Personal Best - Tim Carrithers' Motorcycle Gear

Adaptable Adventure-Touring Defense System

What you wear says a lot about where you're going, and this rig says I'm going riding. Not to the office or Supercuts or Trader Joe's, but through the high desert. After an hour on bad roads and then no roads at all, population density is somewhere between Southern Mongolia and the moon. This landscape doth not suffer fools; it buries them. Aside from three days in mid-March, it's either too hot, too cold, too windy or some combination of the above. Gear that works here will work just about anywhere.

Start with body armor: Rather than hoping the built-in energy-absorbing bits will stay put in a fall, I start with a more secure protective foundation. Dainese's Wave V 1-2-3 Neck jacket ($469; combines the excellent Wave back protector with shoulder, elbow and forearm protection in one garment, along with enough abdominal support to keep from peeing blood after a day in the really rough stuff. A patented removable neck support takes the strain out of relentless headwinds and provides a little hyper-extension insurance as well. Lycra thumb-loops keep the sleeves from riding up, and strategically placed straps keep everything where it belongs in a tumble. A coarse, stretchy mesh between the defensive bits keeps you cool when it's hot, but requires an insulating base layer when it's not. The similarly constructed Dainese Pro Short ($99) is infinitely superior to the flimsy stuff that comes with most motocross pants, even if it does look like post-apocalyptic unisex lingerie. Dainese Knee V guards ($69) are equally superior to the cheap, disposable kind used by those with cheap, disposable knees.

After a year of abuse, my Klim Inversion Jacket ($299; has outlived the former inhabitants of my gear bag 2:1. Gore Windstopper fabric lives up to its name, and is essentially waterproof as well. The main zipper's storm flap won't lie flat in the wind, but that's my only complaint. With a sweat-wicking Klim Inferno Shirt ($90) and suitable long johns underneath, it's warm enough for anything but winter days when sane people are inside anyway. Ventilation is good enough for dog-day afternoons, and the sleeves zip off if it gets really hot. Klim's Dakar Pants ($139) are equally adaptable. Cut from 840 Denier Cordura with 1682 Denier in the butt and knees, mine look embarrassingly new after a dozen trips through the underbrush and at least as many in the laundry. The same goes for my Klim Inversion gloves ($46), which have proven functional, trustworthy and astoundingly durable.

Once my Shoei Hornet DS helmet ($486; is on my head, I rarely think about it again until the end of the day. It's more neutral at speed than any pure-dirt lid. That face shield is far quieter and more comfortable than goggles on inevitable 33-degree mornings until the going gets too rough/dusty/muddy, at which point the eye port is barely big enough. Changing those $60 shields could be easier too.

Sidi's Crossfire TA boots ($450; go on/off fairly easily, without any awkward inner booties. They're incomparably protective and holding up better than any other off-road boots I've owned. My ankles deserve no less than the boots that won our sister publication Dirt Rider's shootout. If they're good enough for Dakar hero Jimmy Lewis, they're good enough for me.

Personal Best - Tim Carrithers