Apr 15, 2006

Riding jackets for India

Fieldsheer Mag 1 jacketLike the Yooknighted Ishtates of Umreeka, India is a large country. Which means a large, geographical area spread inconve- niently over such a large latitude spread that one set of motorcycle riding gear cannot cut it. However unlike that country, ours is at least largely tropical. And almost always too hot. Which makes our job of selecting the right sort of kit an easier task. But before we come to the past about weather-friendly kit, let me just run through how you select jackets on the safety, comfort and looks fronts.

This is the primary reason to purchase one, so this should get top priority. Yes, over the weather and all. You want the jacket to offer as much protection as possible. Used to be that leather was the altar on which all textiles were sacrificed. But no longer. Our weather makes it hard to maintain leather jackets. Frankly, I haven't the patience to hunt down leather polishes and creams, or the time to sit every sunday and labour over the coloured parts and keep them looking new and shiny. Also, leather gear is usually very heavy. Which makes it very inconvenient to lug around when you're off the bike. I wear my kit EVERYWHERE, so its portability is an important, though not overriding priority.

However, leather has its uses. Jackets that offer leather (usually 1.1 to 2 mm thick) over the forearms and shoulders seem logically more abrasion resistant than others. However, studies show that some of the current jacket materials offer as much or more abrasion resistance and penetration protection as leather.

Icon TiMax JacketAt this point, look at one of the Icon TiMax jackets. When you read the armour specs, you will notice that the spec says 'integrated armour.' This will be in the back, over the shoulders and on the forearms. What you want, though, is removable armour. This allows you to 'deflate' the jacket for washing in the machine, for packing and to upgrade the armour spec later, if you should want to. Upgraded armour options can be seen here.

Now look at the Joe Rocket Phoenix. It says integrated armour and removable armour. This is the best kind. You get a soft layer of external armour (usually dense/hard foam in macho, Mad Max shapes) and internal pockets with standard shape dual density foam, memory foam or the best kind, foam-backed plastic armour. The back protection is almost always foam, and you have to spend extra for plastic backed protectors, mind.

Once a jacket gets past the armour eval, you want to look for double or multi-stitched seams (stops the jacket from unravelling while your'e sliding down the road and exposing you). And an extra long back (to stop it from riding up and exposing skin). Precurved cuts are more comfortable on the bike, so that is an added bonus.

Further, you'll want snap/hook-loop adjusters on the forearm to hold the armour in place (it's no use if it rides up to your bicep once you hit the road), a sturdy zipper (YKK is a good brand to look for), a full or 8-inch zipper at the back (to zip to riding pants), waist tensioners (for a snug fit) and a waterproof/cold weather liner.

Finally, you'll want reflective patches. The more the merrier. Also consider their placement. A huge manufacturer logo in reflective script at the base of your spine may be fine on a street bike whose seat is flat, but on a high-tail sportsbike, it will hide behind the tail lamp.

If you are buying off the net, look for reviews of the jacket. Most motorcycle news sites have gear reviews, or pick up an old copy of Ride magazine, or visit motorcyclegearreview.com. They should give you enough information about the specific make and model. Yes, having skin-friendly materials like neoprene or microfibre on the collars and cuffs helps. As does the now ubiquitous mesh lining. You also want to consider the number of pockets, and whether they are enough for you. I like carrying most of my stuff in the tank bag, so one pocket is enough for me. It could be different for you. A lot of people who pay tolls on their commute pick jackets with easy access coin pockets and stuff.

Oh, and no matter what they say, no jacket is ever completely waterproof. Or forever waterproof. A little water coming in is not the most pleasant thing, but it happens more often that you would like. Also, a British riding buddy recently told me that his waterproof overpants usually lasted one year only. Then, he had to buy new ones. So, prepare to have over-the-riding-kit rain stuff for the wet months. The good bit is that PVC/unbreathable plastic jackets over mesh are not as bad/steamy as you think. Personally, I prefer a thin, plasticky rain suit for about Rs 300, that last about a year before shredding itself. It allows me to buy a new one for each season as well.

This is your own bag of tricks really. Black jackets are to be avoided though. They look dirty very quickly and need loads of reflective piping or material for high visibility. If maximum visibility is your thing, you'll want a Aerostich hi-viz yellow sort of colour. Although by god it's loud. On the looks front, consider how the jacket will get cleaned. Machine wash compatible jackets look a hell of a lot better on Mondays than hand-wash only ones. Most textile jackets clean very easily nowadays though, and I swear, both my past two jackets have needed only a fifteen-minute soak to come sparkling clean, no rubbing needed at all.

