Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dainese Super Speed D-Dry jacket review

I bought this jacket a little over a year ago now and have covered around 9000 miles in it. Here's what I think...

When someone says Dainese you instantly think of two things: 'Protection' and 'Style'. This jacket is no exception. The jacket I bought was in the Black/Gull-grey colour scheme so is fairly low key and looks quite stealthy. However, there are several other colour options available (the hi-viz one is quite cool) if you fancy splashing a bit of colour to the jacket.

The jacket breaks down into two parts. There is the outer textile jacket with a fully removable D-Dry membrane on the inside. There is no thermal lining as this is a two/three season jacket really - it doesn't perform it's best in the depths of a UK winter or in really bad rain.

D-Dry membrane works a treat
D-Dry is Dainese's version of Gore-Tex if you like - it's a breathable, waterproof membrane that really works. It has never leaked for me but as the outer jacket constists of mainly mesh it can absorb the water up pretty fast. The water will never get through the D-Dry liner but the main jacket can still be fairly soggy the next day when you put it on. If it's hammering it down what I usually do is put a cheap waterproof over jacket on top just to help keep the rain off the Super Speed to avoid the damp feeling I'd get later on.

On a brighter note, when it gets pretty hot you can completely remove the D-Dry membrane and are left with an almost completely ventilated summer jacket and it is so nice. I may have only taken the lining out a handful of times over the past year but when I have, it almost makes the jacket worth all the compromises that you make in heavy rain. The jacket has sleeve length mesh panels to let air through your arms which is nice. There's also mesh paneling on the chest, sides and pretty much the whole of your back.

Shoulder protectors do the job and look the business
but make sure you don't scuff them!
The jacket has two exterior aluminium shoulder protectors which not only look pretty damn cool but also function as plate to try and prevent your collarbone from shattering in the event of a crash. They also are more likely to slide when hitting the floor rather than catching and tumbling like most textiles would. The only downside with these protectors is that only Dainese can replace them... so if you scuff up one of yours leaning against a wall having a chat - it'll cost you. Mine are slightly scuffed but I guess it doesn't bother me too much.

Manis G1 back protector insert
The jacket comes with CE certified elbow and shoulder armour but no back protector is provided. This is because it is recommended that you wear a strap-around one as they're much safer than an insert (they cover more of your back and won't move around much) but if you're lazy (like me) they provide a pocket for either a Dainese Manis G1 or G2 back protector. These back protectors are CE certified to level 2, they're comfy too which is good and they move laterally as well as with your spine. I went for the G1, which is the slightly shorter one, just because it fits me a little better. What's great is that Dainese won't charge you any extra for a longer pocket back protector - so buy which one fits you best. 

The only thing this jacket really lacks is pockets. There are two external side pockets which are obviously not waterproof (not even water resistant really) and that's pretty much it. There are two slots on each side of your chest which are actually designed for chest protectors - I guess you could use these as pockets but I wouldn't trust them that far as the lining is quite thin.

But here I am moaning about it feeling a bit damp around the wrists if it's been wet and whining that there's not enough pockets but at the end of the day - this isn't what the jacket is primarily for. It's a short, sporty lightweight textile jacket aimed for those nice summer or spring days which occasionally have the chance of the odd shower. I bought it with trips to Spain and Italy in mind as I can just imagine taking out the lining and having all that breeze flowing through the jacket.

Reflective panels that don't necessarily look reflective when not under light - Smart

If you want a jacket with pockets and touring capabilites you might be looking at the wrong one... but if you want quick blasts around in the warm weather with the odd chance of rain, maybe even to take on a foreign hot country trip - this is a great jacket to go for and I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Halvarssons Prince trousers review

Rather ashamedly, I had never heard of the Halvarssons, Lindstrands, Jofama family before I began working in the bike trade. For those who don't know, they're a Scandinavian company that make high quality, technical motorcycle and skii wear. However it didn't take me long to recognise the pure quality of their products.
Halvarssons Prince trousers
These trousers are completely waterproof and highly breathable thanks to Halvarssons' self-produced Dryway Plus membrane. I first used them on my 1300 mile round trip to the Scottish Highlands and back and when they claim they're waterproof - they really are. I was getting battered by the rain and remained completely dry the whole time and I didn't even use over trousers. When you initially buy them they have a Teflon coating too which helps them dry out quickly. The Teflon does begin to stop working after a bit but a simple bit of reproofing spray and it's back to normal (more on that later).

They come equipped with both fully adjustable knee and hip armour. The armour is CE approved and feels really substantial. Everybody has different shapes and sizes to their body, so by having adjustable armour it really makes these trousers cater for just about anyone. You also get a 360 degree connection zip for one of their jackets, a pair of braces are thrown in too and belt loops in case you choose to wear a belt instead.

