IXS Tromso Trousers

I bought a pair of these last October from my local J&S. It was the first major purchase I’d made from there, having started riding in hand-me-downs and some pricey Hein Gerike kit as money had become available, partly due to HG being the nearest store to me, and partly due to their reputation for decent kit. HG’s uk stores had gone bust over the summer.

My choice of waterproof trousers consisted of some beat up Bikers Gear trousers that had been thrown down the road and were up for replacement and some Frank Thomas hand me downs. I didn’t want another pair of Biker’s Gear trousers, they were cheap and did their job when I crashed, but the fit was poor, I slid around all over the seat in them, the waterproofing wasn’t perfect but good enough for a short trip, and I’d already sent one pair back as they fell apart in six weeks of riding. The Frank Thomas pair I have were probably top of their range when they were made, with waterproof zips and titanium knee armour (over the knee cap as extra abrasion resistance rather than any kind of knee-down type slider) and they were more than a bit big, they felt ok if I had a pair of jeans on underneath, but even with the thermal lining removed they were a winter only option. Again I slid about in the seat a lot in them, and all the extra padding and insulation meant I could not grip the bike with my knees well enough to feel confident in recreational riding. I think they might work better with a sportsbike where the shape of the tank helps to hold you in place, previous owner was an R6 rider, or on some kind of rolling sofa where staying in the seat isn’t an issue.

On a good day I’ll ride the wheels off my 535 so trousers that keep me in the seat are a bonus.

I still had my second GZ when I rolled into J&S looking for some new trousers, I think the rest of the kit I was wearing would have cost more than the bike was worth had i paid full price for it. Functional, safe mid-price kit. The sales assistant knew her stuff, she didn’t mess around showing me the budget stuff, sporty/adventure stuff, or eye-wateringly expensive but fantastic kit like Rukka‘s offerings. I tried a few different pairs on, and started asking about hip armour. I eventually chose the IXS Tromso trousers as the fit was really snug, there were internal pockets for hip armour, and the height of the knee armour could be adjusted. They look really plain, a few discreet logos, no random titainium bling or hints of power ranger, they’re just black trousers.

ixstromsoI bought the trousers and some forcefield hip armour, a few days later I rode out to Scunthorpe in the pouring rain. It’s a long ride on a 125. My feet were really cold and my fingers took some warming up when I got to my destination, but the rest of me was warm and dry. So that was the Mod 1 that I passed. I might tell that story another time.

Winter was coming in fast, I replaced the boots, serviced the bike, and enjoyed the fact that I was staying thereabouts warm enough. I note that the ankle-zip design of the lining made the trousers fiddly with high boots, and I had to be careful to avoid snagging the lining zip on the top of my very high boots. These definitely wouldn’t fit over tall adventure style boots, and are much better suited to wearing over conventional mid-height sports and touring boots.

I took a trip to York to find the DSA centre there. I don’t think my hands have ever been as cold as they were on the way back. The rest of me was fine, few days later my mod 2 is called off due to frozen roads, and I reschedule for the 19th of December. I’d put some ugly cheap hand guards on the GZ to keep the wind off my hands so I was ok cruising up and down the A19. Did my mod 2, no faults, think I was was warmer than the examiner, who seemed as impressed with how seriously I took my kit as he was my riding.

The next day I was to collect the 535, it rained like crazy. Here my kit came unstuck a little as I hit flood-water a little too fast on the 125, and some of the water splashed up and under my jacket and soaked into my trousers. More water drained down into my gloves. The lining did not hold onto the water, but my cotton underwear and t-shirt did, and my gloves were horrible. I put my t-shirt and undergloves in my backpack and insantly felt much dryer. Wet cotton is horrible. Riding the 535 on the way back was an experience and a half. The rain had slowed a bit but the roads were still soaked, loads of spray, my hands were very cold, and even restricted to 33 horses, the 535 required much more careful handling. It had better brakes, more engine braking, and bucket-loads more torque than the old 125, and being wrapped around the big air-cooled lump of an engine in the rain I felt toasty warm. Apart from my hands as there was not room to fit the hand guards on the narrow flat bars, this was quickly sorted with R&G heated grips.

Since getting the 535, the IXS Tromso trousers have been brilliantly warm with the linings in and the vents closed, to the point where I have not considered anything else.

The festive season saw more rain and I stayed dry when I rode. The image at the top of this blog shows the state of the roads when rode from my mother’s house to friends in leeds and arrived with a massive grin. A significant proportion of January was sabotaged by snowfall, and I didn’t ride on the snow covered roads. Then it thawed and I coaxed the 535 into life, pushed her up the slushy path to the road and set off to Leeds via Selby. It was an uneventful trip apart from trying to get the bike over an icy pavement into a partially cleared garden. By the time I was inside I was regretting the decision to wear army surplus thermal underwear as I was sweating. The next day I had an electrical fault and it was nearly dark by the time I set out home. It wasn’t frosting up or I wouldn’t have ridden, but the electrical fault meant the heated grips wouldn’t stay turned on, and my hands and upper body were beginning to get cold. Legs stayed toasty warm.

