Kit review

Tested: Alpinestars KIR CiR Chest Protector

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This fully CE-approved chest protector is designed to protect the sternum and chest from high speed impacts.

It is made from soft, flexible and breathable shock absorbing material which is combined with dense and lightweight layers of foam to disperse energy quickly and evenly over its surface in the event of an off.

Wearing it couldn’t be simpler; just slip in to your leathers and the clever design, which allows the protector to effectively mold to the contours of your chest as it heats up means it stays snugly in place. It’s so comfy and unobtrusive I don’t even notice it’s there. This is a must for trackdays and fast road riding.

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Tested: Alpinestars Atem v3 1-PC leathers

This one-piece suit is fully CE-certified in its entirety, not just in specific areas, and every part of the garment conforms to the CE standard2016/425 for riding safety. As you’d expect from a CE-certified suit, it boasts some pretty impressive spec. The suit is made from high grade, highly abrasion resistant 1.3mm leather, which is reinforced in the impact zones (bum, hips and elbows) and it’s full of technology proven in MotoGP and WSBK, including the familiar sturdy plastic external armour on the shoulders, knees and elbows to stop the suit gripping the tarmac in the event of a spill.

Then there’s the removable CE armour that sits below the leather on the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, tibia and shins.

But all that protection is as good as useless if the suit doesn’t fit properly, and it’s here that the Atem v3 excels. The stretch panels on the chest, crotch, inside of the arms and back of the legs works together with the accordion panels on the shoulders, lower back, elbows and knees to ensure the suit fits properly. It means I could drop down a size to get a proper snug fit.

Other features include the ubiquitous aerodynamic speed hump, extensive perforations on the upper and lower body and hump for improved ventilation, neoprene on the collars and cuffs to prevent chafing, a removable liner and a clever 3D mesh that allows a pocket of air to sit between you and the leather, which makes the suit extremely breathable.

I’ve ridden some 2500 miles in it over a week’s touring, as well as several fast laps over the Mountain, and it was just as comfortable on the roads grinding out the miles as it was scratching around the TT course. The venting is really effective and the suit itself is really comfortable – all the armour sits exactly where it should do.

Tested: Alpinestars Supertech R Boots

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These boots offer the best of both worlds – they’re brilliantly comfortable straight out of the box while being reassuringly protective. They’re the same boots you see Marquez, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Quartararo wearing in MotoGP and all this on-track crash research means they’re proven.

The superb level of protection these boots offer is mainly thanks to their construction – the Supertech R actually consists of two boots; an inner and an outer.

The inner boot has been designed to absorb any knocks while also reducing ankle twist and features a four-link system that effectively links the calf collar to the reinforced heel cup. It sounds uncomfortable but it isn’t, thanks largely to the inner boot’s lightweight mesh fabric construction. The inner boot also features a shoehorn shaped piece of plastic connected to the heel cup to protect the Achilles tendon and the boot itself is held to the rider’s foot by an internal Carbon/Kevlar mix lace which has been designed to reduce bulk and weight.

The synthetic leather outer boot features a soft, grippy suede-style material on the inside to stop your bike’s bodywork from being scratched and scuffed, elasticated tops, extensive and effective vents and a brilliant zip, Velcro, ratchet system that makes getting the boots on and off a doodle. Again there’s lots of protection. Every surface has been designed to slide and not grip in the event of a spill – there’s also lots of sturdy plastic on the heel, a sturdy but flexible sole and replaceable toe sliders.

These boots are easily the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn and they’re equally at home on the bike churning out the miles from Italy to the Isle of Man in a day or blasting over the Mountain as they are off the bike watching the racing at the TT.

Expensive but worth every penny.

New kit: Alpinestars launches Zarco Supertech R Limited Edition

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The French MotoGP race weekend at the legendary Le Mans circuit is one of the highlights of the racing calendar, a heady mixture intoxicating history, Gallic passion and close racing. Local hero Johann Zarco has tasted success at his home track; in 2017 he finished second and became the first French rider to finish on the podium in the premier class at his home race since 1988, and he secured third in the Moto 2 race in 2015.

