Category Archives: Jackets & Trousers

Tested: Klim Traverse II jacket

Tested: Klim Traverse 2 jacket

In a line: Smart looking, well vented and lightweight waterproof shellOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

UK price: £409
(bought discounted from Adventure Spec)

Weight: 1025g (verified)

Size tested: Large (me: 6ft 1in/186cm • 210lbs/95kg)

See also:
Adventure Spec Linesman
Adventure Spec Trail Waterproof Shell
Klim Overland
Aerostich Darien

tik• Light
• Has pockets for armourOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
• Dark grey is neither boring black not dull silver
• Vertical back vents work with a daypack

cros• Costs a lot
• Not an all-season coat without a heated liner
• Not convinced by cuff vents
• Miss the arm cinch straps from the Overland


What they say:
The KLIM Traverse line of completely waterproof, extremely durable and functional off-road outerwear is the benchmark in all-conditions comfort. Still unmatched in the industry, Traverse is the one solution trail and dual-sport riders can count on to deliver the most enjoyable ride in the most miserable conditions.
This generation of the Traverse receives an intelligent redesign to match the off-road legacy of our Dakar lineup’s improvements including a refined fit, updated reflective materials, and intelligent ventilation system improvements. As durable OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAas ever, better fitting and with an increased comfort range, the Traverse is designed to take the threat of rain out of your riding equation. Ride all day, any day, every day in absolute dry comfort.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReview
As with some of my bikes, my Klim Overland was a jacket I’d have been happy to have kept were it not part of my self-styled job to keep trying new things. Then in 2016 they dropped the klim-dimOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOverland and replaced the original Traverse with the updated and much lighter Traverse II I have here. Pitched as a light, trail-biking jacket, rather than high-speed touring coat, it’s more or less the same as an Overland but without armour included, elbow cinch straps and less reflectivity too. Plus it comes in a less dull range of colours apart from the ubiquitous black: a dark olive green and the dark slate grey I have here.

The light, Gore-Tex 2-layer nylon 66  body shell fabric and spread of durable 500D Cordura patches or layers over the arms broad match the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOverland – just about adequate for OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4-season riding if helped by a heated vest, and up to prangs with a bit of armour. The main zip is two-way, with a velcro rain flap and rain gutter.
The adjustable, velcro-tabbed microfleece collar is less of a tight fit than the Overland – or at least it has a velcro closure, not pop studs. And there’s the same adjustable bottom hem to keep draughts at bay.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVents are the best arrangement I’ve used for truly effective airflow: two huge slanted zip vents on the front (easily opened and closed on the move), with matching smaller exhaust vents at the back (less easily operated with the jacket on, even at a standstill). Vertical back vents still work when wearing the typical daypack.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’ve added lower arm vents to the Traverse II which I’m not convinced are that useful when you can just open the velcro cuffs. The rationale is that vents enable you to keep cuffs, front zips and other adjustments closed so armour doesn’t dislodge too much when needed. Although I rarely use it, it’s good to have inner sleeves for optional elbow, shoulder and back armour.
klimpoxInside there’s the same lightweight mesh liner while will support the addition of some mesh drop pockets, as I did on my Overland (below). Or, you can use the rear vents to access all the space between the mesh and the shell.
In large it’s a snug fit on me with not much room for too many bulky layers, but that’s what a good heated vest is for. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor that, I found the arm-cinch straps on the Overland were good at pressing the heated liner down on to the arms for added warmth. If it’s a long ride you can do as much with elastic or straps.
Other than that, I much prefer the slate grey and nearly black colouring, even if reflectivity has taken a back seat on the Traverse II. Looking forward to Traversing some miles with testing downpours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quick Look: Adventure Spec Trail Waterproof Shell jacket


Quick look
:
Adventure Spec Trail Waterproof Shell* jacket

UK price: £375

Weight: 715g (verified)

Size tested: Large (me: 6ft 1in/186cm • 210lbs/95kg)

* Yes, the label pictured top right was confusing
See also:
Adventure Spec Linesman,
Klim Overland and Aerostich Darien
Klim Traverse (shortly),

tik• Smart-looking design
• Good fit according to AS size chart
• Generous length keeps you snug
• Very light and rolls up to about a litre (right)
• Integrated hood
• Two-way zips on the vents
• Kevlar abrasive patches
• Actually has 3 outside pockets (contrary to AS description)

cros

• Main zip is one-way and lacks storm flap
• Single underarm vents limit air flow
•  A bit heavier than the claimed 650g
• Is an integrated hood that useful?


