A two-career family and a pair of busy little girls have crimped my riding opportunities lately. Thus most of my riding happens in intense, mega-mile bursts. Every few weeks I'll go AWOL from work-usually just after sending an issue to press-and bust out 600 miles by dark. Limited opportunities mean I ride hell or high water, so my trendy sportbike gear is gradually giving way to more versatile sport-touring kit. It's dorky, sure, but I'm already married-I don't have to impress anyone.
Olympia's GT Air jacket and Airglide pants ($279.99 and $199.99, respectively from www.olympiamotosports.com
) are typical of what I've been riding in lately. With its two-stage liner, Mega Vent ventilation system and adjustable Motion-Flex armor, this is exactly the sort of overcomplicated riding gear that I usually hate. Thanks to quality materials and careful construction, however, it actually works. The insulated, waterproof Thermolite liner is thin enough not to constrain movement, and it doesn't leave the shell fitting like a trash bag once it's removed. The outer shell converts to a mesh jacket in seconds, delivering massive airflow, and since the cover panels roll into integrated pockets the conversion couldn't be more convenient. Olympia's stuff is clearly designed by people who actually ride motorcycles.
I can't believe I'm admitting this, but my new go-to helmet is the Vemar Jiano Bluetooth ($500; www.motonation.com
). I learned to love the flip-front lid during a weeklong Edelweiss Tour of Norway. That country's countless toll booths and ferry docks made me appreciate the ability to conveniently converse sans chinbar. And once I tried the built-in wireless communication system, there was no turning back. With my wife in a matching helmet, we could comment on the gorgeous Nordic scenery in real time. Bluetooth-enabled, the Jiano can pair with nav systems, MP3 players and, of course, cell phones-another previously unimaginable intrusion that I now can't live without, especially when I don't want the boss to know I'm AWOL. Having all the communications circuitry imbedded inside the helmet is a huge advantage, proven when another couple's externally mounted devices succumbed to Norway's near-constant summer rain. An integrated, retractable sun shade and the stupid-easy, glove-friendly micro-buckle closure just make the Jiano more indispensible.
I've got footwear out the wazoo, but I keep returning to the same old pair of Dainese BB2 D-WP boots for all-around riding. Hardly flashy, these are reliably waterproof and feature a thin sole that's flexible enough to let you feel the pegs, which is rare for a touring boot. The BB2 has since been superseded by the more modern-looking BB3 ($229; www.dainese.com
), which retains Dainese's same proprietary D-Dry hydrophilic membrane to keep the wet out.
Since grinding off my pinkie nail a few years ago, I never compromise on handwear. Lately I'm loving Racer's Sicuro gloves ($249.99; www.racerusa.net
). Made by an Austrian manufacturer that recently entered the U.S. market, these are Grade-A digital armor with titanium knuckle protection, Knox palm protectors and abrasion-resistant "Super Fabric" enveloping the palm. Just as important, thanks to a kangaroo body and thoughtful details like external seams on all fingers, the Sicuros actually feel good for 600 miles at a stretch.