Summer is coming.In our little corner of the world, sticking to the coast is the best way to avoid the heat, but sometimes (like if you want to ride anywhere else) it’s unavoidable. When it’s 3:00 pm and you feel like a Boston Market rotisserie chicken, slowly roasting in your own juices with heat from all directions — sun, pavement, engine, exhaust — it’s easy to daydream about how much cooler you’d be in a T-shirt. But we all know that’s a bad idea, and the next best thing is a lightweight mesh jacket like the Cleo Elite from Joe Rocket (there’s a men’s version as well called the Phoenix Ion).
The Cleo Elite flows massive amounts of air thanks to its mostly mesh construction, with Dynax nylon fabric reinforcements at the elbows, shoulders, sides and upper back. Uniquely, the CE level 1 elbow and shoulder armor is accessed externally via zippers; the foam back pad can be swapped out more conventionally from its inner pocket. Fit is sporty — what Joe Rocket calls “attack stance” — with a low, neoprene-lined mandarin collar and adjustment straps at the waist/hips and forearms. A removable two-stage liner includes a waterproof full-sleeve layer and an insulated vest, and there are a few pockets: external handwarmers plus one hook-and-loop internal pocket intended for sunglasses or a phone.
I’m tall and slender and find Joe Rocket apparel, including the Cleo Elite, fits me well; the torso and sleeves are actually long enough, unlike some other brands I’ve tried. Airflow is outstanding and, especially in the Silver or Mint/Silver colors, actually feels better than wearing a T-shirt, because not only is nearly your entire torso ventilated, your skin is not getting baked directly by the sun. Despite the waterproof liner, it wouldn’t be my first choice for touring, but for lower-speed rides around town in the heat of summer, the Cleo Elite is a nice option. It is available in Black, Silver (shown) and Pink in women’s sizes Small to 2 Diva, and in Mint/Silver in Small to 1 Diva, starting at $199.99.
When it comes to motorcycle boots, we typically want opposing features. Just as we want motorcycle tires that provide sticky grip as well as high mileage, with boots we want them to be light and supple so they’re comfortable and provide good feel on the pegs, but we also want them to be tough enough to protect our feet, ankles and shins. Striking such a balance with touring boots is one thing, but it’s quite another with heavy-duty adventure boots.
Alpinestars’ CE-certified Corozal Adventure Drystar Boots are a good compromise between comfort and protection. The upper is a hybrid of waxed full-grain leather and polyurethane-coated leather, with microfiber flex panels at the ankles and textured suede on the inner leg for added grip. The midsole is made of lightweight polyurethane foam, the polypropylene insole is reinforced with a steel shank and the lugged sole is made of a durable yet flexible rubber compound. Protective features include tough TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) on the shin plate, calf plate, toe shift pad and ankles. A biomechanical lateral “flexi-blade” system allows movement while supporting and protecting the outer ankle, and both the internal toe box and heel counter protection are layered under the upper for durability.
The Corozals have a wide entry aperture that makes it easy to slide them on and off, which is most welcome after a long, exhausting day on the bike as well as the next morning when muscles are sore and joints are stiff. Similar to motocross boots, the Corozals have two buckles — one across the top of the foot and another at mid-shin — that use a micro-ratchet memory system and quick-release/locking for fast, secure closure, and a large Velcro panel at the top further dials in fit. Inside the boot is a removable anatomic footbed made of Lycra-covered EVA foam, and the forefoot is ergonomically shaped to allow good fit and feel at the controls. Integrated soft foam surrounds the ankle and collar, a breathable Drystar membrane keeps feet dry and a breathable textile interior lining enhances comfort.
I’ve worn Corozals on adventure rides and press launches over the past couple of years, and they were immediately comfortable and required no break-in. The soles are durable enough to provide a solid platform when standing on footpegs of varying widths, yet they flex enough to provide give and decent feel when braking, shifting and maneuvering. They’ve been wind- and watertight through rain and freezing temperatures, and the buckles are easy to use (and can be replaced if they get damaged). All in all, they’re very good boots at a reasonable price.
