Category Archives: Adventure Motorcycling Gear Reviews

Stuff I’ve actually used

ROK Straps – why they work

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‘Click – Yank; Click – Yank’.
That 5-second procedure is all it takes to securely mount a tailbag or duffle to your bike. The click of the plastic clips joining; an optional yank on the strap’s loose end to tension it against the elastic.
It ought to be obvious and it’s not ROKet science, but watching some riders faff about mounting or removing tailbags by other means makes me realise how brilliant two-part ROK straps are.

Regular adjustable webbing straps are far less dangerous of course, but fail to account for a loose bag’s tendency to ‘shift & shuffle’ on the back of a bike – something which tensioned elastic reliably compensates for. And you effectively needed double the length of webbing to loop across frame loops and back. Forgotten straps and bungies fell by the wayside or got snagged and shredded in your rear wheel.

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bung

Before ROK
Back in the Flintstone era but after the invention of string, bungies were the next best thing; a bunch of cheap elastic strands encased in a jaunty woven nylon sheath tipped by two coiled metal hooks. Bungies were such a hit they spawned the daredevil activity of bungy jumping. B-u-u-u-u-n-g-i-i-i-i-i!
BungyBut even back then we knew bungies were a cheap and nasty convenience, and sometimes it was the bungy that was jumping back at you. Because they were way too stretchy you had to tension them to the max to eliminate movement of anything heavier than a copy of MCN, and there was no adjustment other than knotting them [forever]. Add some UV, rain, more UV plus persistent over-stretching, and over the years several unfortunates have suffered nasty eye injuries from a stray hook recoiling into their face at 350mph. It’s said that was the motivation behind the invention of ROKs in Australia back in the 1990s.
Regular adjustable webbing straps are far less dangerous of course, but fail to account for a loose bag’s tendency to ‘shift & shuffle’ on the back of a bike – something which tensioned elastic reliably compensates for. And you effectively needed double the length of webbing to loop across frame loops and back. Forgotten straps and bungies fell by the wayside or got snagged and shredded in your rear wheel.

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Stiff elastic + clips + adjustable strap + tethering loops = ROK Strap

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ROK Straps come in two parts: a shorter sheathed section of thick, flat rubber producing minimal recoil. It clips to a regular webbing strap with an adjustment buckle and best of all, both chunky sections end with a sewn loop to thread through itself round a subframe or rack tube. Result: all pieces of ROK Strap are always attached to the bike (but remove easily) for lashing down bike loads quickly and reliably.
At the end of a long ride when you can often be weary or forgetful, just click your two straps apart, lift off your bag and stroll into a velvet-lined riad for a poolside aperitif while others are still fumbling with buckles or stumbling around clutching their eye in agony. It can be that simple.
An inch-wide, 1.5 metre long pair of ROKs (left and below) cost about 15 quid, thinner ones go for under a tenner. Rok On.

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Tested: Ortlieb 30L Travel Zip review

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Tested: Ortlieb 30L Travel Zip

Where: Morocco, France, NZ, Sardinia (on bike and kayak)

Cost: 105 euro from NL

Weight: 870g + shoulder strap

In a line: Road or trail, river or sea, plane or train, the Travel Zip is a handy, waterproof day or overnight bag.

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What they say
Ortlieb’s 30L Travel Zip Waterproof Duffel is a versatile bag you can use for sports, weekend outings or business trips. The extremely durable and abrasion-resistant Cordura fabric is waterproof, dirt repellent and easy to clean.

What I think:

tik

• Light, airplane carry-on size (unlike Duffle, see below)
• Submersion proof Tizip (unlike roll-tops)
• Zip is less faff than roll-tops
• Grippy, indented shoulder strap pad – it really works
• Easy-to-clean PVC body
• Nifty but small outside mesh pockets. Another one inside
• Clever rigid carry handle set up

cros

• Discontinued. Hard to find new and nothing similar around, afaik
• Pricier than roll-tops
• TiZip requirse cleaning and re-greasing once in a while

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duffle

Review
It took a bit of searching to track down Ortlieb’s 30-litre Travel Zip (search in NL shops) – I get a feeling the handy Travel Zip may be discontinued. But in the minimum size of 40-litres, the current Duffle Zip (right) is too big for my needs, even if it’s only a little more expensive.
And although they’re simple and bombproof, I’ve become less of a fan of the roll-top Rack Packs since I’ve needed bags like this for paddling. The submersion-proof TiZip offers useful emergency buoyancy if my packraft gets attacked by a school of irate swordfish.
On the back of a bike an immersion-proof seal is not that critical unless you’re enduring monsoonal conditions, but the simple zip opening is less faff then the roll-up and clip-down of a typical roll-top.

