Gear Guide - Track Kit
By Ross Sharp - 14 Nov 19
This year I decided to ditch my humble, Stig of the Dump look and equip myself with some decent track gear. There are a few old suits hanging in the garage but there must be something wrong with the leather as they've gone tight all of a sudden. And after a decade of loyal service my trusty Alpinestars S-MXRs are no good for sporty pursuits, the toe slider mount is knackered on one side. So, with a couple of race school experiences booked and the Bike Shed Festival to look forward to I did my research and kitted-up with the following. REV'IT! NOVA review here - with the elbow and shoulder pads removed and Forcefield shorts - review here - neither of which are low profile, hence me looking like a regular middle-aged guy. As opposed to the athlete of yesteryear. Ignore the belly region and you'll see that the knee sliders and cuffs are in the wrong places.
This meant that not only would the protection be in slightly the wrong position during an accident but I was also uncomfortable all day. My excuse list on that day was fairly long but I genuinely felt like I was moving awkwardly on the bike. In the right outfit I'd of course have obliterated Ron's lap record.
A few months ago I got a call from Indian Motorcycle requesting I ride their FTR1200 up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which had me cursing my disorganisation once more as I pulled Mark's Nova off the office coat hooks. I was going to test a new back protector so I figured I'd slip the suit on and see how much room was left. After much c-bombing the air turned blue and my cheeks puce. How on earth had I put on so much winter weight that this suit was now so tight I could barely do it up? My gentleman's toolkit nearly had to be tucked away like the Buffalo Bill scene in Silence of the Lambs.
A heavy sigh of despondency went some way to helping remove the suit and I hung it up again, perplexed and sad. Then it dawned on me. That was Dutch's!! He had a Nova in the same colour as Mark's. Phew!!
Disaster averted I called Rev'it! to see what my size should be to see whether they had a Nova in a different colour. I love the classic all black with thick white stripe but didn't want to copy the others so opted for plain black. This time in a size 52.
The Nova is for people who like a subtle track day getup while still relying on top notch safety specs. In fact the main difference between the Nova and Danilo Pettruci's top-of-the-line Quantum suit is the amount of leather used. His has more Kevlar stretch panels in key areas to aid freedom of movement, and the leather is a different grade - slightly lighter.
Seeing as I'll mostly be riding in the climatic squib that is the UK I figured more leather was the way to go. If I get bitten by the track bug and end up in Portimao in July, I'll see if I can get hold of the more breathable Pulsar. Both are about the same cost, about a grand, which is a lot of wedge but quite frankly pound notes aren't abrasion resistant and I'd rather have skin on my bum than a thicker wallet. Sure, you can get a decent, CE approved suit for half or even a third of that but you can also buy two chickens in Tesco for three quid. I trust Rev'it! and dig their branding (apart from the silly way their name is written) so for me it was a simple decision.
My Nova has Seesmart armour in the hips as well proper elbow and shoulder armour. I've got an old Rev'it! suit given to me for me first flat track practice by TWO Magazine's (now Visordown.com) Art Director, Barry Tavner. It's probably a decade old and still works but it's interesting to see how the protective technologies keep evolving. And now I have elbow sliders, how rad is that!
So, I'm 5' 10" and 90kgs, have just switched from medium to large clothing (stupid age/metabolism thing) and the 52 fits perfectly, like it was custom made especially. I still haven't sorted a new back protector so I pulled the elbow and shoulder padding out of my Knox Defender Elite shirt again and used that. The armadillo style plastic protector is pretty thick yet there's still just enough room to squeeze in the chest pad too. I also wear padded under-shorts, thin Leatt ones this time, as it always makes me cringe to see a big ol' highside and some dude comes crashing down on his hips. As soon as I can afford an air suit I'll get the full Tellytubby outfit.
I christened the new Nova last month with laps of the Silverstone GP with Niall & Taylor Mackenzie circuit thanks to Yamaha's Masterclass. I was concerned there'd be a bit of a break-in period for all that leather but apart from actually climbing inside the thing the hide is soft and the stretch panels allow all the movement I'll ever need. I felt comfortable which is the all important ingredient to going fast. One you can pay for at least.
It also served me well during the rather chilly Bike Shed Festival where I had back-to-back races across a couple of classes. I usually struggle with motorcycle gear being restrictive around my disproportionately girthy forearms but even when fully pumped there was no additional restriction from the suit. Winning!
