I’ve been getting quite a few requests for recommendations on riding jackets and pants. So here goes…
Like almost everyone else I started out by buying the cheapest available riding jacket and pant, mainly because I didn’t know any better. I picked a set from Cramster and used it for a while. Although it did the trick, I found it quite uncomfortable and extremely hot to ride on a sunny day. I decided to upgrade to an expensive Harley-Davidson set which was a lot nicer to wear. But I still got cooked in the sun, in spite of all its air vents.
I concluded that air vents provide only a limited amount of ventilation. So to solve the problem, I decided to buy a full mesh jacket. I chose an extemely lightweight Bilt riding jacket and pant. With the armor, the riding pant was as light as my Levi’s jeans. The jacket was extremely light as well and came with a thermal lining. This set up was great for riding my motorcycles on trails where I not only had to deal with the sun, but also needed to exert myself wrestling with my bike or pushing someone else’s.
But there was a problem. My rides usually started early in the morning when it was chilly, spread across the hot afternoon and often ended late at night. And then there was the rain to deal with for a few months of the year. I was looking for a set up that would handle all the situations for all days of the year. After giving it some thought I realized that I was trying to solve a very complex problem. As my Mathematics professor in Engineering college used to say, every complex problem can be solved if you break it down into smaller and simpler ones. So that is precisely what I did.
These were my smaller problems
1) Body and joint protection
2) Cold protection
3) Heat protection
4) Light rain protection
5) Heavy rain protection
6) Perspiration reduction
7) Body odor reduction
8) Lightweight design
The solution I came up with was a Leatt body armor set worn under a Bilt full mesh riding jacket with a Quechua down jacket tucked away in my hydration pack and a raincoat in the tank or tail bag.
Starting the ride in the cold morning I wear the down jacket under the riding jacket. Not only does this shield me from the cold, but also from light rain. If it’s very cold then I wear the rain coat over everything. As the sun comes up I remove the down jacket, fold it and put it away in my hydration pack to use again when the sun goes down.
The Leatt body armor offers far greater protection than the armor pads in the Bilt riding jacket and pant. Also the armor is so light and flexible, I don’t realize that I’m wearing it. The fabric of the armor is made up of a moisture wicking material. So all my sweat is quite literally extracted out of me, keeping me cool in the bargain. A side effect is that body odor reduces drastically.
I leave the armor pads and thermal lining of the Bilt jacket at home, which makes it even more lighter. I need to carry something to keep me warm when riding to cold places. I would look pretty stupid walking the streets wearing just the thermal lining of the riding jacket. The Quechua down jacket works well till -5 degrees Celsius and using it as the thermal lining for the full mesh jacket kills two birds with one stone. Three when you realize that the down jacket is also water repellent and can act as a raincoat for light rain.
This is a long drawn explanation for why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m sorry if you were looking for me to recommend just one brand or model of riding jacket and pant. I’m convinced that there is no single riding jacket and pant that solves all my problems. If you know of one, I’m all ears.
1) The Leatt body vest comes with chest and back armor to protect my rib cage. But with the down jacket stored in my hydration pack, along with the water, my back gets an even softer cushion to soften any blow.
2) I never place any hard object, such as a camera, in my hydration pack. People don’t realize it, but even a light fall on your back can ruin your spine (and potentially your life) if the hard object happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
3) It is also a good habit to keep the hydration pack filled with water. More water in the pack, more is the cushion for your back. A chest mounted action camera is a bad idea for the same reason.
4) Another advantage of the Leatt armor, specially the knee guards, is that they stick to the part of the body they are supposed to protect. The problem with armor pads in riding pants is that they are in place when you are standing up and walking around. But when you sit on the motorcycle, the pants (and hence the armor pads) twist inwards leaving half the knee unprotected. After falling a few times and taking a beating on my knees, I figured that the best way to protect them was to strap proper knee guards which were free from the twisting riding pants.
Bilt Techno Jacket: https://www.cyclegear.com/gear/bilt-techno-jacket
Bilt Storm Waterproof Overpants: https://www.cyclegear.com/gear/bilt-storm-waterproof-overpants
Quechua Down Jacket: http://www.decathlon.in/p/8344417_forclaz-300-men-s-down-hiking-jacket-black.html
Leatt Body Armor:
** Body Tee 3DF Airfit Lite: http://www.leatt.com/shop/body-protection/upper-body-soft/upper-body-soft-adult/body-tee-3df-airfit-lite-3768.html
** Elbow Guard Airflex: http://www.leatt.com/shop/body-protection/elbow-guards-soft-shell/elbow-guards-soft-shell-adult/elbow-guard-airflex.html
** Impact Shorts GPX 5.5 Airflex: http://www.leatt.com/shop/body-protection/impact-shorts/offroad/impact-shorts-gpx-5-5-airflex.html
** Knee Guard Airflex Pro: http://www.leatt.com/shop/body-protection/knee-leg-3df-soft/knee-leg-3df-soft-adult/knee-guard-airflex-pro.html