Published on November 2nd, 2021 | by Boris0
SO WHAT’S HARLEY-DAVIDSON’S NEW ADVENTURE GEAR LIKE?
IMAGES BY NICK ‘IT’S LIKE SHOOTING VOGUE ‘ EDARDS
When I attended the press launch of Harley’s new Pan America, the company generously gave me one of its new adventure jackets.
This is not unusual. The motorcycle press corps is often given gifts by the manufacturers. These gifts, in addition to some very high-end accommodation and dining experiences, is how things roll in this gig.
Two purposes are served by this.
One is the bike manufacturer ensures the press is well-disposed to it and its new product. The second is that much of the motorcycle media ends up feeling all entitled and special, as if free gifts are its birthright.
This has always baffled me. I would sleep on a park bench covered in newspapers for a chance to ride new bikes and tell you about it. Sure, I love the hospitality and the gifts are great, but I have always been baffled at this whole junket thingo.
Give me the bike. I’ll ride it, take some pictures, and write a story about it. The privilege of riding the bike is wholly sufficient.
It’s nice of you to fly me to Surfers and feed me lobster, but the review that comes out is gonna be the same review no matter how much lobster is involved.
It was just this conversation I was having with some of Harley’s marketing people at the Pan America launch. I had thanked them for the jacket and was explaining that I would not be wearing it for the photos tomorrow because I would prefer my own gear.
“But,” I said, “I would be keen to have a closer look at the whole range of this new adventure gear you’re offering prospective Pan America buyers.”
“How do you mean?” said the nice marketing lady.
“Nothing is for free in this world. You give me something, I am expected to write about it. But to be fair to you and the product, me wearing it for a few hours will hardly provide anyone with a proper appraisal. That aside, I think this new range of Adventure gear is important for Harley. And it deserves more than a simple: ‘This jacket is available and it costs X’. That is a commercial. I don’t do commercials.”
So a few months later, thanks to the Plague delaying everything, Harley sent me a pair of boots, a pair of gloves and a helmet to go with my jacket.
All bullshit aside, Harley clothing has always been of a very high standard. Everything from its T-shirts to its leather jackets has been beautifully made.
As Harley begins its journey into an entirely new market segment, it’s rather crucial the gear it is offering this very discerning niche is also top-notch.
Of course, Harley knows this. To this end it has partnered with REV’IT! – a hugely reputable Dutch company well-known for its outstanding bike gear.
And the collaborative result was now in my hands.
So how did it all go?
GRIT ADVENTURE J09 MODULAR HELMET – $478.25
Manufactured by J-Tech for Harley-Davidson, this is one pretty lid. The paint and graphics are stunning, and its shape is proper Mr Nasty.
It’s a polycarbonate jobbie, so that accounts for its not inconsiderable heft. At 1760gm, it’s not a light helmet. That said, few polycarbonate modulars are. There’s a lot going on with all that flip-up stuff.
It’s reasonably well-vented, chin and crown, but you’re gonna wish for more air if you’re working hard on a hot day. Good thing you can flip it open, huh?
At speed it’s relatively quiet and you can easily ride with the chin-piece up at 80 without it wanting to decapitate you. But stay under 80 unless the lid is locked down over your face.
The visor is good quality Perspex, as is the internal drop-down sun-visor. I noticed no distortion on either, and the internal one does not sit on my nose – which is helpful. It is, however, not Pinlock-ready.
It’s compatible with a BOOM! Audio 20s Bluetooth system if you wanna get wired for sound, intercom, and phone calls, and current H-D helmet owners can retrofit the earphones to this lid.
It comes with a cool peak, which I have not fitted, but I probably will, but then maybe not. I’m not that dedicated to dirt, and I kinda don’t see the point on a modular lid. But it’s there if you’re that way inclined.
It’s a mid-priced helmet that looks really trick, but weighs more than I’d like a helmet to weight. There is a lighter variant called the Passage, which costs $870, and the specs say it has more vents – so I’m thinking that’s where I’d be going.
GRIT ADVENTURE GLOVES – $217.39
These are actually superb. I loved them.
Very comfy from the get-go, I really liked the orange pull-on loops. They’re also rather unique, with knuckle protection coming via thermoplastic rubber, which flexes readily and gives almost total top-of-hand coverage.
These are ventilated summer gloves, as you’d expect them to be, as well as being Touchscreen compatible, which is a must in this high-tech world.
They are made from a combo of goatskin and PWR stretch-fabric (very durable and high-strength nylon), which has been coated with some water-resistant finish – which I can guarantee will not keep any water out because the glove is perforated. They also come with a microfibre palm-patch so your grip will not be compromised if you fall into the ocean.
I don’t care that they’re not water-resistant. If you want more water-resistant gloves, go buy them. Don’t buy perforated summer gloves and then complain they let water in. You’re gonna sound like that idiot who took his Pan America enduro-riding, crashed his brains out, then blamed the bike and its tyres because he can’t ride, and should not have been taking such a bike down such tracks in the first instance.
Don’t be that bloke.
