Function Follows Form: Good-Looking Gear that Works Well
Shift Racing is parent company Fox Racing's alternative brand, established in 1997. In 2004 they started selling street apparel. They have been expanding their street-oriented product lineup as of late, so we called them up to get some of their gear to review.
Shift sent us a selection of jackets, gloves, pants and a backpack, and the first thing we noticed was the high-end styling.
There is a consistency to the design that appears in every product we received; Shift claims to have hired "personnel from some of the leading Italian street apparel brands" as well as work with street riders and even Doug Chandler to develop their gear.
Once designed, the patterns are sent to a computer-assisted design specialist who can make prototype designs. The prototypes are then assessed and tested to make sure they can be made efficiently and provide "comfort, safety and durability" to their wearers, according to Shift. The designs are then made into actual product samples and then sent to the factory, where a mass-produced version is made and then sent back to Shift for further evaluation.
If it passes muster, the product is made in China under supervision of Shift personnel. The products are inspected carefully in both China and in the United States to make sure "they have reached the quality" Shift wants. Overall, Shift makes it a point that they pay particular attention to quality control as well as safety; all their hard and soft armor meets European CE standards for personal protection.
We gave the gear to Editor Ets-Hokin and contributor Paul Bryant to evaluate, and they took the stuff home and used it for personal riding as well as press introductions and editorial motorcycle testing.
They used it from Spring to the end of Summer, which seems to be the temperature range most of this equipment is suited for, which is also the temperature range for much of Italy. Coincidence?
Anyway, both Paul and Gabe seemed to like their gear, and here's more detailed impressions straight from the two horse's mouths.
Avenger SS Jacket ($249.95)
The Avenger proved to be a comfortable, waterproof jacket with good fit, versatility, and overall design. After removing the cold-weather liner, the Avenger felt less bulky and more suitable for warm-weather use. Over the course of two 80°F (+) days in the hills, the black Avenger SS (which stands for Storm Series) tended to roast the rider in direct sun, particularly at stop lights and gas stations - largely due to its dark color and lack of venting. As the Avenger SS is available only in black, riders in hot climates might consider other options. Elastic/Velcro waist adjusters worked well to fine-tune the fit, and the arms were long enough to provide good coverage and comfort on bikes with the sportiest of riding positions.
The textured poly outer fabric demonstrated minimal flutter at high speed, and the fleece-lined collar was very comfortable for the duration of our two-day blitz. Integral, CE-certified shoulder and elbow armor combines foam and hard-shell protection, and aligned just about perfectly with my body's various bony protrusions. A back protector pocket is provided, although the thin foam layer included off the rack did little to enhance protection, and would be best swapped for a higher-end back protector. Although thankfully not crash-tested, the Avenger SS seemed that it would provide very good abrasion resistance and impact protection - more than adequate for the majority of street riding situations. I also didn't test the waterproofing, but it looks like it should do the trick. There is also a non-waterproof version, the Avenger, that has more venting and is available in red or black for $199.
At $249.95, the Avenger SS provides comfortable, stylish, and effective street protection for the budget-conscious rider.
Avenger Gloves ($59.95)
Shift's Avenger glove is available in two colors, black and red, and offers lightweight, comfortable protection for street applications. Control feel was very good, due primarily to the glove's lightweight design and relatively thin construction. In some ways, the Avenger felt more like an off-road/MX glove than a serious street glove.
The Avenger glove's textile sections seemed a bit thin to offer much abrasion protection, although the leather padded palm and molded plastic knuckle guard somewhat enhance safety. Construction and stitching was satisfactory, though not impressive. The gauntlets were too narrow to fit easily over the Avenger SS' sleeves, even with the jacket's sleeve Velcro tabs tightened snugly - which seemed odd considering the fact that this particular glove/jacket combination is designed for integrated use.
The Avenger glove is well suited for warm weather street riding situations, in which ultimate protection may be traded off for comfort and price point. However, this author feels that the Avenger glove may still be slightly overpriced considering its relative strengths and weaknesses. Over the course of two days in the SoCal heat, the Departure Pack was a pleasure to wear.
Departure Pack ($79.95)
Over the course of two days in the SoCal heat, the Departure Pack was a pleasure to wear. Its stylish all-polyester design was lightweight and comfortable, with a variety of padded shoulder strap and nylon chest strap options allowing fit and movement to be easily adjusted. Excellent back padding provided very good comfort and low fatigue for the duration of our test.
Construction is very good, with numerous zippered pockets and internal/external storage sections. A padded laptop pouch is included directly behind the back pad, providing good computer protection and ease of access. A number of small but nice convenience features are also provided, such as a swiveling key clip, pen pockets, reflective materials, and a rubber-coated handle.
At $79.95, the Shift Departure Pack is a highly functional, versatile, and cost-effective backpack for sport touring or commuting.
-Paul Bryant, Contributor
Gabe's New Duds
SR-1 Jacket, ($399.95)
Naming a product line after the State of California DMV's Traffic Accident Report form may or may not be textbook marketing strategy, but the connection is obvious, right? We purchase a high-quality leather jacket with lots of safety-oriented features because we want to be alive or at least uninjured enough so we don't have to dictate to our girlfriend over the phone from the ICU to fill out that form. Shift didn't really name the jacket after the SR-1 form, but in actuality named it after the SR-1 -- Shift Racing 1 -- roadracing suit. Maybe it wasn't really ironically-named, but the top-of-the-line SR-1 jacket still gives you a fighting chance.
