Arai Profile Helmet and Spidi Admiral Oversuit
Much as we hate to, occasionally we end up fulfilling the complete test of riding gear and evaluating its abilities during an up-close pavement inspection. Such was the case when a wayward auto tried to occupy the same space as Editor Kunitsugu on a busy Los Angeles freeway, punting him off the ZX-10R he was riding and onto the ground at 30-35 mph. Thankfully, he suffered no major injuries, and his riding gear did its job well.
Up top, Kunitsugu was wearing the new Arai Profile helmet. Intended as a replacement for the Signet, the Profile boasts some of Arai's latest helmet technology (and alphabet acronym soup), such as its SCLC (Super Complex Laminate Construction) shell that uses proprietary aerospace fiberglass methods to ensure an outer shell with excellent energy-absorbing characteristics. New with the Profile is a "hyper-ridge reinforcement band" along the bottom of the outer shell that strengthens that area, as well as around the rear exhaust vents. The shell shape is said to be narrower and more aerodynamic when the rider turns his head, with the "long oval" shape similar to the Signet. Also, the Profile's EPS foam liner is unique in that it is not only multiple density but also single piece.
Speaking of vents, the Arai acronyms just keep on comin'. Besides the two forehead vents, there are two new TDF-2 intake ducts on top (wider and flatter than the Signet units, with larger vent holes), and the two new DDL-3 (Double Delta) bridged exhaust vents-a further development of the rear spoiler vents that began with the Quantum series-on the upper rear of the helmet, plus enhanced side port vents on each side that are designed to draw air more efficiently out of the helmet. Arai's signature Super-Adsis tool-less shield change mechanism also remains on the Profile.
The Profile's overall fit and finish basically follows in the footsteps of all Arai helmets-excellent. Comfort is unrivaled, and the venting system is the best yet for a non-RX-7 Corsair Arai. Shield action and sealing is very good, although that is part of our only real complaint with the Arais: learning how to remove and install shields can take a bit of getting used to (in fact, Arai now includes a DVD with the helmets showing the process to help).
As far as the Profile's performance in the crash, the result was basically the same-excellent. As you can see from the photo, the helmet took a pretty good hit on the right side that was hard enough to gouge pretty deep into the paint. No injuries were suffered as a result.
Overall body protection was handled by Spidi's Admiral one-piece oversuit. We originally published an SR Tested on the Admiral oversuit in the July '05 issue, so look to that issue for the construction and feature details. After spending a good amount of time with the suit, however, there are some follow-up long-term observations that bear mentioning.
Our first test unit encountered problems with the rubberized main zipper after a few months of wear. First, we noticed a very small amount of leakage at the left knee area after a couple of wet rides, where the somewhat stiff zipper makes a major bend. The cause appeared to be the lip that seals the zipper was opening up slightly due to the force of bending around the knee. That later manifested itself into the zipper failing to stay fastened and splitting apart in that area after it was closed up. Motonation, Spidi's U.S. distributor, immediately replaced the oversuit upon exchange as per Motonation's satisfaction-guaranteed policy. We have had no problems since with the replacement suit.
The Admiral oversuit's crash performance was excellent. One aspect we like about the Admiral is that the hard armor is well designed, and unlike some other textile apparel, it stays in place and doesn't "roll over" during impact. This surely contributed to why, despite tumbling (rather than sliding, due to the circumstances of the crash) to a stop, Kunitsugu suffered no major injuries whatsoever. And while the Cordura fabric obviously doesn't have the same abrasion resistance as leather, it still holds up well enough to keep the wearer from suffering any abrasion injuries in most moderate-speed falls. Only the right knee area of the Admiral suit wore through in Kunitsugu's crash. Otherwise, there were only minor scuffs on the shoulders and right knee.
You're probably wondering why we're not listing the Sidi Vertebra Air boots and RS Taichi GP Max gloves Kunitsugu was also wearing during his accident. The reason is because we couldn't find any marks on them, so while we can say they protected well (no foot or hand injuries), we can't say anything about their crash durability.
Icon Squad Backpack
My what a big...backpack you have. This picture doesn't show how huge Icon's Squad backpack really is, but measuring 24x16x8 inches, it could probably fit even a kitchen sink. One huge storage compartment makes up most of the volume, and there is an additional padded laptop compartment accessible from the bottom. Other compartments include an interior sleeve for papers and zippered side pockets built into the main compartment's compression straps.
With all that space available, the Squad can get quite heavy and it has an elaborate harness to support that weight. Two padded mesh straps are joined in the middle with a short zipper, forming a four-point-harness arrangement. Our initial thought was that the straps were uncomfortable, but carefully adjusting the harness so that the zippered portion sits at sternum height makes a huge difference, and the pack is quite comfortable even when fully loaded. The pack is long enough that it can rest on the seat behind you when riding, which can be good (taking the weight off your shoulders) or bad (getting caught in the seat's slope) depending on the bike and riding position.
One nice feature of the backpack is the drop-down helmet compartment, which can be used to carry a helmet once arriving at your destination and tucks away in the bottom of the main compartment when not in use. As with other Icon products we've tried, the backpack's design is well thought out and sturdily constructed from heavy-duty materials. The straps and back area are all nicely padded, and the strong zippers have Velcro tabs to lock them closed.
It's easy to lose things in the Squad backpack's one huge compartment, and it would be more convenient in most situations to have more smaller places to pack items away. It's still a great pack for everyday use or long trips and well worth the $80 price tag. The Squad is available in orange or black.
Shift Super Street Jacket
A relative newcomer to the street apparel market, Shift has quickly expanded its line to include leather and textile gear as well as casual wear. The Super Street jacket is made from 1.2-1.4mm full grain leather, and has all the features you'd expect in a top-line jacket: armor in the shoulders and elbows that is CE approved, a quilted, removable vest liner, various stretch panels and perforated areas for ventilation and reflective piping for visibility. A pocket is provided for a back protector, and a thin foam panel is included.
The Super Street jacket has some nice characteristics that add to its comfort and usability. The shoulder armor has an additional layer of foam that is attached to-and moves with-the inner mesh liner, making that area more comfortable as well as better protected. The mesh liner also has two layers in some areas as well as its own stretch panels. And the neck has an area of padded cloth material that is quite comfortable. On the outside of the jacket, almost the entire inner arm area is a stretch fabric, and the shoulder and elbow areas have stretch leather panels. The jacket has two inner and two outer pockets.
We didn't test the jacket's abrasion qualities, but protection appears to be ample with thick leather, strongly stitched seams and extra padding and leather in the right areas. Venting is provided by perforated panels in the shoulder and neck areas, small molded vents on the tops of the shoulders and mesh panels in the chest and upper arm areas. While the jacket's venting is adequate for warm days, it's a bit chilly during spring and fall weather. The jacket's usability would be greatly expanded with the ability to close the venting that's there, making it more adaptable to be worn almost year round. That aside, the jacket is quite comfortable, looks to provide plenty of protection and offers quality on par with much more expensive leather jackets. The Shift Super Street costs $350 and is available in black, blue, red or yellow in sizes XS to XXL.