What they say:
A lightweight waterproof breathable over jacket with DuPont™ Kevlar® reinforced impact areas. This expedition/trail jacket includes a helmet a
[sic] compatible fold away hood, body vents and one throttle friendly chest pocket.


Review
The Trail shell is the latest addition to Adventure Spec’s  own-brand rider wear, including the vented Atacama Race jacket, similar open-weave Mongolia and the popular Linesman softshell I used last year.
The long-awaited Trail is their first waterproof shell to wear all day, rain or shine, or over some of the above listed jackets. It breathes, it vents, it’s waterproof and has an integrated hood. But note that unless you’re riding in the tropics, as an all-weather, trans-continental travel jacket you may find the TWS a bit too skimpy; the body is not much thicker than my hill-walking cag. The priority has been to save weight and bulk while retaining some function and the agility needed in off-roading rather than sitting on the slab at 120kph..
Contrary to AS’s online description (which may get corrected), the Trail has three external pockets (left), not one. Good to see. In one of the lower pockets is a small combination whistle/tyre valve-core tool. The latter will work but blowing through the tiny whistle, the air soon backs up and doesn’t make a usefully audible noise. For that a proper ‘pea whistle’ works best.
High-wear areas like elbows/forearms, shoulders plus the lower sides get rugged kevlar patches which also help give the otherwise plain nylon shell some eye-catching texture. The elongated back with its drawstring hem helps keep draughts at bay when crouched over the bars on a mission.
Adv Spec suggest the bonded membrane shell errs towards waterproofness rather than breathability, and without layering, the thin body fabric won’t keep you as warm as heavier jackets. When things do warm up or slow down in gnarly terrain, single underarm vents (right) with two-way, water-resistant zips help the air flow through, especially if you open up the front. But with front zipped up and on the move, I’ve found single underarm vents less effective in purging air.
I’m not convinced the roomy hood which tucks into the collar is such a useful feature for bike riding, even if it does make for a cushy collar. It’s huge, and the rationale of it stopping water running down the back of your neck is not an issue I’ve experienced with a snug jacket collar or wearing a neck buff. Around a camp or at the roadside, it may have its uses (I mislay at least one cap or hat a year).
I think many potential buyers would sooner see that weight re-allocated towards some sewn- or velcro’d in sleeves for armour pads. Such an option would broaden the Trail’s use out towards less technical moto-travelling as opposed to pure dirt biking, where some sort of padded or armoured top (right) would probably be wise.

For the purpose for which it was designed, Adventure Spec’s super light Trail Waterproof Shell will suit many riders. Be it the bike or the gear you wear, lightness is always desirable, but to me all-weather functionality is more important. For my sort of riding I’d be happy to skip the hood and, if necessary, carry another few hundred grams for proper through-venting, a big, securely dry inner pocket and a storm-flap over the front zip.

AS-TWS dims

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

linesman-jacket-01-front

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.

mirror.jpg

 

Tested: Klim Outrider pants review

updated autumn 2019

klou10Tested: Klim Outriderkot-3 pants.

Where: 3000km over a month in southern Morocco. Then another 5000 in Morocco and Spain, another 1000km in Algeria in 2018 and again in 2019, twice.

UK price: £165 at Adventure Spec.

