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.

 

 

Aldi Motorbike Gear Review: Motorcycle Socks

SocksWhat the hell are motorcycle socks when they’re at home, and why would you even care? Right?

Truth is, for most people, even most motorcyclists, not a whole lot, really. But as with any activity, if you’re an avid participant, every nuance counts. If you don motorcycle boots regularly, and spend hours, days, or even weeks with your feet on the pegs, there are a couple of things you’d be interested in:

  • Longevity – The last thing you want on a frigid morning, 7 days into your ride through the outback is holey socks. Not only must the footwear survive hours in ice cold, or sweaty boots, but days of rubbing against said boots
  • Fit – Not too tight. Not so loose as to rub with every gear change. Something that stays up over the top of your boot throughout the day (and over time).
  • Comfort – Everyday socks have seams in the worst places for a biker. On the inside of your little toe. Which leads to a pain at the end of your little toe you have to live with all day on a long ride. Not cool.
  • Protective – Ever worn street boots? Or Adventure boots? Or leathers with shin protection? Yeah. Me too. All that hard protection is best softened with decent padding.
  • Cool – Ride the Putty Road on a 35C day, or Death Valley on a 48C day, and your boots are going to get hot. Anything that will cool your ankles becomes a blessed relief.

All of which features are found in the ALDI Motorcycle Socks. From little things like being designed for different feet (so that little toe thing doesn’t happen) to big things like using Coolmax(tm) to wick away sweat, these babies perform. Year after year.

Seriously, I’ve been buying a couple of pairs each year for the last 4 years. So I can last over a week on a trip now, with socks that meet the challenge. At $10 a pair, you can’t go wrong. In fact the equivalent Dainese sock will set you back $25.00.

Seriously. Do yourself a favour and give them a go. They’ll change your riding experience.

And remember, you have 60 days to return them if you don’t think they’re worth it.

Review: Aldi Motorcycle Gear – Cheap as Chips or Great Value?

Project 2012: Day 220

Last year I caught up with my good friend, ultimate geek, and Adventure Motorcyclist, Andrew “Duggie” Dugdell. I was on a work trip in Brisbane, which just happens to be where he lives, so we did the right thing: Shared a steak and a beer (or three.)

In our passionate discussing of all things 2 wheeled, Duggie spoke about some of the gear he’d picked up at Aldi. “Aldi!” I exclaimed, “seriously?”

“Yup.” It turns out that Aldi have an annual motorcycle gear “Special Day” which always falls in August.

It helps that my wife is an Aldi-holic, so we had the catalogues, and on a fateful Thursday I was at the store 30 mins early. I purchased the gear below, and will review each piece briefly.

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Leather Gloves – $29.99

These are my most worn gloves. They’re less than 1/2 the price of my summer gloves (gauntlets) and 1/3 the price of my winter gauntlets. Yet they have lasted over a year and about 16,000 kms riding in all conditions.

They fit comfortably, are warm enough for all but the bitterest of winter days, cool enough for anything below 35C, and only suck in the wet. They really suck in the wet though, so you will need a wet weather solution.

But for 90% of my riding, on tour, in the twisties, commuting to work, on the dirt – these gloves have come up trumps

Rating: 5 Value: 5 Verdict: I’ll be buying another pair on Saturday

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Motorcycle Socks – $9.99

Crazy, right?! What are motorcycle socks when they’re at home? Well, calf length socks that have a very thin upper foot, for cooling. A padded shin for comfort in boots, with a thin calf. Padded ankles and soles.

The socks are individual (& marked) for left and right feet. Unquestionably the most comfortable socks in my waterproof touring boots in the summer. In the winter, not so much. But for 3 seasons, I wear these when I’m in my big boots.

Rating: 4.5 Value: 5 Verdict: Picking up another 2 pairs on Saturday

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Motorcycle Balaclava – $9.99

I picked up two of these. Best winter, and touring apparel ever. They cover the mouth, but not the nose. Also they’re not too narrow on the eyes, so they don’t block peripheral vision.