Johann is a back-to-back Moto2 Champion, and has a 125cc win, 15 Moto2 wins and six premier class podiums, four poles and four fastest laps to his name. Noted for his blistering speed, daring overtakes and aggression, Johann is one of MotoGP’s frontrunners, with his smooth riding style often in the thick of the action. The Johann Zarco 2019 Limited Edition Supertech R recognizes his devastating corner speed and bravery on two wheels. Featuring all of the technical innovations of Alpinestars class-leading Supertech R boot, the black, blue, white and red fluo colorway allows fans to enjoy an eye-catching, premium race boot fit for champions.

The Supertech R features performance innovations, including a redesigned compound rubber sole, an ergonomically profiled shin plate and a redesigned front flex area – all of which enhance the podium winning performance of this CE-certified boot.

Racer’s Kit – Neil Hodgson

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Neil Hodgson is a former BSB and WSBK champion. Remembered fondly for his ‘Doohan’esque riding style, and his epic title decider with Chris Walker at Donington Park, Hodgson announced his retirement in 2010 after 20 seasons of racing after suffering a brutal shoulder injury.

He’s now the MotoGP commentator for BT Sport, where he uses his knowledge to offer a valuable insight into racing’s premier class alongside Keith Huewen. After two decades of competition, he’s got a wealth of experience with kit from a huge range of manufacturers, and is uniquely placed to explain what works and doesn’t. Here he shares his hard earned kit wisdom:

HELMET
“I know it’s obvious, but your helmet is your most important piece of kit. It has to be – you only get one head, so you need to do everything you can to protect it. My advice is to buy the best helmet you can afford.

“As well as being protective, it also needs to work. It needs to be comfortable, needs to fit and it needs to offer decent levels of vision. When you come off you’re going to hit the ground hard, so you need to know everything’s going to work. For example, it’s no good having a strong shell but a weak visor. If a visor comes off when you crash that’s not going to end well as you’ll either get hit in the face by flying stones or a handlebar.

“In the 1990s I had a crash and the helmet was totally destroyed. It was a nothing crash, yet it had shattered like an egg. It was only after the crash that I proper looked at it and realised how flimsy it was.

“I’ve got so much experience with helmets. I raced for 20 seasons, and I have ridden with every brand you can imagine, from FM to AGV to Shoei to Suomy and UVEX. It’s funny, I never raced with Arai during the entirety of my career, and everyone always said they were the best. I so didn’t believe it. I thought it was all hype, but it was only when I wore one for the first time that I thought ‘what have I been doing?’. I’m such a stubborn bugger, and I guess I was trying to prove a point, but the reality is that everything about an Arai helmet is better than what I have experienced before.

“Yes you pay a bit extra for it, but the design justifies the price. The design has virtually remained unchanged for years, and everything is researched and made to the highest level. There really is no compromise – the reason it has the shape it has is solely down to safety. It’s a brand which focuses on protection, not fashion or the latest trends, and I love that.

“My helmet is an off-the-peg lid, standard RX-7V that you can buy yourself, and apart from the paint, it’s not been changed or modified in any way. What I love about it is that everything works perfectly – it fits me, the lining is comfortable and effective at wicking away the sweat, the ventilation is superb, and the vision is excellent.

LEATHERS

“I need my leathers to be comfortable, but prefer them to be tight too. They also need to fit, and all the internal and external armour needs to sit where it’s supposed to – if it moves it’s not going to do you any good in a crash.

“It’s no good them being too loose and rolling up when you hit the Tarmac. A good test is to pull the leather at the wrists and ankles. If they move up your arm or leg then they’re too big. You need to try them on in the correct way – by sitting as if you’re crouching on the bike. It’s no good just trying them on standing up as this wont replicate how they’ll sit on your body when you’re on the bike. When you crouch, the suit changes and you need to realise this.

“In 1998 I was testing in Indonesia and I crashed. It really was nothing of a crash – I just tucked the front. I had changed manufacturers and didn’t have any leathers ready, so I was I was wearing a baggy, off-the-peg suit. Basically, the leathers spun, my leg was trapped under the bike, and the elastic part of the suit was now over my knee. This wore out really quickly and holed, and put a big hole in my knee – the local hospital stitched my up, but I’d gotten gravel in the knee and it got infected. That was a miserable experience, and all because I wasn’t wearing tight fitting leathers.

