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Is there ever a good time to get leathered? And no, I don’t mean going down the alcoholic route, although that seems to be the principle meaning nowadays. I am talking motorcycles, and the wearing of appropriate attire.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter one iota whether your preference is for denim, synthetics or leather, it is all down to whether you are comfortable in what you wear.

Fashionistas will no doubt disagree. Some say it has to be ‘of the moment’ and yes, I agree, as times move forward, so do styles and colours, although the ingredients remain the same. Some of us like to top and tail, wearing casual armoured jeans and a leather jacket or padded shirt during the summer months, reverting to triple-layer ensembles during the autumn and winter. Others wear Adventure gear throughout the year because that is the type of riding they enjoy. Nowt wrong with that.

Leather, however, seems to be a different kettle of fish, although ‘hide’ might be more appropriate, be it cow, kangaroo or other. The product stirs emotions, and occasional controversy. And I am referring mostly to one-piece leathers now. Of course, go on a track day and they become de rigueur, complete with knee and elbow sliders. If you haven’t got the latter well-scrubbed in, then you haven’t managed to get your knee down properly, and everyone will see it the moment you ride back to the paddock area. But so what? As long as you rode within your limits, didn’t scare yourself shitless by taking a corner too wide, and otherwise enjoyed yourself, then it doesn’t matter a stuff what anyone else thinks. And yet, and yet, those knee sliders… as they are attached by Velcro, you can easily remove them if you are that concerned, but then you are removing some of that vital protection to your knees.

A wee anecdote. A friend of mine told me recently that on one of his regular ride-outs with a small group of friends last summer, one rider turned up wearing a one-piece leather suit. The knee sliders were well and truly scuffed. “I did that!” he proclaimed somewhat imperiously. Now, everyone in the group knew that he had never got his knee down in his life, so they could only assume that he had gone to the garden shed and taken a rough-edged file to them. Once out on the ride there were no smart-arse antics, as he approached corners the way he had always done. That is, pretty much vertical. So why the pretence? The showing off? Must be some form of bravado, I guess, or self-consciousness.

RST S1 CE LEATHER SUIT

RST LeathersThankfully, none of the above nonsense bothers me. I don’t possess a sports bike at the moment, although I do, however, own a nice naked affair: a Suzuki GSX-8S. On occasion, I have worn armoured jeans and a leather jacket (RST’s Sabre, but we’ll get to that later) whilst riding it, but I have also enjoyed wearing the brand’s S1 CE one-piece leather suit. That has knee sliders and yes, they remain in pristine condition, and no, that’s not because I couldn’t find the rusty old file in the shed. The suit has been certified for protection to Level AAA against abrasion and impact (Level 1 – back, shoulder, elbow, knee, and Level 2 – hip), but then I have no intention of falling off, but only the bike gods and my guardian angel bells can help but keep me upright on that point.

Originally, I had ordered what I thought to be the correct size, but as it transpired, I was way off the mark, as the suit was too large. I know it goes without saying, but I’ll mention this anyway, as there are so many calculations and configurations to consider when shopping for appropriate riding gear. What type of rider are you? What bike(s) do you ride? Do you ride in all weathers, all-year round, or are you a fair-weather biker? Do you have a budget in mind and how far are you able to push the boundaries of that budget to get what you really want, or are you willing to compromise? Do you have a particular favourite brand? And if you are looking at comfort and monetary convenience, does that mean you might be sacrificing both protection and safety? Yep, there’s a lot to think about. And let’s not forget what I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. Fitment. Leathers should provide a snug fit. Should you happen to take a tumble and the suit, whether a one or two-piece, is too loose, as you slide along the ground and take a few rolls (been there, done that), there could well be a tendency for the material to ride up, thereby causing some serious friction burns, and that’s never nice. Actually I despair at watching some YouTube videos with young bikers thinking it smart to wear Tees, shorts and trainers, attempting wheelies in front of their mates and ending up with the bike wobbling before cartwheeling down the road and the biker being catapulted into the road, trainers and top ripped off. Jeez, what complete dumbbells.

