Designing high-end technical outerwear is a precarious business. Motorcyclists demand feature-laden, versatile garments, but they don't want them to be overly complicated or difficult to use. Thankfully the majority of apparel companies understand that, and each year product offerings are improving in both performance and simplicity.
Case in point: The Firstgear Technical Performance Gear (TPG) line, which was recently redesigned in an attempt to both simplify and improve the brand. TPG is a three-piece system that includes an optional thermal base layer, windproof Tech Liner mid-layer and waterproof, abrasion-resistant 600-denier nylon outer jacket. But the biggest news for the TPG line is the inclusion of d3o armor. The molecules of this unique substance are said to be rate-sensitive, so the pads remain soft and pliable under normal conditions, but become rigid when struck to help disperse and absorb impact energy.
I used the top-of-the-line TPG Rainier jacket and Escape pants on a dual-sport ride in Western Colorado, which proved to be an excellent test of the garments' abilities in inclement weather. Donning the Rainier jacket for the first time, I noticed that the jacket offers excellent mobility due to the softer, thinner d3o armor. The fabric used to make the outer jacket is backed by a waterproof Hypertex membrane, so water stops at the shell, not at some internal rubberized liner. The jacket has a pocket for every need, and each one has a sealed zipper to keep the contents dry. We were poured upon several times during our 500-mile, three-day trip, but water never permeated the shell or moistened my wallet or cell phone. And although temperatures dropped into the 30s, the windproof mid-layer and optional long-sleeve thermal base layer kept me comfortable.
Overall, the Rainier is full of features, yet uncomplicated to use. My only real gripe is that all of that technology and proprietary materials cost money. The jacket I tested costs $500, and it's an additional $70 for the thermal base layer.
The Escape Pants are even simpler, yet every bit as waterproof. They've got a zip-out insulated liner so you can wear them on their own or over your street clothes. Armor is more traditional Knox CE-approved stuff, which helps keep the price down to a reasonable $250. The Escape Pants are relatively easy to get on and off, fit true to size and are well-suited to cold, wet weather.
The Tech Liner Jacket is meant to act as an undergarment, but also functions as a tasteful
Overall, Firstgear's TPG setup achieves its goals. The laminated outer jacket keeps things simple by making the shell itself waterproof, and the new d30 armor is so thin you hardly notice it's there. Add to that an array of pockets and other easy-to-use features and you're got a great get-up for any motorcycling adventure.
Price: $499.95 Rainier Jacket, $249.95 Escape Pant
Verdict 4 stars out of 5
Evolutionary improvements and some unique features justify the comparatively high cost of these versatile garments.