“Wear as much as gear as you can bear to wear”, is a fairly obvious statement. But is a statement that hit home for me.
The difficult compromise of feeling safe VS the extra weight, heat and movement restriction.
I ride regularly in Vietnam, in particular in the South of Vietnam where it is incredibly hot. The journey to find the best compromise of off-road gear was a long and expensive one. In this article, I will share my experience.
The first thing I learned is to choose the right friends.
The first battle to overcome when it comes to heat is to only ride with the correct people. Provided you are moving, even the heaviest bulkiest gear equipped for the snow-capped mountains should be cool enough with the wind blowing in your face.
The issue starts when coming to a standstill. Take a picture, light up a cigarette, or have a chat about the meaning of life.
This is all-important on a motorcycle journey, but the speed of the group is a huge determining factor on the gear to wear. If I am going out for a casual stroll with new riders, I may even drop right down to shorts and a T-shirt.
If I am going with friends that push me, then I will gear up to the maximum that I can bear.
The helmet I use
A common question I get asked is if wearing a full-face helmet is a good idea. The answer is yes, you should always be wearing a full-face helmet on a long-distance motorbike journey. Purchase a comfortable helmet that fits and is easy to take off and on. If gloves are causing a problem with the buckles, then cut the fingers off the end of the glove. This is better than having a low-quality helmet.
Most of my driving is offroad riding, with one or two hours to get to the offroad spot. However, even on the road journeys, such as my Himalayan trip, I am never exceeding speeds of 100KM/H.
I enjoy the noise of wind and I like to feel like I am outside.
All this leads to the choice of an offroad helmet, I am currently using the LS2 MX 437.
The downsides to this approach is loud wind at highway speeds, this can cause headaches!
Owning a shop of motorbike gear I do have the luxury of trying out various other products. Unfortunately, no other helmets I have tried seem to be as airy as the LS2 MX 437. It certainly isn’t the safest helmet out there, but for my purposes, I feel happy with it!
The Armour I use
I went through a long and expensive journey to get to where I am today with armour. My first purchase was the Leatt 3DF Airfit Body Protector.
It is a mesh material and from a first glance looks like it should perform as advertised in regards to dealing with the hot weather.
I embarked on a very hot journey through Laos and this body protector became a hindrance. The padding has no breathable holes and it acts as a brick wall in terms of ventilation. I quickly moved on and spent another $280 on the ForceField equivalent. The ForceField Pro Shirt V2.
The ForceField Pro Shirt V2 isn’t mesh, but instead a t-shirt material. I preferred this, it was less flakey. More importantly, though, the armoured padding had breathable holes. This was the end to the brick wall of Leatt’s padding.
As time went by I realized disappointingly the ForceField Pro Shirt V2 was still too hot for me. The product is amazing, I don’t believe there is a better breathable armour out there.
My solution was to downgrade to the ForceField Pro Tube V2 and just have padding on the knees and elbows.
This brings us back to the beginning of the article. “Wear what you can bear to wear”. I wasn’t enjoying riding in the full suits.
Now with the Pro Tube, I feel safe/protected and also comfortable.
The Knee Pads I use
My first purchase was the Leatt Dual Axis Knee Braces. They seemed a reasonable product, but I couldn’t get them to stay in the correct position, even with motocross boots on. I was also struggling with rubbing from the straps.
I then tried the Scoyco Knee pads which were causing the same problems. Google told me that I had to purchase a base sock layer to put under the kneepad. This is the last thing I wanted to hear, that I needed to add more layers!
I scrapped the idea of traditional Knee Pads and started to look deeper.
I then invested $500 into some Alpinestars Knee Braces, hoping the extra bulk of the product would help it stay firm on my legs. When it arrived, it was so bulky and heavy I disregarded it before even attempting to put it on.
The ForceField Pro Shirt V2 was such a cool product, that I decided to try the ProTube V2 on my knees. At first, I was worried that it didn’t come down into my motocross boots like traditional knee pads. I have since become relaxed about this, and honestly, I am not sure why knee pads need to go so low in the first place.
I love my ForceField Pro Tubes, I don’t think I will ever replace them.
The motorbike boots I use
My first purchase was the Forma Adventure Boot. It is very comfortable and has lasted around two years of time. The idea of an adventure boot is to allow safety on the motorbike and the freedom to be able to walk.
In reality, when on a motorbike holiday, you don’t really walk around. If you do decide walking is on the agenda, then it is likely that you will bring some other shoes.
As my riding progressed I felt less safe in the adventure boots, they provide no protection from bending the ankle/legs. The Forma has reasonable toe protection, but not strong enough. Overall I began to feel they were an unsafe compromise.
I changed over to the SIDI Crossfire motocross boot. It is heavier than the Forma Adventure Boot, but I actually find it more comfortable. It provides maximum protection from both rocks and ankle bends. It also provides stability and control on the footpegs.
The only downside to the SIDI is that walking can be comparable to a snowboard/ski boot. We all know what that feels like! Again, you don’t go on a motorbike holiday to walk around, once I figured this out I see no reason for the compromise of the ADV “comfort”.
The Gloves I use
I have been through a lot of gloves, and not really liked any of them. From Shift to Fox to Scoyco. They all fall apart quicker than expected and they all provide wear on my hands in the same parts.
Gloves only cost $40 so it doesn’t matter much, but there isn’t a shining gold star that I would recommend at this point.
The style of glove I use is the motocross glove. They provide no protection.
The few times I do go on a road holiday, I would recommend the Z1R gloves which from what I can tell are the best compromise of safety without losing feel over the grips and the bike.
The Water Bladder I use
I use a fake Fox water bladder. I use this bag due to its lightweight nature. The bag itself weighs nothing, and the straps are thin which reduces the feeling of bulk on my back. A bag is a preference thing, and there isn’t a right or wrong choice here. However, for $25, I can’t believe I have been using the same water bag for over 2 years!
The saddlebags I use
I use the Kriega OS 6 L adventure bags for my enduro trips and the Kriega OS 16 L adventure bags for a camping holiday.
I swear by these, incredibly easy to use. They don’t move around on the bike and they are indestructibly strong.
Writing this article was difficult, there are so many options and brands out there. I have tested more than the above and witnessed countless other riders struggling with their gear along the way. Most people tend to just “love” whatever they buy and then positively review it, regardless of the competition in the market space.
Although it may sound like a sales pitch, the current setup I have is near perfect. I feel I am at the end of the road on my search for the best motorbike gear.