Putting them to the test with 1300 miles through Scotland
They also come with a removable Outlast lining. Outlast technology was originally developed for NASA, using paraffin crystals that draw in your body's heat and store it until you need it when the temperature begins to drop. It basically regulates your body temperature and it really works. Using decent baselayers help to aid the Outlast if you really want to get the most out of it.

Comfort wise these trousers are second to none. The amount of treatment that they give to the outer textile material makes them really soft and comfortable. The best way to tell is to try on a pair of cheap £60 trousers and then whack these on straight after, at times you forget you're even wearing protective trousers. There is also an air vent on each thigh which have easy-to-use-whilst-riding tabs so there's no need to pull over and unzip all of your vents.

Another self-produced material that they use is HI-ART. This is a 'High Abrasion Resistant Textile' (hence the name). HI-ART is kind of similar to Kevlar in the aspect that it is used to bolster the strength of the outer textile. When combined with the outer material it can make textiles up to 500% stronger and leathers up to 250% stronger (when compared to the same designs without HI-ART). You will find HI-ART in all of the main impact areas of the trousers such as the knees, hips and bum. So you can rest assured that they're hitting high marks on safety too.

There's a leather panel on the backside to stop you sliding about in the seat which is pretty good. They also have a special wick at the hem of the trousers to stop water working it's way up the inside of the trousers.

'...It'll work anywhere'
With all great things you need to make sure you look after them to give them that lifespan. Halvarssons give a 2 year warranty on the product but there's no reason why these trousers can't last you much longer than that if you look after them well. From time to time you should give your trousers a good wash with some proper motorcycle textile cleaner and then reproof them afterwards. Don't use any normal deturgents as this can eat away at the waterproof membrane. They're fine to wash in the washing machine as long as you remove all armour and turn the machine off spin-dry. And remember, if things start to leak it's probably because they need a clean. Dirt and grime can clog up the pores in your membrane causing leaks - it's not a fault, just give them a clean.

Pricing is £299 which sounds a little steep but when you stand back and think of all of the technology in this pair of trousers it really is worth it. And when you compare it to competitors such as Rukka which is in a far higher price bracket, they start to look like a bit of a bargain. Buying cheap is a false economy; you'll be replacing them next year - if you buy decent gear, you'll get your money's worth.

I genuinely cannot think of anything bad to say about these trousers... I'm astounded. I'll be saving up for one of their jackets now... after I convince the missus.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Yamaha dealer experience day - Jun 2016

June 2nd 2016

I was luckily enough to be invited along to Yamaha's annual dealer experience day. This is a 9 hour action-packed day providing the opportunity to ride Yamaha's 2016 fleet, from the N-max to the V-max. It's a combination of road riding, track riding and even an off road section (which I didn't do). A few seminars are thrown in too so you get clued up on things such as parts & accessories and finance.

Early start. Arrived at work for 6.30am to meet up with my colleague on an MT07, we fired up the bikes and were ready to go. I borrowed work's MT09 Tracer demo for the day (didn't want my Suzuki to go upsetting any Yamaha guys). We set off en route to Silverstone circuit, around 60-70 miles away from us.

I borrowed the MT09 Tracer for the trip to Silverstone and back. Great bike.

I have ridden the Tracer before and I know that I already love it but it really made the M42 much less dull than it usually is. You sit up nice and high with fantastic vision. Ergonomics are brilliant, everything falls into place perfectly with no aching wrists or lower back. The engine revs right up through gears with plenty of three cylinder power and it has three power modes (A, STD and B mode). I had it in standard mode on the motorway as it makes the throttle much less snatchy and everything feels more relaxed. 'A' mode is great when you're out for a proper blast around some nice, twisty roads where you want to be getting the power on nice and fast, but can be irritating on motorway slogs and in traffic. The bike handles nicely even though at times the front end can feel a little flighty under hard acceleration. Brakes are great too. I would go into further detail but that's a review for another day. All in all, a great bike.

Stowe circuit inside Silverstone
We arrived at Silverstone just before 8am in time for some breakfast and a cuppa whilst we wait for the day to start. Our first session was a talk on parts & accessories focusing mainly on the options for Yamaha's new MT-10 - you can get a massive front fairing if you ever decide to turn it into a tourer. After this we were up for our first of four track sessions.

Naturally, as the demos were released only about a week before, they had 8 MT-10s to choose from as well bikes such as the R1, R6, Mt09, Mt07 motocage, XSR 900 and a Tracer. Everyone jumped straight for the MT10 or R1s (as you'd expect) so for the first session I took out an MT09 as there were a few available. 
Waiting for my first track session. So nervous.

