RS Taichi GP Max R070 Leathers And GP Max Gloves, Alpinestars Supertech R Boots, Shoei X-11 Helmet
At A Recent Sr Track Test Held At California's Buttonwillow Raceway, SR's El Jefe was getting in some warm-up laps on a frigid December morning when the rear tire of the R6 he was riding let go completely without warning in the 90-mph, left-hand kink before the Lost Hills section. The bike instantly went totally sideways with no chance of saving it, so he was forced to hit the eject button just before the Yamaha high-sided itself into oblivion, putting him on the deck at high speed. His riding gear consisted of RS Taichi's GP MAX R070 leathers and GP MAX gloves, Alpinestars' new Supertech R boots and Shoei's X-11 helmet.
The GP MAX leathers represent RS Taichi's latest innovations in rider protection and comfort, featuring the company's high-quality 1.5mm Japanese leather that is very pliable for comfort yet exceptionally abrasion- and tear-resistant. A new 3-D pattern was developed for the suit, with perforated leather flex panels in the elbows, knees, shoulders and waist, plus elastic Schoeller Keprotec Kevlar fabric on the underarms, sleeves and legs, and a Y-shaped section in the crotch area ensuring ease of movement. CE-approved armor protection is utilized in the shoulder (15mm thickness) and elbows/knees (20mm thickness) while impact-absorbing 10mm-thick T-foam padding covers the ribs, collarbone, shoulder blades, tailbone and hips. Ventilation is provided by perforated leather panels in the front portion of the upper torso, arms and legs, along with ergonomically designed polyurethane plastic shoulder caps that not only furnish additional impact protection but also feature the company's T-AIR intake scoop for extra ventilation. The aerodynamic hump on the back of the leathers also has internal air passages that channel airflow to the rider's back while offering added protection. Wide neoprene fabric on the collar and wrist cuffs prevents chafing in those areas, a nice touch for even more comfort.
RS Taichi's leathers have always been one of El Jefe's favorites, offering unrivaled comfort and fit while providing excellent protection (one set he wore during his racing years endured three 80-plus-mph crashes in one season without needing repair). Yet despite its superb protective qualities, the GP MAX suit provides exceptional flexibility and mobility for the rider while also remaining fairly lightweight, unlike some other suits that may not only supply the protection of a medieval suit of armor but feel like one, too. The RS Taichi suit's ventilation qualities are also first-rate.
The GP MAX glove utilizes Pittards ARMOR-TAN leather, which increases basic glove leather's abrasion resistance by chemically bonding a type of ceramic "armor plating" around the tiny fibril bundles that make up leather's basic microscopic structure. The fingers and palm are anatomically cut in a precurved fashion for comfort, with the company's "Split Armor System" using Schoeller Keprotec to provide impact protection for the knuckles without loss of mobility due to its innovative multilayered structure that prevents binding. EVA foam is used underneath the armor, as well as the heel of the palm for additional impact protection, and injection-molded rubber cuffs shield the wrist area. A hook-and-loop wrist strap and cuff flap handle retention duties. The same fit and comfort qualities of the RS Taichi GP MAX leathers apply to the GP MAX gloves as well. They are easily among the most comfortable and best-fitting gloves we've worn, plus they offer outstanding control feel.
Alpinestars' Supertech R boot is the Italian company's latest top-of-the-line roadracing footwear, replacing the previous Supertech model. Using synthetic leather for the majority of its outer construction, the Supertech R features the same style of inner-boot structure as the old model but with numerous changes aimed at improved mobility and protection. The inner-boot structure has a redesigned double-hinged ankle brace and specially developed foot and leg plates (all made with a fiberglass-infused polyamide plastic) that offer greater impact protection while progressively absorbing flex and rotational stress, thus reducing pressure and hyperextension injuries to the lower leg joints. Closed-cell foam is used internally throughout the inner boot for comfort, and a speed-lace closure system in front ensures snug and precise fit.