Alpinestars Corozal Adventure Drystar Boots are available in men’s whole sizes 7-13 for $289.95.
Remember when there were only two kinds of motorcycle boots, street and dirt? Things have changed a lot since then, since specialization has crept into boot making just as thoroughly as motorcycle making. It is still possible to find a boot that does more than one job, however, with Sidi’s Performer Gore-Tex boots a solid case in point. Though it’s “only” a road boot, the PGTs can be used for touring, sport touring, aggressive sport riding and even the occasional track day, thanks to a design that incorporates the most important elements needed for each type of riding.
For starters, the PGT uppers are constructed of a full-grain microfiber material that looks just like leather but is stronger, softer, breaks in faster, lasts longer, is easier to clean, does not fade or run, isn’t affected by water or sweat like leather and is even sustainable. Whew! Science…. This is lined with Teflon-treated mesh and anti-abrasion Cambrelle in the foot area for comfort, to wick away water and sweat and prevent mold and odors. In between a Gore-Tex membrane ensures the boots are highly breathable and waterproof. Overall the combination makes the PGTs quite comfortable for touring and walking despite looking so serious.
That serious look results from the ample protection built-in to the PGTs. The boots are double-stitched throughout, and have fully encapsulated heel cups, inner and outer ankle protective caps, front calf and shin deflector plates and malleolus external plastic guards over the instep. Replaceable nylon toe scuff pads for the serious corner carvers are bolt-on vs. hook-and-loop for strength and durability, and both boots have polymer shift pads over the toes.
Mesh panels on the front and back of the boots allow for some airflow (if you wear them over leathers or pants), and the full-length inside zippers with Velcro closures snug the boots down well enough on your calf that they can be worn under most pants as well. Soles are dual compound with a short heel that I have found just fine for short walks, with some basic tread that helps on slippery surfaces, though I’d stop short of hiking in these boots. My pair leaked a drop or two in the dunk test — through the scuff plate bolt holes I suspect — but were completely waterproof in the two deluges in which I wore them. Overall the Sidi Performer Gore-Tex boots are a great choice for road riders who want one pair of boots that will cover all the bases. They come in black in men’s sizes 7.5-12.5 for $289.99.
Motorcycle touring, especially of the adventure-ish sort that involves highly variable temperatures, precipitation and riding conditions, is best done with reliably protective apparel, and Aether’s Divide Jacket and Pants fit the bill. Aether (pronounced “ee-ther”) is a small, high-end apparel company based in Los Angeles that makes men’s and women’s gear for motorcycling, snow sports and other activities.
For several cold, windy and occasionally wet weeks, I wore Aether’s top-of-the-line Divide suit on a daily basis. The outer shell is made of premium Gore-Tex Pro fabric, a three-layer sandwich of abrasion-resistant nylon on the outside, a breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex membrane in the middle and a highly breathable Gore Micro Grid Backer lining on the inside. All seams are sealed, all zippers are waterproof and there are double layers of nylon fabric in impact areas as well as leather panels on the inner legs to reduce wear during stand-up riding. Lining the jacket and pants is stretchy athletic mesh that promotes internal airflow, and there’s adjustable D3O CE Level 1 armor on the shoulders, elbows, chest, knees and hips and a CE Level 2 back protector.
The Divide suit does an excellent job of keeping out rain and wind, but it offers limited ventilation; the only vents are located under the armpits and down both sides of the back, with none on the pants. I was able to open the underarm vents while sitting on a bike, but I struggled to close them again without assistance. On cold days, you’ll need to add your own insulated mid layers.
