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Rocket Touring Gear Roundup
By the time you read the review of this electric vest, chances are that an item like this is going to be the furthest thing from you mid-summer heat-boiled brain. Or maybe you're an ultra-enthusiast who's always on the look out for products in preparation for those cold weather riding days that seem to come all too soon.
Whatever the case, if you've always wondered if they're worth the investment, just ask someone who has used one. They'll tell you the same thing that it took me over 12 years to learn: They're worth it! I used one during most of the cold weather months (I realize this is a relative concept here in L.A.) with an Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage Vest zipped under just about any riding jacket or suit I had, and rare was the ride when I didn't have it on, so long as the temperatures required it.
Adding the element of air as an additional insulator, the AirVantage uses an internal inflatable bladder to help snug up the fit, and thereby improving (hopefully) on the efficiency of the vest to keep you warm. The bladder is filled by unzipping a little pocket in the chest area and pulling out a fill tube that operates similarly to those found on many inflatable balls, kiddie pools and the like. Yet it one-ups those by using a check valve, so in the event you need to add a puff to your huff to get the job done, the vest won't leak all that precious carbon dioxide that you coughed up in order to stay warm. Simply take a big breath and blow. A lung full is all it ever took for me to fully inflate the bladder, and let me tell you, I'm no Olympic swimmer.
To deflate the vest for whatever reason, just press on the red, triangulated object in the center of the fill tube and the vest will expel whatever you breathed into it. Keep in mind you do run the risk of having people think you're inhaling for your own intoxicating reasons rather than exhaling to fill something. Aside from that potential reputation-ruining visual, the bladder inflates quickly and easily.
If you're fashion conscious, you'll like the benefit of having a reversible vest. The outer material (or what I call outer) is a soft, fleece-like fabric and the only color available is green. The inner of the vest is a simple nylon/polyester.
When it comes time to fuel the fire, so to speak, you merely plug in one of the various connector types (which you'll need to purchase) to the SAE connector-end inside the jacket. The vest comes up to full operating temperature in the neighborhood of three to five minutes based upon my experiences. The AirVantage strikes a good balance between warm enough and too hot.
Though the Kanestu AirVantage is made from quality materials with excellent craftsmanship, it could use a couple of revisions. The biggest and most significant change that could be made is to the connector in the jacket. It needs to be far more accessible than it currently is. Even though the connector has its own little zippered pocket it is unfortunately recessed too far into the vest and too close to the lining to make a quick and easy connection. This difficulty can be amplified when you're trying to wrestle the cord to its mate while wearing an outer layer, such as, say an Aerostich suit.
Something else that I'd like to see added would be at least one exterior pocket. The only thing similar is the rather large zippered pouch that's found on the nylon side of the vest. If nothing else it can be used to stash your connection cord. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the air bladder is to help create a close fit and improve the heating. Indeed, the vest does fit snugly once inflated. It's almost like instantly adding an extra ten pounds to your girth. When you wear the vest under your outer layer (hopefully this is a forgone conclusion), expect to have the sensation of a more restricted range of movement, unless of course you purposely up-size your outer garments in anticipation of this altered fit. In my case, when the vest was inflated, the resulting snugness caused the vest to be mostly deflated by the end of a 30 mile ride.
The use of a space filled with air between two different layers of material is nothing new in the arena of keeping things warm. Unfortunately for the Kanetsu AirVantage this concept may be mostly "hot air."
Aside from this deflating aspect of the vest, the heating element works very well and is transparent in feel. It's as if it's just a plain jacket.
That's far more than I can say about other vests or jackets that I've worn, with their heating elements resembling a twisted-up wire coat hanger wrapped around my back.
One additional but very important caveat is that of ensuring you get the proper size. I typically take a medium in just about all of my shirts, jackets, etc. My AirVantage is a large and is none too big, so consider ordering up a size. One recommendation I can confidently make is that you purchase the QuiConnect 2 Switch Coil Cord Kit. The cord is plenty long and the neat on/off switch lights up red and is big enough to be easily operated with cumbersome winter riding gloves. If you're a weather pansy like me, you may consider the zip on sleeves that are available for an additional $50.00.
So, if you're in the market for a piece of electric clothing, whether it'll be your first or one of many, don't just "blow" by the Aerostich Kanetsu AirVantage Vest.
The AirVantage can be found as item #1447 at http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Kanetsu-AirVantage-Vest-p-17188. html and it retails for $227.00. The QuiConnect 2 Switch Coil Cord Kit is item #172 and sells for $40.00. The zip off sleeves are item #1458 and they have a retail cost of $50.00.
- Pete Brissette
Chase Harper Eurosport Tank Bag
Aerostich.com Direct Product #957
Chase Harper Website: Model 1501 Retail price: $157.00
Aerostich's catalog lists plenty of tank bags, and a tank bag is an essential bit of touring equipment. As our little band's photographer/web layout-er/swiss army knife guy, I need a tankbag that is easy to access, has lots of features, and can keep expensive and delicate equipment warm, dry and safe. Rider's WearHouse lists the Chase Harper equipment prominently, as it's a well-designed, well-made, high-quality product line.
