t have any flats, but I had the necessary tools and the air compressor ready to go. My new username of DirtNap was earned, and the bike’s mirrors survived. The threads loosened just as they should have and there was no damage to the mirrors from any of the naps. It seemed like I was tightening them a lot, but I had the tools and it was nothing more than a minor nuisance.

Luggage: We packed fairly light, but the duffels weren’t light. I would guess 30-40 pounds. Mine included the first aid kit, tool kit, air compressor, spare tube, computer, clothes, toiletries, shoes (sandals and slip-ons), and jacket liner. In the tankbag I had my iphone, camera, earplugs, ipod, earbuds, paper maps, windshield / faceshield cleaner and diaper, eyedrops, charging cables, cable lock, headband flashlight, and tire pressure gauge.

Changes for the next trip:

Luggage / packing: It would definitely help to get the weight down to lower the center of gravity, so I think waterproof soft saddlebags will be the choice for next year. I probably will carry pretty much the same items in the tankbag. We are planning to camp next year, so that adds some items to the list. Tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, food, and water will have to be carried with us.

Gear: I need to get a better jacket and pants. I wore kevlar-lined jeans and while they may help while sliding they provide no impact protection. I’m considering the Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket and TPG pants. Regardless of the jacket I select, it definitely won’t be black. My current jacket is waterproof because of the liner, not the exterior shell. That means the jacket shell will be soaking wet in the rain. I would rather that the jacket shell be waterproof and the liner be used for warmth. It just works better on the trail. Same for the pants, a liner for warmth only.

I bought a pair of Aerostich Combat Touring boots before we left, but they needed to be resoled. That’s now done, so my boots are ready to go.

Misc: I’ll add a bottle of ibuprofen and benadryl to the first aid kit. It would be good to have some cotton handkerchiefs on the outside of the packs so that you can wipe your glasses and/or faceshield while riding in the rain (which happens a LOT when I’m riding). Maybe an easy way to attach them so they can dry in the wind would be useful too.

I’ll need to come up with camping gear too.

New helmet review – Shark Evoline

Shark_Evoline_Helmet_Silver_detailI got a good deal for a new Shark Evoline on ebay, and because the reviews I’ve read don’t seem to jive with my experience, I thought I should pass on my impressions.

For those that don’t know, this helmet’s chinbar rotates completely to the rear of the helmet when open. It also has a slide-down sunshade.

This is the only modular/flip helmet that has DOT/ECE2205 approval in either 3/4 or full-face configuration. DOT doesn’t mean much (nothing to any race organization in the world) but ECE2205 is a valuable certification.

First, weight. it is heavy, at least compared to my Shark RSi, which seems very lightweight. However, while you’re wearing it, the weight doesn’t seem as noticeable as when you’re holding it. Make no mistake, any of the modular/flip helmets will be heavier than a full-face helmet.

Second, fit. My Shark RSi is advertised to fit long-oval head shapes, and it is a very comfortable helmet for me. The HJC AC-15, on the other hand, causes so much pressure on my forehead that it is basically unwearable. I guess that means my head shape is long-oval, which is largely true of the US population. Asian people have a more rounded head shape, which the Shoei helmets fit very well. I found the Evoline to fit tighter on my forehead than the RSi, but not too much. It will fit round-oval head shapes just about perfectly. As to size, the Shark chart is spot-on.

Third, operation. The chinbar can be moved from open to closed fairly easily, but when closing it, after rotating it down, you need to push the chinbar to the back to latch it. You can feel it snap into position. The latches are metal on both sides. For the Jay Leno’s, there is a lot more chin clearance with this chinbar than on my Nolan N-102 or my HJC CL-MAX.

Fourth, noise. It is quiet, as long as you’re behind the wing’s windshield. In the moving air, there is a fair amount of noise. It is pretty much an unaviodable side-effect of the flip mechanism, but if you’re wearing earplugs or earbuds as you should be, the noise will not be an issue. It is quieter than the Nolan when the chinbar is closed, but is much louder than the RSi. Ventilation is not great, and your head will sweat if it’s hot out. The best you will do in that situation is to open the chinbar, the vents are there but don’t allow much air movement.

Extras. The liner can be removed for cleaning, as can the faceshield and the sunscreen. It comes with a nice quality storage bag.

Update 9/15/2009 – After a few rides, I have some updates to the review. First, the faceshield has a raised rib so that you can open it, but is is located at the top center of the shield instead of the more usual lower left side. That takes some getting used to. And because the face shield must be open to rotate the chinbar open or closed, you will be opening it.

Update 9/30/2009 – Well, I now have some considerable experience riding in the rain with this helmet.   With the chinbar rotated back (in 3/4 mode) the face shield doesn’t come down to the level of your chin, it stops about mid-upper-lip. That means that your chin (and in my case beard) will be wet if it’s raining. For me it wasn’t really an issue, but if you’re expecting the same shield length as a 3/4 helmet you will be disappointed. Remember the chin bar takes up a lot of the space that a normal 3/4 face shield takes.

