Having no universally recognized standards for motorcycle safety, the U.S. is famous as a tough nut to crack when it comes to getting riders to gear up. In a recent survey, nine out of ten nannies agreed: a lot of American riders are as reluctant to put on their safety gear as a soccer mom is to stop using her cell phone while driving.
While we’re no one’s nannies, being the insightful free-thinking Americans we are – except for that Canadian, Kevin Duke, who’s in favor of mandatory helmet laws, and tiered licensing – we agree it is your right to ride naked in the streets if you want to. It may be your right, but what’s smart is another issue on which we all definitely agree: dressing head to toe when facing off against cars, trucks, and more is much less likely to win you a Darwin Award.
This is all the more true considering that ventilated gear – such as several items recently sampled from Dainese – can be quite comfortable, while actually giving you more control over your bike.
When you’re not crashing your bike – hopefully you’ll never crash, right? – gear is otherwise the only climate control you have. Properly engineered apparel makes for a more comfortable ride, and that means less fatigue, fewer distractions, and ultimately more safety. Anyone who’s ever been side-swiped by a flying tree branch or piece of loose debris in the wind knows protective apparel is handy to be wearing in these moments.
Here’s a sampling of some items actually tested – most pieces were only wear tested, but we did manage to crash test the Shotgun Tex jacket. While highlighting some of their technical innovations, we’ll primarily focus on how they work.
Jacket Wave Pro 2
This item is on top of the list for a reason. We’ve known about the Jacket Wave Pro 2 and previous iterations for a while now, but did not fully appreciate Dainese's latest evolved version until we started to closely examine what you get.
Just looking at this on- or off-road-worthy exoskeleton, anyone can see it flows air very well, and is an ultimate piece of safety gear. It has a CE level 2 back protector, a kidney-supporting waist belt, a highly engineered chest guard (“thorax protector”), a unique articulating neck protector, and comprehensive arm and shoulder armor.
What’s less apparent is it’s really four pieces in one and they are all modular. That is, you can separate out any one of the component pieces that comprise this safety jacket, and use them individually or in combos, depending on your needs.
For example, you roadracers and track day riders who want spinal protection can unzip the back portion, and use it by itself. This vented, high-impact plastic and aluminum honeycomb structure is race worthy, and they usually sell items like these alone for half of the jacket’s cost. Even better, you can add in the thorax (chest) protector for a chest/spine combo to augment ribcage and scapula protection. Items similar to this usually sell for three-quarters of the jacket’s price.
When we realized this, we were sold. The modularity of the Jacket Wave Pro 2 soon started to look like a value not only to our wallets, but potential wellbeing. Do you know how easy it is to crack a rib? Having done it twice, I can tell you it doesn’t take much, and this thorax protector could make a difference.
The rigid, high-impact unit has numerous ventilation holes and flows air as well as can be hoped for. Dainese says it is the result of extensive lab testing and is an engineered solution designed to mitigate impact energy not just to the chest, but potentially also vital organs within the chest.
As you would imagine, the whole jacket or parts of it will fit under any sufficiently roomy jacket. Ideally an outer jacket selected should have good abrasion resistance, and be motorcycle-specific.
And on that note, if you have a textile or leather jacket or suit that came with cheap soft armor (or hard armor), it can be emptied of the inferior armor, and the Wave Pro can go under it for an instant upgrade.
Or, as mentioned, you can wear it under a jersey for on- or off-road purposes. The included neck protector in conjunction with the spine protector in place covers your entire spinal column, from the base of head to below the coccyx (tailbone), and at the very least gives peace of mind during rides where you’re on the edge.
Although we did many miles with the Jacket Wave Pro 2 alone over a T-shirt, the problem with making this a habit is the mesh has no strength for sustaining a crash, so think about using it in conjunction with a sturdy garment over it.
Or, if you insist on wearing it alone, we like the Jacket Wave Pro 2 because it’s more highly engineered than inexpensive chest/spine protectors some sportbike riders wear under a T-shirt only.
And since this can be as much about fashion as anything, even if riders decide to wear it alone, it could still amp-up the perceived mojo they so wish to project, while offering less of a compromise.
It should also be mentioned that the Jacket Wave Pro 2 is effective for anyone who happens to be into other outdoor sports, such as downhill or rocky environment mountain biking, extreme water or snow sports.
Overall, the point is: it’s versatile, comfortable, and covers a lot of bones and skin. The nice thing about it is it flows almost as much air as having nothing on.
Some of you could probably think of many more ways to use it in your death defying pursuits of fun and glory, but these are a few we experimented with. Considering the price if you were to buy all these pieces separately, its $399 MSRP starts to look quite reasonable.
Shotgun Tex Jacket
The $289 Shotgun Tex jacket fits well, shows great attention to detail, and looks sharp. It’s made of Dainese’s abrasion-resistant “stretch Mugello fabric,” in conjunction with a fair bit of mesh up the sleeves, on the chest and back, and includes strategically placed reflective material.
External pockets hold soft-lined, rigid forearm/elbow armor, and inside the jacket, hook-and-loop fasteners attach similar armor to cover the deltoids (outer shoulders).