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In Morocco the Travel Zip was big enough for my overnight needs once tools and other quick-access stuff were stashed in my old Touratech Tailbag, and mucky spare oil, a one-piece wet suit and spare inner tubes were lashed around the 700GS and 310GS I used.
A waterproof Tizip adds quite a cost and complexity to bag construction, but with the wipe-clean and easy repair PVC body, the bag has an airtight seal. I can vouch for that because after zipping the bag closed in the desert, by the time we reached 2000 metres it was bloated out from the lower air pressure.
It’s only a bag: you put things in, carry it around, and then take things out. But I like the clever hard-handle carrying arrangement, rugged-enough build and most of all, the easy opening. The small exterior pockets may prove more handy in a boat than on the back of a bike, and there’s no harm in the other pocket inside. For a dry-suit zip, the TiZip runs smoothly after a wipe of silicon grease out of the box, and this ease of access in a big improvement over the same-sized Watershed ZipLoc duffle that I used for years. The Watershed fabric is way tougher, but used as a boating day bag, doing the seal up properly as the next rapids approached became a pain. For a boat or a bike, I’m sure the Travel Zip will do me nicely.

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Review: Aerostich AD1 Light Pants

aeroferiimage.pngTested: Aerostich AD1 Light overtrousers.

Where: Spain, Morocco, Ireland; wherever it’s cold and wet.

Price: $367 from Aerostich.

Weight 1220g + armour. Available in grey, black and tan.

See also: Rukka PVC onesie.

Fyi: Aerostich supplied the AD1s for review 

aeroad1What they say:
Perfect for dual-sport, adventure, touring and daily riding. Fully seam taped, unlined, HT200D Nylon GORE-TEX® jeans-cut pant with full length separating side zips inner and outer weather flaps to help the pants go on and off fast yet keep rain and wind out.

What I think
tik
• Usual excellent Aero taped-seam quality
• Easy to put on and take off
• The right amount of useful pockets
• Great contoured cut; don’t feel bulky
• Breath well and waterproof so far
• Long, but OK because ankle can be cinched in
• No fancy washing requirements
cros
• Quite pricey from the UK
• Sold only via Aerostich USA
• Bulky to stash when not wearing, but isn’t everything


aeroadd1Review
aerowaiterAbout time I reviewed my Aerostich AD1 Light pants. They’re pitched as lighter weight 200D Cordura Gore-tex overtrousers; less stiff to suit the occasional rider rather than ice-road commuters who’ll want Dariens or Roadcrafters in heavyweight 500D; two names which helped make Aerostich’s name in the US among Iron-Butt long-haul pros. Riding hard, fast and often, a 500D Roadcrafter is the best thing for 85-mph slides down the highway.
But who does that any more? Indeed, unlike many riders it seems, I rarely wear overtrousers at all, unless it’s actually pouring or very chilly. I don’t mind getting wet legs if the end is nigh, but when it isn’t I like the fact that I’m tucked, zipped, studded and velcro’d into my AD1s. Strict trademark laws make casual use of the V-word forbidden in the US. Jeez – and I thought I making a quick joke! Looks like I guessed right: in the US they must say ‘hook-and-loop’ which rolls off the tongue like a mouthful of old wool.

aeroad1 - 9On me the AD1s fit is just right: comfy and unobtrusive – as high praise as you can bestow on motorcycle clobber. You don’t feel like you’re schepping around in a pair of baggy, swish-swoshing bin bags. The curved cut of the double-stiched seat and knees all help, and Aerostich do go out of their way to AeroSizingChartsgive you more than just S, M, L and XL. With their detailed sizing chart (right) you have little excuse to not get the right fit.
No complaints with breathability or waterproofing either – legs don’t really sweat or get cold. But when they do, one of the best things is the ADs are easy to put on and take off; a big incentive when you really ought to pull over and do one or the other but don’t want to faff about or risk tripping over, banging your head on your rocker cover and waking up in a hospital corridor. 

