Personal Best - Kristi Martel's Motorcycle Gear

Budget Racer Chic

Unlike the rest of the guys on these pages, no gear lands on my desk for free. Possibly because I don't have a desk. So when I shop for track-riding gear, it has to check three boxes: affordable, functional and with a high tolerance for abuse.

The mainstay of my wardrobe is my Spidi Ladies Lizard Pro suit ($1199), which unfortunately isn't brought in by the current importer (www.wps-inc.com). Against all rules of hygiene, I've been wearing the same suit since 2007. Be forewarned, if you were that girl who cut herself in the high-school bathroom because some cheerleader wore the same dress to the prom, I suggest you look elsewhere. It's popular. No doubt because it's a beautifully designed piece of 1.2mm-thick, top-grain Italian leather, interspersed with elasticized Keprotec panels for maximum range of motion. I've put its CE-certified Biomechanical armor to the test with a high-side, a racing collision and about 150 track days. Now that I'm writing about it, I realize this suit is kind of my hero.

I used to shell out hundreds for helmets, but when I started club racing I realized I needed to afford tires, too. So I turned to the KBC TK-8 Lucky 8-Ball Helmet ($99.95; www.kbchelmet.com). After a year in the WERA paddock, no joke about being "behind the eight ball" holds any originality for me anymore. But this helmet totally does the job, fits my budget and meets all the same safety standards as helmets costing six times as much. That's my kind of hat.

There is no getting around splurging on motorcycle footwear; otherwise I would have found it. My personal kicks are Sidi Vertigo Air boots ($300; www.motonation.com). Fitted with shock-absorbing heel cups to minimize crash impact, an air vent system and a perforated Lorica outer skin, these boots punch the clock and put in a full day's work without complaint.

Almost as important as the outer garments is my RS Taichi Technofine mesh inner suit ($127.95; www.rs-taichi.com). This helps me slip into and out of my leathers at races and track days, plus it keeps me cool between sessions. One thing you should watch out for is that gnarly track odor tends to get imbedded in the fabric, despite all attempts to remove it.

One last thing: I misspoke when I said I don't get anything for free. One day, a nice man pointed out that my red Dainese gloves from the '90s clashed with my white-and-black Spidi suit. I'm not above charity, so this kind soul sent me a pair of very awesome Spidi Sport Composite Gloves ($149.99), which likewise aren't imported anymore. Suitable for street or track riding, these feature plastic damper protectors on the knuckles, a Powertech shield, anti-abrasion Superfabric inserts and a Keramide-reinforced palm. And a point not to be overlooked: They match my outfit.

Personal Best - Kristi Martel