The Eurosport Model 1501 that I received seemed promising when I got it. We knew we would need at least one tankbag compatible with a non-metallic tank: the Eurosport uses Chase Harper's exclusive "QuickClip" dual mounting system. In addition to the fancy clip-based mounting system that uses a tank pad, the bag has a strap/handle combination that is a nice addition, although it's sewn in and not removable.
What this pack does have is terrific capacity. It also has great build quality and sneaky pockets.... I expected good things to come from this bag on our ride.
As for strapping her on.... I know, I said "strapping" he he he... Anyway, installation was a snap. Of the three methods listed on the instruction sheets, only two were applicable as there were no magnets in the base pad. That left me with their three and four-point methods. The four-point set-up would not work on our long-term Ducati test bike because of the design of the tank - too thick. The 3-point option was the way to go and the "dogbone" cushion design does a nice job of keeping the straps from directly riding around the painted frontal curves of the tank.
In actual use, I found it needed longer zipper pulls; when fully opening the compartments, the zipper heads get tucked far back into the overlapping folds of Cordura, and are a little tough to pick out. It's probably impossible with riding gloves on. However, the tank bag did everything as promised, protecting all my stuff and staying securely on the bike despite all the high-speed antics the other MO boys put me and the Ducati through.
Pacsafe Tail Bag
Aerostich.com Direct Pacsafe Tailbag, item #9133, $227
Aerostich.com Direct LidSafe #9122 Retail price: $227.00
There's only one brand of after-market luggage out there fit for the Fonz, the PacSafe line of anti-theft motorcycle gear. With all the technical equipment I carry running the magazine, its a huge PITA worrying about leaving my cameras, laptops, and Tamagotchi collection sitting out there on the bike for some would-be dick-head to come along and steal while I stop for a ninety-nine cent dinner at the AM/PM. PacSafe has created a line of tank bags, tail packs and backpacks that are created using what they call eXomesh material - a fully waterproof 900 denier high density polyester & nylon layering, sandwiching a laminated stainless-steel wire mesh to prevent someone from slashing open the bag while it's locked to your bike's frame. The eXomesh construction is wrapped up with a synching top and thicker securing cable you then feed thru your bike and back into the pack's lid.
The flagship bag is their TailSafe product, which touts a huge 2440 cu. inch main compartment and is big enough to hold a full face helmet, a few layers of clothing and a laptop computer.
I tend to pack my entire LowePro Nova camera bag inside it for off-bike toting of camera supplies at the races. Removing the entire pack takes seconds with the included three point straps and shoulder strap. If you don't wanna haul it around the pits, you can keep your Bratz Doll collection safely tucked away on the bike while at the races and safely store your hat in the LidSafe slash-proof bag, more below. Solid brass padlocks are included.
The TailSafe has a nice big top pocket too, but it's a tight fit once the bag is closed. I often use it for excess and off bike stuff, like a second set of gloves for changing weather or my hat to spare the viewing public my helmet hair when I dip in for a pint of ice cream at the local marble slab; baby loves her PB&J ice cream! On the sidewalls are a pair of smaller pockets good for carrying a wheel lock and the shoulder strap for carrying the bag off the bike plus some other small crap you don't want in your pocket while enjoying the ride.
With a tough rubberized bottom, any wetness from the road spray will not seep thru to the Bratz inside, and it'll last forever; it's durable on and off the bike. Plus, the bag has aluminum shaping rods similar to those found in your internal-frame backpack, to keep the shape of the bag from flopping around in the twisties when it's not completely full.
But I wouldn't suggest using it on painted cowlings or tail covers as I like my paint to be new for a long time. It's just best for the passenger pad or your bike's tail rack. [Gabe wanted to interject that when this bag is fully Fonzie-loaded, it has a tendency to come loose; he thinks it could use a more secure mounting system.]
On the days you're stuffing the TailSafe with clothing, tools, and whatnot and do not have a place to store your helmet while not riding, OutPac Deisgns has also created a matching security bag to safely lock your helmet as well. Using a similar interwoven wire mesh of the big bag and a cable to connect to the bike, the LidSafe is tape sealed and waterproof on the outside and lined w/ the same soft stuff your helmet came in when you bought it (not the cardboard box) and the LidSafe comes its own carrying case, to carry the carry case in while its being carried around town in your TailSafe pack... say that seven times fast! This product also comes with a set of padlocks and of course you need not the other products or even a motorcycle to use this bag. Locking your helmet to a fence or nearby building helps you keep the helmet in the event someone picks up the entire motorcycle to steal those precious beanie babies inside the TailSafe.
PacSafe is good stuff and I highly recommend it if you plan to move your toy collectibles thru a bad neighborhood.... or plan on traveling anywhere with something you would not want stolen. At press time, "WifeSafe" was still in development.