After being bombarded with Black Friday propaganda and Cyber Monday assaults, I was finally persuaded to pull the trigger on an item I sort of needed, but was not on the critical list. It was a high viz jacket. A Cyber Monday deal sealed it. I had been casually browsing for a while, but wanted a particular set of features. First, it needed to be a 3 or 4 season jacket. Check. It had to be textile. Check. Reputable brand and quality. Check. Low price. Check. Shoulder, elbow, and back armor. Check. The end result is a First Gear (no surprise there!) Jaunt. At $150 in my hands, this seems like a great bargain. I had tried on Olympia and Rev-It jackets a week earlier at more than twice the price, and while they had more features and vents, I don't think they were much better. Certainly not twice as good.
Gear Towing and Tools
Filtering by Category: Gear
Technology makes a difference. As much as I am a vintage guy, modern technology has significant appeal in certain applications. One of those applications is gear. Every couple of years when I buy a new piece of gear, I am amazed at how much better it is than the last generation. Take heated gloves for example. I owned a pair of Gerbing heated gloves, which were arguably the best on the market at the time. I never liked how bulky they were, but they were state of the art. For about the same price several years later, I purchased a set of Gerbing G3 gloves. Not only are these thinner with no obviously protruding bulky elements inside the gloves, they also heat up almost instantly. They also draw less current, and do a better job of hitting the back of your hands which is where I most wanted it. Thinner, faster, better.
Quite by accident, I seem to be a First Gear guy. The Kilamanjaro jacket was (and is) a great cold weather heavy winter jacket at a great price, and my Kathmandu boots are doing well with thousands of miles on them already. This July while captive at a dealership near the MOA Rally in Minnesota, I looked through their sale rack and found a nice jacket. It was relatively lightweight, but had great features. D3O armor, thermal liner, hydration bladder, YKK waterproof zippers, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a First Gear jacket, and the price sealed the deal. It is also the Kathmandu model.
I wore the jacket for the ride back east, which was hot. The jacket does have nice chest and armpit vents, but they are compromised behind the giant ZTeknic windshield that I also got at the rally. As an enduro style jacket, I found out on later offroad rides, that the vents work perfectly when standing, or with a short windshield. I have yet to try the hydration bladder, but it promises to be much better than a more bulky camel back that I used once.
I have only been in the rain once so far with the jacket, and the Hypertex outer shell works as advertised. I was most surprised that it remained breathable while waterproof. No clammy interior, and the storm flap kept me bone dry. The recent cold weather ride was just as surprising. With the thermal liner, it is as good as the Kilamanjaro down to 40 degrees. Below freezing, or in strong wind, the Kilamanjaro will have the edge. Overall, I think this is a true 4 season jacket, and the light weight just proves that garment technology is getting better all the time.
On a return trip from Ohio, I finally had the chance to stop by the Summit Racing Equipment retail store. I had passed it several times on the way to somewhere, or returning home. However, it was always well beyond opening hours, or when the schedule was too tight. This time the planets aligned.
The store is huge, with a concentration on performance parts for US brands. However, there is also a large selection of harnesses, tires, helmets, ignition systems, and racing suits, for all types of racing. I was hoping to find some Cosworth heads in the scratch-and-dent clearance section, but it was disappointed.....
This started out as a simple quest for a used tonneau cover for the GMC. I needed to secure the contents of the bed from time to time, and did not want to spend much. I thought I would find dozens of choices for a common 8ft bed, but the vast majority are for crew cab and short bed applications. Some of them might have worked, because of the toolbox, but it would require actually fitting them to find out. I was almost ready to consider a mail order rollup version. After a few weeks of this, I saw an ad for a Leer Cap mixed in amongst the Craigslist Tonneau listings.
It was one of those "aha" moments. I had not been looking for Caps because I did not really want something difficult to take on or off, and they are usually expensive. I did want security and better gas mileage. A quick browse turned up several within 50 miles. The first and the closest was a Leer cap with a rise in it. It was in good shape, but was missing the key for the locks. It was also not the color of the truck. A few minutes of measuring, and I made a lowball offer. It was mine for $20 over the lowball number. A fantastic deal for less than a used tonneau, and it is still tall enough to fit a motorcycle !
Every now and then, you come across an item that exceeds expectations and which causes you to wonder if you really get what you pay for. In this case, a helmet from the folks at Cycle Gear, which has a budget-minded house brand called Bilt. I wanted a dirt style helmet, and these were inexpensive at $70. I looked at the fit and finish, and it stacked up well against more premium brands on the shelf. I tried it on, and it fit well, and had decent padding. The one area that was readily apparent as a cost-saving measure was the quality of the padding. It was not nearly as smooth as a Shoei or Arai.
I made the purchase, and wore it home. The optics were actually very good. It has a flip down sun visor, which worked well and noise was better than my aging Bell that this would replace. That was day one, and I have since put a few hundred miles on the helmet. I am still impressed. It is not as noisy as the aging Bell that it replaced, and the visor works well. The cheek pads dont seem as rough once they are worn in a little, It just goes to show that expectations have a lot to do with perceptions. If this helmet had a different logo and was twice the price, it would still be a good deal.
Gear gets sold or discarded around here for 2 reasons.
(A) It doesn't work or is crap, or
(B) It wears out.
In this case B applies. My 8 year old Alpine Stars boots came apart after a winter ride. They are well worn, and beyond repair (although I did contemplate another repair). The fact is that there are so many good alternatives out there for the cost of a repair that I was forced to confront logic. I shopped online over a week or so and found these First Gear touring/adventure style boots. I was heavily influenced by the super value that I got on my First Gear Jacket (see A January Jacket) a few years ago. It is still a good deal. I am hoping that these boots prove to be as good. One of the interesting features is the oil and grease resistant sole of the boot. It looks pretty shiny and slippery out of the box, but I am sure that it is actually better in some way that others which are not. It is one of those features that I don't really want to try out ! So now I have a Kilimanjaro jacket, and Kathmandu boots. I have some new continents to visit !