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USED & REVIEWED Special Section

Posted On 28 May 2024
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This entry is part 16 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#33

BALKANS RIDE WHAT DID I USE, AND HOW DID IT PERFORM?
WORDS/PHOTOS THE BEAR

I have seen many things in this life,but few have been more sad-yet hilarious than a road tester, out on a long ride, who discovers that the brand-new gear he is testing… doesn’t work. It has been somewhat less hilarious when I am the person around whom a supposed top-of-the-line riding suit disintegrates, of course. Or when the “waterproof” boots fill with rain and the gloves stain my hands with an evil and probably carcinogenic blue-black dye… and yes, all of that has happened.

So these days when I go on a longer trip like the recent two week run through the Balkans, I pack a mixture of proven old and promising new gear. I’ve been there, done that with dud gear so that’s my prerogative, I reckon. As it happens, nothing I’ve mentioned below was absolutely new – so don’t be surprised if you find that I was happy with it all!

Well, almost.

Oh, I have not included prices, because I’ve had a lot of this stuff for a long time and prices vary. So if you’re interested in pursuing any of it, talk to a dealer.

The Bear on the mainland highway with the island of Pag in the background. (Photo Primož Bric)

NOLAN N44 HELMET

After finding that the chin piece of the previous helmet in this series pressed on my chin at speed, I was pleased with the extra space in the N44. No morechin pressure. It also offers outstanding vision with its wide cutout and large visor. And the people you encounter can see you smiling! The visor is Pinlock-ready, but ventilation was good enough so I don’t think I’d need it. The helmet is not as quiet as it could be, but that varies with bikes; it is very light and I found it comfortable at all speeds. The helmet is also convertible to any one of 5 variations; I was happy with the full face/visor configuration.

BMW COMFORT SHELL SUIT

Superseded by the “Tourshell” some years ago, this suit is one of the oldest I still have hanging in the garage. The reason is simple – it is near as damn perfect.

Good both in hot and cold weather, as well as wet and dry, the Comfort Shell is well named. It’s pleasant to not have to put on a rain suit when the heavens open. I just wore jocks and a T-shirt under it and found it coped with temperatures from 35 down to 6. Any lower than that and you would want to add long underwear. The suit has survived extremely well, and looks almost new. To keep it that way I just take the EC protectors out and put it in the washing machine.

TRIUMPH SHORT GLOVES

Well and truly worn, and in fact due for replacement, these gloves with their carbon fibre (?) knuckle protectors did a terrific job once again. I hardly know I’m wearing them, but they definitely provide some kind of subconscious reassurance of safety. They are summer gloves, but will do in somewhat cooler weather. I can’t remember the name but Triumph no longer offers these anyway. I suspect you will be able to find something similar in their range.

IXON PRO SHELL GLOVES

Looking somewhat gentlemanly in cool black, these gloves also have hard knuckle guards, but they are concealed under the fabric.

The gloves fit over or under jacket sleeves, so they’re almost gauntlets. They are not waterproof, but it takes a long time for rain to penetrate. When it does, though, watch out – all of a sudden, they’re sodden! A good choice in light or intermittent rain, and temperatures from warm to cold.

DRAGGIN HOLESHOT JEANS

I wear these jeans quite often on my way to work. Their safety features, which include abrasion resistance for 7.45 seconds and CE hip and knee armour, make them a good choice at any time, although they do look a bit bulky. You have some choice where to place the armour, so you should be able to get its location just right for yourself.

On this trip I took them as backup for the Comfort Shell suit. As it turned out I only wore them for one day’s ride, but they proved to be as comfortable as they are at home. I like the straps that run under your boots or feet (your choice) to stop them from riding up.

AEROSTICH COMBAT LITE BOOTS

Andy Gold fine from Aerostich cautioned me that the boots would take some breaking in, but he was wrong. They fitted nearly perfectly and were snug right from the first wear. Their combination of a clasp and laces – which are tightened easily with a slider; you don’t have to tie a bow – is ideal and makes it easy to don or doff them. I hadn’t hit them with quite enough Dubbin to make them waterproof, so they did leak a bit. Not in the rain, though; it took a ride through Croatia’s lake-like road puddles to penetrate them.

RJAYS THERMAL UNDERWEAR

Ever wanted to work as a body double for Catwoman? Black and skintight, these pants and top are well made and effective. Not that I’d know from this trip – I took the thermals just in case it got really cold, but the temperature only dropped for a short while and I didn’t need to wear them. So, what can I say? Well, I’ve used them on other trips and they’ve been excellent, wicking moisture away from my body and keeping me warm. So take my word for it: thermals, and particularly these, are a good investment.

ALPINE EAR PLUGS

I have several sets of ear plugs, which is kind of ironic because I was stupid enough to ride without plugs when I was younger. As a result my hearing has suffered substantially, and I am now sorry – but it’s too late. I took these Alpine plugs on the trip because I hadn’t worn them on a long ride, and I was pleased that I did – they stayed comfortable for longer than some other plugs.

The neat little container that holds the plugs gives you a choice of two levels of muffling, just by changing end caps. I used the higher level and found it good.

I could still hear what I needed to, but a lot of noise, especially in the higher registers, was reduced.

MOTORCYCLIST MAGAZINE NECK TUBE

Well, what can I say? Incredibly useful, comfortable, warm when dry, cool if soaked in water, stylish (orange is the new black)… but then, it is our very own. Seriously, it was good to have.

BMW F 700 GS

It might seem odd to review a bike like this, but I’d just like to say that the 700 is now my bike of choice among rental bikes. It is light and handy and extremely low stress to ride, and still has enough power. Equipped with a top box and a tank bag it will also carry everything I need without any hassles in getting at it. Why not an 800? I don’t need the extra suspension travel and power, and in fact am happy with the lower centre of gravity. The bike is easy to control with one hand when I use the other one for my camera.

ADRIATIC MOTO TOURS

The organisers of this tour deserve another mention. They not only offer top-notch service, with pickup from the airport, high quality hotels and near-new bikes, they also employ top-notch guides and van drivers – at least if our pair were anything to go by.

Dušan and Primož did a terrific job, and nothing threw them off; not even the need to get a hotel to open early, before its season started, so we had somewhere to stay when the weather trapped us on Pag island. Nothing was too much trouble. Thanks, blokes.

Yes, I did the tour at Adriatic’s invitation, at no cost – but I would have given them big ups even if I’d paid for it.

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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