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We are quite new to the Fuel brand. Not everything they offer is, I have to say, for us. Now there’s always an element of ‘dressing up’ when it comes to biking. Some bikers will try and deny it, but biking is still somewhat tribal, and there are modes of dress, to which many of us conform, when we ride a particular style of bike. Sportsbike riders like to emulate Moto GP riders by wearing one-piece leathers. Those who ride Harleys often go for more of an Easy Rider look, with leather waistcoats. The adventure bike rider will want a helmet with a peak, boots with buckles, and a jacket with lots of pockets.
Truth be told, even though we sell a lot of helmets here at Motolegends, we don’t offer a huge variety of models; and indeed we don’t even stock many brands. For us, Shoei and Arai stand head and shoulders above every other helmet when it comes both to protection and quality of construction. If we felt we could get away with it, these are the only two brands we would sell, but not everybody’s head will fit into a Shoei or an Arai. And not everybody is in a position to afford one. Which is why we also offer a couple of styles from Schuberth, and a couple from Shark.
In this review we are going to look at all the Rukka Gore-Tex suits that are available from the Finnish brand in 2023. At the time of writing, 2024 is just around the corner. But what we can tell you is that we have seen the new Rukka collection for next year; and there are no new Gore-Tex outfits coming through, although there is one without Gore-Tex. And so what that means is that the range we are going to be discussing today probably won’t change until a least the spring/summer of 2025.
Nobody is really ever going to take issue with the assertion that Shoei’s Neotec is the best flip-lid helmet on the market. Well the same can be said of their full-face, sports-touring helmet, the GT-Air. It is, in essence, little more than a full face version of the Neotec. The two helmets compete with one another in the marketplace. The differences between the two are minor; but inevitably some will prefer one style over the other.
EN17092 is a standard for motorcycle apparel that came into force in 2020. Garments are awarded accreditation at the A, AA or AAA level, dependent upon how they perform in a set of prescribed tests. (A is the lowest level; AAA is the highest). In some respects, EN17092 replaced a much more demanding standard known as EN13595.
First, let’s go back to fundamentals. There are three forms of construction for a waterproof, motorcycle garment; be it a jacket or a pant. The first is a ‘removable’, waterproof membrane. Contrary to the understanding of many, this is not what constitutes a ‘drop-liner’ garment. A jacket that has a removable, waterproof lining is useful if you want to ride in hot weather. Taking the lining out means that your body can sweat effectively in order to keep cool. The cooler, oncoming air will also be able to reach the body more easily, to the same end. The downside of garments with removable waterproof liners is that they don’t always work particularly well in heavy rain.
If you are going to undertake any serious off-road riding, you are going to be working hard. Let’s face it; if riding off road wasn’t to some extent physically challenging, you probably wouldn’t be interested in going there. And what this means is that you are probably going to be working up a bit of a sweat. Now, as most people know, sweating is the body’s natural mechanism for cooling itself down. When it’s hot, or when we are exerting ourselves physically, sweat will come to the surface of the skin.
Let me make it clear that I am not talking about one-piece leathers here. They’ve been on their way out for a while now. As the world has moved on from sportsbikes, far fewer people are buying leather outfits these days. Leathers are still obviously the only option for the track, and some of the ‘old-timers’ still don’t feel protected in anything that isn’t leather, but most accept that there’s nothing more uncomfortable than strapping a cow to your back when it comes to road riding; especially in really hot, really cold, or really wet, conditions.
There can be no doubt that, with the introduction of new fabrics, fibres and technologies, motorcycle clothing has come a long way in recent years. These developments can make a huge impact on our riding comfort. Bike gear has become lighter, stronger, more waterproof, more breathable; and just nicer to wear, both on and off the bike.
Flip-lids are huge business these days. In the UK and, we are led to believe, in Europe, the Neotec is Shoei’s biggest selling helmet. And so the Japanese maker has put a huge effort in to ensuring that the new model improves upon its predecessor wherever possible. That a new Neotec was due was no secret, of course, because there is a new safety standard, ECE 22-06, and the old helmet did not meet it.
The Explore-R is a classic Rukka outfit. Now Rukka is one of the most respected and prestigious clothing brands in motorcycling. Their gear is not inexpensive, but most people accept that nobody makes better quality, more reliable, more robust motorcycle wear. Theirs is a reputation that has been built up over a period of nearly 40 years. Today Rukka, in modern parlance, owns the ‘winter commuting’ space. If somebody is facing a significant commute, 12 months of the year, and if money is no object, then Rukka is the brand to turn to.
Many years ago, it was very simple. If you rode a motorbike into the office, when you got there you took all your gear off, and put your work clothes on. If you had nowhere to change at work you might have tried to wear your bike gear over your work wear. But that’s rarely a nice way to ride.
Now this might just turn out to be the suit we’ve been looking for. We reckon it could become an important suit for us; and we suspect that it will become equally important to our customers. It has the potential to replace the much-loved Halvarssons Wien/Wish combination that has now been discontinued. The Held outfit has a lot going for it. In some ways, we think it could prove to be even better than the aforementioned Halvarssons suit; but importantly it is going to come in at under £650. Meaning that this is a suit that is going to work for a lot of people.
Bering is not the first name to come to mind when we’re talking about adventure riding gear, or indeed technical wear, per se. There’s nothing wrong with Bering’s quality, and the pricing is usually pretty reasonable. But we are not short of options in this sector; and with brands like Halvarssons, Held, Klim and Rukka we can usually meet most of our customers’ needs. But when the distributor showed us the Freeway suit, we did kind of fall for it.
The Gruven is a new-for-2023, mid-length, two-layer, laminated jacket. It is, in effect, a longer version of the shorter Naren jacket that came out in 2022. The other way of looking at the Gruven is to suggest that it is a laminated version of a jacket that has been in the Halvarssons range for many years: the Wien jacket. When the shorter Naren jacket first came out, we were not all that enthusiastic about it. It ticked a lot of boxes, but we were not massively taken with the way it wore. It didn’t always look great on. It didn’t have much presence.
Cards on the table. We have been a bit dismissive of the Fuel brand in the past. We felt it was a little ‘dressy upy’ for Motolegends. And although we we are not immune from the charms of gear that looks the business, authenticity is a big thing for us.
In contrast to the position, say 20 or 30 years ago, the flip helmet is not spurned in the way that it used to be. If you commute or tour, then the case for riding in a flip is so strong that it barely needs making these days. But even if you are a leisure rider who only occasionally gets out at weekends, there are still many benefits.
My inspiration, so to speak, for this review, came from a comparison of adventure jackets that I read recently in a magazine. Now I am not a great fan of product reviews that appear in magazines. By and large, motorcycle journalists simply don’t know enough about gear and how it works. They usually don’t ride in the gear they’re testing. And they don’t get the kind of feedback that people like us get from hundreds of customers who buy it; and who then report back to us on their findings.
For as long as we have been associated with Halvarssons, a mid-length, drop-liner jacket has been at the heart of the Swedish company’s collection. Initially, there was the Prime. Then came the Wien. So popular was it that it was always said that the company was fearful of replacing it with anything dissimilar, in case they got it wrong.
For many years, Halvarssons has been one of our favourite brands here at Motolegends. Long have we banged on about the notion that the brand offers, say 80% of the functionality of Rukka, but at 50% of Rukka’s prices. And we still don’t think we are far wrong on this. But, like Rukka, Halvarssons’ forté is technical gear for commuting and touring, with maybe a bit of adventure riding thrown in for good measure.