Take your armour and insert it in the appropriate cavity

So I have some pretty decent kit, some mid-price kit and some cheap kit. I’ve crashed in some of it. Worst I’ve had is some ligament damage from throwing my bike down the road in a different direction to myself and not getting my foot out from under it before rolling over. Didn’t hit the solid object, all is good.

BGUK Knee

That’s the knee armour I was wearing when I did that. Dual layer foam. It’s been in storage for about two years and is going crusty and brittle around the edges. See the waffle pattern on the inside of the left pad? That’s the weave of the trousers embossed into the foam. I think these were done with. Granted that knee hit the ground and at least one layer of the 1200 denier nylon was worn through so it did its job, don’t think it would work as well a second time.

BGUK Hip

Here’s the hip armour that came with it. No CE approval marking. Trousers were advertised as having CE approved armour in the knee and hip. Buyer beware. Note that some of the edge looks slightly blistered? This matches the scuff mark in the outside of the trousers that follows the outline of the hip insert. I’m quite glad it was there. Again, single use. Would I buy those trousers again? Yes if that was my budget. They were cheap and did their job.

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Above is an elbow pad from my leather jacket, approved to EN1621-1 1997 as a type A elbow protector. The type A means it’s the smaller coverage area, and given the thin foam across most of it, I suspect only the vented area would dissipate the 50 joule test load with no more than 35kN as required. I’d expect to see this kind of armour used for skateboards and similar with the addition of a little velcro. The plastic shell is great for abrasion resistance but that’s what the surrounding leather jacket is for. Accordingly this is not in a jacket.

Some maths:

Work = Force x Distance

Work/Force = Distance

Therefore we can calculate the distance over which minimum standard armour will dissipate the test force. In this case EN1621-1:1997 armour will dissipate the 50J force over at least 1.4mm. 50J is the same amount of energy as a mass of approximately 5kg dropped from a metre. That’s not huge compared to the forces involved in an accident. Consider how thick the armour is and how much more it can deform before it becomes useless. In the case of the above armour much more.

EN1621-1:2012 brings in tiered standards, level one as we know it, and level 2 specifying a maximum of 20kN in the same test, which means a dissipation over at least 2.5mm. This standard also requires that performance be retained after hydrolythic ageing and in cold, hot and wet conditions.

Forcefield Knee Forcefield side

The above armour is Forcefield Net armour, one of the few aftermarket products that meets EN-1621-1/2012 Level 2, and on the B template so sized for a large person. I bought some for my RST leather trousers. It’s remarkably flexible, quite light and easily conforms to the shape of my knees, I shall have more of these. Hopefully I won’t test the claim that these work for repeated impacts, as I have plenty of armour with permanent marks in it. The original armour was the RST A-template armour shown below.

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I can’t see why RST put this in their products, the pocket is big enough for a B-template insert but they’ve cut away at it to make it smaller and lighter the internal curvature is too small so the edges dig into my knee.

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The RST trousers had no hip armour, but there were pockets for some. The forcefield hip armour is made from 4 layers of Nitrex and can be easily cut to shape. It’s only level 1, but it’s arguably the best that I could find.

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My IXS Tromso trousers came with some kind of comfort padding as pictured above. It’s no better than cardboard. Initially used the forcefield insert, as these are the same shape as my RST trousers. The shape matches well with a D3O insert, so I’m trying those in the IXS trousers. The D3O material is a non-newtonian oobleck-like material, the harder you hit it the stiffer it gets. It’s more flexible than the Forcefield and has smoother edges, so it’s less likely to present a hard edge behind the less abrasion resistant textiles.

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I’ve not got my hands on any knox aftermarket kit yet. I’ll find some inserts that knox upgrades and write them up separately.

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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.