Style, fit, feel and attention to detail are commensurate with the Divide’s premium price tag. The more I wore it the more I appreciated the Divide’s high-quality design and construction, from snaps to stitching to zippers. There are many clever details, such as the thumb holes under the jacket’s outer snaps that make them easy to close with one hand; soft lamb leather around the collar with an adjustable neck gaiter to keep out water and wind; wind cuffs at the wrists and bottom of the jacket; extra-wide belt loops on the pants; and zippered gussets up the back of the calf that allow them to fit over large ADV/MX boots. There are various adjustment straps to dial in fit and plenty of pockets, too — four external pockets on the jacket and six on the pants, all of them with waterproof zippers, plus a small internal pocket on the jacket.
The Divide Jacket is available in Storm, Dark Discovery Green (shown) and Blue Streak in men’s sizes XS-XXL for $995. The Divide Pants are available in Storm or Jet Black (shown) in men’s sizes XS-XXL for $695.
A behind-the-scenes look at how Gore-Tex apparel is made and tested.
W.L. Gore & Associates is one of those success stories of American ingenuity and innovation. Founded in 1958 by the husband-and-wife team of Wilbert (Bill) Lee — who had spent 16 years with DuPont — and Genevieve Walton Gore, the company got its start making wire and cable insulation before the couple’s son, Bob, made an accidental and extremely fortuitous discovery. In 1969, he was trying to stretch extruded polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon) for use in plumbers’ tape, but no matter how gently he pulled it always broke. Frustrated and down to his last few samples of test material, he grabbed one of the heated rods and gave it a hard yank — and to his astonishment it didn’t snap, it expanded. The company called it “expanded PTFE,” or ePTFE.
Today ePTFE is at the heart of Gore’s $3.7 billion-per-year business, with uses in everything from laptop computers to prosthetic arteries to astronaut suits…and, of course, waterproof motorcycle gear. We were invited to tour several of Gore’s facilities near its headquarters in Newark, Delaware, as guests of Idaho-based Klim, a Gore-Tex partner that’s been making motorcycle gear since 2004, and it was a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into creating a piece of Gore-Tex apparel.
Because Gore manufactures technical fabrics for the U.S. military and first responders, security was tight and we were limited as to when and where we could take photos, but in many places Klim gear had been set up so we could witness firsthand the testing and quality control that goes into every piece that carries the Gore or Gore-Tex name.
Gore makes more than 300 different membrane types, and each finished product goes through more than 600 quality control tests — that’s before it goes to the manufacturer, which in the case of Klim means motorcycle-specific testing, including CE certification.
There’s a biophysics lab that tests for comfort and acoustics (important for hunting and military gear), six rain rooms for waterproofness and an environmental room that goes from -50 to 50 degrees C (-58 to 122 F), 5% to 98% humidity and zero to 22 mph wind speed. Upstairs is a huge room full of washing machines that are used for wet flex and abrasion testing; they are stopped and the material tested every eight hours until it fails. (The washing machine brand of choice for durability: Kenmore.)
At the Elk Creek facility we got a look at the glove and boot test labs, where Gore-Tex membrane booties are tested for leaks. A big machine in the corner subjects finished boots to a submerged wet flex test; Klim boots must pass at least 200,000 flexes without a leak before hitting the market.
Gloves are probably the toughest item to waterproof, and every Gore-approved factory (which apparel partners must use) has a whole glove leak test machine. Klim uses a special Gore-Tex membrane insert with glue on one side that bonds it directly to the outer shell, and a soft Trica liner bonded to the other side for optimum control feel. Still, gloves are where most riders will say they’ve experienced waterproofing failure (I’m no different).
The folks at Gore suggested that what we often think is a leak is actually either a lack of breathability causing moisture buildup or the waterlogged outer shell feeling cold against our skin, which our brain interprets as “wet.” (Our sensory system has no “wet” register, only temperature, and if the water is cooler or warmer than our skin we perceive it as “wet.” This is how sensory deprivation chambers work: by floating in saline water that’s exactly our body temperature, our brain registers no contact at all.)
To be comfortable, a piece of waterproof apparel needs to breathe and shed water. “Breathability” doesn’t mean airflow, however; it means the removal of warm, moist air from the body. This is what makes Gore-Tex apparel more comfortable than, say, wearing a plastic bag — it “breathes” while keeping you dry. As our Gore guide put it, “it’s not magic, it’s physics.” But as we noted above, if the fabric outside the Gore-Tex membrane is waterlogged your skin thinks it’s wet, so a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating is important.
