My original intent with this gear review was to highlight what I chose, why, and how these pieces have performed for me. I still get to do that, but in the wake of January’s accident, I also get to be very real about how they performed in their primary duties… protecting me in a crash.
Sadly, there’s really no gear that will protect your bones when a car slams directly into your body. But setting aside that issue, there is great gear out there that will protect your skin as well as provide some protection to body areas more prone to impact, particularly when your bike goes down. And since those type of injuries are the more common ones facing motorcyclists, investing in quality gear to defend yourself from them is a smart move.
With all of these gear pieces, you can read more about the features and details on your favorite retailer’s sites. What I hope I provide with this post is some insight into my personal experience as well as a look at some of the inner workings of the technical design we wouldn’t have access to if not for the gear being dissected by EMTs.
Starting from the noggin’ down, obviously protecting your head is one of the biggest factors in motorcycling. For me, going with hi-viz was a not even a question, as was wanting a modular, full-face helmet. Those two considerations narrowed down the field of potential helmet candidates considerably. And once I factored in cost, that narrowed the field even more. I ended up with an HJC Symax 3, a solid offering that didn’t break the bank.
I like the ventilation of the HJC well-enough but it certainly doesn’t qualify as a quiet helmet. I also like the modular feature for accommodating eyewear and being able to easily hydrate without removing the helmet. For a moderately-priced helmet, the Symax 3 has a lot of great features, including a pin-lock visor and an integrated quick-access sunshield.
In the end though, the fact the I was thrown from my bike after being hit my a car, landed on the left side of my face, and ended up with only a minor concussion is the biggest testament to this helmet. With anything less than full-face protection, I wouldn’t have much of a face left and possibly not much of a brain.
While the helmet only looks slightly worse for wear, as with children’s car seats and bicycle helmets, once in an accident, it’s done… game over. The structural integrity is suspect and unknown at that point and it’s time for a new one. So my Symax 3 will be retired as I replace gear and get back to the joy of motorcycling.
While it can be tough to look at the price tag on a helmet and not have sticker shock, remember… it’s your head! It deserves respect and protection. Don’t skimp.
Because it was winter and moderately chilly, I was wearing my hi-viz version of Olympia’s Ranger jacket for women that I’d only just added to my riding gear. Not kidding, I only had it a few weeks. I went with the Olympia after having already been very pleased with my summer-weather Switchback jacket.
The Ranger is an all-weather jacket equipped with CE armor in the shoulders, elbows, and back with copious options for venting. It’s chock-full of well thought out features and I absolutely love this jacket. While I never got the opportunity to test the waterproof properties of it in inclement weather, I give it high marks from on keeping wind and cold at bay in fairly chilly scenarios of winter riding in Georgia.
In my handful of rides out in it, the weather varied from 40s-60s and sunny to cloudy and windy. With my Patagonia base layer underneath and the inner soft-shell liner of the Ranger, I was quite comfortable. I made use of it completely sealed as well as with vents opened and I was impressed with it in both scenarios.
And for the nitty-gritty, yes… it absolutely saved me from much greater injury both in terms of road rash as well as the impact my left shoulder took when I hit the ground. In fact, I had to search the Cordura fabric for evidence of the impact.
My riding pants are the Rev’It! Tornado. Another offering absolutely packed with features, I was able to use these in all types of weather, with and without the insulating, waterproof liner. They’re fabulous. Even in cold winter Georgia rain, I rode in comfort. I was also quite ventilated using them without the liner on warmer days. These are marketed as three-season pants, not really meant for winter riding. Fortunately for me, Georgia winters are not terribly harsh so they proved to be all-season here but I was pushing the limits of riding comfort with them.
This piece is very smartly designed and has features that make them very usable and comfortable, including a very adjustable waist that is very appealing to a middle-aged, post-child-bearing chick with a thicker waist. And because I tend to be more on the short, thick side according to manufacturer specs, I had to go with a size that left too much length for my actual inseam measurement. But the adjustability at the ankle allowed me to snug the cuffs around my boots, keeping the fabric tucked away neatly.
In terms of crash-testing, obviously the Cordura fabric is not designed to withstand such impacts that would crush bone but I escaped with zero road rash which means these pants did exactly what they were supposed to do.
Finding women’s boots that didn’t leave a lot to be desired was a challenge. Gear designed for women is coming along in this industry but still has a long way to go. My searching showed me that women’s designs are still more about form than function, leaving us less-protected. I’m not ok with that.
Without finding something that met my criteria in the women’s offerings, I went with men’s boots, specifically the Dianese Lince. Since I’m not a fair-weather rider, the breathable and waterproof Gore-Tex membrane was very appealing to me. They also have built-in ankle protection, something I found largely lacking in women’s boots.
I found the mid-calf height Lince’s to fit well and be very comfortable. In the more extreme temperatures I rode in, I did have some issues with my feet getting cold but that basically falls into the category of “Welcome to motorcycling.” My feet tend to run cold in the first place and without heated gear, it’s simply one of the issues riders face. I was actually surprised my little piggies weren’t more cold in some of the weather I ventured out in over the winter.
Another great offering from Dianese, again from the men’s department for many of the same reasons as the boots, the Scout EVO Gore-Tex winter gloves are beefy in terms of insulation and armor protection along the knuckles. But like the boots, beefy gear only gets you so far in colder temperatures. I definitely pushed the limits of how warm these would keep my hands. So without opting for heated gear, I was largely pleased with how far these got me.
As for for the accident, the gloves came out almost unscathed. Even though my right hand was battered and bruised (I’ll spare you the image…), that glove looks almost entirely untouched. Oddly enough the left glove shows the slightest bit of scuffing even though I had no left hand injury.
If you’ve looked at the price tag on these pieces, you’ll notice the cost is not insignificant. I will say it over-and-over… quality gear is essential. Not just in motorcycling but with any pursuit. And not skimping saved me. Literally.
In my case, all of my gear did its job very well. As severe as my injuries were, the potential for greater was huge. And this gear prevented a lot of that. I had zero road rash, an injury that outwardly seems minor but is not to be taken lightly at all. It can be very serious and one of the hardest things to recover from.
For all of the rhetoric in our risk-averse society, I hope you can see that we do have means to minimize risk factors and still lead full lives. All I can do is encourage you to research your options, study your craft, and get out there and live.
Cheers friends. Live large and adventure on.