The days that aren’t so good

I’d been asleep and inactive most of the Tuesday and Wednesday. So it was Thursday and I felt OK and I needed food, so a trip to the farm shop and the supermarket was the thing to do. By the time I got to the farm shop every small feature of the road felt like bouncing over a speed hump too fast. I ordered some pork, and realising I wasn’t going to make it to the supermarket as well, grabbed some overpriced bread and eggs. I picked smoother roads on the way back, still hurt. Much agony by the time I was home. Pretty much abandoned the bike in the back yard for an hour or two before finding the energy from somewhere to lock her away for the night, quite glad the gate locks. Didn’t come out again for another few days.

Aren’t you hot in all that…

Why yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. And it’s mostly nylon over waterproof membrane stuff and high-tech armour over the bony bits.

It’s been hot this week. 30C. Took hot. Extra fatigue and almost no energy. Activity levels minimal. A great time to have someone else work on the bike.

The XV535 is a classic air cooled V-twin design. Timeless and simple, there’s no fans, radiators or coolant levels to worry about. Air rushing past the finned cylinder heads provides adequate cooling in most conditions. Stopped at a level crossing in winter, gloved hands are warmed on the engine. Stopped for any length of time in summer and the most comfortable thing to do is turn the bike off and get off.

The kit works pretty much the same way, relying on high-speed airflow to cool me down. There’s vents at the thighs in my trousers, and at the wrists and armpits in my jacket. My helmet has an assortment of adjustable vents and the visor can be wedged open a little if the noise can be tolerated.

In weather like this, it’s bearable when the bike is moving fast, town and traffic are avoided if possible.

Today I had things to do. An appointment in a village the opposite side of town, and then dropping the bike off to have the brake caliper serviced and the (probably original) brake line upgraded to a braided steel Venhill part. I took the long way round to my appointment to avoid sitting in traffic, and the bike didn’t seem bothered about being ridden hard in heat. I manage to get stopped at every level crossing though.

On my way back into town the bike begins to splutter and lose power as if it were running out of fuel. Operating the reserve switch does not help. I stop briefly and the problem disappears. I push on and it happens again. The bike cuts out just as I pull off the road onto a farm track. I can hear the fuel pump chattering away. Not good.

I strip my helmet, gloves and jacket off, and realise I am soaked in sweat. The sun is ferocious and if I am stranded here it’s going to be unpleasant.

I pop the pillion seat off, out come the tools, and quickly the rider’s seat is off. I can see fuel in the filter and it looks free from sludge. Off comes the side panel. I unclamp the fuel pump and loosen the fuel pipe between the filter and the pump, petrol streams out so that’s not my problem. The hose clamp on the carb side of the fuel pump is a rusty mess and isn’t moving in a hurry. I refit the fuel pump.

I phone my friend that was going to pick me up from the garage and tell him the story, and then phone the garage. They are really busy and can’t collect the bike. They suggest the fuel pump might be dead, (it’s making noise so unlikely), reserve solenoid might have packed in (again, already stranded me, but I’m getting fuel to the pump) or a trapped fuel line. I contemplate an RAC experience. I’d rather not. I pull off the carb end of the fuel line between the pump and the carbs, empty. I turn the key, the fuel pump whirrs away and a pathetic dribble of fuel comes out of the pipe. Bike off, I curse as I suspect the pipe I am holding has a blockage and I can’t remove the other end easily. Then I realise the fuel pump sounds like it’s running dry. Then I see it.

The usually stiff and impossible to kink high-pressure fuel pipe I fitted between the filter and pump has softened in the heat and has a massive kink in it.

I replace the detached pipe and undo the pump, holding it so the inlet pipe is at a less extreme angle, and turn the key again, instantly the sound of the fuel pump changes to that of one full of fuel. I wrap the section of pipe that is kinking tightly with zip ties, and re-mount the fuel pump, the bike starts at a push of the button. I reassemble the bike and I am quickly at my friend’s. He follows me in a car to the garage.

Looks like it was too hot for the bike as well today, and the high pressure heavy duty fuel line was worse than an unreinforced low pressure motorcycle fuel hose. Nothing that can’t be swapped out once I get the bike back. Zip ties saved the day though.