In back, a zip-up internal pocket is included to hold a shorter spine protector, such as Dainese’s G-type back protector (not included).
External zippered slash pockets and an internal zipped breast pocket add to the amenities. High-visibility yellow nylon trim is a nice touch to find the zippers in low light when fumbling inside the black mesh-lined interior.
A silver-ion treatment is applied to minimize bacterial funk, and of course, the jacket is washable.
On the road, the Shotgun Tex jacket flows air very well. We rode it into hot California desert environs, and as long as we kept moving, we stayed as cool as can be hoped for. As you know, on very hot days, nothing can fully mitigate the heat, even if wearing only a T-shirt. This jacket is the next best thing, with a whole lot more protection included.
Dainese readily admits lighter-weight garments are not as protective, as say, one of its heavy-duty armored leather jackets, but it’s a cool, lightweight compromise.
Since I’m always experimenting, I thought I’d augment the system to see what I could do to make it potentially much safer and still comfortable.
Removing the stock armor bought some internal space, and I put on the entire Jacket Wave Pro 2, then pulled the Shotgun jacket on over top.
The Shotgun’s stretch fabric was enough to make it fit just fine. I then used its waist zipper to attach it to a pair of Dainese D-System Dry four-season pants with the waterproof liner removed, and thigh-mounted air flaps open. A lot of Dainese garments are mix and match this way and the same could be done with the Drake Air pants.
At this point I had a zipped-together suit with CE level 2 armor underneath, and a lot of flow-through ventilation. If I’d been traveling and hit cold or rainy weather, I’d have had wind and water resistance ready to be used for the pants, and on top, I could have thrown on a waterproof shell, and been good to go.
My whole improvised ensemble proved as comfortable as perforated leather suits, flowed more air, and was comfortable all day. Here was a way to have ultimate protection, and not look too outrageous, be too hot, and ready for whatever weather came my way.
Of course the Shotgun Tex jacket is a stand-alone piece, and flows air even better when worn over a thin shirt only. Its anodized alloy zipper pull, tasteful leather trim, discrete Dainese logos and overall construction reminded me the Italians have a terrific eye for aesthetic styling. It is not covered with splashy graphics, and is a great piece for wearing out on the town, while being flexibly functional for what ever kind of riding you want to do.
Yamato Cotton Pants
Speaking of what to wear out on the town, the $149 Yamato cotton pants are lightweight, breathable, and definitely better than blue jeans.
A pair of zippered openings on the thighs allow airflow through the internal mesh lining. Hook-and-loop straps at the waist allow adjustment. A pair of pockets gives a place to rest your hands in front, and there’s one in back for a wallet.
The reasonably close-fitting pants have no internal waist zipper to attach to a jacket, however, so the intent is clear, these are biased toward casual riding, and comfort.
Removable soft pads are positioned in the knees and hips. The hip pads do make your hips look wider, and we were amused to learn a lot of guys will ride without hip protection just to look better. Hey, whatever it takes.
The pads easily remove for machine washing – although we left them in, and washed the whole kit just to see what would happen. It was no problem as far as we could see.
The emphasis here is comfort, fashion, and moderate protection.
Scarpa Sechura boots and Air Tex gloves
These rounded out a nice light-to medium duty group, with the emphasis on airflow. Like all Dainese gear, the merging of panache-laden style plus engineered design is hard to beat.
They call the $249 Scarpa Sechura a “touring” boot. This it could be, but it’s ideally suited for fair weather. The soft Skywalk soles are flexible and very grippy, and the strategically-placed nylon protection in the high ankle design ought to provide decent protection. You can feel the air flow when your feet are in the breeze, and they fit like a pair of comfortable high top sneakers out of the box.
The $89 Air Tex gloves also are a light duty design with free-flowing net mesh backs, and goatskin palms for good feel for the controls.
The knuckles are well-covered by flexible foam, but these cannot match the titanium knuckles of the gloves Dainese supplies Valentino Rossi, or even hard carbon knuckles of its other racing gloves.
They still are way better than a pair of work gloves, and look durable and well made.
As alluded to, safety gear is always a compromise. No one can predict what you’ll need when you need it – as has been abundantly documented, for that matter, in recent controversy over Snell vs. DOT vs. whatever-else helmet certification standards.
Also, risk acceptance is a highly personal decision. The Dainese summer gear reviewed is as impressive as many of the company’s other engineered solutions. Dainese always supplies more research results than we could possibly tell you when it launches a product. We’re talking pages and pages of documents, engineering studies, results of consultation with transportation safety researchers, and more.
But cutting through all of that, and speaking from common sense, we’ll opine that if you ride fast and hard, you ought to dress for worse case eventualities. However, if you want to ride unencumbered and as cool as possible, this Dainese gear strikes an excellent balance between comfort, style and safety. What’s more, mixing in armored pieces such as from the Jacket Wave Pro to otherwise moderately protective items can put you over the top to stay cool whether you’re riding like a lunatic, or just chilling out on a casual summer ride.