It's been a couple of years since my trackday so I was a little nervous jumping on somebody else's bike and cranking it round a track. We did a few warm up laps so we could all get used to the track (it wasn't the full Silverstone circuit, it was the Stowe circuit in the centre (pictured above). It was a left hand circuit which was pretty lucky as I'm usually a bit better around left handers (I have no idea why, must be psychological) it was also a pretty small circuit so it was rare that you ever went above 4th gear.

After a few laps under my belt I began to see what the MT09 could do. I've never rode one before but I've got to say - I was extremely impressed. The bike is pure minimal and is pretty much just a set of big, wide bars and a fat tank. It handles so well and feels really light and flickable, dropping it into corners was so fun and you always had that 113bhp triple to power you out. I found myself leaning all of my weight onto the bars to stop the front wheel coming up though. After pinning it out of the hairpin in second gear the front end kept lifting and sometimes even at really high revs in third too. It would be great wheelie machine (although I don't do wheelies). The only problem that I found was that the rear shock was like a pogo stick at times. This wasn't always an issue but one of the left-hand corners that was on a bit of a slope really tested your suspension and I could feel the back bouncing around a bit.

MT09 on the hairpin. Very impressed.
Next up we went out on the road which had basically every Yamaha bike to choose from, I jumped on the new MT-10 raring to go. We had a 12 mile route planned which takes us on all sorts of roads (many of them are very bumpy). I found the MT-10 brilliant. I preferred the MT09 for it's 'flickability' but the MT-10 had ALOT of power under it's belt, it was tamed down a bit with electronics as I only had it in 'B' mode (didn't fancy high-siding it down some wet, muddy road in Towechester). There was hardly any windblast, I was expecting to have my neck ripped off but I think because of how 'deep' you sit in the bike, it eliminates that problem. I found it very smooth and planted and it sounded very nice even with the original exhaust. Looks are an acquired taste but it certainly looks evil.

Quick briefing before the first road session. I'm on the far left, about to jump on the MT-10

You can almost see the torque bursting out.
I had another track session on the MT09 (as I enjoyed it so much the first time) and another road session on an XJR1300 which was a pretty cool experience. It was big, slow steering and heavy but it's what you'd expect really. However, the torque that the engine packs is something out of this earth. I couldn't believe how it could pull strongly from as low as 2000rpm. The Akrapovic exhaust made it sound really mean too. The suspension soaked up all of the potholed road's bumps better than any bike I've been on, it felt nice and relaxed when you went over them.

We stopped for lunch, watched a crazy stunt show based around the MT range and were then introduced to John Hopkins, BSB Yamaha rider which was brilliant. He even came out with us on the next track session. For this one I bagged myself an R1. Now, I've never rode a proper litre sportsbike EVER. So obviously I was shitting my pants as I clambered on the thing. The seat was so tall as to what I was expecting and when my feet were on the pegs I felt like my knees were slotted into my armpits. The whole dimensions of the bike were very similar to a 250; they are miniature - my SV looks a lot bigger than one of these. It is a very focused, nimble and agile sportsbike.

John Hopkins, BSB rider, just behind me on an FJR1300. Of course, he left me for dead shortly after.
I had a couple of moments to try and gather in all of the information given to myself on the dash. Power modes are one thing, but being able to customise your own mode is crazy, you can set up things like your traction control and power output at the flick of a button. I tried to set it up so it was fairly even, I didn't want full power and no traction control on my first go. Bizarrely, I found it harder to go as fast around corners on this than I did the MT09. I think it was the nature of the quite small, twisty track. I'm sure if I were to ride the R1 on a more open circuit it'd be a different story. It is super fast though, really fast. I would love to go into more detail about what the bike was like but because I was in so much awe, I really wasn't analysing it in my head. It was incredible anyway.

Coming out of the hairpin on the last session. John Hopkins behind me again.
We had a few more sessions where I ended up taking out the MT09 again, as the XSR900 and R6 were no longer available. Also for our final road session I took out the XV950 which was something new to try. Quite heavy and slow but hey - it's a cruiser, that's what they should be. It looks cool and offers you the whole Harley thing without you having to 'be' the whole Harley thing. I must've looked odd on it in my RST leathers with scuffed knee sliders though.