With the chinbar down and the shield closed, the face shield fogged up on me. To be fair, Noah was looking for lumber on Saturday, so the sheer amount of water and vapor in the air made fogging inevitable. By opening the face shield a click you could cut down on the fogging, but with the shield partly open the gasket at the top of the face opening allowed water to run onto the inside of the shield. If you want to ride with the shield closed in rainy weather you’ll need a pinlock anti-fog insert.

Fitment was an issue. After a few hours in the saddle on Thursday, I was developing a hotspot in the center of my forehead due to pressure from the helmet. By rotating the helmet forward I was able to relieve it somewhat, but I never got rid of it completely. Today I pulled the liner out to see what I might be able to do to relieve some of the pressure and found a surprise. Glued to the styrofoam liner directly above the eye opening was a piece of hard black foam about 2 x 4 inches. I pulled this piece off the styrofoam and reinstalled the liner. The helmet fits perfectly now, no pressure on the forehead at all. Crap. All I needed to do was to pull the inner liner out and I could have “fixed” my helmet’s fit at any time. Oh, well, at least now it fits perfectly.

The sunshield works well and is most useful for late evening/early morning sun. If it came down a bit further that would be nice, but it’s still better than changing classes or putting on sunglasses.

The only item I will look for is a pinlock system and pins for the face shield. Now that it fits properly, the only real fault is fogging and that’s fixable. This helmet is a keeper for me.

Helmet issues part 2

shark_rsiWell, I went south for the long Memorial Day weekend to meet some friends at my place in southern Indiana and to ride the curves in Indiana and Kentucky.   And on this trip, I wore the HJC FS-15 helmet I had purchased in March.   About 2-3 hours into the trip, I had a sore spot in the middle of my forehead that was uncomfortable and becoming very painful.   Clearly the helmet wasn’t fitting properly.     By slightly loosening the chin strap and shifting the position of the helmet, I made it to the cabin.   I pulled the liner out of the way and began to perform surgery on the foam to try and get a better fit.   Suffice it to say that I was unsuccessful.   The next three days varied from uncomfortable to downright painful and I will probably not wear that helmet again.   It hurt that badly.   I did some more research into helmet shapes and found that there are two basic shapes – round and long oval.   Not exterior shapes, but interior shapes.   Most Asian people fit into the round shape and most Americans fit the long oval shape better.   I also found out that HJC primarily make round-shaped helmets and clearly I need a long oval shape for the helmet to be comfortable for me.

By looking for long-oval shaped helmets, I foound that Shark makes a very high quality helmet in the model RSi.   They make other helmets in round and round-oval shapes too, but I was pretty sure that I needed an RSi model.   I measured and began looking at various retailers to see what was available.   I found an RSi on closeout at motorcyclecloseoouts.com for more than $200 off the original retail price and I ordered it.   It arrived in just a few days and as aoon as I put it one I knew this was the right shape for me.   It fit perfectly, no pressure points at all, anywhere.   Since I work from home, I left it on for a while and it was still very comfortable.   The quality is excellent and the visor removal/replacement is very simple.   It is also a very lightweight helmet, and no comparison with the modular helmets in this regard.   At last – a comfortable helmet that didn’t break the bank.

The downside – sliding my glasses on after donning the helmet is proving to be a challenge.   I can sometimes do it, but usually not the first time.   I need to find a way to cut a “glasses groove” in the upper part of the cheekpad to help out.   I don’t know how to do that just yet, but I’ll figure it out.   I can live with that issue for now, because the other issues I had are completely solved.

Light weight, the protection of a full-face helmet, and proper fit.   3 out of 4 is pretty good and I’ll fix the glasses thing soon enough.   Then, I’ll be 4 out of 4.

Helmet issues

Well, I’ve decided to switch to a full-face helmet.   The modular (flip-up) helmets are convenient, but I’m not convinced that the convenience outweighs the safety factor of a full-face helmet.   The other issue is a weighty one – the weights of modular helmets are climbing and that doesn’t make sense to me.   Materials for constructing helmets are lighter and stronger this year than last, and yet the weights continue to climb – high enough that I won’t buy another one until the weight comes down.   I had planned to look at HJC helmets at the bike show in Chicago, but didn’t find any to try on.   So, I used the backup plan of a tape measure and a web browser.   I ordered an FS-15 helmet in the size their fitment chart indicated, and it arrived fairly quickly.   It fit OK, not great, but since I can’t go for a ride now (it’s still February in the midwest) an actual ride report will have to wait.

The quality of the helmet was very good.   The paint and graphics are very well done, and the helmet liner is comfortable.   it is fairy easy to slip my glasses on after donning the helmet.   The only issue with the helmet is not actually an issue with this helmet, it is an issue with any full-face helmet.   Convenience.   With the modular helmet, I could flip it up when stopped at a light in town, or to take a drink from the butler cup while riding the Goldwing.   I guess the tradeoff for convenience is lighter weight and better protection.   So for now, I will forgo convenience – but I hope the manufacturers figure out a way to make the modular helmets lighter and more importantly, to submit modular-style helmets to the testing labs to demonstrate their ability to protect the wearer.

Protecting the wearer is really what their all about, right?