aeroad1 - 2What you get
I chose my ADs in ‘long’ to get right down over the boot. They have two-way 47-inch zips right down the outside of each leg, so if you want to vent you can modulate down from waist or up from ankle (or just use Twitter like everyone else). At the top you can also reset the waist aeroad1 - 6circumference with studs by an inch on each side (right). I have my 38″ Ls on the bigger setting and there’s a short elastic triangle at the back to take up the slack when lunch catches you with your trousers down. The zips have a full length rain flap of course and at the ankles have a big reflective panel (above left) allowing you to pull them in over boots or whatever. I find this is also useful in taking some of the 1220-g weight off the waist, especially as they’re so long (on my 38 Ls the inside leg is 34″). I wish my Klim Outriders did that (before I got it done myself). This support also avoids the need for braces.
aeroad1 - 8You’re in Aero-Land so you know there’ll be a few pockets knocking about. Left aeroad1 - 4thigh has a 8 x 7-inch velcro™ flap pocket with more v*****™ over the top to take a map pocket. On the other thigh is a same-sized pocket with a water-repellant side zipper. At the hips aeroad1 - 5are two more velcro™ flap pockets and there’s another v-free open pocket at the back, plus a cunning, easily missed SAS-style zipped stash belt (right).
tf33I’m not a great fan of the bulky TF3 Aero-armour (left), even if it might be technically better than slimmer examples like D30 kor-mr(right) which will attach to the velcro™ inside the knee, or ForceField lattice armour which won’t. Knee pads are handy for kneeling by the bike of course, not just crashing. There’s more you-know-what™ along the sides of the waist hem and inside the shins, for more armour perhaps.
WI-mapaerojettaRecent trips have included coming back across close-to-freezing then rainy Spain in December, and a dawn-to-dusk mid-summer ride up the British Isles (right) where in June the chances of rain are high.
On both occasions the AD1s did the job unobtrusively, keeping the chill out, the rain off and the stuff in [the many pockets]. A classic unfussy and functional design as you’d expect from Aerostich, and quite probably comparable with any other high-end membrane rainwear out there.

Thanks for the pants, Aerostich

aerolderie

Tested: Adventure Spec Linesman jacket

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jak - 4Tested: Adventure Spec Linesman softshell jacket

Where: 1600km off-road tour in southern Algeria, a few days in Morocco in April and another month riding in Morocco in November.

UK price: £249
Supplied free for testing by Adv Spec

Weight: 1011g + armour; size tested: Large (me: 6ft 1in/186cm • 205lbs/93kg)

See alsoKlim Overland and Aerostich Darien

Additional photos by Dan W, Dave K, Karim H and Robin W

tik• Light and comfy to wear
• Stylish, low-key design makes it wearable off the bike
• Ready for armour (not included)
• Lots of pockets, including on the back
• High collar
• Sleeves zip off
• Vertical back vents work with a daypack

cros• Expensive
• Not breathable; for warm conditions try the similar but open-weave Mongolia (right) or the Atacama Race
• Don’t expect the protected feel of a fully armoured Cordura jacket


What they say:
aspecA windproof and breathable trail riding/rally jacket reinforced with Du Pont™ Kevlar® fabric on the key abrasion zones. Reinventing the trail riding jacket, via the tracks of the Trans Euro Trail.
For decades the trail rider had very limited options when it came to riding jackets. Either big bulky motorcycle kit that was restrictive and heavy, or lightweight outdoor gear that offered little protection. It always seemed like too much of a compromise. The Linesman Jacket is the culmination of the depth of expertise that Adventure Spec has established helping many tens of thousands of riders travel untold miles around the world.


Review
Adv Spec have lately introduced a batch of own-branded jackets including the vented Atacama Race, the similar open weave Mongolia and a softshell Linesman aimed at trail riders. It has been named after the volunteer researchers on the Trans Europe Trail (TET) which Adv Spec support – comparable with Touratech US’s Backroute Discovery Routes (BDR); a riding gear outlet sponsoring and even under-writing well researched ride routes.
I miss my old Mountain Hardwear softshell (right), left on a bus in Delhi after a couple of epic Himalayan bike rides. Back then outdoorsy softshell was quite pricey; a stretchy polyester outer fabric bonded (sometimes via a breathable membrane) to a soft, micro-fleece liner producing a lightweight shell that’s nice and non-rustly to wear while keeping the windchill at bay.
jak - 18What makes Adv Spec’s Linesman different from an outdoor-lineslablesports softshell is the lack of a membrane (my MH was annoyingly sweaty; not really breathable) or even a DWR coating. Instead you get a kevlar overlay on the high-wear or impact areas (the green parts) as well as front chest pockets which work as vents to purge through similar zipped slots on the back.

