I love gear, especially great gear. Anything that can withstand over 10,000 miles of touring and still come out well at the end of it gets my recommendation. Unfortunately we live in a world of marketing hype and down right lies. Nothing vexes me quite as much as ‘adventure spec’ gear that can’t even handle a trip to the nearest country pub let alone a punishing trip across multiple countries on a far flung continent.
With that in mind the first of my gear reviews focuses on the riding gear I used on my most recent adventures.
I’d been after a flip style helmet for a while, it just makes everything easier, especially at UK petrol stations that refuse to allow bikers to fill up whilst still wearing a helmet.
The HJC RPHA Max seemed the perfect choice. At 1.4kg it bucks the trend of heavy flip helmets, and is lighter than many full face units. It has a fully removable lining, something I longed for in my ultra comfortable Arai Condor, and comes boxed complete with pinlock and insert.
That’s about where the fun ends. I used it on my trip to Morocco, and on my return promptly had it replacemed by the retailer. The reason was that on a horrible rainy day from Portsmouth to Norwich the HJC not only leaked water from the top of the visor, but sucked up massive amounts from under the chin area and deposited it on the inside of the visor. Vision was near impossible.
I’m sorry to say that the replacement also does exactly the same. For the trip to South America I also picked up the RPHA Max EVO version for my pillion. I thought that this new updated version would address the problems of the old model.
I was wrong. I now have two helmets that are virtually unusable in bad wether, and due to the sheer amount of air they let in above the visor and around the flip action button, they are uncomfortable in anything more than a gentle breeze too.
The RPHA Max is a street helmet, no doubt about it. That’s fine. The problem is, all of the issues I experienced with it, started on the street, and are fundamental problems with the helmet. I think I’m going to take a leaf out of Jorge Lorenzo and ditch HJC altogether for more ‘premium brands’. Specs wise it’s great, performance wise, it’s terrible, and HJC’s support is even worse. Spend your money elsewhere.
Rev’It Sand 2 Jacket
In Morocco, I used an all mesh jacket that worked well, but for South America I needed something that could cope with temperatures ranging from 40c to -10c or there about. Having scoured motorcycle webshops across Europe and first trying an Acerbis Adventure jacket, I finally settled on the Sand 2.
It’s well made, and fits extremely well too. It’s also feature packed, with long vents on the arms, chest vents, and a rear exhaust vent. Solid YKK zippers secure the jacket, and it also has a pocket for a 2 litre hydration pack.
The outer is only water resistant, but contains two waterproof pockets. The mid layer is a breathable removable waterproof lining. Totally impractical to put on once it’s started raining, but useful as a wind barrier on colder days. In bad weather I just use a cheap external rain jacket anyway.
I’ve worn the jacket in a variety of conditions, and only have a few small complaints. Firstly, there’s a pocket for a hydration pack, but no form of hose management. And while on the subject, if you wear the jacket with a full hydration pack in (around 2kg), the fit is uncomfortable as the jacket is pulled backwards trying it’s best to choke you. Finally, I chose the cream colour. It looks great but of course gets dirty easily, and Rev’it say it can’t be machine washed.
I have machine washed it gently, and it came up well for the most part, expect around the rear pouch where my pillion’s dirty boots scrapped along the jacket every time she climbed on the bike.
Overall I think it’s a good midrange jacket that’s well priced for the features. Whilst in Torres Del Paine, I met a Czech rider with the same jacket. His opinion was similar mine. So there you go, two recommendation from a single review.
Rukka Apollo Gore-tex gloves
It seems that good waterproof gloves are hard to find. Well you can stop the search at the Rukka Apollo range. Far and away the best gloves I’ve come across. Pricey, yes, but they actually work, unlike others I’ve tried in the past. Plus being Gore-tex you get that lifetime guarantee (lifetime of the garment, not your lifetime).
Since I use heated grips, I wanted to avoid bulky winter gloves. If the Apollos have a some insulation it’s negligible. That means i can enjoy the full benefit of heated grips in the winter. Another key for me was the visor wiper. Such a simple item but rarely seen on anything other than full on winter gloves. Not sure how other manufactures expect you to clear the rain.
My only quibble is that they don’t have touch-screen friendly finger tips. It sounds like a small thing, but with GPS units all going touch screen, it means taking the glove off to use the unit, which can be a real pain.
A great all round waterproof glove with Gore-Tex guarantee. Shame about the non-touch sensitive fingers.
Rev’it Nutron short cuff gloves
Originally I was searching for a pair of Rev’it Striker gloves, but couldn’t find a pair in my size before leaving. At Biker Outfit in Amsterdam I found a pair of Rev’it Nutron gloves for a good price. They are almost identical to the Striker range in terms of technicality, but feature different styling.
The gloves are light weight with plenty of mesh fabric for maximum airflow. I love the capacitive touch zones on the forefingers too.
I find however that as well built as they look on the outside, the inside is poor. Size-wise they are a perfect fit for me, but the rough internal seams scratch up my hands, and place pressure on my fingers. After a solid day’s riding they become a downright nuisance and I end up longing for the comfort of the Rukka Apollo.
Garmin Oregon 600
Bar the lack of a rugged charging method, this GPS seemed to be the perfect unit for my travels. It has mostly the same internals as the popular Montana series (different ariels), but in a smaller more pocket friendly package.
I got a good deal on it too, and at less than £200 direct form Garmin, it was a no-brainer. Of course being a Garmin unit, it has all the same bugs as the their other units, since the top of range models tend to share the same software.
I’ve not really got any problems with the hardware itself. It works well, and never fails to find a signal. I use four Sanyo Eneloop batteries on rotation, and charge them outside of the device when on the bike, or in the device if in a pinch.
Some complain of USB port failures, but I rarely use the device on external power, so I’ve not had any problems in that department.
Overall its a rugged, waterproof device that can take a beating. Now if only Garmin would sort out their poor software, all would be well. Instead you’ve got a good unit hardware wise, with buggy software, and poor support. Of course Garmin blame it on the use of non-Garmin maps, but you wouldn’t have to use the likes of OSM and other if Garmin produced some half decent topo maps for popular biking areas e.g. South America, Morocco etc.