The original Nivala suit was first launched in 2016; and it would be no exaggeration to suggest that it changed perceptions about laminated motorcycle gear. When you laminate a waterproof membrane to fabric or material you make it stiffer. You make it stiffer still if you then back the membrane with a third layer.
Three-layer laminated membranes are technically supposed to breathe better than two-layer ones; and with the protection that comes from the extra layer, they are certainly more robust. The best known, most reliable and best performing three-layer membrane comes from Gore-Tex; the construction is known as ‘Pro Shell’. It’s the gold standard in terms of waterproofing. There is nothing better. But historically Pro Shell garments were always a little uncomfortable. High-mileage riders were normally prepared to accept the lack of comfort for the guaranteed reliability and waterproofing. But the feel was often too uncompromising for those who spent less time on the bike.
The original Nivala changed all that; and that was largely down to its stretch fabric. The Nivala didn’t rely on strategically positioned stretch panels; the entire chassis of the garment contained stretch. It made the Nivala more comfortable than a laminated jacket had a right to be. In fact, it was more comfortable than many drop-liner garments. And still is.
Here at Motolegends we are huge believers in the concept of passive safety. Simply put, that’s about being comfortable on the bike. Clearly, being comfortable should not be at the expense of being properly protected. We need to ride in gear that is abrasion, tear and puncture resistant. And we want to be wearing energy-absorbing armour to protect our bodies in the event of an impact. But we are of a school of thought that suggests that by being totally relaxed on the bike, we put ourselves in a position where we can better avoid having an accident in the first place; meaning that we won’t have to rely as much on all the protective stuff.
And that was the one of the secrets of the Nivala. It had all the protective elements that one would have expected. D3O armour in the elbows, shoulders, back, chest, hips and knees. The outer shell was made from a 500 denier Cordura material, and for added abrasion resistance the suit came with Armacor in the most vulnerable areas.
But the secret of the Nivala was just how nice it was to wear, how cosseting and re-assuring it was to ride in. Of course, the suit also had all the other features one might have expected of a high-end suit. Adjusters. Vents. Loads of pockets. A storm collar. Braces. Antiglide and AirCushion systems in the seat, and so on.
But there was one other feature of the Nivala that went down particularly well, although it took some time for people to understand just how exceptional it was. And that was its thermal, inner. For both the top and bottom half, the Nivala came with a down-filled liner. It comprised 90% duck down and 10% duck feather. It was incredibly comfortable and incredibly warm. And unlike anything that went before it, it didn’t zip or button into the outer garments. You put the layers on when it was cold; and didn’t when it was warm. When you weren’t wearing them, they folded into tiny pouches that you carried in a pannier or a rucksack.
The Nivala was, from its inception, a popular suit; and it has sold just as well latterly as it did when it first came out some five years ago. Now, as a retailer, it’s always worrying when a suit as popular as the Nivala gets replaced. But things change. Products have a natural lifecycle. But more importantly in the case of the Nivala, the fabric it was made from is no longer available. And so Rukka had no choice but to to bring out a revised version.
As the none-too-imaginative name suggests, Rukka has not strayed too far from the sidewalk with their replacement.
Crucially, the new Nivala is made from an equally comfortable, stretchy fabric. Without this, Rukka couldn’t credibly call have called it a Nivala. The good news, though, is that even though the suit uses a totally different fabric, it feels every bit as comfortable as its predecessor.
The new jacket sits marginally longer at the front than the old one. Now this was never a problem when you zipped the old Nivala jacket to the pant, but if you didn’t zip in, or wore the jacket over a jean, some people found that it sat a little high.
When it comes to protection, there is nothing to separate the new jacket from the old one. The Nivala 2 has Level 2, D3O armour throughout, with the exception of a newly configured chest protector that meets the Level 1 standard. You also get Armacor panels on the elbows and shoulders. Armacor is a mix of Cordura and Kevlar, and adds abrasion resistance to these two most vulnerable areas.
