Getting your gear just right for a long-distance motorcycle journey is as deep a rabbit hole as motorcycle mods or luggage solutions. There’s no shortage of options, everyone’s needs and expectations are different, and there are always going to be trade offs; to this day, I’m still not entirely sure whether my setup is the setup. The requirements I have for my riding gear are bordering on absurd – it needs to be adventure-ready but also work for dirt riding and rally racing, remain sturdy and durable while being lightweight, be waterproof but highly breathable, oh and yes, last for years – plus, it’d be nice if it was women’s gear… with a wish list like that, figuring out the perfect gear setup is nearly impossible. Here is what worked so far:
Adventure Riding Suit Specs
For years, I rode my DR650 around North and South America in the Klim Artemis suit. For adventure riding, the setup was perfect: I had a few bad crashes that Artemis absorbed in stride – not even a scuff mark after crashing and sliding on pavement and zero damage when involuntarily landing on dirt and gravel roads – and the suit worked in all temperatures since it features several vents as well as an outer GoreTex layer. Best of all, it was designed for women and fit perfectly; plenty of pockets, strategically placed vents, extraordinary durability and superb protection – what else would you want?
Nothing, if you stick with adventure riding; but as I began dabbling in amateur rally racing, I needed the gear to allow for more movement, be much more protective, and remain lightweight and breathable. That led me to the next gear evolution step: MX gear.
For rally races, I used Leatt armor under the Artemis jacket with removed armor pads; I figured, double protection wouldn’t hurt, but it was too restrictive and hot to race like that. Then, I switched to full-on Leatt exoskeleton – chest and back armour, neck brace, impact shorts, knee braces – and for rally racing, it was ideal. The knee braces have saved my knee from being crushed between rocks and a KTM450 landing on top of me, and the neck brace, in all likelihood, is the reason I got a way with just a mild concussion instead of severe trauma after landing head-first into a ditch due to a grossly miscalculated jump. All in all, although Leatt gear is unisex (read: aimed at men), the fit and the protection is so unparalleled I can’t see myself riding in anything else.
Except, of course, full MX gear is fantastic during races and dirt riding, but when I need to cover long distances on pavement, I find myself missing my Artemis.
So what’s a gal to do?
Mix and Match
At first, I tried to stick to the adventure suit for the adventure part of the journey and carry the Leatt armor in my panniers for the races and enduro-type riding or training. However, that means an entire pannier is dedicated to extra riding gear, and it just doesn’t seem that smart. In the end, I ended up opting for full Leatt body armor paired with a Leatt Enduro jacket, Leatt knee braces and neck brace, and Leatt boots over a pair of Dyneema jeans from Pando Moto for everyday riding and a pair of spare Leatt MX pants for the races. The reason for jeans is they seem to be more reliable in case of a crash on tarmac (MX pants are typically too easy to shred); plus, they’re breathable and comfy for everyday riding. The knee braces over jeans do not exactly have the most aesthetic look, but function over form, right; for boots, I’m sticking with hard and highly protective MX footwear – Leatt FlexLock – at all times, and after a recent higher-speed crash, I had to part with my old Klim Krios Pro helmet and try out a Nexx adventure model to see if it was more comfortable and lighter (so far, so good).
With this set up, the rain gear needs to come separately, and I still haven’t figure out a way to wear the heated jacket – under armor? Over armor? – but, since I do not tolerate cold well, I’m keeping it just in case. Knee-braces-over-jeans is a strange combination, but until I find an adventure/enduro pant hybrid that can accommodate the exoskeleton armor and have some abrasion and tear resistance, I don’t see a better way to go about it. The lightweight enduro jacket, on the other hand, works exceptionally well, and if Leatt comes out with a women’s gear line, I’ll be the happiest rider out there.
All in all, while there are excellent adventure and off-road gear options available, I’d like to see more hybrid gear that can serve both functions. What am I missing? What’s everyone wearing and what works best for both adventure, enduro, and rally riding? Share the wisdom in the comments below!