“And that’s still the case today. I see so many people on trackdays, as many as 90 percent, wearing leathers that are just too big for them. I go up to them, grab their arm and I can pinch a full handful of leather. I can spin the elbow protector right round, and that’s just with my hand. Imagine the g-forces involved if you crash at Craner Curves when your elbow hits the ground. That is the reason so many trackday riders get injured.

“Kit works, it really does. But it has to fit. Think about MotoGP – the number of crashes last year was sky high, but the number of riders injured was low, and that is because kit has improved since the days I raced in a full Kevlar suit.

“I wear RST. They have progressed so much over the past few years. What I like about the owner, Jonny Towers, is that five years ago he told me he wanted to RST to be the third best leather manufacturers in the world after Alpinestars and Dainese. And he’s committed to achieving that – every year he tweaks the suits, and makes them better. Go into the BSB paddock and there is a reason a lot of riders are wearing the suits; they work. A lot of that is down to the fact that Jonny races himself and understands what it takes to make a good suit. An RST suit is very, very impressive for the price.

“Another exciting thing from my point of view about RST is that they’re always listening to rider’s feedback and constantly evolving and improving their products.”

BOOTS
“There are a lot of bones in your feet, and the ankle’s a really complicated joint, so you can’t afford to take chances. You need your boots to be protective. But you also need them to be flexible.

“It’s the ultimate compromise. You need safety around your ankle, but you also need the flexibility, especially when you hang off the bike a lot. I roll my ankle in weird shapes when I ride, so I need lot of movement. I have tried Daytona boots, but they were so rigid I couldn’t ride how I wanted to.

“I also ride with the back brake a lot, and need to have a pair of boots which will let me accurately feed back what I’m doing. If the sole is too thick, I know full well it will cost me a second a lap, so I need my boots to offer some flex. It’s about trying different sets on, and discovering what works for you.”

GLOVES
“I’m quite picky when it comes to gloves because I need them to look after me. And they have – I have been so lucky throughout my career, I don’t have a single scar on my hands.

“When I was racing, once I’d found a pair of gloves I liked I’d wear them for the whole season. I hated new gloves, still do. Yes, new gloves are much better at breaking in, but I still prefer older gloves. I like my gloves to feel like old slippers, and in a weird way, because of this I have probably compromised safety in the past.

“Today’s gloves have so much armour and protective features – looks for sliders on the palm and fingers, and make sure the cuff closes over your leathers.”

BACK AND CHEST PROTECTORS
“I’ve always worn a back protector, and I wouldn’t race without one. It just gives me peace of mind.

“Having said that I don’t wear a chest protector and I’ve never given one any thought. People started using them when I was racing, but I was so fanatical about being tucked in, being as low on the bike as I could, that I thought the extra 1cm thickness would cost me 0.001 of a second. It’s absolute stupidity thinking about it now, and I’d consider wearing one so long as it doesn’t restrict movement on the bike.”

AIRBAGS
“Airbags are compulsory for all racers competing in MotoGP this year. The whole technology is getting better, and the low number of riders getting injured is testimony to the fact that airbags work. Just look at Jack Miler’s crash at Le Mans last year. It was a fast crash, a massive crash, and he walked away unscathed.

“I think we’re in golden age of rider safety and we’ve never had it so good. For example, I know wrist locking technology is coming and that will help stop riders injuring their wrists. And RST are developing their own airbag system; you know full well it will represent value for money. I’d wear one…”

ANY CRASHES WHERE YOU FEEL YOUR KIT WORKED PARTICULARLY WELL?
“I’ve had some decent crashes, but not many major ones. I never used to crash that much – I averaged six crashes a year over my 20-year career, and most of the time I tucked the front, which is the type of crash you want.

“I once highsided on some oil coming out of Turn 1 at Valencia, it wasn’t actually that fast, but I was well out of the corner. My own oil caught me out, I got stuck under the bike and slid all the way down to Turn 2. I stood up after that and my AXO leathers had literally split open, but I didn’t have a mark on me. That was incredible. I kept that suit – the leather and back protector had completely worn away, but I didn’t have a single bruise or cut.”

Neil Hodgson has joined forces with Niall Mackenzie to create a new insurance company – Mackenzie Hodgson. Specialising exclusively in motorcycle insurance, the company prides itself on offering riders the right cover at a competitive price while providing best service and attention in the case of a claim.
For more details visit http://www.mackenziehodgson.co.uk or call 0330 343 8751

TESTED – DRIFT ACTION CAMERA MOUNTS

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I’ve always had good experiences with Drift cameras; they’re compact, aerodynamic, discreet and the footage itself is superb – colours are crisp and it captures loads of detail, and there’s no ‘fish-eye’ effect at the edge of the frame.