Roll on summer for comparison, and in reasonable weather I rode with the linings out, opening the vent zips when it was very hot, thinking they did nothing until evening came and suddenly there were cold patches. Still not the most comfortable thing to wear on a hot day, I’m considering my options for next summer.

I got to a week ago, not problems detected with the trousers, then I rode across town in very heavy rain, discovering a feeling like I had wet myself. It appears that the seam taping on the waterproof layer had failed at the crotch. I took them back to J&S on the Monday, and they were replaced under warranty by the Wednesday. I didn’t have to throw a strop, it was sorted effortlessly, so full marks for that J&S.

On the occasions I have ridden in the Frank Thomas trousers (when I’ve needed other trousers on underneath and during the warranty return period) it has become very apparent just how good the IXS trousers feel. They have a rubbery high-friction patch between me and the seat, and I feel very connected to the bike.

It’s a lot more tiring riding in other trousers, and anything that makes riding less tiring is an epic bonus.

When I wear out this pair, I will likely have another, they are better than anything else I have tried.

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Rain and fenders

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The fender extension I eventually fitted after much wrestling with the bike.

I suspect that I have done more miles in the wet than in the dry. I usually ride in waterproof textiles (nylon with a goretex/shelltex/other brand of similar membrane style waterproofing) so I stay quite dry. Leather with emergency waterproofs is an option but that tends to get sweaty inside and is a lot of messing around. I took my old 125 for trade in and came back with the 535 during an almighty deluge that flooded roads, and I found out the hard way that hitting a flooded road too fast causes the water to go underneath the wateproof jacket, and soak down inside trousers and run down the jacket into the gloves. Hideous. But that was the only time I’ve been really wet since I got decent waterproofs, so the rain doesn’t keep me off the roads, but it goes without saying I’m very careful not to fall afoul of the conditions.

The 535, however, has a hard time if it is really wet. The ignition coils live just above the front cylinder head, allegedly protected from the elements by a little plastic cover. Running in a deluge will eventually cause the bike to misfire and eventually stop, and as soon as this sets in the remedy is to stop, take the cover off and blast the area with WD40. It’s then a case of cleaning hands and riding on. I don’t go anywhere without a little can of WD40.

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The neatly hammerited underside of the fender is only really visible off the bike.

I bought a fender extention as an attempt to sort this out. Allegedly dead easy to fit. Remove fender, stick in place with foam tape, drill and screw into place, reattach fender. Not quite so simple, first one of the fender bolts was rounded off, eventually shifted it with mole grips, found a replacement bolt of the same thread and cut it down to length. Then I saw the inside of the fender. There was a strip almost all the way along the middle of it where the paint had been abraded away, presumably by the action of gritty water being thrown at it. I decided to attack it with Hammerite. It’s not a place that is easily visible, so a good thick layer of tough paint is just the thing.

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The connection between the coils and the wiring loom was a mess.

Waiting for the paint to dry, I thought I’d take a look at the low voltage side of the ignition coils, I’d replaced the coils, HT leads and plug boots a few months ago, which improved wet running marginally, but this part of the wiring loom was a state. Fortunately it’s all spade connectors.

 

A dirty corroded mess so I made new leads, didn’t take to long. I sprayed everything with Holts Damp Start which is a water repellent lacquer. Hopefully this will add some additional protection. Only time will tell.

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Once removed from the plastic plug, the corroded state of the spade connectors can be seen.

The next morning the two coats of hammerite had dried enough to attach the fender extension, which was duly stuck in place, pilot holes drilled, and then I noticed that the provided screws stuck out so far as to present a hazard to the tyre, so out they came. Tried filing them down, getting nowhere fast, tried the dremel, tried the hacksaw but couldn’t hold them well enough. Eventually used a small set of bolt cutters, not strong enough to use in my hand, so covered jaws with a rag to stop parts flying across the room,and stood on them. Crack. Worked amazingly well, tidied screws up with a file and put them back in. By the time I was done and had tools away I forgot to take a photo, and didn’t do so until a month later.

Granted I got the camera out at first to keep track of the wiring I was redoing, but that’s not the point. Collapsed in a heap for a bit, had a coffee, swore my way into my kit and pointed the bike in the general direction of the two-footed love of my life. Didn’t move the next day until mid afternoon. Nearly missed my best friend’s birthday do. Got there just in time after a spirited dash across the back roads. Rest of the week has been a bit of a write-off.