Alpinestars Gear: Armor Against the Elements
I received a full set of Alpinestars Jet Road gear, during a chilly intro for Metzeler's new Roadtech Z-6 Sport Touring tire. The problem is, after sweating through two brief rides in the Jet Road gear, I quickly decided that it's much much too mild down here in LA, to test this gear. Being the prince of a guy that he is, Martin Hackworth aka "Sportbike Pilot" offered to take the gear off my hands and give it a proper test, up in snowy, cold, windy, rainy Idaho. Take it from me, if you don't live someplace where it's frequently below 45 degrees and raining, you might want to consider something a little mellower than the Alpinestars Jet Road Gore Tex gear. -Sean
"Speak to me of summers, long winters longer, than time can remember, setting off along the road..." Ever since I acquired my first set of Alpinestars boots I have been bothered by a memory that won't quite surface. It's one of those things that periodically bubble up and down and every time it's just about to materialize from the ether -- poof -- it's gone. I know the name Alpinestars rings a bell outside the context of motorcycling. Then while reading through the press kit that came with the Alpinestars touring suit MO provided for this evaluation it hit me -- Hiking Boots! I remember seeing Alpinestars boots advertised in skiing/mountaineering catalogs circa the 60's. The name of this venerable company is literally an advertisement for their roots.
Before I got sucked into the great black hole that is committed motorcycling, thus insuring that I could no longer afford other things to occupy my time, I spent 20 years in the outdoors as a mountain guide. Weather in the mountains being what it is a lot of this time was spent in conditions from icy alpine walls in the Arctic, to rain soaked crags in West Virginia, to full blown blizzards out of bounds at Jackson Hole. Extreme conditions breed careful choices in outerwear since the potential consequence of something as ordinarily insignificant as a seam failure or a zipper that won't open or close may be dire. If there was a universally held tenet among my fellow guides and ski instructors it was that you could make up for a lot of bad luck as long as you were dressed for the conditions. As a group we were the most critical consumers of outerwear anywhere.
During this time I also ran an outfitters shop. Because I was in the biz I had low or no cost access to the best of most marquee manufacturer's apparel. While I might wear a popular down jacket and shell acquired as swag to the grocery store, I was infinitely more discerning in my choice of garments when the game was on -- even if I had to pay full price. I was not alone. Zillion dollar-advertising budgets were far less effective than simple word of mouth in professional circles. Guides from around the world always seemed to be equipped by a remarkably few elite suppliers of mountain wear.
The use of serious outerwear for motorcyclists is no less essential. The closest I have ever come to full blown hypothermia occurred not on any icy mountainside but in the saddle of my TDM when I got caught in a spring storm out in the middle of nowhere. I have ridden in rain, snow and bitter cold all of my riding career (largely a function of where I live) and can readily attest to the attention that one ought to pay to their mode of dress. Outerwear for motorcyclists must perform one single additional function not normally important for other types of outdoor apparel. Not only must motorcycle outerwear be windproof, waterproof, rugged, durable and provide insulation, just like its alpine cousins, but it must also be crashworthy, in very abrasive environments -- a role your average ski parka does not have to fill.
To serve the motorcycling public there is a large market that offers a dizzying assortment of jackets, pants, gloves, boots and all manner of foul weather riding gear. A quick scan of the advertising section of any motorcycle magazine will quickly confirm this. Unfortunately there is precious little critical information to aid the average consumer in choosing an appropriate garment for his or her riding style and expected use other than the normal advertising cack. And here the parallel between alpine and motorcycle gear for serious riders bears fruit. Talk to anyone who spends much time riding bikes about bulletproof outerwear and the name Alpinestars comes up very early in the conversation.
Alpinestars has been around for a long time and is well known among motorcyclists for rugged apparel for street, track, and dirt bike enthusiasts. Established in 1963 as a ski and hiking boot manufacturer, Alpinestars has grown in the last 40 years into a leading manufacturer of professional racing apparel for the entire spectrum of motorsports. As a matter of disclosure I own a pair of both Tech-6 motocross boots and SMX road race boots, both of which I happen to like a lot. The Tech-6 boots have survived abuse almost to awful to even think about and continue to perform as well or even better than new. I remember asking the guys in the shop where I bought the Tech-6's for the most bulletproof pair of boots I could trade for 250 Washington's and the consensus was unanimous "Alpinestars", said one of the shopies, "It's the best there is."
The Alpinestars Recon Gore-Tex Jacket, Gore-Tex Jet Road Pant and Jet Road Gloves are high-end touring apparel for motorcyclists likely to be spending time in very inclement conditions. This suit, in Alpinestars tradition, is rich in useful features, absent of any vestigial fluff, extremely well made, and functions a lot like a lightweight, personal bomb shelter. It is absolutely the beefiest and most weather resistant textile outfit I have ever worn. Remove the CE armor from the jacket and pants (easily done thanks to generous access) and one would not feel out of place tackling Mt. Everest. If you are looking for a touring suit that provides maximum protection against both the elements and the perils of two-wheeled locomotion look no farther. As a bonus it even looks cool. Me, I'm always way more into the vibe out there when I know I look bitching out there.
