In Review - New Arrivals And Initial Thoughts
The LB Review Desk has been very busy recently with lots of new arrivals shipping in for the new riding season.
I want to let you all know what's on the bench at the moment in case you are thinking of buying any of them or their competitors, and I can get some info up ahead of the full reviews being written.
What have we got then?
Courtesy of the lovely people at Feridax this week saw the arrival of the following:
Initial impressions of this new flip front helmet are very favourable. My head must be a perfect Shoei shape because this medium size fits like a glove and also fits Lou who intends using it for commuting. Out of the box it is the usual Shoei quality, all the vents click nicely and appear strong while the visor is the usual doddle to remove and re-attach. It comes with a Pinlock insert ready to be attached to the visor, a breath guard (though a fairly small one) and a natty silver helmet bag.
The flip front is simple to use via a large button on the front of the chin which lends the helmet a little bit of a Simpson brand look (not the cartoon) and will come in very handy for photographing the St George ride-out as last year I had to take my full-face off every stop.
I wore the Neotech for the ride to Kentish Town this morning and while there appears a little more noise than my X-Lite 602 I can't really say it bothered me. With the chin locked shut it appears to be a normal full-face helmet with none of the previously traditional front-heavy feeling associated with the type.
The built-in sunvisor, though nothing new, was useful as the skies brightened from the initial mist and when lowered it very quickly became unnoticeable - it is deep enough to cover most of your view although I am on a sports bike thus looking through the top part of the visor aperture.
Another plus is that I can comfortably wear my glasses with it. Perhaps the slightly different profile / shell shape is to thank, but whatever I am grateful as it saved a trip upstairs to put contacts in while in full bike gear.
So far then it is 10/10 for the Shoei Neotech.
Sidi Apex Boots
Let me say I'm not a fan of ankle boots in general, I don't see the point in appearing to be wearing motorcycle boots but foregoing the shin protection offered by full-size ones.
However, I appreciate that for short journeys they have merit because when combined with a pair of armoured jeans you could spend the day in a social setting while being reasonably well protected on the bike.
What Sidi appear to have done is cut the top part off their Cobra full sports boot to produce the Apex - so your foot gets the same ankle, heel and toe protection (even the natty side vent) but without the weight and fashion-busting upper section. All good there then.
You could even go for the Streetburner which is the next model up and is a cut down Vortice boot with all the precise fit systems offered there.
Could the Apex convince me that there is a point in spending nearly £200 on this type of boot? Time will tell.
Spada Predator Bling Sports Gloves
Spada is a British company manufacturing a whole range of motorcycle clothing which sits in the middle price band for every product line. These top-of-the-line sports gloves are no exception as they retail at about £60 which puts them firmly in the 'affordable' section of displays yet appear to include features and specifications from gloves costing twice that. This 'Bling' version features a somewhat garish yet attractive colouring but more importantly we're looking at a lot of carbon moulds on knuckles and finger joints, calf skin palms and full grain leather elsewhere. Textured grip sections abound where the controls would be held and we have the usual velcro wrist and cuff fastenings.
These came as a Large which is what my Knox gloves are yet clearly Spada expect proper shovel-hand sizes because these gloves have a centimetre of extra finger length to them, and so are going back to be swapped for a medium.
I will say that they certainly don't look nor feel like only £60's worth of glove. I'll be using them for the next month or two to see if they continue to impress or show their price a little. My brother has used a pair of waterproof Spada sports gloves for a couple of years now and they haven't fallen to bits so my hopes are high.
Feridax distribute this amusingly named brand of armoured jeans and, again, while I'm not a fan of the type I'm happy to be converted. Lou is going to be wearing them on her commute when the warmer weather returns especially on her dress-down-Fridays because she won't have to change at work.
They're going to be returned for a different size so we haven't been on the bike in them yet, but I can say they look like a normal pair of jeans albeit with panel overlays where you wouldn't normally see stitching on your Levis. However, looking at the 'trendy jean' section of George-at-Asda yesterday I have to say that these Hornees would not go amiss in there amongst the more current designs.
So we have a discreet pair of trousers which claim to be exceedingly hard to grind through if you go tarmac surfing. I worry about my pointy bits hitting the deck (knees, hips etc) but there is plenty of footage online to say that once you are on the deck these jeans will literally save your skin.
You could always take a pair of Knox Flexlite's or similar with you to wear on the bike, then remove at your destination. They're easy enough to carry in a bag or leave in underseat storage.
DogCam MiniDVR HD
From our friends at DogCamera we have the MiniDVR HD on-bike rig which is being evaluated at the moment and I'm planning on using it on the aforementioned St Georges Day rideout. This fancy bullet camera comes with a small detachable display / control box which means my biggest gripe about bullet cams - not being able to see what you are shooting - is answered in a small weather proof unit the size of a fag-packet.
Initial trials showed some gripes although I haven't personally played with it yet so I'm expecting a full review to be put together in a couple of weeks.
Forcefield are a not a new brand yet haven't really become a household name in the same way that market leaders Knox are. To try to help correct that imbalance I not only have upgraded Forcefield armour in my new arc-on Evolution suit (more below) but they have sent me one of their Pro L2K back protectors and a Race-Lite chest protector to go with it.
