Project 2012: Day 143
Choosing a bike jacket is tougher than it seems. And to the novice, or even returning rider, who’s just gotten their L’s, and is probably yet to buy their bike, it comes as a surprise at just how much extra gear there is to buy. Not to mention how much choice is out there.
Then there’s budget.
When I bought my gear, I had promised Lucy to keep the total budget under $5k. The bike had already cost me $3.5 k, so I only had $1.5 to insure the vehicle and procure a helmet, gloves, and jacket(s).
Then I started researching gear online and – wow – leather, textile, armour, brands, functions; the choice was overwhelming. It led me entirely down the wrong path…
I’d heard about Shoei helmets and Alpinestars apparel from years ago. Neither was in my budget. So it was time to find what was.
I did a fair amount of research, both online and off. Finally I ended up at the Motorcycle Accessory Superstore in Auburn. For the n00b this place can be a little overwhelming, not to mention pretty confusing.
The jacket section covers about 5 aisles, with both leather and textile, and nothing was in my price range. Looking to buy a jacket, I’d be forced to choose either leather or textile, and even then would be over budget.
Then I noticed a sign next to a flight of stairs: “Old models and specials upstairs” Whew.
30 minutes later I had a leather jacket, and the Voyager 2 Textile Jacket & Pants. All with money to spare.
The Voyager 2 is a 3/4 length jacket, and sized in S – XXL. I was hoping to find a double-XL, but in the specials section only managed to find an XL. Still, even with the winter quilt zipped in, the jacket does fit. If somewhat snugly.
The Voyager 2 has cinchers at the waist, and one on the upper arm of each sleeve. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had to tighten or loosen the adjusters.
The cuffs have a velcro cinch to close your arms to the elements, and the front zipper has a double flap, velcro cover, with 4 poppers. One at the bottom, 2 at the waist and one above the sternum. Then there’s a velcro strap to seal the neck.
Actually, all of these seals, neck and wrists, work well. I’ve never had water drip down the back of my neck, come up my sleeves, or through the zipper.
There are 5 waterproof pockets. Two big ones with double fold over entries, sealed by poppers. Then there are two chest pockets, with snappers and a zip. Finally, under the front flap, there is a chest height zippered, waterproof pocket for your mobile phone.
The jacket also uses a reflective piping on the sleeves and across the back to heighten visibility at night. Not the most effective.
Still, even after almost 2 years of riding daily, the jacket still looks pretty new, and fits well.
RJays is “race proven” value gear for motorcyclists, and this shows. The primary function for the Voyager is to protect the rider against the elements. This is what the jacket will be doing every time you wear it, whether or not an accident is on the cards. As such, this is my winter and wet weather jacket.
The lining is a proprietary AQUASHIELD, and part of the construction of the jacket, rather than being removable. This makes the jacket almost unusable in the Sydney summers. In fact the first day I bought the jacket I rode home in the sheeting rain, late October, and thought it wasn’t waterproof. My shoulders and upper arms were sopping. Totally drenched. All from sweat in the warm afternoon.
However, at this time of the year, when the temperature doesn’t get much above 20oC, this garment is ideal. Even without the thermal liner, the AQUASHIELD lining protects from the wind as well.
As the temperature drops, zip in the thermal lining, and this jacket is pretty toasty. I’ve ridden in temps down to freezing, which with the wind chill factor at speed is significantly less than that. I’ve never needed a fleece or sweater under the jacket.
The jacket used to do a great job of keeping me dry, no matter how hard it was raining (as long as I wasn’t sweating.) Now, however, I find my lower arms get wet. It seems the seam on the forearm is starting to seep. Note, this is only if it’s absolutely bucketing, and I’m in the weather at speed or for longer than about 30 mins.
Mostly, though, this is the only one of my two jackets that keeps me dry in the rain (and we’ve had a lot of that this summer) and the only one to wear in the cold.
A motorbike jacket needs to do more than keep the elements off you though. If you take a spill, the jacket is there to protect you from serious injury.
There are a couple of things to protect from. Fall at speed, and you’re going to be sliding on tar, gravel, or worse. Think of a body sized angle grinder grinding away at you. Ideally your jacket needs to protect you from abrasions. This is what the outer shell of the jacket is constructed for. The Voyager 2 uses a type of nylon for this.
Then there’s impact. The jacket needs some way to dissipate the energy of a serious impact from your bones. Here is where body armour comes into play. In this jacket there is soft armour at the forearm, elbows & shoulders, as well as a foam back protector.
The Voyager 2 will certainly protect you more than a t-shirt, or a dress coat, but it’s not the most protective garment out there. In a high speed slide, the nylon outer shell is likely to melt. Whilst the soft armour will cushion the blow, it’s unlikely to prevent a fracture.
Actually, I took a slide on my last bike in the rain. Slow corner around a roundabout, probably at about 25kph. Although the jacket didn’t tear, I did get a graze up my forearm. Under where the armour is mounted. So as I hit the road, the armour shifted away from my arm, and I bore the brunt of the slide.
Now this was slow, short, and I was on a slippery road. I’d hate to know what would’ve happened at any speed, in the heat, and on something rougher.
What Money Can Buy
Look, this is an entry level jacket, that is pretty good value for money. No, it’s not the best jacket for all seasons, or riding styles. No it’s certainly not the most protective jacket you can get. But it did allow me to get back into riding, and has by and large kept me dry and warm for the better part of two years.
There’s something to be said for that.
If you’re getting (back) into riding, you’ll want a jacket. The RJays Voyager Line is an ok place to start. But if you’re planning on doing anything more serious, long day trips or multi-day tours, or getting off-road; I suggest you invest in something a little more rugged.
We never plan to come off our bikes. But people do, and if it’s me, I want to minimise the impact of that.