Every Gore-Tex-branded item comes from the factory with a DWR coating, and the instructions for keeping it in good shape might surprise you: throw it in the dryer. Yep, you should be washing and tumble-drying your Gore-Tex. The heat reactivates the DWR, so water will bead rather than soaking in. You’ll still need to reapply a new coating every few years, just make sure it’s silicone-free.
When properly cared for — and assuming they don’t have an unfortunate meeting with the pavement — Gore-Tex products should remain waterproof for life, and Gore will replace, repair or refund any of its products that fail. It’s that commitment to quality that’s given Gore its well-earned reputation and made Gore-Tex the gold standard of apparel waterproofing.
And if your Gore-Tex gear is Klim, you can send it back to them after an accident for free replacement (see website for details). Now that’s what we call a commitment to performance.
Idaho-based Klim has been crafting adventure apparel since 2010, and in that time has built a reputation on its commitment to putting durability and safety ahead of fashion. For many hardcore ADV enthusiasts who spend most of their time off-road it’s the gold standard of gear, but only recently has Klim set its sights on adventure touring, and we’re mighty glad it did. On a recent trip to the Gore-Tex facilities organized by Klim, we got an in-depth look at the company’s design philosophy and a first look at its 2020 adventure-touring collection, which includes the Artemis women’s jacket.
It’s immediately clear this is a jacket built to a purpose, not a price. Constructed with a nylon and polyester, laminated two-layer Gore-Tex waterproof shell, tough nylon stitching and D3O CE Level 1 elbow, shoulder and back armor, the Artemis carries a CE AA certification for overall impact and abrasion resistance. There are straps at the upper and lower arms and waist to dial in fit and keep the armor where it needs to be, and double YKK front zippers for opening up the bottom of the hip-length jacket when seated.
The Artemis, which was designed by a woman, is an eminently travel-ready piece of apparel that includes clever features such as a passport/cash pocket hidden behind the back protector and a not-so-hidden medical ID card pocket at the left wrist. Other pockets include large handwarmers, several inner zippered pockets and smaller chest and upper arm stash pockets.
Ventilation is pretty good for a fully waterproof Gore-Tex garment, including the Artemis’ signature zippered Cross Core vents in the under-bra area. There are also vents at the forearms, biceps and on each side of the back protector. It will never flow as much air as a jacket with mesh panels, but that’s the price paid for not having to carry a rain suit. (By the way, the most comparable men’s Klim jacket is probably the Carlsbad).
The Artemis is available in five attractive colors in women’s sizes S-2XL and comes with Klim’s five-year Gear Protection Guarantee that replaces your damaged apparel after an accident, free of charge. At $559.99-$699.99, it’s not cheap, but you can rest assured that for your money you aren’t getting a piece of fashion apparel — you’re getting something that was carefully and thoughtfully designed to protect you. It’s just icing on the cake that you look good too.
For more information, call (208) 552-7433 or visit klim.com.
Racer Outdoor GmbH may not be a household name here in the States, but it’s been making premium street-riding apparel in Austria since the early 1990s, and in 2012 lifelong motorcyclist and road racer Lee Block formed Racer Gloves USA as the exclusive U.S. importer and distributor. Racer is known for its focus on fit – in fact its tagline is the bold statement, “The best-fitting gloves you can buy.”
As a European company, Racer’s products are performance-focused and carry CE certification – in the case of my Guide gloves, to level 1. The Guide, which is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, is a short-cuff mild to warm-weather glove with a textured, reinforced goatskin palm, soft TPR protectors on the fingers and knuckles, hard Knox SPS sliders on the lower palm and perforations on the fingers and the back of the hand for airflow. Goatskin is thinner and less durable than cowhide, but this is offset by improved dexterity and feel on the controls, ideal for a lighter-weight, street-oriented glove. The Guide also features “mcFit technology,” which means the soft polyester liner is bonded to the outer shell with adhesives rather than being sewn in, and along with exterior seams on the palm edges of the fingers, this eliminates pressure points and further improves feel.