Their major selling point as I see it is that these products are not 'single use only' protectors unlike others on the market. If you have a rigid shell type protector then there is every likelyhood of it deforming or breaking as the protector does its job, and therefore has to be replaced as you would your helmet after a crash in it. The Forcefield protectors are soft pliable yet as highly certified as the market leaders' products. This softness gives a very nice warming cuddle, no other word suffices here, yes you get a cuddle from your back protector as you ride - not quite as satisfying as being spooned by Kate Beckinsale but equally you do retain perfect control of your motorcycle.
I'm very impressed with the build quality and hope to get some feedback from the BSB paddock where Forcefield have been making inroads this season.
TCX 2.1 MX Boots
Of a more rough and ready nature we have some substantial and very white MX boots from the French company TCX. I'm a huge fan of this company and I was stoked to be able to secure a set of their top-of-the-range offroad competition spec boots to review. Initially our good friend Adz was going to compete in them but first he broke his wrist a week after the boots arrived and secondly had to sell his bike in the closed season!
So it falls to my colleague Patrick to try them out on his local MX track with his brother-in-law who is a v keen mudrider.
Initial impressions are very good - lovely details abound especially in the binding action, they have an inner boot not to help with protection in the same degree as an Alpinestar Supertech inner does, but rather to give a soft and closer fit around the foot. These big heavy boots are very stiff and unyielding in comparison to sportsboots and the inner boot helps hold the foot comfortably while allowing easy washing of what is likely to be a v sweaty lining! Boots like this make me want to go buy an MX bike because they are simply awesome pieces of kit.
Adz did report that they are surprisingly comfortable out of the box, in stark contrast to his Alpinestar's equivalents which took ages to soften up, and come with an easily replaceable sole (by a shoesmith) and he was very impressed although due to his injury he could only buzz around the carpark in them. Patrick should give us a full riding experience and a cleaning report too - white MX boots is surely asking for trouble.
MoTech Tank Bags
This is not a company I'm overly familiar with but that is going to change in 2012 because they have an extensive catalogue of seemingly high quality gear. We're starting the getting-to-know-you programme with two tank bags, previously something I wouldn't get too excited about but these are something special because they a) lock to your tank and b) have power sockets. That means they won't go walkabout if you leave the bike and your mp3/satnav/phone can be charged as you ride.
I've been sent two bags with matching mounts and cables; the 12V Engage and the smaller pre-formed pouch type Daypack plus a GPS holder. These appear a cut above my old Oxford sports bag and can't wait to get them mounted up and tried out. Initial impresssion are good - there's tough materials, plenty of pockets and an impression of durability plus of course the locking system which looks very study. Be careful to order a larger bag that you might normally as the locking system does intrude on the interior space though. Or go for the magnetic only, more traditional type, from their range.
arc-on Evolution Race Suit
Saving the best and most recent to last I finally took delivery of my 2-piece leather suit from local lad Ian's arc-on company. Ian offers just the one suit this year to keep things simple and it is the £750 Evo suit which comes with a free custom design option. You talk to him about sizing, or if local go see him for a measure up using old stock and a tape measure, when he'll give you a black and white outline design of the suit for you to colour in.
This suit is the very same one as a dozen or so racers are using in the BSB paddock including the Buildbase BMW Superbike team, made in the same factory on the same machines. This is not the case with many of the big name manufactures out there who make the suits at HQ in italy for the racers but all the customer suits are made in Asia - possibly the same factory where Ian's are made.
The suit comes as a 1-piece initially although the 2-piece mod is a no-cost option. I chose the latter for the convienence of being able to take the jacket off when I stop. A race hump is there by default but again a no-cost option to remove as I went for because I carry a rucksack a lot of the time.
Forcefield armour is included (he changed from Knox for this year) which is v high tech although I went for an armour upgrade to the preformed full strength armour sold separately (some £80 or so I think) which is well worth the extra I'd say. Nothing wrong with the standard stuff but why skimp on small change when spending this much?
So far the suit is brilliant - the colours are spot on my design and I immediately rode up to Leeds in it to break it in although there really was no need as it was very supple and comfortable from the get-go. It is quite light too - helped by the lightweight armour and a lack of built in backplate - yet has all the quality which meant Barry Burrell was hit in the chest by his own front wheel (which was doing 73mph) with nothing but a black scuff mark and a heat burn to his chest as he wasn't wearing a chest plate. And the perforated chest of the suit is not the strongest leather - that's on the outer surfaces as you'd expect.
My trousers do need taking in because I appear to have lost over an inch at the waist since measuring up at Excel which we're doing via 9-Lives in the Midlands who do all the race suit repairs for him and Dainese apparently.
A note of caution though: This is a race design. Not a faux-race rep suit you might buy at your local store but the real deal and as such is cut very much with riding a sports bike in mind. You will need to talk to Ian if you aren't gonna be crouching over your bike as a matter of course.
Oh and this is a paid-for product just in case you think I'm white-washing here. Paid for by Lou as a birthday pressie in fact!
So that's it, for now, and I guess there's going to be a lot of writing in the next month or two.