Essential Motorcycle Riding Gear

Gear Driven editor's picks

Oxford’s 1st Time Expander Tank Bag

Oxford’s 1st Time Expander Tank Bag

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Price and availability confirmed at time of publication. Subject to change, please visit the product website for the latest prices and availability. 

Although we’re constantly testing new gear around here, we thought we should fill you in the stuff we really use. Here, in no particular order, is an assortment of pieces we swear by — and use nearly every time we get on our bikes.

 1. While we each have our own idea of the “perfect” tank bag, Oxford’s 1st Time Expander Tank Bag comes close to satisfying all of us. It’s small enough it doesn’t get in the way of your gauges before you expand it, and once you do it holds nearly 28ltr of gear. It’s just big enough that if we’re missing something from the office (magazines, cameras, etc.), we usually find the lost object in Editor Backus’ office, and in this bag — and he doesn’t know it’s there. It’s secured by four strong magnets, and has an integrated shoulder strap, map pocket and backpack, along with a removable cargo pocket that converts to a hip pack. A rain cover is also included, but it’s proven pretty rain tight except in the hardest downpour. If you’re only going to have one tank bag for both commuting and touring, this is the one you want. Black. Price: $69.95.
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2. We were impressed with Firstgear’s Kwik-Dry Sport Tour Leather Overpants from the start. They’re made of high-quality, water-resistant leather in a cut thick enough it’s perfect for anything short of the racetrack. Since they come unhemmed for custom sizing, we had our favorite local leather guy fold and glue the bottoms. (It’s just as solid as a hem, but can be undone without leaving holes in the leather.) We kept them long so they cover our boots all the way down to the ankles when we’re on our favorite bike, which keeps them from riding up our boot tops and helps keep us drier in the rain. Though they’re a bit hot when temps rise above 95 F, below that they’re great. And while they were fairly pliable from the get-go, they’re breaking in nicely. Soon, they’ll be in the “fits like your favorite jeans” category. $299.95.
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3. If you don’t own a heated vest, put one on your Christmas wish list. No other single piece of gear can extend your riding season as far, and a good vest like Aerostich’s Kanetsu AirVantage Vest will let you keep riding through fall and well into winter. By using air panels to transfer heat from the vest’s heating elements to your body, the Kanetsu solves the one drawback of traditional electric vests — the need for a close fit. The Kanetsu’s adjustable air panels not only allow for a roomier fit, but also increase warmth. Throw in removable sleeves for added warmth, and even temps in the 20s are fun. Price: $237.
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4. Spidi’s Spirit Gloves are a lightweight, non-insulated touring glove. That we’ve said before. Now, after putting a few thousand miles on the pair we got, we can also tell you that these lightly-vented gloves are an office favorite. Though they don’t breathe well enough for the hottest of Midwest summer days (100 F-plus temps are not their friend) they’re a great everyday glove for commuting, touring or the quick Sunday morning run. They’re well made, comfortable, and the perfect thickness and cut for the conditions in which most of us ride — and with a pair of over-gloves for the rain (see no. 6), you really don’t need much more. Price: $59.99.
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5. Puma’s been making shoes since 1948, and though Americans have been wearing the company’s shoes for decades, Puma motorcycle boots are relatively new to the U.S. Several of us from the office have had the chance to try both the Bonneville and the Bonneville M (Mid), and we all love the design, fit and comfort of these boots. Editor Hall has worn his on several 1,000-mile trips through rain, heat and more, and is still impressed with their performance. Editor Backus successfully stole a pair from one of our poor ad guys and hasn’t given them back yet, all while another pair of high-dollar boots we ordered in his size sits lagging under his desk — yes, they’re that good. Available in both regular and mid-height and GoreTex and non-GoreTex versions, prices range from $215-$270.
More info: For a dealer near you, e-mail 

6. Any time somebody from the office leaves to go on a tour, we make sure to send them out the door with our Aerostich Triple Digit Rain Covers. They’re the perfect over-glove if your favorite pair of mitts isn’t already waterproof. They breathe enough to keep your hands from getting clammy when it’s wet and warm, yet they also stop the wind, making them an effective cold weather over-glove, too. They pack small and offer plenty of finger control despite their finger-grouping arrangement. We’ve fought over these all summer, and for the price, we should probably quit being cheapskates and all buy a pair. It’d be money well spent. Price: $47.
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Lessons in overkill from the MC staff, Part DeuxBack in the November/December 2006 issue, we received a Nolan X-1002 modular helmet and passed it on to head honcho/publisher Bryan Welch. Though he found it a good fit for his head, he complained of a bit of extra wind noise between 40mph and 60mph when compared to the Z1R Strike he was wearing before. Other than that niggle, he quickly fell in love with it.

But after some 5,000 miles of use, Bryan apparently decided it was time for a new helmet, and thought he’d crash test this one. Okay, so that’s not quite the way it happened, but we can report the Nolan does its job very well. While touring in the Pacific Northwest, Bryan was following a group of friends when the road turned left into a descending, off-camber, decreasing-radius turn. The next thing he knew, he was lying face down on the road with a fully packed BMW GS on his back. He escaped with nothing more than some bruises, though he was pretty sore for a few days.

Impressively, the helmet doesn’t look nearly as bad as we expected. It has some small grooves behind the left visor pivot from the first impact, with the worst damage on the right side of the chin bar. Both the clear visor and the tinted half-visor also received some good scratches. Though it’s the only helmet in the office we’ve crash tested so far (we try to keep it shiny side up ‘round these parts), we’re impressed by how well it survived, not to mention the fact it kept our esteemed leader, um, leading.

The other main piece of gear that saved Bryan’s hide (quite literally) was the Rukka AirPower 3 Jacket he was wearing. Not only did Bryan give this jacket the ultimate stamp of approval by paying a goodly sum of money for it to begin with (originally a loaner piece, Bryan fell in love with it and couldn’t stand to send it back), but after his accident, he swears there must be six different injuries, from hip to shoulder, that the jacket protected him from.

Interestingly, the fabric on the front of the left shoulder was completely shredded in several spots, yet the mesh underneath received minimal damage. Our guess is that the armor underneath the inner liner slid up and took the brunt of the abuse, but it’s hard to tell as the armor isn’t removable. There were also small holes and abrasions on the back of the left shoulder and on the outside of the left forearm, though neither of these spots were as bad as the front of the shoulder.

Made in Finland where they understand cold weather, the jacket’s also remarkably cool in the summer thanks to a removable lining. The AirPower 3 is no longer available, but we heartily recommend its replacement, the Rukka AirVision. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s worth every penny. MC