24 November 2009

Cycle Wear -- Get On Your Bikes And Ride

Motorcycle USA

Ho, ho, ho… I’m not a Grinch, really, but there’s stuff about X-mas I can do without. Like for instance shopping, running the mall parking lot gauntlet, standing in line while listening to Mannheim Steamroller. Oh, man, once those synthesizers start up with the Little Drummer Boy… Shoot me now.

Fortunately, I, like the real Santa, have long since abandoned brick-and-mortar retail for the convenience of online shopping. Maybe you see where I’m going with this. Yes, my friends, it’s time for my top editorial picks from the motorcycle holiday gear bag.

Motorcycle Helmets
Forget those sickening Zales commercials, it’s a motorcycle helmet, not jewelry, that truly says I love you. A helmet is love, surrounded by energy-absorbing EPS foam and a resilient polymer shell. But what lids top my Christmas List this year? I got two of them:

Shoei RF-1100
MSRP: $400-450 Solid, $499 Graphics

My favorite this year is the Shoei RF-1100 helmet. A 2010 replacement for the RF-1000, the RF-1100 delivers high quality fit and finish, is incredibly quiet and conforms to the new Snell M2010 standard. For full-face protection it has been my go-to helmet since I scored a test unit this summer. How much do I like it? I keep it locked in my car so my boss, Kenny, won’t steal it! The only downside, and it’s a big one, is the sheik MSRP.

HJC IS-MAX Modular
MSRP: $200-215

I’ve sample three flip-up helmets this riding season, but feel the HJC IS-MAX delivers the best value, which at $200-215 is one of the more affordable entries into the modular market. It feels quite light and features an extremely easy opening face shield design. Wearing earplugs, it’s quiet enough for prolonged stints in the saddle and we found the venting more than effective, the top venting being particularly good. A retractable integrated sun visor is a nice touch, all but eliminating the need for swapping out shields or wearing sunglasses, though we wouldn’t want to crash with it down as it scuffed the bridge of our nose more than once… DOT certified with a comfortable and washable liner, the IS-MAX is my default helmet when headed out on a long-distance ride or crave the convenience of a modular.

Motorcycle Jackets
Joe Rocket Alter Ego
Why get more than one jacket, when a versatile jacket like the Alter Ego delivers warm and cold weather protection?

Joe Rocket Alter Ego Jacket
MSRP: $260-275
I’ve been fortunate to sample some great jackets in 2009, but the Joe Rocket Alter Ego I reviewed last year is still my top recommendation. The reason? Versatility. With its numerous removable panels the Alter Ego can transform from fully ventilated mesh design to waterproof rain jacket. At the moment it is my favorite warm weather jacket, and I’ve found it performs admirably in colder weather too. While it lacks the wind/rain uber protection of a purpose-built touring jacket, by wearing a couple extra layers underneath with the wind/waterproof liner I’ve made plenty of chilly rides in the Alter Ego without any complaint. Like most riding jackets, the Joe Rocket Jacket MSRP is more expensive than I think necessary, but it really can be used year round. Look, you can specialize and buy various jackets that do one thing exceptional, but I prefer the one jacket that does everything well enough – the Alter Ego.

Motorcycle Boots
TCX Airtech XCR Boots
MSRP: $250

There’s two major reasons why I love my TCX Airtech XCR Boots. First, the TXC Airtechs are lightweight. Sure, protection is paramount but I like boots that feel light enough to wear comfortably off the bike too. Second, the TCX are waterproof. I ride in the rain quite often, so I can tell you that dry feet and warm hands are the difference between utter misery and sheer indifference to the cold. I prefer the latter and have had warm feet after every ride using the Airtechs. The boots deliver a comfy fit and sure-footed sole on wet ground. The Velcro sidestrap and zipper opening is simple to use. I can’t profess to being much of a fashionista but the TCX aren’t too flashy, with a low-key style that I prefer (and I imagine a lot of touring riders would agree). But there is the matter of their $250 MSRP. Yes, it stings, I know, but you will have purchased a quality pair of boots for many, many riding seasons.

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