See also: Klim Dakar ITB; Aerostich AD1s

tik
• Usual Klim quality
• Not plastered in Klim branding
• Exterior knee sleeves make armour easily removable
• They make handy stash pockets too
• Can pass as slightly unusual normal jeans
• They didn’t go cargo-pocket-mad, as many do
• Cotton-Cordura fabric feels tough, but breathes well
cros
• Regular length was too long in the leg (shortened mine)
• Way too baggy at the shins for riding bikes too, even OTB. I cut a wedge out and zip put in
• Expensive, but will last

klou13As I wrote, I’ve been looking for some riding pants that make me feel protected but don’t weigh a ton like my old leathers, and aren’t sweaty, bulky, membrane overpants. There are those kevlar-impregnated demin jeans, but who actually wears jeans these days?
aspecAfter a while I decided my Klim Dakar ITBs were just too race-focussed, under-pocketed and too nylony for my tame level of desert touring. At the 2016 NEC klou11Adv Spec put me onto Klim’s forthcoming Outriders – normal looking, jean-like riding pants with well-thought-out armour. Something you can wear on or off the bike. In other words: ideal do-it-all travelling trousers.
When they arrived my 38″ Regulars weigh 1440g with the armour, or 1090g without. More than half that of my leathers and a bit less than the chunky Dakar ITBs.

Fyi: I bought these Outriders at a discount from Adventure Spec in return for advertising in my books 

What they say:
The Outrider is designed to traverse the environments and demands of the multi-sport enthusiast. Scrambling out to your favorite fishing spot, hiking from the trailhead to the lake at 9,000ft, or cruising the boulevard to the pier at sunset. Wherever your next odyssey takes you, the Outrider is ready for anything. Built with the quality you expect from KLIM®.


Review
klimoutridersI was pretty sure I’d like the Klim Outriders and out of the box I wasn’t disappointed. I’m around 6′ 1″ and 94kg, 37″ waist (when I left for Morocco), and an inside leg of 32″ (unchanged). So ’38 x 32 Regular’ was my size.
But these pants are actually a yard long in the leg and once worn standing up, sag at the heel, like the image right, but morekot-jak. Once the armour’s in and with some riding up when sat on a bike, they actually look correct. And if you wear them ITB (in-the-boot) to eliminate snagging the baggy ends, it ought not matter (or so I hoped). Better too long than too short, I suppose.
You get two front pockets with a jean-like coin slot insidekor-6 one; two at the back, one with a flap and stud, and a smartphone slip-in on the left thigh so you can check in without taking your hand off the throttle.
kor-mrInside, mesh takes the slim D3O hip armour pads (left; I didn’t use them on my trip), and at the knees you slip the armour in from the top, position with unobtrusive velcro and do up a stud.
Even without the armour these long, double thickness knees will give some extra protectionkot-mika, and feature drain holes at the lower ends for those deep BAM crossings (right).
The 75% Cotton-Cordura fabric is hefty without feeling like scout tent fabric or being unduly sweaty. The attention to detail and klou15triple-stitching is confidence-inspiring and the shade of dark brown works for me. Maybe it was all part of the grand business plan, but it’s good to see Klim getting away from the sporty racewear and into more mainstream riding gear which will have many more buyers.
Before I even got to Morocco my Outriders got soaked while waiting in the rain to board the ferry at Algeciras. A good test to see if they’d dry on the hour’s crossing. They did.
Over the next month, I rode in temperatures from 35°C in Westernoutfad Sahara, to close to freezing in the High Atlas (with runner’s leggings underneath). In all that time the Outriders never felt too hot and sweaty, nor chilled my legs out of proportion to the rest of me. On the very hot days, just stopping for a minute in my Overland jacket, with all vents and zips open, saw me start sweating; my legs in the Outriders remained stable.
klou1Because they’re so long, tucking the rolled-up ends into my boots and then doing the boots up became a chore on some days. And, perhaps because my boots aren’t full knee height and clamped to my leg, over the course of a day getting on and off the bike they’d work their way out and need stuffing back in.
I could have worn them ‘OTB’ but klouripI’m sure they’d have snagged on something and got oily or ripped. As it was, they got ripped anyway while paddling hard through a sandy oued – didn’t notice till later as I was slightly desperate at the time. I suppose they caught the footrest or gear level on a forward lunge.
klou6I got them machine-washed once – probably high temp and not inside out, contrary to instructions. I can’t say I noticed any shrinkage, if that is the reason (in fact I out-algwould have welcomed a bit). I didn’t crash in them either, though I dare say something closer-fitting like the Dakar ITBs would keep the knee armour in place better.
Back home I got them shortened by 2 inches (using the off-cut to patch the tear), and a few months later cut a wedge out of the lower klimoutzippleg to get a slimmer shin fit and installed a zip along the inside. A side-benefit of the zip makes them easy to pull- or roll up to the knee for wading or general airing-off. But all up klimoutzipthat’s a lot of after-market sewing for an expensive pair of trousers. I know the American fit is typically larger than in Europe, but an inch is still an inch.
After another wash or three, the Klims are fading but are in good shape. For the moment they are my general riding trousers, quick-drying and without the weight of leathers, the sweatiness of the ITBs or synthetic-ness of membrane over-trousers.

