ATGATT!!!

Everybody has their favorite gear for riding.  Here's how I gear up when I hit the road:

1) Sparx Griffin helmet: Overall, I like this helmet.  It's comfy, I love the look and graphics, the price was very reasonable and it comes standard with both clear and tinted visor (which are easy enough to swap out).  If you are so inclined, you can buy a mirrored visor.  On the negative side, it has a really bad tendency to fog up when the temperatures drop and consequently, just when I need the visor and vents closed the most, I have to ride with the visor cracked open and the vents open.  Simply opening the visor at stop lights isn't enough during my morning commute to work to keep the visor clear.  As a result, I tend to arrive at work with my face numb from the cold.  However, on hot summer days, a little more airflow through the helmet when commuting in town would be nice (although it's fine on the highway).

2) Icon Accelerant jacket: I fell in love with this jacket when I first saw it at a local dealer.  List price in 2009 was $385, so even with the jacket on sale, it was a little more than what I wanted to spend for a jacket.  However, I've been happy with it.  The jacket has armor in the shoulders, elbows and back, and has a pouch inside so you can add additional armor in the back if you desire.  The leather is thick enough that I have no doubts about how well protected I'll be if I ever end up in an off, but is not so stiff and bulky as to inhibit movement.  It comes with a zip out liner that is reasonably warm in cooler weather (this jacket with a rain jacket over it to cut the wind keep me warm enough during my morning commute, even when temps are in the upper 30s or lower 40s), and is easily removed when temps rise during the day.  It is a great looking jacket and the titanium hump on the back protector gives it a very tough appearance.  I only have a couple of minor quibbles with the jacket.  First, the only vents are two tiny scoops on the shoulders that zip shut in colder weather.  They are a little awkward to adjust while you are wearing the jacket, so opening or closing the vents at stop lights is usually a two or three stop affair (in other words, just pull off on the side of the road).  When open, they don't really increase air flow that much, although I am surprised at how cold I get in cooler temperatures when I've forgotten to close the vents, lol.  Second, there are three pockets -- two handwarmer pockets and one inside pocket -- and they are all rather small.  I can carry a small smart phone and a credit card in the inside pocket; my wallet will just barely fit in the handwarmer pockets.  Finally, within the first year of riding, the nylon lining in the inside pocket had torn, releasing the contents of my pockets into the lining at the bottom of my jacket.  I was able to fish everything out and repair the pocket, but it was annoying to have to do so in less than a year of use.  Nevertheless, I'm still happy with the purchase, and would definitely recommend this jacket to others.

3) Icon Merc Short gloves (warm weather): These gloves are great!  They are rugged, and very good looking.  The knuckles are reinforced with a real carbon fiber plate, which is attached to a flap of leather that partially covers a mesh vent on the back of the hand.  When you curl your fingers in the riding position, this opens up the mesh to outside air, keeping your hands cool.  The palms have a second layer of leather over a gel cushion to provide comfort and to protect your hands, should you go skidding along the pavement (God forbid!).  Despite the considerable protection to your hands, control feel in these gloves is excellent.  While these gloves get rather chilly at colder temperatures (around 40F), in fairness, they weren't meant to be cold weather gloves, and so this year at Thanksgiving, I purchased a pair of Olympia gloves for my cold morning commutes.  The only downside is that I have trouble keeping the velcro closure on the left glove closed, and the rubber tab to which the velcro is attached is also starting to tear away from the glove.