However, after two years of testing we’ve discovered a problem with the mounts – the cameras are prone to working lose and simply unscrew themselves from their secure housing.

This very thing happened to me last summer. Prior to every ride, I religiously check the camera is fixed securely in its mount, yet on a ride to enjoy Bardney Bends the forward facing camera mounted on the side of the bike simply unwound itself and made a desperate bid for freedom. Luckily, this was captured by the rear facing camera, and thanks to the wonder of social media, I managed to track the camera down. Unsurprisingly it was battered, and even though the battery was still working, the lens had cracked and the housing had taken a beating.

We’ve contacted Drift and they say it’s the riders duty to check the cameras are secure before riding. Admittedly, we were riding a big twin on the day, but we’ve repeated the test on an inline 600, and the same thing happened.

Some online research suggest sticking tape inside the mount acts as a cushion and spares the house from the worst of the engine’s vibrations. We’ll be looking into this and will let you know how we get on…

Tested – Continental Race Attack

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These tyres are mind blowingly good, so good in fact that I’m still struggling to get my head around just how exceptional they are.

The tyres you see here – a soft front and an endurance compound – have just come back from three hot days on track at Jerez, and their performance is simply staggering around the circuit’s 2.75 miles of gloriously fast straights, late apex technical twists and turns.

Scrubbing in takes just one lap, and they have so much grip I’m able to push hard straight away around every single one of the 13 corners. I don’t use tyre warmers, but these tyres allow me to stay with – and ride past – those riders who are.

Once they’re up to working temperature they’re superb; they’re stable and offer supreme levels of confidence inspiring grip. And the amount of heat they generate and retain is astounding.

What did become clear as the day progressed is that they’re sensitive to pressures, and will quickly tear if over or under inflated. I thought they were cold tearing initially, but the opposite was true, and once I’d adjusted the pressure they responded straight away and came back to me.

They’re also incredibly durable. I went faster than I’ve ever been and after three blisteringly hot days on track they’re still good, despite having covered some 450 hard miles.

Recommended.

Tested – Arai RX-7V

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This is my second RX-7V and I have nothing but praise for it.

This is my sole lid, and it’s the exact same helmet that you see top racers such as Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Vinales and Rea wearing each weekend.

I love this helmet and with good reason too – it’s truly all-day comfortable, and the non-itch lining does a good job of keeping my scalp dry and sweat free. Its performed faultlessly on a recent three-day trackday at Jerez and the brilliant combination of powerful and effective visor vents and Pinlock means you’ll never suffer with misting, and the retractable chin spoiler is a neat, well-thought out touch.

This lid features Arai’s new visor change mechanism, which is far easier to master than the old system, and I know this lid will look after me in the worst case scenario – I threw my GP down the road when I came off at speed and slid some 110m down the road, smacking my head hard in three different places. The shell took a proper battering but everything worked as it should and I didn’t get so much as a headache. This new lid features a new, smoother outer shell, a longer diffuser, a new, bigger visor tab and a new interior.

The new outer shell is a result of Arai’s philosophy that a smoother shell offers the best protection through its enhanced ‘glancing off’ properties – the theory is that a smoother shape spreads the impact load across the whole helmet and thus helps reduce the amount of energy transferred to a rider’s brain in a spill. The shell itself is 30g lighter than the outgoing model, thanks a mainly to the new resins used, and there is now 3mm extra space around the rider’s mouth and chin.

This focus on ‘glancing off’ has seen the RX-7’s visor pivot lowered by 24mm to allow Arai to keep the shell of the RX-7V completely smooth above the test line of the Snell standard, further improving impact performance.

The new helmet also sports a prominent visor tab, which Arai has carried over from its F1 programme. The system is much chunkier than its predecessor, which makes it easier to use with gloved fingers.

Arai’s slogan is ‘there is a difference’ and they’re right. This is very much a top of the range lid, and it’s worth every penny of its hefty price tag.

New kit – BMW System 7 Carbon

BMW claims its new System 7 Carbon is set to become the new benchmark in terms of safety, versatility, and aerodynamic properties, and on paper it certainly looks promising.