klimotrs

The Right Trousers? Klim Dakar 2016 ITB quick test

itb_dakar_itbTested: Klim Dakar 2016 ITB pants.

Where: Over 200 miles trail riding in the Pyrenees.

UK price: £155 at Adventure Spec

tik

Solid construction, good fit, look good in olive. Dry quickly on the move.

cros

Poor venting when seated in hot, slow conditions.

See also: Klim Outriders

aspecThese pants were supplied by Adventure Spec in exchange for advertising in the AMH7

What are the best trousers to wear for overland travel? I can’t say I’ve ever got to the bottom of it. rittrosBreathable and vented Cordura overtrousers for the ATGATT brigade, kevlar reinforced jeans (right, sort of), leathers (below, 1982), MX pants? More than a jacket, it can be a tricky compromise between comfort, practicality, looks, plus rain and crash protection.
itb-82Since the very start I’ve gone for leather trousers for biking travels as well as biking work. squatWatching Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quattro on TotP may have had something to do with it, but back then before Cordura, Gore-tex, D3O and kevlar, it just made sense unless you loved the smell of wax cotton in the morning. Leather is low to zero maintenance; lasts forever; look good in town and country, on or off a bike; good at sliding down the road or bashing into things too; warm enough in the cold; doesn’t show the dirt and is wipe clean – but quite hot in the heat.
The main problem is at 2.5kg they’re so heavy they need braces to keep them up, and year by year it gets harder for me to swing the old leg over high-saddled trail bikes. It’s great to feel protected, but it would be nice to do so with less weight. And the older I get the more I’m disinclined to hurt myself on a bike. In the 21st century there must be something out there better than a skinned cow for riding the ranges.
I have a pair of Aerostich GTX pants with full length side zips for easy putting on, but can’t bring myself to use them as anything other than rain overtrousers on a long cold ride for which they’re pretty bulky when not worn. I’ve never really been sold on membranes, which I’m beginning to realise, understandably err more towards waterproofness than breathability. If they’re going to be clammy, I’d sooner wear something breathable and then pull on my classic Rukka for downpours.
itb-stondKlim make GTX trousers to go with their jackets too, but I asked Adventure Spec to try a pair of no membrane Klim 2016 Dakar In The Boot pants. I plan to wear them on this autumn’s Morocco tours instead of the leathers (by which time I’ll have more to say about them for travelling). For the moment I used them on one of Austin Vince’s two-day Pyrenean rides.
tros-pyrWearing thick layers of nylon wouldn’t be my first choice – I do prefer natural materials like cotton or leather, but these things just aren’t always as practical. Your Klim Dakars are a heavy, thick pant made of lined Cordura and strategically positioned stretchy and ventilated panels. On top of the thighs are longitudinal vent zips with mesh behind, and alongside each of them a small patch pocket – the only ones you get. There are leather patches on the inside of the knees where you contact the bike, as well as sleeves inside for knee and hip armour. The hip sleeves could double as regular inside pockets. You get a velcro reverse belt, plus a zip fly and studs for a snug fit. The 38s fitted me just right.
itb-standAnything but yet more dreary black is fine with me – but so is the extreme opposite of dazzling, high-octane colours. I find the olive and black combo just right. If you want to go shouty and frighten the horses there’s a set in burnt orange as well as plein noir. itb-ffieldThe whole lot weighs 1280g, exactly half my leathers plus 190g for a £20 pair of Forcefield shoulder pads which AS recommend for the knees over less durable D3O. As it’s not the semi-final of the Ezeberg I didn’t bother with hip armour.
itb-bentkneeThe best thing you can say about this sort of gear is that you forget it’s there. Beating up and down the valleys of the Pyrenees, getting on and off the TTR250 loaner to read checkpoints was no chore. I’d prefer a zip at the ankle to make a snugger fit ITB while still making them easy to take off.
scorchiNo so good was the fact that in the 35°C+ temps the thick pants got quite hot and sweaty, especially when waiting in the sun for the navigator to decode the map, but doubtless my leathers would have been cooking too. The vents should have cooled things off, but I found the foot-long knee-to-hip zip vent only really caught the breeze when I stood up like a proper itb-vetnerITB Dakar racer. When sat down the breeze just fluttered over the zip without purging any clammy air. Any chance I got to stand up, I did to get some flow on. What would really work when seated is some sort of lateral arched or sprung vent above the knee, acting a bit like those Ventz sleeve thingies (right).
At one point mid-afternoon while letting the baking air-cooled TTRs cool down a bit, I just had to join in and drop my ITBs to air the heck off. Back at the ranch, 4 litres of sugar-and-salted water later, hygiene dictated laundering them before the next day’s ride.
wale-22That day was at higher elevations as well as on faster tracks and backroads and the ITBs felt much less sweaty. Back home a proper wash in a machine saw the dye leak from the leather and take the edge of the orange branding on the pockets. The rubbery Klim knee logo picks off too if you need a lower still profile.
klimdaksSince then I’ve used them trail biking in Wales – a lot cooler and with deep puddles so no probs getting hot, and when soaked from a big splash itbbsthey dried quickly once on the move, so I never had the impression of wearing soaking trousers. When I got back on both days they were barely damp. The venting felt more effective too: closed up in the early morning chill and unzipped as the day warmed up and things got technical.
In Morocco (left) they worked fine – not too sweaty and the vents were in range, but missed some pockets.

