Monday, September 24, 2012
ALL THE GEAR, ALL THE TIME – JACKETS
Third in a series…
As a guy who has ridden for the better part of forty years, I cringe when I see riders in T-shirts – or riders in gear with their girlfriends aft in tank tops or less – batting through suburban traffic or racing between lanes on the freeway. Perhaps it is because I have daughters, both of whom are married and well past that stage. Or maybe I’ve just seen a bit too much.
Today I own five motorcycle jackets: three textile, two leather. (Yikes! I have no idea how I’ve acquired so many.) Each jacket has a specific purpose and is worn on specific riding occasions, although there is much overlap in their use.
Each of the jackets has some type of reinforcement at probable impact points like shoulders and elbows. In some cases the reinforcement is thick foam padding, in others a less pliant more armor-like material.
Each jacket has zippers that open vents allowing air to course through and cool the rider.
Some of the jackets have an interior zipper in the lower back area that matches the zipper at the top of riding pants. When connected, this lessens the calamity of pants and jacket separating to expose bare back to chip-seal at 55 miles per hour.
Closures at the neck and cuffs may be snaps or hook-n-loop like Velcro®.
Synthetic jackets come in a variety of colors. Black is a favorite but bright or “Hi-Viz” colors are far more see-able by others on the road and, therefore, a good safety choice. Many jackets come with reflective piping making them more visible at night. Many come with removable liners making the garment useful in both cooler and warmer riding conditions.
Jacket fit is incredibly important. The jacket should be snug enough to protect you in a fall but not so uncomfortably tight that you are tempted to leave it on a hanger at home. It should shield the rider from such diverse elements as rain, cold, and heat. It might help if it were stylish, but trading safety for style, something I’ve admittedly done, is always a bad bargain. It should be kept clean and dry and inspected for signs of wear – a cause for replacement – before it is called upon to sacrifice itself for you.
Textile jackets’ exterior material is engineered out of synthetic fabric. It is strong, light, breathable and will experience less abrasion when sliding along the pavement.
On a steamy summer day in the Sacramento Valley, a t-shirt covered by a textile jacket feels much like having only the t-shirt on in terms of ventilation and coolness. The function of the jacket then is to provide a layer of protection between the skin and the tarmac and to hold those impact pads in place.
One of the textile jackets is a three-season coat. It is three-quarter length, belted, padded, and brightly colored. It is my ultimate go-to on road trips. There is plenty of room for gloves, maps, notebooks, telephones and small kitchen sinks in the various pockets. Slipping a Gore-Tex rain parka underneath this puppy, I find I have really good protection from rain and even hail. Adding a layer or two of turtleneck or sweatshirt or wool allows me to retain enough warmth to ride nearly twelve months out of the year.
The leather jackets are dissimilar. One cuts the winter chill. The other is strictly a late spring to early fall garment. The heavier of the two has a shell of much thicker leather prompting me to believe I would fare better in a crash if wearing it. The removable lightly quilted liner, I have recently found, makes the unit extremely tight around my midsection – but keeps me incredibly warm on short mid-winter trips. Interior pockets hold a checkbook or datebook; exterior pockets accommodate light gloves or a small camera.
The other leather jacket, which I like a lot, I’m embarrassed to say, I purchased because of its cool Guzzi logo. Styled and built in Europe, it was on the sale rack, so I snared it. The leather appears to be much thinner and the padding much more “foamy.” I’m not sure I’d like hitting the pavement in this one although I’m sure it would spare me from abrasion. But it certainly looks groovy.
One of the great things about adopting a hobby or a sport – be it woodworking or waterskiing – is the plethora of tools and equipment one must acquire in order to fully enjoy the endeavor. Motorcycling is no different. Good equipment makes the experience much safer and more satisfying.
Church of the Open Road Press