Kit review

Racer’s Kit – Neil Hodgson


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:

“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.


“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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 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…”

“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 or call 0330 343 8751



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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


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.


Tested – Arai RX-7V


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


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.


Tested – Knox Meta-Sys back protector

MetaSys (needs cutting out)

This back protector is CE Level 2 certified, which means it’s at the top of its game when it comes to offering protection. This is largely down to the tough properties of the hard polypropylene external shell.

Another key feature is Knox’s trademark hinged panels, which allow maximum rider movement without compromising protection. The four panels span the length of your spine, and the lower back section even extends to protect the coccyx area.

The Meta-Sys feels reassuringly protective on, mainly due to the sheer amount of your back that it covers – the upper plates even offer a decent level of protection for the shoulder area – but it’s comfy too, thanks largely to the soft, foam-like nitrex insides, which have a sweat-wicking liner to keep you dry. There’s a decent amount of adjustability at the the shoulder and waist straps too, allowing you to get the Meta-Sys to sit just so, and the clever design means air is channelled away from top to bottom to stop your back from getting too sweaty.

The only downside is that there’s no getting away from its sheer bulk. I simply couldn’t get it to fit into my snug one-piece leathers, and had to go up a size to accommodate it.

4 stars


Tested – Drift Ghost-S

Ghost S.jpg

There’s an awful lot to like about the Drift Ghost-S – it’s easy to use, it’s well-made, it’s well-specced and it shoots some pretty stunning footage.

It’s almost as if the Ghost-S has been designed with bikers in mind; it’s capable of shooting 1080p video at upwards of 60fps, and will also record 120fps video at 720p – a handy feature for any riders looking to shoot slow-motion footage.

This practicality extends to the camera itself. It has a generous-sized 2in LCD screen on the side, which can be used as a live video view and for playing back any recorded footage.

The Ghost-S is designed to be mounted horizontally, so that it sits flat against most surfaces. This is an important design feature as it keeps the camera’s centre of gravity low, which reduces vibrations and camera wobble. The camera uses Drift’s standard 1/4in-20 tripod mount in the base of the camera, which is a neat touch as it means you can also use third-party mounts. It also comes with a few mounts to get you started including a universal clip, goggle mount and some handy adhesive mounts for curved or flat surfaces. This stuff really works, and has allowed me to mount a rear facing camera on the bike’s tail section and a forward facing camera at the top of the lower fairing. And it’s not budged in the slightest.

The camera itself couldn’t be easier, or more intuitive, to operate. The controls are chunky and simple to use, and all the buttons are positioned on the camera’s side – power, to start and stop recording and to navigate the menu.

The back of the camera features Drift’s trademark removable screw-in panel that protects the Mini USB charging port as well as the Mini HDMI output, a function which allows you to connect the camera directly to an external display for playback. There’s also a 3.5mm connection for an external microphone. With the rear cover securely attached, the camera is waterproof to 3m, which keeps the camera dry, even in the grimmest of downpours.

Another neat feature is the rotating lens, which can spin through 300 degrees. This effectively allows you to mount the camera in any orientation and still have the video come out in the correct visual format. It’s worth pointing out here that the lens’ default position, when all sides are flush to the camera’s body, is oriented for when the camera is stood on its side instead of mounted with the screw on its base. This means you’ll need to remember to rotate the lens when the camera is mounted on top of something, such as a fuel tank, or a helmet.

We tested the Ghost-S over a four-week period in a variety of conditions, including a nine-hour round trip to Bristol, and we’re impressed. It feels secure when mounted, and its sleek, aerodynamic profile helps reduce any vertical camera wobble.

It will record for around three hours, and the footage is pin sharp, capturing beautifully rich colours and a high level of detail in the background, even at high speeds.

The camera’s apps are available for iOS and Android, and make the camera even easier to use. The apps allow you to adjust settings such as field of view, exposure and frame rate as well as triggering recording. The app also provides a live view of the camera’s sensor, and the camera’s Bluetooth capability mean it’s possible to copy photos and videos to your smartphone.

Yes, it’s more expensive than the already excellent Drift Stealth 2, but you’re paying for added functionality. That large screen is really useful for setting-up and previewing footage, and there is a greater choice of video recording modes.

We’ll be shooting some footage when we head over to the Isle of Man for the TT, both on-board and hedge side race footage on our YouTube channel. See for yourself why we rate it so highly.

Five stars


Object of desire – Arai RX-7V HRC

Arai has just announced that it’ll soon be accepting orders for a limited edition RX-7V HRC.

The lid features Honda’s famous HRC logo, along with the manufacturer’s iconic wings motif and Honda racing colours, and has been designed by legendary designer Aldo Drudi – the very same man who paints all of Rossi’s lids.

Honda Racing Corporation has taken the significant move of granting Arai permission to use its logo, but only for a limited time, meaning Arai will only be able to make a small quantity of these hand-made helmets.

The £649.99 RX-7V HRC LTD will be available for preordering from Why Arai, and will come from Arai in Japan; it’s not being stocked at Arai’s European warehouse.

For more information contact your local Arai dealer.

Tested – Kriega R3


The Kriega R3 is the British company’s take on the bum bag, and as always they’ve done an excellent job.

Made from tough 1000D Cordura, the R3 is a one-stop carry-all for all your essential items – multi-tool, camera, phone, driving licence, passport, wallet etc. And when you’re off the bike it’s the ideal storage carrier for your bike’s action camera (s).

As its name suggests, the R3 has a three-litre capacity in its main pocket, and this is waterproof thanks to Kriega’s signature roll-top closure system. There’s also a smaller compartment which is sealed with a water-resistant zip.

The R3 comes into its own when wearing leathers, giving you the advantages of the pockets that come with textiles, with none of the bulk associated with wearing such suits.

It’s tough, unobtrusive and completely waterproof. What’s not to like?


Four stars