Heated jackets for motorcycling

Turn on, Plug in but don’t Chill Out on winter’s long road.

hj-2jax1-gloIf you live outside the tropics and like to ride on anything other than sunny summer days, heated clothing makes sense on a bike. Your bike produces excess electrical power which, with the benefit of modern technology and materials, can make a near-freezing ride tolerable in a way you couldn’t imagine. The two jackets looked at here are Aerostich’s 75-watt Kanetsu AirVantage (above, on the far right) and the lately discontinued 60/105 watt Powerlet RapidFIRe which you can still find used for as little as £100.

hj-seddonbikeI remember back the late 70s there was a batty guy at work called Maurice Seddon who rode a BSA made before I was born and who sold hand-made heated clothing on the side (left). For London-based despatching that wouldn’t have been such a great idea, as with all the stop-start and on-off you never got that cold. But out on the road between cities you sure could. Even then, heated clothing had a reputation for inefficiency and unreliability and so didn’t seem worth the investment compared to piling on the layers and gritting your teeth.

WindChill_ComparisonCompared to the northern US states and eastern or northern Europe, the southern UK rarely gets that cold in winter (anymore), but sat on a bike in the wind it’s always colder than you think. Apparently, in bikers’ lore over in the US there’s something called the ’60 60 30 rule’: 60 mph at 60°F (ambient) feels like 30°F on a bike (100kph / 15°C / -1°C).
That may be easy to remember but is clearly exaggerated. There’s no way doing 60 at 15°C feels like just below freezing. It’s an embellishment of what they now call the ‘old wind chill index’. According to the calculator on this page, the post-2001 new wind chill index (NWCI, red, left) gives a more plausible index of 54°F or 12°C, rather than 30°F at 60-mph. Bright sunshine can also reduce the wind chill by several degrees °C.

