Vanson SOLR Jacket, Xtreme Charge XC100, And More

MC Tested

Vanson SOLR Jacket

Words: David C. Walsh Photo: Vanson

Why, leather legends Vanson wondered, do some riders dress in such dark colors that motorists can't even see them while others' hi-viz vests make them look like refugees from a construction site? Enter an innovative compromise: the SOLR leather jacket, which literally glows in the dark. Forget the science-it'll make your teeth hurt. Just imagine some fairy dust has been sprinkled on, since that's the effect.

When the sun goes down, the jacket reflects like a camper's lumen stick. The black upper body glows bluish, while the white sleeves reflect super-bright, enhanced by Scotchlite piping. The reflective particles get recharged via daylight; household lightbulbs hurry the process. Each charge lasts four hours, and the finish itself for years-five and counting, the maker claims.

Otherwise, the SOLR is pure Vanson: full-grain, drum-dyed, competition-weight American cowhide, double-stitched or double-thick in the right areas. Features include an adjustable mandarin collar and waist, a slippery lining for ease of ingress/egress, plus CE-approved armor for elbows/forearms/shoulders and a rivet-plate spine protector. Inside, patented "roll screens" can be fastened out of the way to maximize airflow through the perforated chest. In colder weather zip in the optional Slipstreamer liner.

Stiff as hell, the SOLR jacket still broke in within a week. It comes in men's sizes 34 to 62, with custom and ladies sizes available.

Vanson's challenge was to get the animal-hide-wearing folks attuned to safety while converting the orange-vesters. The SOLR jacket succeeds. Nicely played, Vanson!

Vanson SOLR Jacket
Price: $699

Verdict 4/5 Stars
Functional, stylish conspicuity whether you ride a 'Busa or a Beemer.

Xtreme Charge XC100

Words & Photo: Chris Cimino

Every spring, it was the same problem: dead battery, followed by a quick charge that baked the battery, followed by a new battery. Then came maintenance chargers that promised to keep the battery topped up but couldn't really recharge one that was, well, dead. Enter the Xtreme Charge XC100 maintenance charger from Pulse Tech Products. Once attached, the XC first measures the battery's state of charge, then uses patented pulse technology to deliver a maximum charge for that battery type without overheating or damage. As the charge level nears 100 percent, the XC switches to an auto-float maintenance mode. The unit even will inform you if the battery is beyond hope when it doesn't reach 100 percent within 24 hours. In manufacturer tests, the XC achieved 100 percent charge in less time than leading chargers, maintaining that level until ready for use. It may also salvage an otherwise "dead" battery by minimizing the size of the lead-sulfate crystals through pulses, leaving it ready to accept and hold a charge. The XC works on all lead-acid batteries, including gel, AGM and maintenance-free units, making it a universal tool for the garage. The unit is fuse-protected and comes with quick-disconnect clamps and one set of leads. At less than $100 it's more expensive than most chargers or maintenance units. But considering it can bring back the dead and extend duty cycles for the living, it just may be a bargain.

Xtreme Charge XC100

Verdict 5/5 Stars
Bring out your dead-batteries, that is.

Big Ear In-Ear Speakers

Words & Photo: Eric Putter

In this iPod age, when we demand tunes 24/7, Big Ear-a high-end in-ear speaker manufacturer-has taken the expression "music in my head" to the next level.

Simply sit down at any of 100 motorcycle events nationwide or with one of 50 reps around the country while an imprint of each ear is made with a pasty silicone solution that hardens in minutes. These molds are then sent to the company's headquarters and returned to you within six weeks.

Designed for under-helmet use, the BE-1C ear buds we ordered are made from clear silicone and mounted on smooth-sided, acoustic vinyl bodies that have tiny speakers molded into each. The buds are hooked together with a 50-inch cord, have a 3.5mm brass stereo plug, come with a vinyl case and sport a one-year warranty.

In just one month, the BE-1Cs arrived. The fit is perfect and they're marked Left and Right for easy identification. The smooth backs don't snag on helmet liners, and once warmed up to body temperature their presence is minimally intrusive.

Hooked to an MP3 player, the ear buds proved to be so loud that the volume had to be turned way down, enhancing battery life. Their airtight seals produce great tonal response on the high (treble) and low (bass) ends, even at supra-legal speeds. Properly fit BE-1Cs are said to reduce wind noise by 30-35 decibels and we'd have to agree.

Big Ears are tops in quality and fit and sound great. No longer do music-loving motorcyclists have to choose between earplugs and in-ear speakers.

Big Ear In-Ear Speakers
Price: $299.95

Verdict 4/5/ Stars
Forget about factory stereos or helmet speakers-Big Ears blow them away!