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ScorpionExo Birmingham Jacket by Scorpion

 

Scorpion Birmingham

When it comes to classic riding attire, nothing says “old school” like a waxed cotton jacket. I’ve always wanted a waxed cotton jacket, precisely for its vintage looks, but I’ll have to admit a decided preference for leather jackets, and not just because I think leather looks right riding a vintage motorcycle. Much of that preference is down to leather’s time-tested reputation for providing superior abrasion resistance if you’re unlucky enough to make contact with the tarmac.

And there’s the rub: Traditional waxed cotton jackets have limited abrasion resistance, and there’s no impact-protecting armor. Enter the ScorpionExo Birmingham, a waxed cotton jacket that combines classic good looks with modern technology.

The cut is absolutely classic, with a high, leather-trimmed collar secured with a brass snap. Brass snaps also secure the four large cargo pockets, the two waterproof inner pockets, the storm flap over the brass YKK zipper and the cuffs, which have two sets for adjustment. The upper cargo pockets also feature YKK brass zippers, and there’s a large, zippered pass-thru pocket in the back panel.

The departure from tradition starts with the Birmingham’s shell, a blend of 53 percent cotton and 47 percent nylon fabric for increased strength and abrasion resistance. Unlike traditional waxed cotton, it doesn’t look “wet,” yet it’s completely waterproof thanks to Scorpion’s “Exo-wax” outer coating and a laminated waterproof and breathable inner membrane backing.

Safety considerations extend to the shoulders, elbows and back, the former equipped with SAS-TEC CE-certified armor, the latter with a PE foam back pad. The result is a jacket that looks right on a Sloper BSA, but with the advantages of modern materials and updated safety.

Complementing its good looks is a comfortable fit. Following ScorpionExo’s online sizing chart, I ordered a large Birmingham in green with contrasting gray shoulder panels. The other available color is solid black. The fit for me is excellent, snug on the shoulders without being tight, and the sleeves are long enough they don’t ride up my wrists when my arms are stretched out to the handlebars. In keeping with tradition, the interior features a comfortable, soft plaid cotton lining, and the stitching on the jacket is excellent: I expect it to wear well and for years to come.

The word “comfort” really defines the Birmingham, because it only takes a few good rides for it to lose its just-made stiffness, quickly feeling like that favorite pair of jeans you reach for. This isn’t the jacket you’ll want when the mercury really starts climbing — it was never intended as hot-weather attire — but it is a perfect spring, early summer and fall jacket. Available in green/gray (shown) or black. Price: starting at $299.95. — Richard Backus

Ladies Classic ’92 by Joe Rocket

When it comes to riding gear, we’ll admit to a certain level of vanity. While utility and safety are always our most important criteria when choosing our gear, we’re not immune to wanting to look good when we’re riding. That’s often easier said than done, especially for the price conscious among us who simply can’t afford some of the more seriously nice top-shelf gear. But as we discovered, sometimes you can have it all.

Joe Rocket Ladies Classic ’92

First up is Joe Rocket’s Ladies Classic ’92, their latest in a growing list of gear for women, and a jacket that looked ideal for my 23-year-old daughter. Up to now, Madeline didn’t have her own dedicated gear, instead using various pieces that had accumulated in the household over the years, including her mom’s old gear. But it was time to find something just for her, and this sharp, retro-styled leather jacket looked like it would fit the bill.

Made of drum-dyed cowhide, the Ladies Classic ’92 has the classic good looks Madeline was looking for, while also providing the protection she needs. Leather is an excellent first line of defense, but there’s no arguing the additional impact and abrasion protection of CE-certified armor and the Classic ’92 has pockets in the shoulders, elbows and back for optional armor. Bought together the armor will set you back an additional $70, money we consider well spent.

The leather’s 1mm-1.2mm thickness puts it at the thin end of what’s considered best from a safety perspective (1.2mm-1.6mm is generally considered best), yet while thicker is better, a thinner cut also means lighter weight, and in this case it translates to a very soft, supple and comfortable jacket that doesn’t feel like it’s weighing you down, even with the added optional armor.

The downside to a lighter jacket is often warmth, or lack thereof, but the Ladies Classic ’92’s zip-in quilted liner features full sleeves (most are just vests), and with the liner installed the jacket’s proven perfectly comfortable in temps down to the lower 40s. Its functional design extends to little things, like a 1.5-inch storm flap behind the main zipper to keep out the wind, along with snaps at the waist to adjust the fit and zippered cuffs. It also has plenty of pockets, with five on the inside for stashing small items and another five on the outside, including two breast pockets, two hand pockets and a small zippered pocket on the right sleeve that’s perfect for stashing ear plugs.