The Nivala 2 has much better venting than the old jacket. Venting has never really been a Rukka strongpoint. Rukka has always been the brand you went for if you spent a lot of time riding in the wet and cold. Rukka is not necessarily the go-to option in the searing heat; nonetheless, the Nivala 2 will flow larger volumes of air than its predecessor, with vents in the sleeves, in the shoulders, and up the flanks. To enable the incoming air to circulate properly around the jacket, you also now get two large exhaust vents in the back of the jacket. The sleeve and exhaust vents, by the way, didn’t exist on the Nivala 1.
One thing you don’t get with the new jacket is adjusters on the arms to reduce the volume inside the sleeves. We don’t really know why Rukka has omitted these; and our personal view is that these straps could have doubled as a way of holding the sleeve vents open. It’s what Klim would have done!
You get just two pockets on the front of the new jacket, rather the four you got with the old one. The zip is not, technically, a waterproof one, but with a double storm flap that integrates a rain channel, the rain is not going to find its way into the jacket via the main zip.
Like the Nivala 1, the 2 has a storm collar but this one doesn’t zip off, and cannot therefore be lost. Instead, it tucks into a zipped compartment at the back of the neck. We like this, but we wonder whether, for some people, the extra bulk around the neck could make the jacket a bit less comfortable.
Some of the other features of the Nivala are what you would expect to find on most of Rukka’s top-end jackets. We’re talking about a neoprene-lined collar, GTX cuffs, zips and Velcro at the sleeves, a totally waterproof inner pocket, adjusters at the waist and a zip for attaching the jacket to a Rukka pant. The new jacket, as we have said, loses the chest pockets that came with the Nivala 1, but it does have a zipped, horizontal document pocket at the rear of the jacket. Which leaves just one design feature to talk about.
Rukka has changed the branding on the new jacket. There’s nothing wrong with it. And for those who like to colour match their protective wear, you should know that the detailing comes in yellow, orange or black. All three are reflective. Now we are not, in general, fans of large badges and logos on motorcycle gear, but the large “R” on the back of a Rukka suit was a very recognisable, longstanding, visual trademark. Motorcycle jackets all tend to look the same from behind, but you could always tell when somebody had a Rukka jacket. The “R”, of course, was also highly reflective and therefore important from a safety perspective. People will often say that they are not influenced by brand image and logos, but the truth is that they often are. And the distinctive logo on the back of a Rukka jacket was more than just a decorative feature for some. It was recognition that you were a certain kind of biker. We personally think Rukka should have stuck with it; but I suppose that’s just a view.
We mentioned how innovative and useful the Down-X jacket on the Nivala 1 was. Well there’s a Down-X 2 for the new jacket. But we don’t like it as much. Clearly, somebody decided that the original Down-X was too short, and didn’t look totally right as an item of casual wear, off the bike. And there was some truth to the fact that it had a bit of a ‘bolero’ cut to it. But we liked it. And we liked its cut because it meant that the hem of the jacket didn’t interfere with the zipping together of the two halves.
The new Down-X jacket is a bit longer. It looks more like a street jacket, perhaps. Personally we are not huge fans of the checkered patterning on the fabric, but the problem is that you will have to fold up the hem if you want to zip the two halves of the suit together. Or you will have to tuck the jackets into your pants; and that’s never going to feel right! We are also a little concerned about the consistency on sizing. In some of the smaller sizes, for example, the jackets are oversized, and the sleeves are three inches longer than we think they should be. We cannot be sure, but we also wonder whether the new Down-X is going to be as warm as the old one. Time will tell.
The new Nivala pant is made from the same 500 Denier stretch fabric that is used on the jacket. In vulnerable areas, such as the hips and knees, there’s a second overlay of 500 Denier Cordura woven with Kevlar. This creates a highly abrasion-resistant fabric known as Armacor. There’s level 2, D3O armour in the hips and knees.
The pants have two, zipped pockets. And there are two zipped vents on the thighs for airflow in hot weather. The bottoms of the legs feature both zips and Velcro straps. And these will allow you to wear them over just about any touring or commuting boot; although probably not a pukka, off-road boot.
