In Gear Guide #72 we run the rule over the Knox armoured shirt and expandable jacket system, stomp about in the mighty Rokker Urban Racer boots and check out some kit from left-field Prague based motorcycle apparel designers Kalup.
Rokker Urban Racer Boots
So, as you may have noticed, a lot of the gear we test at the ‘Shed partakes in some rather glamourous trials. He of the thick forearms and vibrant follicles often calls dibs on the latest gear with the excuse that travelling the world to review the latest shiny metal requires a regular stream of fresh outfits… Insert the unprintable word of your choice here. Some of the gear however winds up earning its stripes in far less exotic environs.
These gorgeous new Urban Racer boots from Rokker definitely deserved to feature in some grand escapade but thankfully were far too big for the aforementioned Editor’s surprisingly dainty feet, splendid. Aboard my plates of meat the boots have had to settle for a more mundane lot in life, namely dirty London commutes, a daily pounding at the ‘Shed and an ill-fated weekend of DIY… Oh the glamour.
First impressions? When the handsome looks of the Urban Racer inevitably draw you to pick them from the shelf you will immediately discover that they weigh roughly the same as the cow from which they were hewn. They are unbelievably weighty, but in a reassuring, quality way that makes you want them unfathomably. You literally feel you could knock down walls with them such is the thoroughness of their construction. They have reinforced toe and heel boxes, ribbed ankle support, a shock-absorbing insole and a heavy duty Vibram outsole which is both anti-abrasion and non-slip. Thankfully I have not crash tested these particular boots but should the worst come to pass I would be more fearful for the well being of the road than my tootsies.
With this extremely robust construction and ruggedness comes the inevitable tough breaking in period. In truth for the first fortnight the boots simply broke me in, with me having little to no effect on them. But slowly, hour by thick-socked hour, they came to an understanding with my feet to the point that they are now inseparable companions. Proper all day comfy.
Each pair are handmade in Portugal where the leather is deeply greased for water repellence. On my all weather commute they proved proper, full-on waterproof and by achieving this without a membrane means your feet do not sweat, melt and stink to high hell. Terrible wardrobe forethought found me wearing these puppies around the Bike Shed for both days of our almighty British summer and despite fearing the worst I made it through completely fine.
They are bloody good boots, and are looking better and better with age. They are at the punchy end of the price scale of footwear available at the ‘Shed Shop coming in at a sniff under 300 notes but the quality stands up to the value test, they may well survive both myself and the apocalypse. Oddly, if I think of it as 150 per foot then I consider them a bargain, but acknowledge myself a fool…
And the glamourous DIY story you were so keen to hear? In those early days of breaking them in about the house I wore them for a day of staircase rebuilding… Did I mention the solidity and Thor’s Hammer like weight of these boots? Suffice to say a freshly rebuilt tread found itself split asunder after a testing step. See that was more entertaining than stories of volcano top flat track racing sojourns wasn’t it? Wasn’t it??
Review By Gareth Charlton
Knox Jacket and Armour Shirt
Being female and a biker has it’s ups and downs – we may still be the minority by a landslide but the scene is thriving, there are more girls than ever making their mark on two wheels, and it is far more inclusive as a whole thanks to the growing custom scene. Given this you’d think we’d be feeling more satisfied when it comes to the gear we choose to ride in. Myself, I don’t like pink, nor do I like anything overdetailed or heavily branded, and I firmly believe it’s possible to feel myself on the bike just as much as off. So why is it most of the time us females are left wanting when it comes to bike gear? We’re either offered boxy pink motifed cuts or gaze bias styles, which offer no practicality when we’re blazing a trail. So where is the middle ground where we can feel comfortable and stylish as we ride?
Now I’ll put my hands up and admit I am someone who unashamedly tends to choose style over function whilst riding, or rather I just don’t like to compromise on style, full stop. Then in comes the new Studio Collection from the team at Knox. Knox are a British, family run company that launched back in 1981 with the first commercially available back protector, their technical armour range has now grown to encompass a full protective and fashionable clothing line from the pen of Apparel Designer April Travell. Her Studio Collection looks to harmonise their functional protection heritage with a clean modern aesthetic. She has stripped back all the usual mishaps found on the women’s gear, streamlined the branding and creating something you could very well unknowingly pick off the rail as your day to day off the bike coat none the wiser of the tech enclosed within it’s design.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the Lea jackets in their black-waxed colour way and a ladies armored undershirt. I’m gonna start off by saying Knox have really pushed the boat out with the considerations they’ve put into this jacket, by paying attention to every small detail a biker would need; from the removable cuffs and collar for multi-seasonal wear to the waist belt which can be adjusted to perfectly fit the female waist or removed for those who favour a looser fit. The minimal silhouette has a luxurious matte wax finish for an understated look both on the bike and off, waterproof zips and membrane ensure even the most ghastly of weather wont swamp your ride. And here comes the magic part – they’ve included a concealed underarm zip, called their dual fit system, which when undone deploys an extra 1.5 inches of breathing room in which to wear the affiliated armour shirt or for layering up on those extra nippy mornings.