RST LeathersAnyway, rather than bother with a postal exchange, I decided to drive across to the lovely people who look after RST’s media relations and I underwent a proper fitment process. I say ‘drive’ rather than ride because I imagined I would be returning home with a selection of product… and I did just that, so thanks RST.

I ended up with a size 46 suit in black/white. The full-grain leather, four-way stretch suit has a nice sport fit, so there was no bagginess to speak of, yet once off the bike, offered plenty of movement. I particularly went for the S1 because of the more relaxed fit, being suited to both road and track use, and rather than hunching over a tank, these days I am more comfortable in a more semi-upright position. RST class the S1 as an entry-level suit should the rider at some point fancy entering the race sector. The suit features a fixed mesh liner and is packed with full body motion ergonomic stretch panels and RST branded shoulder cups, and whilst you might think at first the styling is too aggressive for what you are looking for, then fear not, because the cut is less aggressive that it first looks, thereby making it a comfortable alternative.

There is double layer leather reinforcement in the impact areas, triple stitched detailing, with a Neoprene sport comfort cuff and collar. Yes, it still has an aerodynamic race hump, but then you don’t see that when you’re on the bike, although no doubt you might appreciate its presence should you take a spill. I did read somewhere that whilst having been introduced initially to improve airflow, the hump has since been used to house drinking water, cooling ducts and electronics. I’m not sure what that’s all about, and in a way seems to negate the true purpose of the hump acting to help with the bike’s top speed, but each to their own.

Now, I must mention at this stage that I was trialling the suit at the back end of autumn/early winter, when most riders would have switched to something possibly more practical to cope with the cold. However, I was fortunate enough at the time to be testing a set of layers from Zerofit, which transpired to be a fantastic product in their own right, with active layers which actually react to body movement, thereby keeping the body warm. So, it was on with the Zerofit long-sleeved crew, bottoms and socks, and then the C1 leathers. Was this going to be a good idea with the temperature hovering around five degrees? Only one way to find out. Well, I was warm, very warm, as I turned up the gas on the Suzuki. With no sacrifice on freedom of movement,  the suit was very comfortable to wear on the bike, and even with my hands tucked into a pair of RST racing gloves, my fingers didn’t turn like ice. So impressive, indeed.

I don’t think I will be easing myself into racing any time soon, although I do plan having a go at a ‘novice’ track day later this year, probably at Cadwell Park, the nearest racetrack to me, so the C1 will come in very handy, and it will be interesting to see how it performs in warmer climes. Packed with so many great features, in my opinion the suit provides great value for money. At £449.99, in sizes 40-54, the suit sits a tad £100 under RST’s popular Tractech Evo 4 CE leather suit (£549.99) and, unlike me, do try before you buy, because fit is so important, and there’s nothing worse than trying to look cool and in control as you walk into your regular biker café with a baggy arse, is there…

RST SABRE CE LEATHER JACKET

RST LeathersManufacturers are known to use different types of leather for their clothing, with cowhide normally recognised as the best for a motorcycle jacket, as it provides durability, material strength, excellent abrasion resistance, and seam strength. The Sabre is no exception, coming with certified protection level AAA.

In a way I can understand why many a rider can get confused by the ‘A’ letters and Levels of protection. In (relatively) simply terms, protective motorcycle clothing is tested and certified by an independent laboratory, thereby negating false marketing claims (be careful what you buy on t’Internet). Abrasion resistance, seam strength and tear strength tests determine and categorise garments based on the level of protection they provide. Those range from the lowest ‘Level C’ to the highest ‘AAA’ rating, the latter covering the whole garment, not just the impact protection or specific features.

As a generalisation, full racing leather suits normally will provide the triple A rating level of protection, but there are exceptions, RST’s Sabre jacket and Tour 1 jeans being two.

