[Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Orlando Bloom in their leather jacket glory…]
Okay so here’s the truth about leather motorcycle jackets… And this is directed mainly at the men – women already have a good handle on this… Hey buddy, I know you THINK you look really cool in your motorcycle jacket – or you think you WOULD look cool walking around in that jacket – but you’d actually look like a dork (or an a**hole or scumbag, or like you’re going through a midlife crisis). There I said it. Even rock stars and movie stars look like that way – it’s just that they (sometimes) have enough cool to overcome it. Leather jackets don’t t actually make you look cool – I know you think it does, which is why your friends have asked me to tell you. It’s kind of sad. So thanks for understanding.
Now with that out of the way we can talk about motorcycle jackets. They’re for safety, not glamour. So you might want to spend the money on the parts of the jacket that are really worth it…
Usually, the lighter and more comfortable something is, the less abrasion resistance it has… So mesh jackets (generally) have the least abrasion resistance, thicker textiles a little more, and leather even more depending on the thickness. But the best protection won’t be any good if it’s too hot and uncomfortable to wear… And safety gear isn’t very safe if it gives you heat exhaustion sitting in traffic.
“You should only buy a cheapo $100 helmet if you have a $100 head.”
The implication being: Always buy the most expensive helmet on the market. Not surprisingly, many of the people who push for more expensive helmets are people who work at bike shops who benefit from the higher markups.
What they don’t tell you is that an $85 Snell (the premium US rating agency) rated helmet (like the HJC CL-15) will protect your head just as well as a $700 one. The same applies to ECE rated helmets (the European standard). That’s the purpose of these rating systems… Shockingly there is even evidence that “cheapo” DOT-only (the minimum US requirement) helmets can actually offer better protection in the majority of crashes (on the street), by transferring fewer g-forces on impact, than more expensive Snell and ECE rated helmets (read the article here). And of course, you know that when you pick you price point, you need to keep in mind that you will need to replace your helmet every few years, or if you happen to drop it …
But what about comfort? Aren’t the more expensive brands more comfortable? …For instance Arai has several different types of helmets to fit your head size…
Of course a helmet is no good if it’s uncomfortable and distracting to wear. And Arai makes good helmets… but you’d have to be a total biker princess to insist that only a $700 lid is comfortable enough. Some pricier models (cough AGV cough cough – some Shoei models) really aren’t known for being particularly comfortable…that’s not to say they are uncomfortable…they just don’t feel much different from some good lower-end helmets. I have a feeling that if HJC were an Italian brand, Rossi might wear an AC-12 (their race helmet) instead of a AGV Ti-Tech…
Now I have nothing against the premium brands – and they have nice helmets around the more affordable $200-$300 range, which I think can be reasonable depending on what that gets you. And I totally understand that some people might want to pay extra for other features… There’s more to a helmet than safety, you might like the style or the features, a limited edition paint job – or super light carbon fiber shell – or you just want the brand name that you see on celebrities or racers… And these things may be WORTH paying the premium prices for – but it’s NOT a safety issue.
Bottom line, if you get a helmet that is at least DOT, but maybe also SNELL or ECE certified – and that fits correctly – then you’re good as far as safety goes. It’s up to you how much you want to spend on other looks and features. Just because your head is worth a million bucks doesn’t mean you have to spend that much on a helmet.
There are a few common (and understandable) misconceptions both new and old riders tend to have about our favorite pastime…ahem, I mean, responsible means of transportation… Here, the first in our mini-series is the question of engine size…
“How Big is Your Engine?”
Pop quiz: True or False
A 650cc motorcycle is faster than a 599cc,
A 800cc will easily outrun a 250?
A 1200 Harley has more power than both a 600 and 1000cc sportbike…
The correct answer to all of the above is…”False!”
Most 600’s are much faster than most 650’s; Ninja 250’s post very similar times to 883cc Harley Sportsters; and a 1200 Harley twin (which puts out 70hp).
Just the way you can’t tell how sporty a car is by the “cc’s” of automobile engines, you can’t tell how fast a motorcycle is by its engine size…(think about it, most minivans have “bigger” engines than a Lotus Elise)
“How come? ” Like automobile engines, motorcycle engines come in a variety of different configurations… For example a 599cc (we round up and call then 600’s) sportbike is usually a high revving in-line 4 cylinder that produces over a 100hp. But 650cc bikes are usually low-revving v-twins that produce a little over 70hp (comparable to the output of Harley 1200cc cruiser engines).
Not only are there different engine configurations, but motorcycles can also drastically differ in weight. A 250 weighs around 300lbs, whereas a Harley Sportster weighs aroung 600lbs… You can do the math. Even though a Ninja 250 has less than half the horse power of an 883, it also has half the weight which makes up for its lack in power. I’m not saying the Ninja 250 is “better” than an 883 Harley, it’s not…but it’s just as fast. And if you had to take them to the racetrack, I’d put my money on the 250. Also, this is why, even though you can buy the flagship Kawasaki 1400cc (190 hp!) sportbike, or a 1300cc Hayabusa for the street – the fastest MotoGP race bikes manage to do more with 500-990cc (over 250 hp!)…
So let’s put this Moto-Myth to bed – especially for street bikes: it’s not the number of cc’s, it’s what you do with it. Really.
You’ve probably heard of the Tesla sport-electric by now. Instead of making street-going golf carts, they developed on the performance advantages of electric motors. Performance advantages?!?! An idea previously unheard of in the world of electric cars – the main performance advantage of an electric motor is torque. All torque, all the time, no power band to worry about because all the power is right there at the flip of a switch. Granted this idea hasn’t fully materialized into a daily driving automobile yet, but, I think, it’s finally on the right track. But what about motorcycles? Enter the Lightning Motors Lithium Poweres Sport Bike (not the same as the video above – click the link the see it). Now this R1 is clearly not ready for prime time – at least not without a lot of work – but you got to hand it to these guys…this is not Honda or Yamaha, these are small “shops” taking available technology and doing something useful (ie, burning rubber). But this electric R1 gives us an idea of what sportbikes might be like in 10-20 years… No clutch or shifter, no exhaust sound, just a 100hp motor ready to unleash everything instantaneously at the twist of a wrist. All they need to do is raise the top speed by 50%, extend the range to 130-150 miles, and you can sign me up!
(Note: Yep, you can buy electric conversions to fit into any motorcycle right now, like in the video above.)
“It’s not any desire for speed, just mobility… Traffic…is really terrible, and this allows me to get around much more freely. I can get to twice as many appointments as non-bike-riding designers.” — Tom Dixon, Designer
There are biker-types and non-biker types… A common reaction I get is, “I would never have guessed you rode a motorcycle” indicating that this person is NOT the biker type. For some people the biker-type means black leather, sunglasses and bandanna – for others it means wild racing leathers and multi-colored Suomy helmets… If you don’t happen to fit into either of those categories people probably tell you, you’re probably a non-biker biker. Now I have nothing against any of the biker types, but this is a salute to those who don’t fit that mold…people who, for whatever reason, don’t have the time or ability to be part of a mainstream biker subculture – but nevertheless love to ride (and even have places to go at times). In a way, this is what CityBiker is geared toward… Don’t get me wrong, we love motorcycles – cruisers, supersports, and everything in between – but we want to keep in mind that the point of riding is living, and not the other way around. Okay – enough of the mumbo jumbo – the next post will be about bikes, the whole bike, and nothing but…
To read the Times article about Tom Dixon, London designer and veteran city biker, click here. To see what Tom does when he’s not on his motorcycle, check out his web site.