After wearing them daily over the course of the summer and early fall, I have to say I’m very pleased with the comfort level and fit of the Guide gloves. Each glove pattern is slightly different, even within a single manufacturer’s line, and though the Guides seem to have a longer finger-to-palm ratio they still fit my long palms comfortably. In fact, they became my go-to gloves for just about all my rides, whether on official magazine business (this Moto Guzzi Road Test Review for example) or not. The textured goatskin fingertips on my clutch hand are just beginning to wear smooth, as is the palm on my throttle hand, but at no loss of grip and they’re certainly a long way from wearing through. In my experience, the hook-and-loop closure straps are often the first failure point, and so far the Guides’ are just as secure as the day I got them. Lastly, while the flat TPR armor on the knuckles looks uncomfortable, I’ve found it to be just soft enough to conform to my hands and I forget that it’s there even after a long day on the road.
The Guide is available in black in women’s sizes S-XL, and in black or white/black in men’s sizes S-3XL, for $119.99. Lee at Racer Gloves USA is always happy to answer questions about fitment; see below for contact details.
Fashion trends come and go, but what never goes out of style is a well-made leather jacket. Based in Oceanside, New York, with its own factory in Pakistan, First Manufacturing Company has been around since 1987 and claims to be one of the world’s largest makers of leather apparel. It produces leather jackets, vests, chaps, pants and gloves in men’s and women’s styles and sizes, as well as leather belts and saddlebags, canvas and denim jackets and vests, and ripstop nylon rain suits.
The Raider blends the classic style and heavy-duty protection of a black leather jacket with useful features that should satisfy the needs of touring, cruiser, café/retro and other riders. Made from 1.2-1.3mm Diamond cowhide that’s soft to the touch and needs no breaking in, the Raider has an athletic mesh lining with armor pockets and a full-sleeve zip-out thermal liner. (For an extra $60, I added First Mfg’s SW CE Level 2 armor for the elbows, shoulders and back, which is soft and pliable but hardens upon impact.) The action back uses an accordion pleat behind each shoulder to allow the back of the jacket to expand when the rider’s arms are stretched out to reach the handlebars.
From its simple banded collar to the buttoned, wind-blocking placket that covers the main zipper, the Raider has an understated design that I appreciate. High-quality details include YKK zippers with leather pulls, heavy-duty metal snaps and hidden metal hardware so the jacket won’t scratch your pride and joy. A thick leather jacket can get hot in the summer, and some relief is provided by two zippered horizontal vents on the chest that double as pockets and two zippered vertical vents along the lower back. And when it comes to carrying loot, the Raider is hard to beat with a total of 16 storage pockets: two vented chest pockets, two buttoned chest pockets, two buttoned handwarmer pockets, eight utility pockets sewn into two zippered chest panels (see inset) and two concealed carry pockets with bullet snaps and tapered holsters.
Weighing in at 8.5 pounds for my size large with the thermal liner and optional armor installed, the Raider has serious heft. It fits and feels great, and it’s a steal at only $279.99 (so there’s no excuse for not buying the armor). Available in black only in men’s sizes S-5XL.
For more information, call (800) 537-3030 or visit firstmfg.com.
From the outside, the Metropolitan looks like a stylish, well-tailored 3/4-length parka, but on closer examination this is a thoughtfully designed, protective motorcycle jacket. Its outer shell is made of a water-repellent polycotton material that feels like a soft, supple lightweight canvas, backed with a waterproof Hydratex membrane. Cuffs are designed to snug down around your wrists, with elastic on the underside and a two-position snap, making it easy to pull your glove gauntlets over them. A thickly padded hood with subtle reflective striping zips to the tall collar, and heavy-duty snaps hold it in place at each side and the back so it doesn’t flop around in the wind. Pockets abound, with two large front stash pockets, two zippered ones on the chest and numerous inner pockets for documents, your phone, etc. I only wish the big stash pockets opened wider; it can be tough to get my hands inside, especially with gloves on. My favorite feature, though, is the luxuriously plush detachable thermal liner, with an extra-tall puffy collar that acts as a cushion between your face and neck and the stiffer polycotton shell. With the liner snapped in, slipping on the Metropolitan is like getting a hug from a cloud made of silk.
