Gear Box MC Tested

Pret-a-porter for the chicane, not the catwalk

Track days in this country are a growth industry, and so is the market for track-day apparel. And just as with your bike you have a few choices when it comes to gear that'll suit both you and your pocketbook. For most of us the middle ground is where it's at, and that's what guided our choices here. Although this is premium kit, almost everything is a step down from the manufacturers' top of the line. With that in mind, take a look at some of our picks for when we head out to a track day.

According to Dainese these gloves were created for Valentino Rossi, with assistance from Dr. Claudio Costa, head physician of MotoGP's Clinica Mobile. The stand-out feature of the cowhide Speed Metals ($315) are titanium inserts over the knuckles and back of the hand; Dainese says titanium offers better abrasion-resistance than carbon fiber, but still uses carbon on the fingers. Less obvious is how Dainese employs an intricate array of materials: Kevlar over the back of the hand, three double-leather patches with padding on the palm, composite plastic armor on the outside of the palm and the little finger ... it just goes on and on. Perhaps what's most surprising--and rewarding--about them is that, after a slightly longer break-in than usual, they manage to offer both exceptional comfort and excellent control-feel.

The Axial Race In boots ($419) are another bit of Rossi kit developed with Dr. Costa's help. Unlike most boots the Axial Ins can be worn inside the legs of your leathers, fastened together with hook-and-loop, or outside. Dainese says wearing them inside helps absorb and distribute impacts better than conventional boots. Our rider refused to crash to test that hypothesis, however. The Axial's construction mirrors that of many other high-end race boots: an articulated carbon-fiber and Kevlar exoskeleton allows your ankle to flex normally but limits torsional or lateral movement. Both leather and Lorica comprise the boot's uppers, while the shafts are made of D-Stone, a fabric Dainese claims resists tearing and abrasion much like leather. The Axial Race boots aren't particularly comfortable to walk in, but they're far lighter than other boots and offer superb flexibility at the ankle and superior control feel.

Shark's RSX-model helmet ($599.99 in World Supersport competitor Stephane Chambon's colors, $549.99 in other graphic patterns or $479.99 for solid colors) might be one notch down from the maker's top-line RSR2 hats, but the two share a remarkable number of features: a lightweight carbon-fiber and Kevlar shell, a scratch- and fog-proof visor with a push-button change mechanism, a removable interior and more. Shark builds its RSX to ECE 22-05 standards, one of three standards we prefer (see "Blowing the Lid Off," June 2005). What's most remarkable, though, is how the RSX doesn't seem to favor one specific head shape. In fact, Shark's RSX manages to fit the melons of the entire staff--a minor miracle. Those things are what make Shark's hats a favorite.

A couple of Dainese's one-piece leathers might cost more, but rest assured the Bora suit ($2039) has everything necessary to make you one of the best-dressed riders at any track day. Just as with the Speed Metal gloves, the Italian apparel maker employs a dizzying collection of materials and techniques to create the suit. Cut predominately from cowhide, the Bora also uses Dainese's stretch fabrics that resist tearing and abrasion, two-way elastic leather panels, composite armor (with titanium inserts for the shoulders) and far more than we can list here. As with most Dainese suits, the Bora is tightly tailored for a tucked-in riding position and fits quite snugly to keep the armor in place should you fall. About the only complaint comes from the two-zipper bib front, which can be problematic when answering nature's call. Otherwise, the Bora is a well-thought-out, feature-rich track suit.

How Do It Know?
BMW Functional Jacket

Phase-change materials are like magic: They utilize tiny spheres of paraffin that absorb or release heat from or to the wearer's body, keeping his temperature within a comfortable range. And that's precisely what BMW claims its Functional Jacket does, courtesy of phase-change material from motorcycle-garment fabric maven Schoeller. BMW says its jacket (available solely in black with zip-off sleeves that convert it to a vest) can maintain an optimum balance of the wearer's body temperature when outdoor temperatures are between 30 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. $175,

Let's Get One Thing Straight
Park Handlebar and Subframe Straightener

Park Tools already has an excellent reputation among bicyclists, and it aims to become equally well-known among riders on two wheels powered by internal combustion. To that end Park has released its Handlebar and Subframe Straightener, which Park claims can repair damaged handlebars and subframes that might otherwise require replacement A vinyl coating (in Park's signature blue) on the tool's jaws protects painted surfaces while a similar coating on the handle makes it easy to apply plenty of leverage. MSRP is $70. (651) 777-6868,

Clocked In
Race Tech ShockClock

Suspension setup isn't the black art many believe it to be. It's more of a burnt-ochre art, really, with a kickin' flame paint job. To help you more fully understand the art of setup, Race Tech Inc. offers its ShockClock, a data-logging device (with 18 minutes of total recording time) that shows you just what your suspension is doing. The system samples info 240 times per second, with a claimed +/-1 percent accuracy; data can even be downloaded to a PDA. The Pro RR ShockClock system (with two transducers and data loggers) retails for $1599.99. (951) 279-6655,

High-Tech Hosiery

Hardcore technical socks worthy of the appellation for motorcyclists? Believe it. TechSox's motorcycle-specific footwear have all the right names and claims to fill that bill. A blend of 70 percent polypropylene, 20 percent nylon and 10 percent elastic, TechSox are said to be antimicrobial, with elastic injected into the ankle and arch areas to keep them from sagging down into your boots, and additional cushioning front and back. What really sets its socks apart from conventional offerings, the maker says, is the way they fit courtesy of a wide size-range (S-XL), high-tech fibers that compress to conform to your feet and specific left and right lasts. They're available in black or white in boot-cut (over the calf) for $16.95 or high-cut (knee length) for $21.95. (888) 638-0639,

Movable Mandible
Nolan N100E

Well aware its hats are already as popular with touring riders as all-you-can-eat joints, Nolan wants to broaden its appeal. How? By offering its venerable N100E with BNG (Bold New Graphics). Besides the usual array of gloss, flat and metallic single colors, the flip-up N100E now comes in a series of graphics called Cyclone in black/blue, black/red and black/silver for $290 each. What's more, the N100E sports Nolan's Smart Lift system, which allows one- or two-hand release of the pivoting chinbar. It also features a removable/washable inner lining, DOT approval and more. Cima International, (866) 2helmet

You Can't Get There From Here

One of the many joys of riding around back East is the ability to see so many states in a single day--a pleasure denied those who travel in, say, Texas, for example. And to help you find your way around are Moto-Maps, another entry in the burgeoning field of moto-specific cartography. Laminated booklets measuring 3.5 x 6 inches, each of the four Moto-Maps (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine) contains a detailed state map with six to seven color-coded day trips that utilize, according to the maker, each region's best and most scenic back roads. $9.95,