An evolution of the hugely popular System 6, the System 7 Carbon can be converted from a full-face helmet to an open one by simply taking off the chin guard. No tools are required and it takes only a couple minutes to make the change. How good is that?

As the name suggests, the exterior shell is made out of carbon fibre and has reinforcement inserts. BMW claims the helmet will exceed all safety standards – some feat considering it weighs weighing just 1580 g or 1680g, accordingly to size.

The interior is made out of multiple EPS segments and different thickness foam padding to offer the best shock absorption and increased comfort. As is increasingly becoming the norm, the interior pads can be removed and washed.

The three-dimensionally curved MaxView visor promises to offer an excellent view in all weather conditions while also increasing the field of view compared to its predecessor. Other upgrades include an optimised aero spoiler, integrated sun visor, and an enhanced ventilation system.

The System 7 Carbon will be available in Black, Light White, metallic Graphite Matt and Silver as well as in Prime, Moto, and Spectrum Fluoro paint schemes.

Tested – Drift Innovation’s rugged Stealth 2 Action Camera

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Action cameras are gaining in popularity, especially with the rise in ‘Crash for Cash’ cases, as well as being used to record your rides and trackdays for prosperity. They’re great for checking your riding – lines, position and technique, and are invaluable for allowing you to critique and improve your own riding.

This is the Drift Stealth 2, and it’s right up there with the best – it’s a great entry-level action camera and a worthy alternative to the ubiquitous Go Pro. This very unit has just survived a spectacular off at 90mph (my fault entirely for not securing it properly in the housing), and when I eventually retraced my step I saw it lying on the tarmac still recording.

Yes, it’s battered, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. The footage shows the camera barrel rolling down the tarmac as it made its flight for freedom. The rear facing camera (A Drift Ghost) caught it even better – the Stealth must’ve launched seven feet in the air, and impacted the ground a good 10 times before it came a rest. When I eventually found it some 56 minutes later, it was still recording. I dusted it down, gave it a clean and reattached it to the bike and shot some more footage. This thing is tough, built to last and is as good as bulletproof. Impressive.

So what else have do I know? The unit itself is very compact – it measures just 80mm x 42mm x 27mm and weighs 97g, some 40 per cent lighter than the original Stealth. These measurements make it very aerodynamic and sleek; ideal properties when mounting on helmets or bike fairings – far more suited to bikes than the square design of its rivals.

As I’ve already stated, the rubber housing feels sturdy enough, and while it doesn’t claim to be waterproof, I think it would survive a nuclear attack. An industry standards screw hole sits at the bottom of the unit for mounting to tripods and other useful features include chunky, easy-to- operate buttons and a dial opening/closing mechanism to access the microSD and the HDMI and USB ports – perfect for keeping out dirt and grit.

On the side of the camera is a 1.3in screen that shows the menu options, and it’s backlit so you can see it in the dark. But the really clever part of this camera is that it comes equipped with a lens that rotates through 300 degrees, which means the camera is always capable of shooting landscape while allowing you all sorts of versatility when it comes to mounting the camera. However, this camera’s field of view is restricted to 135 degrees, compared to the 170 degrees offered by the Go Pro, but Drift claims this makes objects appear closer and sharper – and they’re right, the footage itself is superb – colours are crisp and it captures loads of detail, and there’s no ‘fish-eye’ effect at the edge of the frame

Despite the Stealth 2’s small size it still packs a powerful punch andthe battery life is an impressive three hours when shooting 1080p at 30fps. It’s also capable of shooting 720p/60fps all the way down to 120fps in WGVA quality slow motion footage. The camera also has Wi–Fi connectivity – which enables it to be paired to a smartphone or a Drift remote control unit, both of which are very useful when it comes to setting up shooting angles – a time-lapse function photo burst and video tagging.

Mounting couldn’t be easier and each kit comes with a selection of curved and flat mounts to suit all surfaces, and there’s even a handy goggle mount. Note to self – always check you’ve inserted it properly in the mount!

The Drift works equally well on trackdays and the daily commute – I’ve used it for instructing on track and it’s small enough to not be an issue while it has enough battery to make a decent commuter companion, recording every detail in the case of an incident. And it’s very competitively priced too. Highly recommended.

£149.99 store.driftinnovation.com/uk/