After following Joe Rocket’s online sizing guide and taking their suggested measurements (bust, waist and hip), Madeline ordered a medium. Cut specifically for a woman’s body, the Classic ’92 presents a tailored fit that compliments the wearer, and Madeline’s Classic ’92 fits her perfectly.

The riding season’s still young, but so far the Ladies Classic ’92 has proven to be a well-made, comfortable, good-looking three-season jacket at a reasonable price that’s ready to deliver years of service. Available in black/white (shown) or brown/cream. Price: $299.99. — Richard Backus

Basix Shocks by Ikon Suspension

 

Affordable shocks

Ikon Suspension has expanded its line of shock absorbers with the addition of the Basix line of shocks. Designed for riders on a budget who still want to get the best out of their machine, Basix shocks feature chrome-plated bodies and black, powder coated, progressive-rate springs. Keeping the cost down, they feature fixed-rate instead of adjustable damping, but with 3-position adjustable preload. Rebuildable and revalvable, each shock is fully tested before leaving the factory. $280. MC

Wire Splicing Connectors by WAGO

 

Wire splicing

We recently tripped across these really cool electrical connectors from WAGO in Germany. An alternative to the standard Scotch Lock “vampire” electrical connectors used for splicing wires, the WAGO 221 series splicing connectors are incredibly simple and provide a super secure means for splicing up to five 24-12 gauge solid or stranded wires. Just strip the wire, insert it into the Lever-Nut and push down the Lever-Nut contact arm. Connections can be tested via integrated test slots. $49.95 (175 piece assortment pack on amazon.com). MC

Super-Fast Rain Suit by RideTribe

 

Super-fast rain suit

Made from light, laminated rip-stop fabric, the RideTribe rain suit’s patented dual zipper design features a front center panel that zips out completely. Putting it on is simple and fast: Slide your arms in the sleeves then hook the center section and zip it in place to fully enclose your body and legs. Fully seam-sealed it features a hide-away hood, Nomex leg heat shields, and hook-and-loop leg and wrist closures. Light, waterproof and breathable, it’s incredibly easy and fast to put on. Made in the USA. $198. MC

GEN II Amazing Grips by Randakk's Cycle Shakk

 

Coming to grips

We know the problem: You just finished that perfect restoration of your Norton Commando or Honda CB750, and nothing will do except for the factory-correct handlebar grips. The problem is, the factory items weren’t always that good. The Norton grips were often “pillowy” and the Honda items stiff — not exactly conducive to long-range comfort.

When the factory grips on my 1983 Laverda RGS finally gave up the ghost after years of service, I decided it was time to try something different. I’d never really liked the originals to begin with, and since my bike’s a rider, comfort is king. But I didn’t want foam grips, and most of the other grips I found just didn’t look right for the RGS. Enter Randakk’s Cycle Shakk’s GEN II Amazing Grips.

Designed by Randakk’s and made in their own proprietary molds, the GEN II Amazing Grips feature a proprietary synthetic rubber formulation that’s designed to offer resilience without being mushy. They’re also slightly tacky to the touch, which returns dividends in that your gloved hand never feels like it’s going to slip off, but neither is it stuck to the grip. Further, they’re handed, the right grip having a larger inside diameter to properly fit over the throttle sleeve.

I picked up a set two years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve racked up thousands of miles using them, and I just put a set on my son’s project-in-the-works café Honda CB350. Simple in design, they don’t shout out their presence, and they look perfect on both bikes. More importantly, they’re extremely comfortable and just the thing for riders really putting on miles. The only possible downside? They’re only available for 7/8-inch handlebars. Price: $24.99. — Richard Backus

Smart Turn System Signal-Cancelling Device

Smart Turn System

Self-cancelling turn signals

Forgetting to cancel turn signals is dangerous, leading other drivers to think you’re turning, when in fact you’re not. Conceived and designed by motorcyclists, the Smart Turn System protects motorcyclists by sensing when they’ve completed a turn and automatically cancelling turn signals. Less than 2 inches long and only 1.25 inches thick, the STS processes 300 different data elements on acceleration, vibration, inclination and changes in direction to decide when to cancel turn signals. Can be installed on many vintage machines. $162, includes shipping.