The gloves? They fit well, breathed, were very easy to pull on thanks to the loops, and felt like quality-made gear. Loved them.
GRIT ADVENTURE JACKET – $765.20
This is many jackets in one – and it feels like it. There is a great deal of substance to this ensemble.
Three layers, champions. Which will cover you for riding to Antarctica in winter to slogging through the Sahara desert in summer. Yes, I am exaggerating, but the Grit jacket is a true all-season unit.
As a result of being all things to all men, and packed with soft armour, it’s kinda heavy. But you can divest yourself of two of those inner-layers. And weight is strength in this case.
The first layer is the actual outer layer which you will recognise as the jacket itself. It’s made out of thick PWR 500D rip-stop material and safety stitched to buggery. It feels very durable, and kinda like wrapping yourself in a sail, but more comfortable.
Under that, there’s the detachable Hydratex waterproof liner, and under that, there’s a third thermal liner. They are both a bit fiddly to get in and out, but all liners on every jacket ever made are. It’s those bastard sleeves – and my impatience.
What’s good about this jacket is how solidly it’s made and how much air you can get into it on hot days. There’s lots of vents, front and back, so air-flow is very good. And it feels like it will stop bullets.
Lots of pockets, including hand-snugs, which allow you to warm your frozen hands when you stop and take off your gloves. These are fuzzy-lined pockets that sit behind the actual zippered pocket at the front of the jacket. Clever and useable on cold rides.
Zippers are hefty and glove-friendly, and the front one works both ways, so you don’t have to fully unzip and let the warmth out if you’re making pee-pee on some sleet-blasted mountain.
I wore it with all the liners in and it felt warm, but bulky. I got used to the bulk and liked the warmth. All liners out, and it’s very good in warm weather. It still feels bulky…well, maybe that’s not the right word. Let’s say substantial and protective rather than bulky.
Another bonus is the adjustability, and it would pay dividends to spend some time getting it right around your biceps, neck, and belly. I spent some minutes screwing with all of this, and it all sat somewhat better on my body.
As a general, year-round, go-to textile jacket, it’s pretty good – even though I reckon it will take some getting used to how rugged and substantial it feels. But that’s not a bad thing. Given time, it should soften up some.
It presents as a well-made, quality product, which it really has to in this market niche. It’s up against some serious heavy-hitting competition, but it brings some game to the game.
GRAVEL OUTDRY BOOTS – $513.03
REV’IT! Have been making this boot for a few years, and this is its latest iteration. Stylistically, I was kinda shruggy about it – it looked like I was wearing spats, thanks to the grey suede leather down the front and side of the boot, but then I have enough tattoos to carry spats off, so I moved on.
It’s a very well-made and allegedly water-proof boot. And it needs to be. The competition here is very, very strong. These are not cheap, so they must not appear cheap.
That said, the Gravel boot is not the kind of boot you’re gonna spend hours walking around in. And there will be no dancing. It’s too inflexible for that. It is, however, pretty good for riding in. There’s good movement in the ankle and it’s not too thick at the toe, so you won’t struggle to up-shift through the gears.
The Gravel walks that strange line nearly all Adventure-tagged boots do. It’s not as bulletproof as a serious dirt boot, but it’s far more substantial than the average touring boot. The Velcro appears strong enough to hang boulders off, which is very re-assuring.
The Vibram sole is thick enough to tolerate you standing on the pegs for periods of time, but it doesn’t have the steel shank you’ll find in Daytona boots. But then it costs substantially less than those handmade wonders.
The Gravel boot is quite water-resistant – I turned the hose on my pair in lieu of actual rain – but I would need to spend hours in the rain to see if they are actually waterproof. From what I can see, they’ll come close.
I loved how it had a loop-strap to help pull it on, and it has substantial heel, toe, shin, and malleolus (the protruding lump of bone where your ankle is) protection.
It’s a very solid-feeling boot, which is exactly how it must feel, for you are to adventure in them. And adventure means you’ll need a more substantial boot than a normal touring boot. It’s also a very warm boot. Full-grain cow-leather on the outside, and the Laminated Hydratex Sphere (H2O) material the boot relies on for being waterproof breathes, but not quite as well as GORE-TEX. Still, that’s on paper. In practice, you probably won’t notice.
You can be confident in this boot. I cannot speak to its longevity, but from the 30-odd hours of riding I’ve done in it, I can’t really fault it. No blisters, no rubbing me in the soft places. Pretty good, I’m thinking.
Harley-Davidson is not fooling around with its Adventure gear. The stuff is pretty damn good – and I would expect no less. There’s a lot of credibility at stake here. The Adventure gear market is loaded with some very high-end clobber, and for Harley to make an impression here, the gear it offers must be able to stand with the competition – in terms of both price and performance.
I’m quietly pleased Harley has taken this caper seriously. It hasn’t taken any shortcuts in terms of quality, and it hasn’t gone overboard with branding – which may dissuade some of the brand-whores out there.
Personally, I reckon it’d be kinda cool and very subversive rocking subtle Harley gear in a herd of Euro-centric adventurers. Especially if you can smoke them on the trails. But that’s on you, so make an effort.