The best feature is the fleece lined inner, neoprene outer, neck-piece. This extends from your mouth, over your neck to upper chest, and zips snuggly under your jacket. Seriously this protects chin and neck better than any neck buff or helmet chin curtain.

On the downside, if your helmet is a tight fit, this may squeeze your head a touch. On the other hand, if your helmet has become a little loose, this will cause a comfortable snug fit Hot smile

Rating: 5 Value: 5 Verdict: Pick a couple up, they’ll last years and are ideal for winter/touring

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2 Piece Rain Suit – $49.99

This just pulls on over your clothes. It’s vinyl or nylon. No padding. No armour. No abrasive resistant shell. No breathability.

In the rain, if you only have leathers, this will keep you dry. It’s easy to pull on, even over boots, and I can pull the jacket over my leather jacket. The idea is if you come off, you’re protected by what you’re wearing underneath.

I’d suggest if you don’t have protective clothing underneath, this will melt onto you like napalm. You have been warned.

Nevertheless, as you know we had a miserable summer. Generally I leave this gear on the bike for emergencies, and wear my RJays Voyager Textile gear (which is armoured) if it’s raining. But sometimes the weather changes on a whim, and for those times, this just works as advertised.

Came in very handy during the Black Dog National Day Ride in April, when I lent my Textile jacket to @MrsMoldor

After a year, the pants have split (currently duct taped up) and one of the zips failed on the legs.

Rating: 4 Value: 4.5 Rating: Good for emergencies, not for long term touring use. I’ll be replacing this because of the split pants

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Midlayer Top – $24.99

Bought one of these. Looked great, but an XL is too tight on me. Shame, because this would be great under my leather jacket to extend it’s season somewhat.

Gave it to my wife.

Rating: 3.5 Value: 3.5 Verdict: Doesn’t fit as advertised

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Motorcycle Cover – $29.99

For thirty bucks I thought I’d get a cheap replacement for the eBay special I’d bought. The eBay one turned out to be very light, not very protective from the elements, and split at the first sign of exhaust warmth, not to mention Sydney wind.

How wrong I was. This cover totally covered the BMW G650GS, and now covers the Ducati Multistrada 1200. It is heavy gauge Nylon, large enough for the bike with top-box and panniers, and has rested against exhausts post work, with no adverse symptoms.

Rating: 5 Value: 5 Verdict: Get one. Mine will last another year.

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Muc Off Portable Cleaning Kit – $19.99

Not in this years sale, but I used this on the road. It had a little bottle of chain lube, tough beaded disposable wipes packet, a little bottle of visor cleaner, and a soft cloth. Brilliant. Just what you need on the road.

Visor cleaner worked well to clean, not great as a demister (as advertised)

Rating: 4.5 Value: 5 Verdict: I’d replace my old set given the option.

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What I tried but didn’t buy, and why:

  • Motorcycle (Textile) Jacket – $99.99 – Quality not up to my RJays Jacket made it difficult to justify the spend
  • Motorcycle Pants – $79.99 – same as for the jacket
  • Motorcycle Leather Jacket – $99.99 – At that price I’d definitely have bought, but nothing in the lump of lard sizing
  • Kevlar Denim Jeans – $69.99 – None in stock Angry smile
  • Merino Midlayer Top – $39.99 – I struggled over this one but given everything else I’d bought, went for the polyester top instead. Sizing made that the wrong choice.
  • Midlayer Pants – $24.99 – I have thermals. Long Johns. Nuff said.
  • Motorcycle Helmet – $69.99 – Always good to have a spare helmet. You never know when someone wants a lift. The only problem was the XXL of these helmets didn’t make it over my head as far as my ears. If I put my daughters head in a helmet, it’s going to have a little more engineering than these.

All in all – WORTH the visit

As you can see from the stuff I did buy, that I use constantly, and would buy again, this is a worthwhile sale.

Get to Aldi by 8am on Sat 11 Aug or miss out. Last year the sale was on a Thursday, making it more inconvenient for most. This year I predict stock will be gone by 10am.

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