To add to my lucky streak mother nature decided to offer me a good few days of testing in horrendous downpours, but despite the open heavens I was pleasantly surprised to find myself bone dry when I got home. I also felt none of that dreaded wind chill whilst I rode, nor was I sweating up due to a lack of breathability. The jacket did the trick just perfectly! Thankfully I haven’t had to try out the armoured shirt yet but once you’ve undone the secret zip it fits nicely under the Lea jacket, doesn’t restrict movement, and makes you look rather ripped, or so I heard off a customer about her son when he tried to wear it to school under his jumper! The CE approved armour and stretch elastane construction enable the shirt to fit the torso in all the right places, and prevent the pads from shifting around in any unsuspecting impact.
The Knox armoured shirts and expandable jacket solution are utilised across a range of men’s and women’s styles from Knox which can be seen at the Bike Shed Shop in Shoreditch. Say Hello when you are next in!
Knox have successfully put together a nifty package of modular gear which you can layer up to adapt to whatever your ride offers each day. With this sudden flurry of hot summer weather the armour shirt alone feels sufficient about town, but I’ll no doubt be popping the Lea jacket over the top again once the British summer has passed… Oh hello tomorrow…
Review by Chloe Stokes
Kalup Obligue and X Trousers
It’s hand-made from 100% genuine calf leather and it’s softer than a proverbial baby’s butt. The pictures on their own website really don’t do it justice. The jacket can look a little plasticy and shiny in print and on screen but it is not at all. It’s a lovely natural brown, and has no sheen to it what-so-ever.
OK, so on to some details about the jacket. It’s a serious bit of kit. The quality of this jacket is literally outstanding. Not just the grade of leather, every detail has been considered, zips and stitching are as important to me as any other part of the jacket and luckily I wasn’t let down. They’ve also got great detail on the zip pulls, poppers and buckles. Stylish without being OTT. And not that I normally give a care about packaging but in this case it is absolutely unbelievable, like buying a super-posh hat or ladies undies or something… ahem.
The inside is equally gorgeous. A bright, but deep, blood soaked red that Count Dracula himself would be proud of. Nice, subtle details of the branding make a very subtle pattern with two, yes two inside pockets. I hate it when bike jackets only have one, come on, this is England, it’s gonna rain and I have some stuff I would like to keep dry and I can’t keep it all in my one inside pocket – so thanks Kalup. Again, with their eye on every little detail, one is poppered, one zipped. It also has a tiny little loop to hold head-phones – for Sat-Nav instructions or course 😉
So, other than two inside pockets, is this a proper biker jacket? In short, yes. The sleeves are long enough, so when you reach over your controls you’re not baring your wrists. It’s a relatively short jacket, but still perfect for me to not ride-up at the back when in the prone position. It also has built-in protection in the elbows and shoulders with a removable back protector. It has extra padding and stitching on the elbows, shoulders and lower back that I hope I never find test for real, but I suspect will provide added protection should the worst happen. Also being real leather it is warm and efficiently weather resistant.
So my final comment on this jacket, if you like to stand out from the crowd and have a fastidious eye for detail and technical specification, then absolutely go for it you won’t be disappointed. Just be prepared to tell the many, many questioning people that will inevitably gather around you all about it whenever you pull to a stop…
To match the jacket, Kalup were also kind enough to also send us a pair of their X-Trousers (size 52, a perfect fit for me, I normally wear 30-32). I won’t harp on about it again, as after I fell in love with the jacket, the trousers were of equal quality, so if you’ve skipped the review above, take five to get an idea and read about these guys, as when it comes to garments they mean business.
The trousers are also 100% genuine calf leather and are super soft, just like the jacket. I’ve got the trousers in black, and it’s a good strong black, again no-shine or plasticy look here at all. The trousers are a great fit, snug, as they should be as who wants excess leather flapping in the wind, but roomy enough to not feel restrictive. They also have a good length on them (though I am what’s technically known as a short-arse but great for me to fit over my boots and keep everything where it should be as I ride.
The detail on the trousers also matches the jacket, with detailed zips and poppers. With two zipped pockets at the front, zip tighteners and poppers at the ankles and poppered belt loops. They have built in knee protectors, which are perfectly positioned when riding and look to be in the correct place in case of an off. They also have added quilted padding around the knees and hips for those who don’t like armour and prefer to ride commando.
I live in central London, and I’m a bit lazy when it comes to riding gear for my short commutes, so I’ve not been wearing these for daily use, unlike the jacket, but for longer rides when I know I’ll be doing some distance they have been amazing. Super comfortable, with a luxurious silky lining so you don’t get that clammy feeling you can sometimes get in leather trousers.
So again, in short, if you in the market for some new leather trousers, you definitely won’t be disappointed with these. The way they feel combined with the quality of the build I doubt I’ll ever need another pair.
Review by Steve Simmonds
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