Made in the People's Republic of China, the SR-1 jacket has all the high-end features found on racing and performance-oriented jackets today. It is constructed of 1.2-1.4mm leather and uses a stretchy fabric called "KorMax" for a perfect fit. There's a neoprene collar for comfort, a removable and washable liner to keep you warm, CE-approved armor in the elbows and shoulders, and a pocket for a back protector as well. Design is handled by Shift's team of Italian designers, so the jacket looks great.
Other features include a belt-securing loop to keep your pants from falling down and showing the world your appetite for crack, a 3/4-length zipper to secure the jacket to the leather pants that are mysteriously missing from the product line and a half-inch foam rubber pad in the back-protector pocket that is shaped like a back protector and would probably work nicely as a trivet or some kind of furniture pad. The pocket is sized to fit other brands of CE-approved back protectors.
At first, I didn't like the fit of the jacket; it was stiff and confining and hard to move in, like a new set of leathers. However, as the miles racked up, I liked the fit more and more, and now grab the jacket for trips around town or what not. It's a comfortable fit for a standard or a sportbike, although it probably wouldn't work as well for cruisers with high bars. I also appreciate the touches like rubber zipper pulls, reflective piping, snap cuffs on the sleeves, articulated arms and adjustable (within reason) waistband.
One big piece is stronger than lots of little pieces, no matter how good the stitching is.
The liner provides pretty minimal insulation and the jacket is a pretty tight fit on me, although I think of myself as the perfect medium-sized guy. Because of that, there isn't much room for an extra layer under there and this would probably be a good jacket for warm Springs and Autumns. When it's hot, there are better jacket choices. Frontal venting is okay with the large fabric panel over the armpits and inner arms and perforated leather around the neck and shoulders, but this is not a vented jacket. It's best for those perfect riding days when the temperature is between 55 ad 85 degrees.
Quality is average overall and pretty good compared to some other Chinese-made products I've used. However, I've already noticed a seam coming undone, although Shift's one-year warranty should cover that. The rest of the construction of this jacket is basically sound, although Shift uses single, exposed stitching along seams instead of doubling the stitching and hiding the seams like higher-end makers do. But, they get points back for using a single piece of leather and then sewing ornamental panels over that on the main body of the jacket, unlike some manufacturers (who probably don't do track days wearing their own apparel) I could name. One big piece is stronger than lots of little pieces, no matter how good the stitching is.
At $399.95, the SR-1 isn't a smokin' deal, but it is a well-designed, good-quality product that should last a few seasons and protect your upper body from a bad crash at least once. It's also a very stylish alternative to the better-known names that seem to dominate the market these days. Spend your money on this jacket if you like how it looks and you have the dough. There are worse choices you could make.
Have you ever tried to hold a pen with your teeth?
Primer Leather Jacket ($299.95)
Another one of Shift's products I wanted to try was their Primer jacket. Since I got a catty little note about my beloved Vanson horsehide jacket (in which the color was compared to feces) I usually wear when I'm forced to ride a cruiser, I've been on the lookout for a basic, stylish, comfy jacket I can wear on a broad variety of machinery.
I got one in matte black, and pictures don't do it justice. The dull black leather looks great, with a distinctive aura that gets as much recognition as do jackets that are much more expensive. Also, the non-snapping Mandarin collar looks swell too, which means the Primer can look smart going out on the town with friends as well as bombing the boulevard on your big ol' hawg.
Most of the features from the $100-more SR-1 are on the Primer, too. It has all the same armor (and I now have a matching foam-rubber pad), reflective piping (good to have on a black jacket, by the way) zippers and pockets. It lacks the venting in the shoulders and the neoprene on the collar, so it's a little warmer and less comfortable because of it.
I don't know if it was just this jacket, but it fits me even tighter than the SR-1, even after I've put a few miles on it to break it in. It's especially tight around the chest and forearms, so tight that I have to take out the shoulder pads to fit into it properly. Maybe the model it was designed around went on a body-building program with Floyd Landis' trainer after he was measured for the Primer and before he modeled for the SR-1? Whatever the reason, the jacket is too stiff to wear off the bike comfortably, but once in a sportbike or standard crouch, it is more than bearable. On a cruiser, there might be some pinching involved that would make me want to get back into my beloved Vanson, even if it looks like poop.
However, I have no doubt that this jacket would be very protective in a crash, so it is probably what I will wear for my next cruiser or standard test in temperate weather. At $299.95, the Primer is a good value and I would recommend it as a basic piece of riding gear if it fits you right. So no mail order; go into a dealer and spend a few bucks more to make sure the fit is okay, unless you want to look like...well, you know.
SR-1 Gloves ($129.95)
We're back to that SR-1 report, and hopefully you were wearing these when you crashed so you can hold your pen. Shift designed these guys to provide maximum protection. They aren't cheap gloves, but like the SR-1 jacket, they are feature-rich and look like they'll do the job.