Your Linesman is not intended for tearing around Brands Hatch on you Gixxer, nor touring Alpine passes. It’s aimed at trail riders who’ll be doing their riding and crashing at much lower speeds. To make that less painful there are armour pockets at the elbow, shoulders and the back.
aspeclineIf you add in a hook or velcro tab at the top, this back sleeve could double up as a bladder holder. The Atacama Race comes with this feature; however it’s done, it would be good to see it added to the Linesman, even if a useful two litres might put a strain on the jacket. It’s nice to not have to use a day pack to contain your hydrator.
The shoulder armour pockets thoughtfully pin up out of the way towards the collar because on the Linesman you can zip-off the sleeves. The theory is, with the sleeves stashed in the rear pouches, the jacket more wearable in hot conditions. While I’mjak - 1 pretty blasé about armour, I’d still rather ride with sleeves. If I’m getting stuck into a sweaty work like a difficult bike recovery, I’d probably aspecnoslevjust take the jacket off. But I can see the value in removing them while retaining the security and utility of the pockets, perhaps on a warm TET evening in southern Europe for an amble down to the village bar. Update: In Morocco in April it was over 30°C so I did ride with sleeves removed and very pleasant it was too. The other two were cooking in their membrane jackets.

There are eight pockets: two on the outside at the hem as big as your hand; two smaller vertical chest pockets which double up as vents (so probably not a place for your phone or wallet); two more zipped pouches above the back hem which you can just reach with the jacket on; and two huge and very handy mesh ‘drop pockets’ inside (below left). I find these most useful and have added mesh versions to my other riding jackets; an easy and secure place to stash gloves of maps without having to interact with zips apart from the front one.

I can see the thinking behind water-resistant YKK zips on the front pockets/vents, but unfortunately this makes them too stiff to operate one-handed on the move and as you can see left on the top zip, the press-seal doesn’t close up fully to keep water out.
Seeing as these are the more used zips, I’d prefer the conventional, freer-flowing zips as used on the rear vents and pockets (the lower zip pictured above). After all, the main front zip is the same. This ease of use applies linespokespecially to the front chest pocket/vents which are handy to open or close on the move while leaving the rear vents open. Like on my Klim Overland, these rear vents are inaccessible with the jacket on, let alone on the move; it’s often easier to ask another rider to zip you up or down.  If it’s raining, valuables are better off in a waterproof pouch while you either get a bit wet or pull on a mac.


What did the others wear?
jaxI have a rather casual sense of dress in the desert and prefer not to feel hot or sweaty. I don’t like being weighed down or in-your-fullface lids or synthetic legwear and I don’t mind being cold for a short while. I wore: TKC Baja boots, Klim Outrider trousers, the Linesman with a wicky/merino  undershirt plus a Shoei open face. I was comfortable with these choices and unlike many, couldn’t be bothered change once at the camp.
Of the dozen other riders; 10 wore full-face MX, most with goggles; 3 had neck braces; at least 5 wore full armour underjackets over vests or jackets; 7 wore Cordura riding jackets all the time and probably with armour – the rest wore jerseys most of the time; 1 wore waxed cotton + armour; 10 wore nylon riding (over?) pants probably with armour; 1 wore jeans with armour and 1 wore leather trousers.

xr4 - 17The sort of riding I did in Algeria added up to a half-days on the plateau highway at elevations up to 1600-m, regular gravel pistes, gnarlier soft sand and 2nd-gear sandy tussock oueds, short dune crossings, churned up sandy canyons, and wide-open sand sheet down at 500m, all with regular stops to allow regrouping and playing the klimagsand. Temperatures ranged from freezing mornings to the upper-20s Centigrade.
Underneath I wore a wicky T-shirt or long sleeve, either synthetic (right) or merino when chillier.  That’s quite a mix of terrain, speeds and temperatures wearing similar kit; I tend to put up with short-term discomforts forcefieldrather than faff about with layers. Through it all the Linesman unobtrusively coped with the occasional opening or closure of the rear vents. I wore mine with only Forcefield elbow armour (left). I must admit I’ve felt better crashing hard in a Cordura jacket, with or without armour. Softshell has a rubbery feel which would snag as you slide and tumble, especially on the road where thick Cordura abrades almost as well as leather. Luckily that’s not something I’ve done for decades and on this trip it was just the usual slow speed spills.

xr4 - 27Best of all, I like the Linesman’s plain styling while not being yet more boring grey or black. Others, including non-bikey types, commented on the stylish, look too; something you can wear off the bike without handing over a pizza. Maybe it’s the design or maybe it’s the stretchy fabric which see a total lack of adjustability using cinch-cord, poppers or velcro. The plain elasticated cuffs and neck don’t need doing up or pining down once the Linesman’s on. It all helps enhance the look without detracting from the jacket’s function.

jak-17It’s probably not the only biking jacket you’d want to own, and you do wonder how durable the softshell will be after a couple of years of inevitable scuffing, but the Linesman does represent a new type of biking jacket with as much optional impact protection and storage as a typical Cordura-and-membrane coat, but more on-the-road windproofing than the fully  vented jackets like Revit’s Cayenne Pro, Klim’s Inverse or Adv Spec’s own Mongolia and Atacama.