All in all, it was a brilliant day and a great experience. I don't think I've ever ridden so many bikes in one day before (or rode so fast). Thank you Yamaha!
I loved that hairpin...
Oh yeah and John Hopkins lapped me twice on an FJR1300 whilst I was on the R1. Damn.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Retro has never been this cool - Yamaha XSR700 Review

Today I was lucky enough to take out Yamaha's new XSR 700 on a 230 mile round trip to Newbury and back, riding through the Cotswolds and the North Wessex downs with a good mixture of town, motorway and B road riding.
Retro is cool!
Cosmetically, the bike is top notch - no paintwork's better than Kenny Robert's yellow and black 'speedblock' scheme and especially when it's complemented by the funky exhaust and a beautiful XSR logo stitched into the back of the seat. Another great thing about this bike is the amount of customisable options that you have, this bike is the perfect blank canvas for you to customise and make it your own. Yamaha provide a high level Akrapovic exhaust system which looks fantastic, as well as this there are canvas saddle bags, short fly screens and replacement solo seats - these are to name but a few of the long list of accessories available.
Small details like this just add to the oomph
The clocks are minimalist in terms of physical size but they hold quite a lot of information. There is a gear indicator, digital rev counter and temperature readings for both the bike and the slightly chilly March weather that we've been having. This bike also comes equipped with ABS (which I never had to test out luckily) and shares the same frame and engine as the popular MT-07, which could well be the secret to this bike's brilliance.

As a strong admirer of twins, I naturally loved the engine. It's silky smooth, revving freely through the gears and that gets me onto another thing - this thing is so easy to ride. It almost reminds me of riding a Suzuki Van Van for that huge turning circle and steady motor. It'd make a great bike for A2 license holders as this bike is easily restricted and will be perfect with new riders that want a bit of 70s style thrown in to their ride.
The bike complements the MT07 engine well
The seating position is comfy and well designed to a relaxed, upright riding position. Due to the style of this bike you really do sit 'on it' rather than 'in it' - there's no big tank to wrap your legs around and there's no clocks visible in the corner of your eye. You're upright, tall and have a fantastic field of vision, being able to see above most cars. However, I do think that this seating position may affect shorter riders which may be something to consider before you fall in love with one but the seat is low enough for the average rider I'd say.

The bike handles superbly around those tight, twisty bends and bombing around little round-a-bouts in town. The front end can feel a little floaty at speed and your neck muscles will be screaming at you to slow down but what else would you expect from a bike like this? And that's the biggest thing with the XSR... It isn't pretending to be anything it's not, it's a proper old school motorbike. Just an engine, wheels and handlebars - a proper 'man and machine' job.
Old and new... and yet both brand new?
Unfortunately I have a couple of niggly issues with it but nothing that takes anything away from the bike. First of all the mirrors seem very far apart and close to you, so I found myself throwing my head around a lot more to have a quick peek in my mirror. The gearbox is pretty clunky at times too but in a way I think it adds to the character and 'old school' charm of the bike. However the biggest issue that I found, (which drove me nuts at first until I got used to it) is that the indicator switch is practically microscopic and is so far down I kept thinking I was going to toot the horn. However, I soon adapted to it and can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed the 230 mile trip (except for a few neck workouts on the motorway sections...).

To conclude, I think this is great bike for new riders and older ones maybe wanting to feel like they're a teenager again. I think with great handling, cool 'retro' looks and a motor with more than enough power for a bike like this, Yamaha have certainly created a glorious, solid motorbike. Pricing is just over six grand... so at around a thousand cheaper than a Ducati Scrambler... I know this would be the one I'd empty my wallet for.
I'm just thankful it doesn't have retro brakes...

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

I'm back!

Hi guys

A lot has changed in the past year (can't believe it's been that long since I last posted something).

I had sold my Yamaha Fz6N just before starting my new job (I'll get to that in a minute) and bought a little Hyosung Gt250r as a commuter bike. To be perfectly honest, the Hyosung handled brilliantly and still had quite a bit of poke about it for something with less than 30bhp - didn't look too bad either! However, I was constantly battling with reliability issues and breakdowns - it's electrics are clearly made of Spaghetti.

After a few months I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the bike (and the butt of all jokes with my mates) so I ended up selling it as spares or repairs before purchasing my brand new L5 Suzuki Sv650s.

It's safe to say I'm much happier being back on an SV. That 70bhp V twin lump is just the perfect blend of everything you'll ever need on the road. It's one of those rare and great 'do-it-all' bikes that exist - except this one's only a few hundred pound more than the price of a 125! I simply cannot rate them enough.

As well as this I now work at a Suzuki and Yamaha dealer called Streetbike in Halesowen. I work in the clothing and helmets section, selling top brands like Dainese, Halvarssons and RST which is just amazing. In less than a year, this job has taken me away to the Silverstone MotoGP, training days with big helmet brands such as Arai and Shoei and even on a 3 day business trip to Italy where I visited Dainese headquarters and had a look at the new 2016 collection.

It's safe to say that I'm buzzing and I'm going to have plenty of things to write about. This job has completely made me fall in love with motorbikes all over again - which is no bad thing (unless you ask my missus).

Finally, I have two trips planned for this year that I hope to be recording and writing about, so keep an eye out for those! 

It's safe to say I'm back... and for good.