4) Alpinestar Bat pants: in the on-line catalogs, these pants looked okay, but not as nice as the Alpinestar V-Twin pants.  Once I saw them in person, I completely changed my mind, and I have never regretted my choice.  They have great protection in the knees and hips, and they are full leather construction -- no textile stretch panels -- which is what I wanted.  The Bat pants are racing-style leather pants, but without the knee-slider pucks, so if you want quality riding leathers that don't make you look like a race track wannabe, these pants are perfect.  IMHO, they are sized a little small.  My Levi's 501 jeans are 31 waist, 34 inseam, so I expected I would need the size 34 Bat pants.  On the advice of my local motorcycle gear dealer I purchased the size 36 long pants.  Even so, when they arrived, I was afraid I might have to order yet another size up.  However, after wearing them around the house for a week (it was December, so no motorcycling in Anchorage, anyway), they started to break in and I'm very happy with the fit, now.  After a summer of use, I can honestly report that these pants are exactly what I was looking for in motorcycle pants.  Two thumbs up!

5) Shift Torque Kevlar-lined jeans: After getting to work one day and realizing that I had left my Levis at home, I decided that I needed something a little less...outlandish...than my Alpinestar leather pants for commuting. I still wear the Alpinestars if I'm going farther than work or the store, but for casual poking around town, the Shift Torque jeans are a great choice. They don't look out of place when off the bike. In fact, I've pretty much replaced all of my Levis with the Torque jeans, whether I'm riding are not. They've got Kevlar linings in the seat and the knees, but no CE-approved armor. If you want impact protection, these won't work unless you add something like Bohn armored liners.

6) Alpinestar Scout boots: Like the Bat pants, these boots are exactly what I was looking for.  Pricey, but worth every penny, these boots fit and felt great out of the box.  They feature quality construction, good control feel, and are very, very comfortable, both on and off the bike.  They are a little too stiff to wear when driving my pick-up truck (I took my daughter to school in the truck, then returned home to get my motorcycle to ride to work one day), but on the bike, they are spectacular.  They are even comfortable enough that I don't always bother to change into regular shoes at work.  Be advised, these boots are designed to fit outside your riding pants, and while some of my jeans will fit over the boots, some don't (Shift Torque jeans do, some boot-cut Levi's 501s do but others don't).  If tucking your pants into your boots will bother you, you might want to consider something else.  However, if you want waterproof, comfortable, protective, quality riding boots, consider the Alpinestar Scout boots.  They really are that good.

7) Olympia Cold Weather Gloves: As much as I love the Merc gloves, they are designed for SoCal weather, not Anchorage, Alaska weather. There is no insulation in them, and underneath the carbon fiber knuckle guards, the chassis is only mesh. That's great in the summer when temperatures here are in the upper-60's to 80F, but even in the summer, my morning commute can be in the low 40s. After one year of riding, I knew I needed something for the colder days, and the Olympias fill that need quite well. They are lined with Thinsulate, and are not ventilated. Like the Merc gloves, they have a hard knuckle guard to keep you protected in an off, and they are gauntlet-styled, to reduce heat loss at the wrists. They don't quite keep my hands toasty on the coldest mornings (I've ridden at 26F), but they are much, much warmer than the Mercs.

8) Fieldsheer Rain Suit: I bought this rain suit on clearance from Bike Bandit for something like $35. Had I paid twice that price, it would have been a reasonable price; for $35, it was a steal. I figured orange was good for visibility, plus it matches my Strom (sort of). Adding to the visibility, Fieldsheer covered the jacket and pants with lots of retroreflective tape. A coworker commented that I was really noticeable -- and a little spooky -- riding in before sunup one morning, because while he couldn't really see me, there were lots of odd, glowing patterns apparently floating in the air ahead of him :) The jacket has been superb, never leaking in three years' of hard use. The pants lasted two years before I felt like I was sitting in a puddle during a hard rain on my lunch break. The pants also are just a little too small to easily fit over boots, if you get caught out in the rain. A mesh liner would go a long ways towards solving that problem, since the boot tread sticks to the waterproof urethane coating inside the pants (the jacket is mesh lined), as would longer zippers on the calves. One other note on sizing: I am 72 inches tall and 190 176 (woohoo!) pounds, but I ordered a 2XL to fit over my motorcycle gear. I *might* have been able to get away with just an XL, but even so, I normally only wear a large. Make sure you order at least one size larger than normal.