Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A New Adventure (Part Three)

Custom Leathers Update and a Few Gear Reviews

I’m making progress toward hitting the track.  My bike is ready to go, the order for my new suit has been submitted, and all of my other gear is good to go.

My new suit from Comet Racing Leathers

I submitted the payment, measurements, and design specs for my suit last week.  Turnaround time on their suits is about 30 days, much faster than some of the other custom options that I investigated.  The ordering process is fairly straightforward as well.  You select the basic suit you want from the website, pay for it, and then submit your measurements at the Comet Design Center to get the process started.  Once I had done that, Karl followed up with me within the hour to provide a PDF for color selections.  These are fully custom suits; you can select any colors you want, or go with one of their designs.  After I returned that, I got an email from Karl after the long weekend to confirm my measurements and the design.  

My design sheet after alterations.  I added the checkered flag pattern on the shoulders and shins.  Much of the shin pattern will be covered by my boots, so it won't be quite so intense.

Comet offers both one-piece and two-piece suits, and several different models for each.  The different suits offer different levels of mobility and support for different riding styles, and many different visual options.  As I mentioned in Part Two of this series, I selected the Apex Pro model in Kangaroo, and used their red color scheme as the basis for my design.  I made a few design adjustments, added my name to the back and a couple of SQL Sentry logos that may come in handy in the future!  

Here's the original Apex Pro in the red scheme.  The only changes are the checkered flag patterns and blacking out the left knee.
I'm really impressed with the customer service and ordering process so far.  Karl's great communication and attention to detail have made shelling out a large sum of money for something I can't look at or try on in advance a lot easier.

Held Phantom II Gloves

I’m finally getting around to doing a review on these.  I’ve had a pair since last summer and just bought another.  I guess that’s really all the endorsement that I need to give them: I’ve paid full retail for two pairs.  I've gone through a lot of riding gear in 13 years, and this is only the second time I've replaced something with the exact same thing.  They are a little pricey at $289, but the build quality puts most other gloves in that price range to shame. 
The Phantom II is one of the two all-kangaroo leather models Held offers, their flagship Titan model being the other.  I tried on the Titans as well, but the knuckle protectors didn’t fit me very well. The Phantoms are also less bulky without feeling like they’re giving up much if any protection.  When it comes to gloves protection is important, but it can’t come at the expense of feel.  There’s no shortage of safety features in these things either.  Stingray skin on the heel of the hand, Superfabric plates on the fingers and wrists, Kevlar sheeting and stitching, and a plastic and titanium knuckle guard make for a very safe feeling glove.  They’re also the most comfortable full-gauntlet gloves I’ve ever owned.  Kangaroo leather and memory foam backing for all of the armor plates is a great combination.  Also of note is that Held's higher-end gloves come in half size increments, so it's much easier to find a pair that really fits well.  My only compaint is that the thumb is cut just a tiny

On with the crashed gear shots!  I know that's why you're all here anyway. :)

The pair I went down in fared very well, with minimal damage to the gloves and only one little scratch on me through a vent hole on my finger. The damage to the gloves is shockingly minor considering that I put my left hand down hard to prevent myself from rolling.  My hand was probably down for somewhere between 25 and 50 feet of the slide, at considerable velocity.  A few seams need to be replaced, and the red leather piece needs a little patch, but that's it.  I will be sending them off for repairs, and expect they will continue to serve me well.   

Close-up of the stingray, I think it might have done more damage to the asphalt than the asphalt did to it.  Sturdy stuff!
It's really a shame that Held's US distributor in Conover, NC closed down over the winter.  I really hope they get a new US importer up and running, because as far as I'm concerned there's not a better option out there.

Forcefield Pro Sub 4 Back Protector

It's a pretty good looking piece of gear, for what's essentially a sort of underwear.
My old Joe Rocket suit has a soft back protector insert.  The protector is just a 3/8" thick piece of gray foam; it’s not something I’d really like to put to the test.  It was time to upgrade, and I went with Forcefield Body Armour's top of the line, the Pro Sub 4.  

I needed to get my new back protector before I could make my suit order, because I needed to be able to include it in my measurements, especially in this case.  The first thing I noticed about the Pro Sub 4 is that it’s pretty thick, about 1.5”, considerably more-so than some of the other CE Level II back protectors out there.  The CE Level II standard states that no more than 9kN of impact force can be transmitted to the rider’s spine.  The Level I standard allowed a maximum of 18kN in the same test.  The “Sub 4” comes from this back protector’s reduction of the impact to less than 4kN (3.38kN to be exact), more than twice what the standard requires, and the best out there by a significant margin.  The 4kN number isn’t just a statistic it’s the standard for CE standard EN1621-2, considered to be the maximum allowable impact force to prevent severe spinal and rib injuries.  I find it interesting that even the CE Level II standard allows more than double that force.  For more information on the testing methodology used and the technology in the back protectors, see Forcefield's Nitrex Body Armour Technology Page.

This shot shows how thick the Pro Sub 4 is.
Instead of segmented hard plastic plates like many of the other CE Level II back protectors on the market, the Pro Sub 4 uses multiple layers of Nitrex material to dissipate the energy of an impact.  This multi-layer approach does result in a thicker back protector, but it provides unmatched protection and is good for multiple impacts.  Many back protectors need to be replaced after taking a strong impact.  Hopefully this feature will be irrelevant for me!  I was unable to find another back protector that offered as much impact reduction, but the protection does come at a higher than average price: 200 dollars. 

Lots of layers inside!  Each one is roughly the same size and thickness as the stock protector in my old suit.
The Pro Sub 4 was easy to adjust and fits very comfortably.  The plates conform to your body once they get a little heat in them, and they have vent holes through them that will hopefully keep heat under control.

Ventilation is key.  I tried to get the panels to move around enough to get the holes out of alignment, but they stay put very well.  This should breathe nicely.
I’m impressed so far.  I’ll follow up on this review once I get a chance to try out the new leathers and back protector together, since that will be the true test for comfort and mobility.

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