hj-fogBut when the ambient temperature drops to a more typical, mid-winter’s ride of 41°F (5°C), the new wind chill index corresponds to 26°F or -3°C. That’s how it felt for me crossing northern Spain last week when, for the last few hundred clicks to Santander, the road rises to more or less 700m (2300′). Though it was foggy and clearly above 0°C, I felt freezing with my Powerlet RapidFIRe heated liner turned up to the max. I rode on through the murk for as long as I could bear it, then dived into a roadside hotel to thaw out. Next day it was the same until I dropped out of the fog to the coast. It gave me time to work out how to get the best from a heated liner. Apart from sealing against all possible draughts, using heated grips, hand guards and a windshield, having the liner actually pressing on your body is much more effective. Like this, the liner’s heated matrix is warming a thin base layer clinging to your skin, not the air gap between. And ironically, I feel it’s better if that base layer is not thermal – just thin polyester or whatever that’s easier to wash than a jacket full of wires. At times I was riding with my left arm pressed against my chest just to force the front of the jacket against me and benefit from the heat. But doing that for a while my hand got cold away from the heated grip. Next day I wore a thin fleece over the heated jacket to press the wires down achieve the same, all-round effect.

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Liner or jacket?
The Kanetsu is designed to zip in as a liner on your Aerostich Darien or Roadcrafter, but over the years I’ve mostly used it with various other jackets. The Powerlet zips up to itself, but does feature a textured outer shell that’s slightly tacky or rubbery so it’s more prone to staying with your main jacket as you slip both off (assuming that’s what you want). Because the Kanetsu is a zip-in liner, I found when using it with other jackets the open-ended zip would open up from the bottom. Aero could get round this by adding a stud to stop it separating when not zipped in as a liner.
hj-2jaxBoth jackets stuff into their own zippered pouches (left), with the Kanetsu benefitting from belt loops. On a long trip both still add up to a sizeable bulk when not worn, unless you choose to use it off the bike. As you can see below, they both look pretty good as regular jackets. The Aerostich has more pockets, the Powerlet has a lined and heated collar. Both weigh about 1100g.

hj-2jax

hj-pletbandsAs said, a close fit makes all the difference and these jackets achieve that differently. The RapidFIRe has Spandex sidepanels in the body and arms (left) to make the liner cling to you. Mine was an end-of-the-line cheapie which by that time was only available in XL – a bit too big on me. But it occurred to me I could easily close up those elastic panels with thread to achieve a snugger and so more effective fit.

Thj-plet-nukehe RapidFIRe has two heat settings – 60/105 watt which, afaict, the newer $430 Atomic Skin model has dropped. Probably because no one ever needed 105 watts. To activate this arctic setting you join up two loose plugs zipped into a dinky hem compartment (left). Knowing my Honda had the capacity to run it (see below), I tried the 105-watt setting on a 200-mile round trip down to around 8°C (which in NWCI adds up 0.5°C @ 65 mph). I found that setting 2/5 was more than enough to keep me warm in my Darien Light and a thin base layer. If I regularly rode in sub-freezing conditions I might leave it on 105 watts. More probably though, I’d get a car.

hj-kanMy 5-year-old 75-watt Kanetsu AirVantage is a version of Aerostich’s regular (and $70 cheaper) WindStopper. It differs by having an air bladder within the body linings which you inflate with a hj-inflatestem valve (left), like an airplane life jacket until you have a comfortable fit under your riding jacket. As long as you’re not wearing it inside out (an easy mistake to make) the bulging bladders press the heating elements against your torso, a clever idea that maximises efficiency and means you don’t have to whack up the dial for it to have the desired effect. Until you get used to it, it’s another thing to remember to do when togging up, and it can result in that ‘stuffed’ feeling you’re trying to avoid with heated gear. But it adds insulation and does work. The AirVantage is definitely worth the extra $70 ($387) over the regular, non-inflating WindStopper.


hj-exotogFast forward to 2019 and at a show I spotted these Exotog inflatable pull-over bodywarmer. A bit like the lifejacket mentioned above, the idea is the still air creates a thick insulated layer without excessive bulk when not in use. The truth is, down works better to keep trapped air still, but that’s impractical with humid, breath-inflated items and these must be better than nothing.
It also occurred to me they’d be a very effective way of pressing a heated jacket down on to your torso to derive maximum efficiency. It weighs from 270g and costs 100 quid.


