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. That sweat needs to turn from a liquid state into a gaseous one, so that it can escape into the ether. That change of state requires energy, and the generation of that energy draws heat from the body, thus cooling us down.
But the important thing is that this process should not be impeded. If our sweat cannot escape into the atmosphere we will not cool down. Wearing a cotton base layer is the mistake that a lot of people make; and that’s because the long yarn fibres in cotton absorb the moisture rather than wick it to the surface. A cotton shirt will get wetter and wetter the harder we work, and so we won’t cool down. Quite the reverse; we’ll get hotter.
But potentially the worst thing you can do when you’re sweating profusely is wear a jacket with a waterproof membrane. Now a membrane is a very thin sheet of film with millions of little holes in it. Simply put, these holes are too small to allow the rain to pass through from the outside, but they are large enough, in normal circumstances, to allow our sweat to escape from the inside.
However, if you are working particularly vigorously, and sweating harder, the added volume of sweat will not be able to pass through the membrane fast enough. It will stay in a liquid form next to the skin. And so, instead of cooling down, you will get hotter.
And that’s why, when you are riding off road, you want to be wearing gear that is as breathable as possible.
One of the problems with lots of the gear that is designed purely for off-road riding, however, is that it is not always particularly robust. Indeed, off-road gear technically doesn’t have to meet any safety standard whatsoever. I’m thinking of something like Klim’s own Dakar jacket and pant that, even though they come with armour pockets, haven’t been certified in any way for abrasion, tear and puncture resistance. Now, arguably, this might be fine for those who only ride off road, because abrasion resistance is not such a consideration when you’re in the mud, and when you’re usually not travelling at high speeds. But such gear just won’t offer much protection if you subsequently find yourself on the road.
Even if you only know Motolegends slightly you will probably already know that we are huge fans of the Klim Marrakesh jacket. For us it’s the jacket that potentially does it all. With built-in stretch, it is the most comfortable bike jacket you will ever wear. Every single panel flows air, so it’s horribly breathable. It comes with a full suite of D3O Ghost armour. Whilst its built-in stretch will allow you to wear all the layers you’d ever require beneath it.
The Marrakesh’s AA rating also puts it into a different league to just about every off-road jacket out there. And this will be important if you do end up riding on the main road at some point.
The other outstanding thing about the Marrakesh is its flexibility. Every panel is stretchy, so if you’re stood up on the pegs and moving about a lot on the bike, you won’t find a jacket that’s more forgiving to wear. The jacket will move with you like a second skin.
If you’re a serious off-road rider, of course, you will probably want to wear separate body armour. When you ride off the beaten track, the chances of hitting the ground hard are increased dramatically. Basically, it goes with the territory.
Which is why the proper off-road boys will wear a separate armoured, vest-type thingie, in all probability something with a longer back protector to cover the coccyx, and usually with a chest plate too. Now you could always, I suppose, ride off-road with the Marrakesh’s standard Ghost armour, but only when you wear a separate body vest can you be confident that the armour is always going to be in exactly the right palace all the time.
I’m a pretty rubbish off-road rider, but I like the challenge. I always know that it will go wrong for me at some point, and so I will always wear my faithful, old Spidi armoured vest that Mark is wearing in the photo above.
The truth is that I rarely ride in anything other than my Marrakesh. But when I’m riding off-road, I pop the Ghost armour and the back protector out, (the work of less than 60 seconds), I then wear my armoured vest. But with the amount of stretch in the chassis of the Marrakesh, I’m barely aware of the change.
I can ride all day, and forget about what I’m wearing underneath. I won’t overheat. I will be able to move about with total freedom. And if I do find myself on a road section, I know that I will be protected from an abrasion-resistance perspective too!
I am fully aware that I do at times - some would say all the time - sound like a stuck record. And that I have a propensity to believe that the Marrakesh is all the jacket that anybody will ever need. So I do concede that I can be a little evangical when it comes to this particular garment.
Of course, I accept that a Marrakesh wouldn’t look right on a sportsbike. And that it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll; so I don’t see Mark Wilsmore turning up at the Ace Café in one. And if I was commuting through the winter, I’d definitely go for something that is more permanently waterproof.
But for most casual riders, and for any kind of touring, combining a Marrakesh with its various over, and under, layers provides the perfect riding solution whatever the conditions. On its own, there’s nothing better in hot weather. A Zephyr windproof layer to reduce the effects of wind chill. A down jacket to insulate body heat. And a Scott waterproof for better waterproofing than a laminated jacket.
So yes, I do think the Marrakesh is brilliantly versatile. And that’s without taking into consideration comfort and protection. Add it all together, and I don’t think there’s anything that comes close.
The off-road thing, of course, is just another string to the Klim jacket’s bow. Wear a body vest beneath the Marrakesh, and whether you’re green laning on a Friday evening, biting off sections of the TET bit by bit, ascending the Himilayas on a Royal Enfield, or crossing the Sahara on your KTM, you’ll simply have the very best tool for the job!
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