One of my jacket pet peeves is zippers with small teeth; they always seem to get snagged and the tiniest amount of grit or dirt is enough to choke them up. So imagine my relief when I discovered the Metropolitan’s zipper is made of big, beefy teeth and glove-friendly metal pulls. It’s a double zipper, so you can zip it up as far as you’d like, then unzip the bottom for comfort while sitting on the bike (see photo above). The Metropolitan is an urban-styled jacket meant to transition seamlessly from riding to casual wear, so Rev’It uses unobtrusive, soft Seesmart CE level 1 armor in the shoulders and elbows; there’s a pocket for an optional Seesoft CE level 2 back protector. If you want more protection, all of the armor is removable and replaceable.
True to its design, I found the Metropolitan to be supremely warm and comfy not just while riding, but also when walking around off the bike, plus it’s fashionable and completely unrecognizable as a motorcycle jacket. The Metropolitan is available in women’s sizes XS-XL, for an MSRP of $359.99.
As cold weather looms, one debate reliably emerges on a riders’ forum I frequent. On one side are those who try to stay warm with extra layers of clothing. On the other side are riders who discovered heated gear. This second group knows that adding heat to your body, at precisely the level that makes you comfortable, beats attempting to insulate your own body heat by piling on bulky layers.
But what if it’s cold and also wet? Last fall I did a 10-day tour from my native New England to the mountains of western North Carolina and most days it was cold, wet or both — but I was always warm and dry. A large measure of the credit goes to a Generation Waterproof Heated Liner from Warm & Safe.
Warm & Safe has been innovating and refining designs for heated garments and controllers for a quarter century, and its experience is revealed in the details. This liner is waterproof and breathable by way of Gelanots, a high tech, laminated, three-layer fabric. It’s made with hydrophilic polyurethane, which allows water vapor to pass out through the membrane but doesn’t allow liquid water to pass in from the outside. I was never wet or clammy on my North Carolina tour, despite days riding in cold, steady rain with the heat on constantly. Because this heated liner is waterproof, it provides an extra advantage for touring: not needing to pack a separate rain jacket to wear around camp or into town.
Unlike other waterproof garments I’ve worn, this one doesn’t feel stiff. It’s thin, light and provides good freedom of movement. The heat panels use soft, flexible carbon, and stretch panels in the side and back help keep the liner snug against your body for efficient heat transfer. There are two heat panels in the chest, two in the upper arms, one on the upper back, one on the lower back and a heated collar. The main zipper is the latest YKK model that is waterproof but without the rubbery feel I recall from earlier versions. Seams are sealed and the garment is washable.
Warm & Safe heated gear plugs conveniently into a battery harness (included) and is best controlled using an optional Heat-troller. I use a Dual Remote Control Heat-troller (read the review here or in Rider, April 2018), which lets me separately control heat levels in the liner and my heated gloves. The liner is rated at 7.8 amps, 1.8 ohms and 106 watts at 13.8 volts.
Warm & Safe originally offered Generation Waterproof Heated Liners in four colors (black, gray, red and yellow) but most people chose black, and new production going forward will be just black. You may still find colors in certain sizes. And while some gear suppliers don’t appear to realize that men and women are different, Warm & Safe offers this liner in distinct models and sizes for men and women.
Warm is good. So is dry. The Warm & Safe Generation Waterproof Heated Liner is currently on sale for $289.95, and the Dual Remote Control Heat-troller is $139.95.
For more information, call (503) 212-4166 or visit warmnsafe.com.