Rider Review: Motorcyclist Online’s Viking Cycle Enforcer Touring Jacket

Next to the helmet, your jacket is arguably the most likely bit of gear you’re going to invest in. Also arguably the one with the most choice. From the retro ‘cafe racer leather’ to the technical ‘4-season touring textile’ you can (and probably will) spend days deciding, then potentially a huge chunk of change.

A clear primary principle is to get the jacket that is right for you. Whilst it’s easy to be swayed by image, peer pressure, and advertising, you really need to consider:

  • Your style of riding – do you commute, tour long distances, do track and sport riding, ride in the dirt etc.
  • The environment you ride in – you’re going to need a different set-up in Arizona compared to Alaska
  • Your body shape and size – no point in getting the slim fit racing leathers if you’re generously shaped 🙂
  • Your budget – stats show injuries to lower limbs are more prevalent in motorcycle accidents. This is likely because it’s hard for any gear to protect a leg squished by 200+ kgs of motorbike, and that most bikers rarely wear more than (or even as much as) a helmet, jacket, and gloves. So save some budget for boots and protective pants.

My riding could be described as somewhat, er, eclectic. Commute, twisties, occasional off-road, with a bunch of international tours thrown in.

So Motorcycle House, an online bike gear retailer invited me to review the Viking Enforcer Touring Jacket.

Note: I was hoping to receive the jacket prior to my four days of riding through Northern California to give it a good test in cooler temperatures over multi hour rides. Alas it only arrived a week after the ride, fortunately the day I returned home to Australia, not the day after.

Lookin’ Cool

Looking, er, bright
Looking, er, bright

The Viking Jacket is made in Pakistan, from black textile (cordura? This is the most common textile used in bike jackets.) It is black with either flouro yellow, red, or grey insets. I opted for the yellow insets to improve driver visibility on the road.

I have to say, it is a good looking jacket. Not at all bulky. Very similar to the RJay’s Voyager I bought back in 2010. The bright yellow contrasts the black of the jacket in all the right places, and a number of people commented on the bright visibility.

It also has a couple of 3M reflective panels and piping to improve nioght visibility.

Comfort and Fit

There is an online sizing chart that suggested I opt for the XXL. I’m glad I did. Despite losing over 8 kgs (almost 18 lbs) this is still a pretty snug fit, and that’s with the thermal liner removed.

With my upright position on the Multistrada, this jacket rides nicely. It doesn’t hitch up around the waist, neither does it constrict anywhere. Standing or sitting you are fully protected and have good flexibility.

I did find the neck too tight. I have to pull the fastener over to connect the velcro, and this squeezes my neck, restricting turning my head. (So I didn’t close this whilst riding). I do have a particularly thick neck, and am very sensitive to closed collars. So this may be peculiar to me.

Weather Protection

As the rain liner is part of the garment, this is a cool weather garment. Anything above about 25C and you’re melting. I wore this to work in a pouring rain, and the jacket kept me dry. From the rain. My sleeves and shoulders were still sopping, from sweat, due to the temperature and lack of breathability.

However, this is an ideal jacket for cool to cold temps. Pop the thermal liner in, and I can see you snug and warm despite freezing temperatures on the bike.

Crash Protection

Here’s where the rubber hits the road (pun intended). There is absolutely no value in buying a good looking jacket that doesn’t protect you when you fall.

The website doesn’t give the detail on the actual textile used in the Enforcer. It certainly seems like a standard cordura, but without technical specs there’s no way of determining the denier rating, thus protection against abrasions, and/or burns.

Shoulders and elbows are protected by CE ratified armour pads, the soft flexible type, and there is a pocket for a spine protector that has a dense foam pad protector.

Look this is better than not wearing a jacket, and considering the price, good value.

Smart Features

The jacket comes with a bunch of pretty cool features.

There are more pockets than you can point a stick at, including a large rear pocket that is good for gloves, or things you may need on the road. The phone/mp3 player pocket has a nifty cable channel that allows you to feed earbuds through the collar. Great if you’re still wired to your music, but no really necessary if you’re sporting a Quadlock mount and/or Bluetooth headset.

Value

This is where the Enforcer shines. For <U$100 there is a lot to this jacket. No it won’t give you the versatility, weather and crash protection of a Rukka, Klim, BMW, or an Olympia, but it is a factor of 5 – 10 cheaper than those brands.

Given all of the features, a mere US$100 represents good value for money. You’re not getting anything with this versatility much cheaper, and there are plenty of equally specced jackets for more money.

Conclusion

If you’re just starting out, or deciding whether this “Bike Thing” is right for you, the Viking Cycle Enforce Touring Jacket is a low cost way to at least ensure you’re protected. It’s a great first jacket for a learner. Not to meniotn one to keep in the cupboard for a pillion.

If you’re going to be taking on serious cross-continent touring this jacket will limit your comfort in warm temperatures – so you won’t be wearing it in India, Australia, or anywhere between about 34 S to 34 N in the summer, or 25 S thru 25 N for the rest of the year.

I also recommend researching the actual materials used, both in the shell and the armour, to give peace of mind that you’re as protected as you can be. By all means, replace the armour for something more robust, but consider the back pocket won’t fit a Dainese G-Spine Proctector.

All in all I had fun in the Enforcer, despite being drenched in sweat at my desinations.

 

 

Prophylactic Rider

Project 2012: Day 332

When I was in the States I rode with a mad-Virginian, Al, doing “37 states in 30 days.” He mentioned that after years of riding with safety gear, he succumbed to the temptation of wearing just t-shirt and shorts, no helmet, through large tracts of Wyoming, Montana, and other “free” mid-west states.

I’m currently in Singapore working on a deal, and there are plenty of motorcyclists without safety gear. They do wear a helmet, that barely meets decades old safety standards.

Even in Australia, where incomes are relatively high, despite many motorcyclists wearing gear, I see plenty of people in shorts and t-shirts.

That’s not for me.

Personally this is a mathematical risk management thing. I’ll protect against the threats, the vulnerabilities, and the impacts of risk to me, the rider. So I have invested in the best gear I can get for my budget, and over time increased my ratio of budget towards better gear.

How about you?

Review: RJays Voyager 2 Textile Jacket – Long Term Report

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…

…price.

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.

Shopping Around

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.

IMG_6978Fit and Finish

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.

Elemental

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.

Insurance

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.

My mate Justin has just bought the Alpinestars Durban jacket, and I’m seriously looking at the Motoport Ultra-Mesh II Kevlar Jacket.

We never plan to come off our bikes. But people do, and if it’s me, I want to minimise the impact of that.