I have no desire to test the sliding properties of my Nova and plan to enjoy its box-fresh looks for a long time to come. In fact I don't really want to jinx it by delving into the technical details of the protective elements. Alvaro Bautista wears Revi'it! Go watch his catalogue of crashes from this season. That should be proof enough.
Check the Nova's full spec here
FORMA ICE PRO
Prepping for my day out on an Indian FTR1200 at Lord March's gaff - article here - meant glueing patches on leathers and using a Sharpie marker to try and cover up the Triumph logo on my Alpinestars SMX-Rs.
I bought these boots in 2008, second hand off the eBay for 80 quid. And then spent 6 months, literally, in them while I toured Europe. ..... Time for a new pair.
I really liked my Forma adventure boots - review here - and thought their race boots looked pretty natty. Plus it made sense to complete the Petrux look as he wears a Rev'it! suit and Forma Ice Pro boots. Tito Rabatt and Mika Kalio also trust their trotters to Forma's gear so what's good enough for them at 200mph is good enough for me.
Forma are a well established brand that aren't as well known as fellow Italian makers Alpinestars, Sidi, TCX and the gang. As such they don't sploosh huge amounts of wonga on marketing and crazy sponsorship deals, therefore Forma boots cost less. I'm not using the c-word as I'm merely pointing out basic business mathematics. I'm all up for supporting athletes but I'd rather my hard earned dollar went into product development rather than Champagne fuelled shindigs on yachts.
I wanted a summer boot so went for the Flow version, the regular Ice Pro is breathable but will deal with a rain shower. The Flow is made from perforated leather and features vents and tiny slots just about everywhere, and there's a meshed exhaust port on the heal to draw away hot, sweaty air. The latter is removable and can be replaced if it gets scuffed.
The other part of the Ice Pro that sealed the deal for me was the hinged composite cage that protects the ankle and achilles area. When it comes to hard plastic on boots, the more the merrier in my book. Feet and ankles take ages to heal and when broken mean the rest of your body goes soft and sore.
I'm usually a size 45 in regular shoes but take a 46 in Forma boots. The fit is ample for my wide feet and once they're fully broken in and stretched a bit I'll add a thin inner-sole for the perfect fit. The mid foot strap adds a touch of reassuring snugness, or relief, to cater for hot feet expanding. Or differing thickness of sock.
Once out on the bike the venting is instantly noticeable, from relatively low speeds too. I've only used them in circa 14 degree temperatures and enjoyed the draughty feeling, especially at high speed. I'll have the freshest feet in the paddock come summertime.
The ratchet fastening at the rear of the calf is neat, easy to use and because of its location and surrounding hard plastic mount is protected from all but the most savage of crashes. But it's no major drama if you do grind away any of the aforementioned features, they all unscrew and can be replaced.
The only issue I had was with interference between the ankle cage on my left boot a the R1's frame. I caught it a couple of times, but that could also be due to improper foot positioning before and after shifting gears. On an XSR700 a couple of weeks later I forgot that I was sporting new clobber.
There's a stack of other tech and features and more info on the Ice Pro Flow can be found below. Suffice to say I'll be cleaning these up, replacing the toe sliders and storing them for the winter. And then I'll order a pair of Forma's more UK winter friendly, waterproof touring boots.
See the full range and check the specs on the Forma Website | Instagram | Facebook
UK Stockists and ordering - click here
KNOX HANDROID MK IV
To go with my Popeye forearms is a pair of hands that are apparently massive. They look normal to me but I do have to order XXL gloves. Knox sizing is ever so slightly different and an XL fits me like a ...erm... I've been using their Orsa leather and Orsa MX for road and enduro riding respectively - review here - and absolutely love them. I just feel so utterly invincible when wearing them knowing Knox's latest tech is keeping me safe. And despite them being fairly bulky I never wish I was wearing something thinner or lighter.
It's the Boa fastening system that has me sold. I'm not usually one for a gimmick and prefer simplicity so I initially thought that Knox's attempt to copy Puma Disc trainers from the nineties was a bit silly. How very wrong I was. Like going from a touchscreen phone to a Nokia 3210, I now don't know if I could take a step backward and use velcro, ever again. It's simply not as good.