The outer boot has a side-opening zipper that runs along the outside of the leg with a stretch bellows panel for a snug fit with ease of entry and exit. A full-length suede leather panel on the inside offers better grip and feel with the motorcycle. Numerous vents in front of the boot provide cooling airflow (the white and black versions of the Supertech R have perforated sections for additional venting as well), and the heel area is surrounded by a TPU plastic protective cup with replaceable heel slider (working with the aluminum insert on the outside of the heel to prevent the boot from catching on the pavement while sliding). The upper TPU plastic shin protector has hook-and-loop fabric inside to ensure a positive and snug closure, with an adjustable ratcheting strap up top for even more security. A gaiter at the top rim of the boot keeps out debris, and the clip-in replaceable TPU plastic toe sliders can be upgraded to magnesium units.
The new Supertech R basically addresses nearly all the complaints we had with the old Supertech boot. The side-entry zipper is much better than the outdated rear entry, overall ankle and foot support is much better and feels more secure, and the R does away with many of the overly flashy components that adorned the old Supertech. Peg feel and grip are superb. About the only gripe we have with the new Supertech R is that the plastic toe sliders can wear away quickly and cause you to wear into the boot if you have a tendency to drag your toes while cornering aggressively.
Ever since we first tried Shoei's X-11 helmet (June '03) it's been one of the staff favorites. Constructed using the company's "AIM+" (Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus) blend of synthetic and organic materials-including Dyneema, a textile claimed to be lighter and stronger than Kevlar-in the shell, the X-11's fit and finish are excellent, and it's very lightweight in comparison with cheaper helmets. And as we've said before, the Shoei's ventilation system is the best, bar none. Even its aerodynamics are superb, with less lift and buffeting at speed than most other helmets.
As described in the opening paragraph El Jefe's crash wasn't a simple lowside (much as he might've wished). Just as the Yamaha's rear end reached the point of no return, instead of just spinning out into a lowside fall the rear tire began to hook up, and Kunitsugu quickly realized that unless he stepped off the bike at that point he might have had to register a flight plan with the FAA. Unfortunately, even though he stepped off just as the bike flipped, his momentum threw him forward as he hit the pavement at about 80 mph, with the right shoulder and arm taking the brunt of the initial impact and his helmet receiving a smack from both the pavement and one of the bike's tires before tumbling off the track and skittering into the dirt field.
Amazingly Kunitsugu suffered no injuries whatsoever (other than a little soreness of the two middle digits on his left hand from what he thinks was the bar being ripped from his hand just before he ejected). In fact he was well enough-and his gear survived enough-to continue testing for the rest of the day. The RS Taichi leathers suffered some nasty scuffing (especially on the plastic shoulder cap) but never wore through or tore anywhere, and the gloves only had minor scuff marks. The Alpinestars boots were scraped up pretty good in a number of areas, but no foot or lower leg injuries were sustained. Despite scraping off one of the rear vents and some paint-plus getting a little rubber mark from one of the bike's tires-in the crash, Kunitsugu suffered no head injuries, and the Shoei X-11 was still plenty usable (even though he retired it at the end of the day just to be on the safe side). Yet another example of how quality safety gear can protect you from even the nastier falls.
RS Taichi has a repair service for its leathers that we will be showing the results of in a later issue. The GP MAX R070 suit retails for $1755.95, and is available in white/red, white/blue and black/silver in sizes 40-50. The GP MAX gloves cost $189.95 and come in red, yellow, blue, gunmetal and black, in sizes S-XXXL. Alpinestars' Supertech R boots retail for $399.99 and are available in black, white/black "GP tracks" (vented), black/red, black/blue, black/silver (vented) and white/black (vented) in sizes 5-12.5 U.S./35-48 Euro. The Shoei X-11 helmet is available in a variety of solid and racer-replica colors (prices range from $587.99 to $692.99) in sizes XXS-XXL.