There are adjusters to allow the waist to be adjusted, but the pants also come supplied with braces. In the seat of the pant, you get Rukka’s AirCushion system that helps to prevent soggy bottoms. And it does this because, without the air gap created by this cushioning, your sweat can’t transform into a vapour and escape. And if this happens your bottom will have a tendency to get wet. You also get a reinforced panel in the seat to prevent sliding on the saddle. This looks to be a faux leather of some description.
Like the Nivala 2 jacket, the pant comes with a down-filled, inner pant. And this will mean that the Nivala 2 pant will be as warm as any motorcycle trouser you can buy.
Usefully, the pant comes in short, regular and long leg lengths. At this end of the market this is no less than we would expect. When you spend this kind of money, you should expect a suit to fit properly. You want the hem of the pant to sit at the ankle bone when you’re on the bike. If it’s too short, you risk the prospect of rain wicking up the inside of the trousers and over the shaft of the boot. If the leg is too long, the trouser will drag along the ground and become damaged. And whether too short or too long, and you will find that the armour will not sit on the knee the way it should.
In just about every practical sense, the Nivala 2 mirrors the Nivala 1. It’s just as comfortable to wear. It differs only in minor detail. Extra vents on the arms and the back. A different neck collar. A more street-looking down inner. It is as similar to the old suit as it could be.
Buy any Rukka product in Europe and, as a non-domestic buyer, you’ll get only two, by the way. One thing that we think Rukka does need to be congratulated on, however, is the price of the Nivala 2. Now, nobody is going to suggest that £2,100 for a textile suit is cheap, although when you factor in its warranty and guaranteed six-year life one could suggest that, for high-mileage motorcyclists, the suit offers good value. But the fact that the Nivala 2 costs no more than the Nivala 1 is surprising. In fact, given Brexit, the pandemic, worldwide supply-side shortages, blah, blah, blah it is nothing short of quite extraordinary!
Even though we have not mentioned it, there is a near-identical suit for women: it’s called the Lady Nivala.
But there is an elephant in the room, and unfortunately it cannot be ignored!
Now when the Nivala was first launched it achieved CE approval, but through a slightly different route. Rukka was able to evidence the protective qualities of its wares to the CE authorities, and so that suit was not subjected to the tests normally required under EN 17092. We had no issue with this. Neither did the Police. Not many forces could afford the Nivala, but those who could loved it!
But the new Nivala 2 has been tested under the new CE regime, and surprisingly it only meets the new standard at the single A level. Now nobody would expect a touring and commuting suit to meet the highest AAA level; such a suit would never be comfortable to ride in. But one would normally expect an outfit like this to be rated at AA.
And so we spoke directly with Rukka in Finland about the Nivala 2’s CE rating. The company is not at all concerned and frankly, having discussed the matter with the factory, neither are we. We saw the results of many accidents where customers had been wearing the Nivala 1, and in none of those were there signs of failure. We have never seen a Nivala suit that has worn through from abrasion resistance. It’s a reassuring suit that we had no qualms about recommending to anybody, whatever, whenever and however they rode. And Rukka tell us that the new suit will perform just as well as the old one when it comes to safety.
What Rukka has explained to us is that the machine that tests for abrasion resistance under EN 17092, the Darmstadt machine, does not react well with materials that contain a stretch component. The arms of the Darmstadt machine have pieces of material fixed onto pads. The arms are rotated at a set speed, and then dropped on to a substrate. The measure of abrasion resistance is determined by the speed of rotation at which the material becomes worn through. But the Darmstadt machine eats into a stretch material in a way that it doesn’t with a material that doesn’t contain stretch. And Rukka takes the view that, in this respect, the Darmstadt machine does not reflect what would happen in a real accident situation.
We have no reason to disbelieve what Rukka has told us. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who only eats in restaurants that are highly rated by Tripadvisor, you may be someone who buys your gear based solely on the rating that appears on the label. And if this is you, then you might come to the conclusion that the Nivala 2 is not for you. But we think that would potentially be a mistake. The old Nivala was one of the best touring and commuting suits on the market. And we think the Nivala 2 is in every way a worthy successor.
You can see all the different colours of the Rukka Nivala 2 jacket here.
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