The Boa allows quick and easy removal which for me is vital. Whether trail riding or scything through the city I'm forever pulling off a glove to check the map on my phone. And no, I'm not going to attach a £1000 of scum bait to my handlebars - in London that's plain dumb. But more than this I like the fine adjustment you can make once back on the move. I like a tight fit around the wrist and after my hands have wriggled to the ends of the finger pockets and settled I'll dial-in a couple of clicks on the Boa knob.
My fingers literally pay my bills so after a lifetime of snapping, tearing, slicing and dislocating them I now try and look after my paws properly so figured the Knox Handroid MKIV was the ultimate in protection. They look like something from a Sci-Fi movie. I'll admit I'm not a massive fan of the style but all of the bits of hard plastic are there for a reason.
The alien-esque strips down the fingers eliminate protection gaps that are found with pretty much every other glove that's gone before. I thought there'd be interference from the plastic snakes moving in and out of their housing, but no. The patented scaphoid protection blocks on the palm are ever so slightly softer than previous models and use a new SPS material (plastic), with a sliver of Micro-Lock (impact resistant foam) padding behind. I can imagine this being a handy innovation, I once binned my Cagiva in Biarritz and one of the super-cool, retro style rivets in the brand new gloves I was wearing detached from the leather and embedded itself in the heel of my hand.
Then there are the cuffs which encase the wrist with thick TPU (plastic) and have the Boa dial on the front. Plus there's a mini slider on the inside which covers the pulling-on loop. My only criticism of the whole glove is this loop. I'd like it to be a smidge bigger and round in section, like a boot lace. This would make is easier to pull-on with the other gloved hand. But that might catch on pointy things, hence the tab of flat webbing. I'll await a reasoning from the people at Knox HQ.
Aside from that the Handroid is fantastic. I genuinely think I could punch through the earth's crust, and scoop out a handful of magma without discomfort yet still have the dexterity to pen a love letter, with a quill. This sounds like overkill but I'm fussy about bike gear, especially gloves, and really do think these are the best on the market. To be fair to the other glove manufacturers I haven't tried that many track gloves but I struggle to see how more protection could be added without compromising feeling.
We stock urban gear from Knox and the Handroid can be ordered here
ARAI PROFILE V
The time came where I decided that as far as helmets were concerned function needed to outweigh form. I've got quite a few really, really nice helmets but none of them have been designed with the main focus being a high performance environment. Sure, they're all as about as safe as each other these days and are crash tested to oblivion but after a decade of wanting to look cool at all cost I now actually want vents and quick release visors.
My head is an Arai shape and prior to the Bike Shed that's all I wore. So after seeing my pal Jon Urry sporting the new Profile V on the Suzuki Katana launch I decided to get one. What I just said about form and function, that was a bit of a fib. The dark primer grey and smoked lens combo looks the tits and nice change from either black, white or literally all the colours at once.
Jon has a long head, which is why he went for the Profile. It has an extra few millimetres of space to make putting it on and taking it off a bit easier. I thought the added real estate would allow a microphone to fit without tickling my tash. It is literally a few mil and barely noticeable but better to have it that not.
There aren't as many top and exhaust vents as the full-race RX-7 but enough to keep your swede cool on all but the most strenuous days. Initially I'd ordered the Arai Renegade which has permanently open mesh vents but I figured that they'd a) hamper audio recordings and b) make me look like a bit of a Harley-ist. The Profile V is just a helmet, plain and simple.
And because it's an Arai the fit is wonderful, with just the right amount of pressure on the cheeks and padding around the head to make you feel properly cocooned. The lack of giant top vents means it's not too noisy, even at high speed on a naked bike. And best of all nothing touches my mouth.
With manufacturers vying for ever smaller overall shell sizes chinbars are often pushed by the wind right up against your lips which is more than slightly disconcerting. When I sat up at 160mph on the R1M the most I could feel was a slight tickle on the end of my nose. Which is acceptable as I have got a bit of a puffin face.
The new visor mechanism is super simple and although I'm not up to the speed the IOM TT pit crews, I can manage a swap dark for light in a under 30 seconds.
But buying back into this world of huge sponsorship and marketing spend means that Arai helmets cost a lot. This Profile retails at nearly £400 and spare visors are £1m, and you'll need another Pinlock for that, which isn't included. I feel safe and distraction free so to me, it's worth it.
Find out more about the Renegade and Profile V on the Arai website.
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