Overviews of the gear used during two year of RTW riding
Aerostich Transit 2 Jacket
This is the closest I can imagine to a “lifelong” riding jacket. Made with breathable leather on top of a Gore-Tex shell, every component is premium and somehow compatible with practically every possible riding condition I ran into on the road. The leather is perforated to allow moisture out, yet it kept wind and rain at bay (layers underneath always helped). I looked comparatively to other riding gear while traveling and I never saw another jacket I would have swapped it for. The difference maker being that this one is designed to last practically forever, whereas some of the more popular jackets you see online are great all-purpose gear, for the short duration until they need to be discarded and replaced with the next year’s model.
Not that this one is indestructible and the robust impact padding felt like wearing a suit of armor on the road. The leather did prove extremely durable, but two years of real-world aging did take a toll (and I will note continuous HARD usage that very few jackets face over two years). The inner pouch zipper was lower quality and lasted one year before I needed to have a tailor replace it. After about 14 months a couple teeth in the much more robust front zipper bent - compromising it but fortunately I could still make it work. The leather visibly needed reconditioning by the 16 month mark. And by the 22 month mark the Gore-Tex fabric at along the inner elbows had worn and begun to fray. But due its design and materials, pretty much the entire jacket is refurbishable and I will gladly pay a tailor to have it with me for the next ride.
Aerostich Darien Riding Pants
The Transit 2 jacket had a companion set of Aerostich leather riding pants. I tried them, but quickly returned them. While the weight of the leather jacket was easy to adapt to, the weight (and stuffiness) of full leather pants is ill-suited for life on a long round-the-world trip. Instead I got their Darien pants which are Gore-Tex lined and easily unzippable on the sides for breathability. In general though they are indistinguishable from the vast majority of riding pants sold by the other manufacturers. In other words, these types of pants all seem to fall apart after a certain usage. The waterproofing on the fabric seemed to fade away after 10 months (of non-stop usage of course). Reapplication of over-the-counter waterproofing never seemed to last very long on this type of fabric (I tried multiple times, with multiple versions). But, the pants did get very comfortable and broken-in after long-term usage (as long as the weather was dry). The zippers were pretty robust. The stitching on the pockets did fray away, and one design flaw (in my view) was the lack of extra layers of fabric on the kneecap – besides the butt, it is the point of contact a round-the-world rider wears the most due to lots of bike-side maintenance sessions. The fabric along the left knee-cap worn completely away on my pants, to eventually be replaced by black duct-tape. And while the knee armor was efficient and effective, it just never felt fully protective along the sides (front impact only).
Shoei Neotec Modular Helmet
It agitated to no end trying to select my first motorcycle helmet. I tried a half-dozen version, and all of them seemed to have some fit / form compromise. In addition, the cost – I just could not get over how expensive they were. For a while I was partial towards purchasing a Bell helmet since it just seemed like a neat design. But the wind noise was a deal-breaker. I liked a couple of the Schuberth helmets but there just was something deficient in their materials (something that I found confirmed with other riders who I met using them in the real-world). In the end I sucked up my pride and paid the hefty fee for a Shoei Neotec Modular helmet. No regrets. Outside of my jacket, it has been my best riding gear purchase. The form fit just was ideal for my head. The modular mechanism never failed (and it has clicked on and off more time than I can count). The fabric inside generally lasted as expected – at the end of my trip it has not yet disintegrated (but it is getting close and would need refurbishment if it stayed on the road). Above all, it provided a quiet comfort as well as supremely good ventilation options. The windshield was a bit of my bane – it took a lot of learning as a new rider to be more careful with avoiding scratches, and I did have to replace it twice during the trip. But that is less about the material and design and more about me. At least replacement and cleaning was not difficult.
Asolo TPS 520 GV Evo Hiking Boots
I knew before my two years on the road that I was going to do a lot more than riding. I wanted to spend weeks and weeks hiking, exploring cities, climbing, etc. So, I went with a friend’s recommendation on a very high-end Asolo waterproof hiking boot (Asolo TPS 520 GV Evo). To me, that was a better option than a traditional tall riding boot which – although providing better riding ankle support – absolutely sucks when trying to walk long distances. For me the Asolo’s worked, but barely. Their durability ended up being about 1 years of continuous usage (something that I found mirrored other online customer feedback). Yes, I did get cobblers in various countries to hack at them to try to fix soles that separated or lace teeth that pulled off. But the short shelf-life on them being “waterproof” was the rawest defect. I think within 6 months I could no longer anticipate dry feet (even with boot covers). The inner fabric began to disintegrate at about the 13 months and by the end of the 24 months I could barely call these shoes. It was nice to end the trip with the same boots, but in hindsight I would have gone with top-line riding boots paired with walking shoes stored in quick reach.
Aerostich Boot Raincovers
I went through two sets of these raincovers – both generally fell apart after 6-8 months, on top of losing their ‘waterproofing’ much earlier. For me, it was a trade-off in buying something that was very affordable and compact (these are marketed to be compact but thin bootcovers). No major complaints since I got what I paid for. I lost my second set and eventually found a generic set of boot covers at a dealership which were bulkier however more robust than these Aerostich versions.
Five Gloves SportsCity Black
During this trip I never could nail the right glove option. I think I cycled through 7 different types. My favorite were all old pair of leather driving gloves with no impact armor and no waterproofing. But, they just fit. I think I returned two sets of online purchased gloves at the start of the trip because of awkward fit (the index finger just was too long). I tried winter gloves when in Alaska and found the bulk irritating to my joints. I tried motor-cross gloves for comfort when riding in Central America, which were especially useful since they dried quickly after a rainstorm but still meant I have tactile grip on the handlebars. I bought one great pair of midseason gloves in Guatemala but I lost them in Tanzania along with any memory of their manufacturer. The gloves I kept for the greatest duration was this set of Five Gloves called Sport City. They were not waterproof, or designed for cold weather. But from a tactile perspective they were a perfect fit to my hand which to me was the most important aspect. And the knuckle armor not only was comfortable, but worked in the real world. They were just large enough to fit a thin thermal layer underneath when I reached the colder latitudes, and small enough to fit a plastic liner outside to waterproof during the rain. The finger was imbedded with material for touchscreen manipulation as well, essential for city navigation with the iPhone. Not the perfect glove for every situation, but unfortunately when traveling for years on the road it is hard to find space for multiple gloves. I was fine with force-fitting one glove to work in multiple climates instead.