Details, details... The Recon jacket is designed to provide maximum protection against the elements with the armor normally found in a high-quality leather jacket. The shell is constructed of very rugged Cordura 500D fabric for wind, water and abrasion resistance with a waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex liner sewn in.
Other Recon features include zippered front expansion panels for adjustable fit, adjustable CE certified armor, arm zippers for easy removal or repositioning of the sleeve pads, Velcro loop and snap adjustments for the collar, sleeves, cuffs, waist, and midriff, padded back panel, reflective bits for nighttime visibility, 4 large zippered front pockets, 2 waterproof inner pockets, and a back compartment with a contoured foam back pad (CE certified back protection is available as an accessory). The jacket sleeves are sewn to a moderate curve that is just right for a touring jacket and the overall fit is relaxed enough to comfortably accommodate the zip in quilted polyester liner or other layers of your choosing, The quilted liner that is provided is actually a really nice accessory with long sleeves, a trick attachment system of zippers and snaps, and, in a nice small touch, two color contrast pockets and nifty Alpinestars logo panels. All adjustment snaps, Velcro loops and zippers on the Recon jacket are large and easy to operate while wearing gloves.
The Gore-Tex Jet Road Pant is constructed of the same 500D Cordura fabric as the jacket and the same Gore-Tex membrane, CE armor in the hips and knees (with easy access), the same quilted zip in insulating liner as the jacket, reflective bits, a quick lock waist belt and 2 very roomy (but streamlined) external pockets. Ballistic nylon is used to reinforce the knees and the inside lower legs. Fit is semi-relaxed and long zippers are provided on the rear of each pant leg for ease on and off over boots. All adjustment snaps and zippers are large and easy to operate with gloves. A nifty Alpinestars logo on the left leg seals the deal.
The Gore-Tex Jet Road Gloves are the single finest pair of touring gloves I have ever worn. Constructed of full-grain leather with Kevlar, Gore-Tex, carbon fiber knuckle protection, Thinsulate insulation, wrist and cuff closures. A really nice small feature of the gloves is the extra flap of leather in the palm that extends to cover the wrist closure strap, indicative of the overall attention to useful detail. I have a pair of Alpinestars Gore-Tex mitts that I wear over the gloves in really cold weather and the combo is the warmest thing this side of heated handgrips. It doesn't get any better without electricity.
At 6'3", 200 lbs. and Euro size 50 I found the XL Recon jacket to be a perfect fit. The ability to tweak the sleeves six different ways from Sunday and the range of torso adjustments in the expansion panels, the waist and midriff allow one to dial a custom fit over a wide variety of undergarments. The jacket arms are long enough to easily accommodate my 36" sleeve length and the fit through the hips is just what you'd want. The Recon moves easily without bunching or binding and will not flap in the wind. The pants are just the slightest bit snug on my 36" waist (with the liner) but accommodate my 35" inseam quite well. I have very large hands and the XL gloves work just fine. Fit for all pieces are enhanced by generous adjustability.
Material, sewing and overall build quality for this suit is of the highest caliber. I have been riding this outfit for about a month in rain, snow and bitter cold and have found it to be very warm even without the liners and very windproof. It will hold water at bay for a loooong time. You'd still need to bring along a rain jacket and pants with this suit for long-distance touring in wet weather (as with any Gore Tex outfit), but you wouldn't need to pull it out of your bags unless you rode through a monsoon. The armor in the jacket is as good as what you'd expect to find in many leather sportbike jackets. In fact I would wear the gloves and jacket without hesitation for a track day session -- they are that beefy. About the only feature this suit does not have is a lot of ventilation and that is on purpose. As with all Gore-Tex garments it is necessary to keep this suit fairly clean for the Gore-Tex membrane to do it's thing.
This is the best heavy-duty textile motorcycle outfit I've ever worn. After tooling around in it for a while I'm going to have to retire all of my other textile suits (even my brown Carhartt insulated overalls). Up here in the North the jacket will be my standard top until well into the spring and the suit will be my touring outfit on the road to Alaska this summer.
MSRP on the Jet Road Pants is $299. MSRP for the Jet Road gloves is $99. Both are available from your local Alpinestars dealer. But for the Recon jacket you'll have to spend some Euros since it is not currently available from distributors the US (it is easily, however, attainable over the Internet). What's up with that anyway? Why is it that the Europeans get more bikes, better graphics, the autobahn, the Saxonring, MotoGP, Eiswein and we get NASCAR and MD 20/20? Are we ersatz? Uncivilized? The unwashed hoi polloi of motorcycling here in the new world? Perhaps a missive from MR ALLCAPS delivered by a delegation of MO-rons including Longride, KPaulCook, and Buzglyd in person to the EU might have some positive effect on this?
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