Day 22 – Some thoughts on riding gear.

The unseasonal heat that arrived today, left me hoping that my new jacket would arrive soon.

When I bought my 690E in 2010, I found myself without any riding gear, having given most of it away several years previously when I thought I had given up biking.  Well, I did still have a rather nice AGV helmet, but then I found that the foam padding had started to disintegrate, and the helmet was obviously not fit for purpose anymore.  Conventional wisdom is that one should replace helmets at least every five years, irrespective of the amount of use they have had.  Helmets, in other words have a ‘best by’ date, and the AGV’s – like some of the spices in my kitchen – had gone by, unnoticed, several years previously.

Although I had ridden my previous bike – a Suzuki DR350S – with the full face AGV road helmet, I decided that it was time to move on to one of the new generation dual purpose helmets such as the Shoei Hornet or the Arai  Tour X3 (since replaced by the X4 model).

Shoei Hornet in Sonora – Black and Orange

Arai Tour X3

It was important to me, on both safety and style grounds, to get a plain white helmet (ok, I know I’m one of the few people around who thinks that a plain white helmet is stylish) and that presented me with a problem as neither the Shoei nor Arai were being imported (through official channels) into South Africa in a plain white version.

Fortunately, I learned that there were a number of retailers in Europe and the US who would ship helmets internationally, and eventually settled on MotoCentral in the UK , who have a website under the name of the Helmet Superstore , as my helmet supplier.  Purchase – payment by credit card or PayPal – couldn’t have been simpler and the helmet shipped within a few days.  On the South African end, things got slowed up by customs clearance, but even then the delay was not too bad.  A bonus was the slightly lower cost, all included, compared to SA retail prices.

The Shoei in plain white as supplied by MotoCentral

Around the same time I stumbled across a new pair of Sidi Slash boots being offered by a bike shop in upper New York State – this must have been the bargain of the decade at US $ 100 – around R850.

The Sidi Slash low cut boots

I was aware, from my experience with Sidi bicycling shoes, that they run slightly small (or precise as Sidi calls it) and went up one size to an EU44.

Finding a jacket and trousers was far more difficult.  As a vegetarian and semi-vegan on conscientious grounds, leather was out, and so I had to grapple with the intricacies of synthetic fabric and denim.  I eventually settled on denim riding jeans (one unheard of chinese brand and one by RST) and a synthetic Enduro-style jacket by AMA.

The AMA enduro jacket – not a recognised brand, but a very nice cold-weather jacket.

When I sold the 690E and bought the Duke, I had to decide which of my gear items could still be used and which had to be replaced.  This is what the outcome of that process is:

  1. HELMET – Although I was very happy with the fit, comfort and noise levels of the Hornet, I was not comfortable with the effect the peak has on head stability at speeds over around 90km/hr.  Shoei, itself cautions against using the helmet with the peak fitted, at ‘high speed’.  Obviously some people will be more sensitive, and others less so, to the aerodynamic effects of the peak, so you might find the comfort threshold higher than the 90km/hr mark that I’ve mentioned.   The peak can of course be removed on both the Shoei and Arai, but I decided that I would revert to a full road helmet.  Again, I was confronted by the absence of any plain white helmets in the country, so it was back to MotoCentral, this time for a Shoei X-Spirit II.
    The Shoei X Spirit II

    Again, purchase was easy, and despatch efficient, but this time the service by the South African branch of the shipping agents has been appalling.  The helmet is here but it has taken them weeks to clear it through customs and it has yet to be delivered. Cost, again all-in, is lower than domestic retail prices.

  2. JACKET – I will continue to use the AMA jacket in cooler weather, but in early spring, it’s already too warm for comfort.  I’d toyed with the idea of a mesh jacket for some time, and decided to buy a Spidi Net 7 jacket.  It is available directly from the Spidi online store.  I was lucky enough to be shopping during a period when Spidi were offering free shipping.  As with the helmet, purchase was easy, despatch efficient, and in this case, service by UPS good.
    Spidi Net 7 Jacket – black/black version.
  3. Trousers – My jeans will do the job for 99%  of the riding I do – if I ever decided to ride long distances however, I would look for something more robust and weather proof – probably from Spidi.
  4. Boots – Very happy with the SIDI Slashes, although I would still prefer more conventional road boots some of the time.  I have half an eye on the SIDI Apex boots however – we shall see.
    SIDI Apex boots – a midcut boot.

    GLOVES – I have a pair of Fox Racing Bomber gloves – They are extremely comfortable but a little light on palm protection.  Not a priority for replacement.

Fox Bomber glove
Fox Bomber glove

I will post opinions on the new equipment at a later date.

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