As to Level 1 versus Level 2 impact armour ratings, these, too, must undergo their own set of tests to determine what level of protection they offer, Level 2 being the higher. It doesn’t end there, as back protectors have to meet yet other different guidelines to achieve either a Level 1 or Level 2 certification.

RST LeathersNow, all this might leave you wondering why an AAA-rated jacket or leather trouser does not automatically come with the Level 2 armour. Well, that isn’t always necessary, because the jacket or trouser such as the RST products have already been highly rated, therefore Level 1 armour, being less bulky than Level 2, makes for a thinner profile. And how much more likely are you to wear something that is lightweight, thin and flexible, yet offers a good level of protection?

Many riders enjoy the flexibility of a two-piece leather suit; a separate jacket that you can mix and match with denim armoured jeans, or leather trousers with a summer top, because it’s not always about style, but practicality, depending on the time of year, the weather, and the ride itself. I know you might be thinking you would never be seen wearing a one-piece leather suit on a motocrosser, but why not? Or an Enduro outfit on a sports bike… Again, it’s each to their own. I have spent many a pleasant ride sporting the Sabre jacket. Whilst I haven’t added a back protector, which comes as an optional extra, the jacket does have Level 1 armoured shoulder cups and elbow protection. I do have a separate vest with back protector I wear as part of an inner layer, and with the said shoulder and elbow armour already in situ on the Sabre, I am well and truly covered for any accidental spills. The jacket, which has a removable liner, offers a snug fit, and should be. It is lightweight, looks great, and is extremely comfortable. As, too, are the Tour 1 trousers, which will zip together to make a one-piece outfit.

Back to the premium cowhide leather Sabre jacket in a black matte finish. With its sporty style, it comes with a removable 125g thermal gilet and CE1 level protection, and I am really impressed with the four-way woven stretch complete with motion panels from which you gain superb comfort and plenty of movement. Those motion panels also wrap around the arms for even greater versatility, adding to the style of riding that you enjoy. The jacket has two exterior zipped handwarmer pockets, plus one internal and one smaller zipped inner pocket. The removable gilet has two pockets, and the jacket boasts a Quick-Dry mesh lining plus panel-in-panel performation which will keep you both warm and fresh. Other features include Neoprene sports cuff and collar, and neat hoop and loop Velcro-adjustable waist adjusters which are there to help with the perfect fit and eliminate draughts, plus they also add to the contoured fit. I have worn a number of leather jackets over the years, but the Sabre is right up there when it comes to superior levels of protection. In sizes 40-50, The Sabre is available in various neat colourways and retails at £279.99.

RST TOUR1 CE LEATHER JEAN

RST LeathersThe CE AAA rated Tour1 Leather Jeans come with four-way stretch material with a quick-dry mesh lining. Don’t be confused by the word ‘jean’, because they are by means your traditional style of, er, ‘jean’, but are more of a sporty appearance and go really well with the Sabre jacket, thanks to the connection zip.

In the past I have had fun knowing which is the best way to use such a zip. Put on the trousers, then the jacket, then try and zip them together or get a friend to do it for you, or zip them together and then try and shrug your shoulders into the jacket. Personal preference, I guess. Complete with the premium drum-dryed cowhide leather construction, they, too, have the four-way stretch material which helps to enhance flexibility. Features include performated leather panels to aid airflow; bonded Nylon thread and strong MAX zips; CE certified Level 1 hip and knee armoured protection’ an elasticated waistband, and, of course, that vital CE AAA rating. In sizes 30-44, they retail at £189.99. and are available in black.

Collecting a newly-acquired bike recently, I was chatting with the salesman about product, and we both agreed that it matters not what type of bike you ride, or what you wear, because even leathers are timeless. And even if some of the oldies amongst the brotherhood and sisterhood are unable to sling a leg over, or the budget won’t stretch to, a Ducati Panigale V4, attitude is everything, don’t you agree!

rst-moto.com

GONZO

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