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Tested: TCX Baja Mid boots in the Sahara

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Tested: TCX Baja Mid boots

Where: Algerian SaharaHigh Atlas Morocco, UK

Cost: £200
Supplied free for review by TCX UK

Weight: 1017g each


What they say:
TCX-21630Designed for Adventure both on and off road, and on and off the bike, the TCX Baja Boots are built to be protective on the bike and walkable on the trail. Full grain leather upper for durability and lasting good looks. Polyurethane inserts at the ankle, heel and toe. The perfect hybrid of a low hiking boot and a high motocross boot, the TCX Baja Mid Cut Boots will take you where the adventure leads, over any terrain, through any weather. [Revzilla]

  • Full grain leather upper
  • Suede front and rear padded areas increase comfort
  • Soft padded upper collar
  • Waterproof membrane lining
  • CFS Comfort Fit System
  • Ergonomic shin plate reinforcement
  • PU malleolus [ankle bone], toe and heel inserts
  • Leather shift pads
  • Inner suede heat guard offers maximum grip
  • 2 interchangeable, micro-adjustable ALU6060 aluminum buckles for superior fit
  • Anatomical and replaceable footbed
  • High performance rubber compound sole with differentiated grip areas for stability and traction on any terrain
  • CE certified

 


What I think:

tik• Light, do-it-all books for gravel-roading and even hiking off the bike
• Solid construction ought to last years
• Easy to operate, adjustable and replaceable buckles
• Non-clammy waterproof membrane

cros

• Not much; looked a bit grubby by the end but brushed up OK

 


 

Review
tcx - 2altbergMy old Altberg road boots (right) were showing the years. Bought from a junk shop for 20 quid, they were OK for my Morocco tours but didn’t have the solid protection nor a stiff on-the-footrests instep for a two-weeker in Algeria on an XR400.

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I’ve been eyeing up the Italian TCX brand, in particular the Baja Mids from the ‘Touring – Adventure’ line looked good in natural hide and looked like they fitted my needs.
For my sort of non-competitive desert riding I don’t believe a full-height beachyMX boot are really necessary. Looking back I see I only wore such things (Alpine Stars; right) on my very first desert trip in 1982. In the real world I’m not blasting through shallow rivers or showers of stones on my way to tcxbootangsthe chequered flag, but solid ankle support and foot protection are important dietfootfor any form of biking, particularly off-road where a typical slow speed fall over often sees the bike drop on your foot (as happened to a rider on our trip, cooling his sore foot, right). After another crippling accident on our ride a couple of us wondered whether in a foot-catching-a-rut prang a solid, full-height MX boots transfer more twisting force to the knee than a mid-height boot like my Baja which lets the shin bones twist a bit before a knee ligaments snaps.

tcx-buxI’ve had problems with narrow hiking boots, over the years but the size 11 Bajas fitted me just right. Your foot slips smoothly into the padded lining where you can replace the basic footbed to suit your needs, though for bike riding they’re not that critical Everything clamps down with two micro-adjustable buckles which look like they could take the odd whack from a rock and are replaceable once they don’t. This is all a lot less faff than the zips on my old Altbergs which have lasted, but occasionally refused to budge until you reboot, so to speak.

tcx - 5Being mid-height means tucked-in trousers may tuck-out on the move. I also found if wearing short socks the padded edge of the upper collar chaffs on bare shins, as any boot would. The solution is knee-high socks or as I did, tuck trouser-ends into the short socks. Or of course you can wear them OTB for hipster soirees. Being short, they’re light too at just over a kilo each, same as my Lowa desert boots. I never had that encumbered, boxy feeling I recall from full-height MX boots.

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When it came to standing and riding over rough terrain, with larger-than-standard pegs the Bajas supported my feet comfortably and with no pressure, just like a proper MX boot.

I’ve yet to test the Baja’s waterproofness but noticed in the desert they never became uncomfortably clammy togtx wear which suggests a more breathable, higher quality membrane. There’s no word what it is on the Baja description, but TCX’s generic Gore-Tex page tcx - 4suggests all TCX boots use one grade of Gore-Tex or another. In my experience, cheaper membranes err towards waterproofedness rather than true breathability which results in clamminess round the clock.
Looking forward to more long rides in my Bajas. More thoughts here.

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