Most of India is hot. So you're looking for jackets with either gratuitous amounts of venting, or mesh. I've used both. My vented jacket had two vents in the collar bone region and two vertical exit vents in the middle of back. It worked very well. I crashed about seven times in that one, and the open vents never caused a problem. Wind flow on the move was very welcome and the jacket was near-perfect almost all the year round. In the winter (Mumbai doesn't get too cold, FYI), closing the vents would be enough to ride year around. At least while the waterproofing lasted. And remember, breathable means heat can escape, not that wind can get in. Most people I know who bought breathable unvented jackets found that they're bloody hot under 80 kph. And after that, they're bearable.

Mesh, breathes even more. The first time I wore my Joe Rocket Phoenix 2.0, I almost forgot I was wearing a substantial sized motorcycle jacket at all. I've now crashed in it once, and I'll say the protection seems reasonable. The mesh tends to melt and stick together, rather than fray and split, so it should hold when in a slide down the road. In hot weather, mesh is a blessing. However, I've learnt to keep the waterproof liner handy. When it turns cold, you feel it a lot sooner than in a vented jacket. Also, wearing mesh in the rain means an instant soaking so you have to stop early and zip the liner in should it look ominous above.

Now for the rest of India. If the weather in your town alternates between extremes, you want a vented jacket made of breathable material. With a substantial liner. I simply have a third, huge winter jacket. This has a high, snug collar, a waterproof sandwich layer, impermeable outer fabric, huge cuff adjustment, storm flap over the zipper, umpteen pull-tight adjustments and thousands of inner and outer pockets. It comes out on the occasional ride up north and it works from about 20 degrees C to about -5 degrees C at speed. For winter jackets, I also like to buy a loose fit (as opposed to the next larger size). It allows room for layering inside. Also, since winter jackets are heavy by nature, they won't flap like a loose summer jacket.

Like everything else, you can bust a small plot of land buying a big brand name jacket, or you can spend as little as Rs 5000 on one. I, obviously, prefer the latter. So, you don't want to look at brands like Alpinestars, Spidi and all. They are good and cool, but they have price tags that'll make your eyes water and your wallet beg for mercy. Stick to smaller players. Examples: Joe Rocket, Fieldsheer, Hein Gericke (they do have a cheap line)... Look for stuff on eBay. You want a chap who bought his jacket a while ago, then parked it because it didn't fit him or some such and is now selling a brand new jacket. That'll be cheap. Or tune in to newenough.com and sit with a beady eye browsing the closeout section. Their prices and services are hard to beat. Believe me, I've checked. And never, ever, buy from the manufacturer's website. It's always atleast $20 more expensive.

I use a Joe Rocket Phoenix (under $100, or Rs 4500) for daily use and it works brilliantly in hot places. And humid places. A friend uses a Fieldsheer Mach 1 (about $100, or Rs 4500). Still another uses a BMW Airflow jacket (excellent kit they make, at outstanding prices. Eye watering territory.). Other good mesh jackets include the Hein Gericke Venom.

And you thought buying a motorcycle jacket was easy, eh?


manish said...

Can you tell where to get these jackets in India?

rearset said...

In India, eh? Tough. Well, let's see. You could call Zubin at +91-9820325593 and ask if has one for sale. Or you could reach Vivek/Vicky via http://www.performanceracingstore.net. Both are Mumbai based. I recently came across this website: http://www.dreamsportinggear.com/ at the BajajPulsar Yahoo club. But I don't know how good/bad/prompt they are. In Delhi, I believe KRP (Kaulson Racing Products) also retails some riding gear (Pro Grip is one of the brands they sell). They are at 7/58, South Patel Nagar, New Delhi - 110008. Tel.: 011 25842215 & 25840741 Fax: 011 25841200. Email: kaulson@vsnl.com

Outside of this, check out newenough.com, they do deliver to India, although they are based in the US. Some ebay sellers (individuals) and powersellers (shops) are also willing to ship to India. I hear that Spidi is looking for a dealer/distributor in India, but that will be expensive, guaranteed, when it happens.

Anonymous said...

Last month, i bought very nice jacket from WilsonsLeather store through couponalbum.com...

Astrobufff said...

What do you think about these :


They are reviewed here :


abhimanyu said...

hey! what do you have to say about the ones available at cramster?
nice blog buddy.