godofhellfireWhat both jackets highlight is that once warmed up and doing their thing, you won’t necessarily feel like The God of Hellfire (left) reposing in front of a roaring log fire with a warm cup of cocoa. But you’ll sure notice the difference should you switch them off. [This is actually a slightly misleading test as switching off is a bit like stepping out of a shower all wet: in the short term you’ll feel chilly until things evaporate]. And, depending on the wind protection on dsc00040 (1)your bike, you’ll also notice your heated but exposed arms will feel notably less warm than your hopefully balmy torso, as well noticing the slightest cold spot. In fact this whole temperature differential can be a bit of a distraction.
The Powerlet uses something called Carbon Nanocore technology (thin wires) producing far infrared heat (hence Rapid FIR e); the AirVantage simply uses ‘hotter’ wires in the arms. Whichever one you’re wearing, this is where those velcro arm cinches on your riding jacket come in useful to press the heating elements against you. The Darien I recently reviewed has them both above and hj-cinchbelow the elbow (right), but they still couldn’t spread the heat evenly. If I was heading for a really long, cold ride, I’d find a way of binding the heated jacket’s sleeves close to my arms. All these measures will enable you to run as low a setting as possible, so giving you an extra margin when things really chill down.

Electrical consumption
One good thing about modern bikes is they should have plenty of alternator capacity to power electrical accessories – and heated jacket liners probably make the biggest demands. My CB500X produces 500 watts at 5000 rpm – my late-80s era GS500R dished out just 200 watts at the same rpm. Even a modern 250 single might produce over 300 watts. Modern lights draw less power too, but add fuel pumps, some LED or HiD spots, heated grips as well as the possibly lower engine speeds when riding at night in freezing temperatures, and on the old GS the alternator may have struggled to keep up with the demand.

Heat Controller
These thermostats usually come as accessories to the heated liners but are a good idea unless you’re happy with all-or-nothing heating. After all, what other heating application – domestic, industrial or otherwise – has no adjustment settings? Often, as you slow down to ride through a built-up area you’ll feel too warm – you don’t want that but you may not want to switch right off either.

heatrollersThe Aerostich Heat Troller ($70; left and below right) is a little box with a dial knob and molded SAE leads. You can feel the knob’s soft click as you turn it on and in less than one clockwise turn it’s at max. Tucked down by a tank net as below right, it’s easy to operate on the move using feel alone when wearing thick gloves. No need to take your eyes off the road. I just dial it up to max then back off as needed. There’s a red LED that flashes proportionally – handy for a quick hj-aerocontglance to see if it’s actually working or if it’s just you and you need to dial in more heat. Direct from Aerostich it seems the Heat Troller only comes with SAE connectors but I just bought one with QuiConnects coax here). Their Kanetsu jackets now comes with BMW, SAE or QuiConnect fittings.

 

hj-pletcontThe Powerlet uses a similar black box and the co-axial QuiConnects all round (left), but with a flat pad to turn it on and keep pressing up to five levels. The problem is that pad is very hard to locate and feel through a thick glove, so you’re not always sure if you’ve done anything or gone too far and turned it off. You need to glance down to check the position of the red LEDs – not handy on an icy hairpin at six in the morning. It’s nowhere near as user-friendly as a dial knob. The current Atomic Skin Powerlet liner uses a remote wrist-mounted wireless controller. Me, I’d sooner fit an Aerostich-style Heat-Troller unless you mount the controller on the handlebars.

Overall, the discontinued Powerlet RapidFIRe gets the nod as it’s a tad less bulky, has two core heat settings, has accessory wires to run glove liners, has a regular zip for use in any riding jacket, not as a zip-in liner, has wire in the collar and slicker QuiConnect fittings. But chances are you can’t buy it anymore unless you’re huge, and neither the Kanetsu not the Atomic Skin are currently sold in the UK.

My tips for heated liners:

  • Get a full heated jacket with heated arms, neck and full torso, not a waistcoat or a jacket with partial panels
  • Get an easy-to-use heat controller
  • If the body’s elasticated, aim for a close fit
  • Wire direct to the battery via a fuse (leads often supplied)
  • Don’t bother with remote, battery-powered options. Your bike has a  battery and charging system: make use of them.

Click this for a recent review of Aerostich and Klim shells which were used with these heated liners

Good 2012 article by ABR magazine (pdf)