Biking Gear: Phew! No more wet Wombles

Decent riding gear may save you from hypothermia, but looks terrible. Tim Luckhurst has the answer
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Wrapping myself in four layers of wool and wearing my girlfriend's winter tights under my jeans, I pulled on an imitation leather jacket and went riding anyway. When hypothermia threatened, I just stuffed newspaper down the jacket, in the hope of creating an effective layer of insulation.

I was aware that proper motorcycle clothing existed, but I did not contemplate buying any. It was possible to buy a secondhand sports bike with a year-long MoT certificate for less than the cost of a full set of insulated waterproofs.

But age and affluence have changed my priorities. Now I would not contemplate using my bike without proper protection. At any time of year, my wardrobe includes two sets of racing leathers (Texport and Berik) for track wear, an armoured, insulated leather jacket (Alpinestars) for summer, and two sets of insulated Gore-Tex jackets and trousers (Belstaff and Hein Gericke) for cold, wet, winter outings.

Together with racing or cruising boots, gloves for all weathers and the heated handgrips on my beloved eight-year-old BMW R1100RS, I am equipped for anything. I regularly demonstrate that it is possible to ride from Plymouth to Glasgow in late November without suffering.

But until recently there has been a sartorial problem. Although Gore-Tex and membrane technology now make it possible to stay warm and dry on a motorcycle in a downpour, by the end of the experience the rider will resemble a wet Womble with a weight problem.

This is OK if one is leaping straight into a hot shower and a change of clothes. But if you use a motorcycle to travel to work, as I do, it can be very embarrassing to lumber into an office in brightly coloured, heavily padded waterproofs.

Ensuring that you arrive early enough to change can wipe out all the time advantage gained by riding in the first place. For years, I have been seeking riding gear that works in all weathers but looks sufficiently stylish to wear off the bike.

And the problem is even more acute for female riders. In summer, it is perfectly possible for the young, svelte and prosperous to look adorable in all-in-one leathers, as worn by Marianne Faithfull in the 1968 classic Girl on a Motorcycle. But wet leathers look much less sexy, and padded waterproofs turn the best figure into a shapeless lump. And, despite efforts by, among others, Hein Gericke, Ducati and Harley-Davidson, the range of gear available in a full range of female styles and sizes remains depressingly limited.

So I am delighted with the BMW Streetguard 2 riding suit, which I borrowed to test six weeks ago and have now decided to buy. Only the most enthusiastic superlatives can describe this warm, stylish, highly visible outfit. I have worn it in Sardinian sun and Scottish rain. It is comfortable, versatile and, crucially, smart enough to wear off the bike.

In sunshine, the Streetguard 2 prevents overheating by reflecting sunlight away from its surface and maintaining a controlled inner temperature. BMW offers evidence that it is 12 per cent cooler than conventional waterproofs. In circumstances where I would normally expect to sweat profusely, it keeps my shirt dry.

But the real genius of the design is revealed when a rider goes from bright sunlight into heavy rain. The three-layer laminated Gore-Tex XCR fabric kept me completelydry across 140 miles of sodden Scottish motorway. It does not absorb water, as traditional membrane waterproofs do. This reduces the accumulated cold and weight - with which I am miserably familiar - and ensures that the suit dries extremely quickly as soon as the rain stops falling.

The Streetguard 2 incorporates removable hip, elbow, shoulder, back, knee and shin protectors as well as superb thermal insulation and secure storage pockets. It comes in 40 sizes and is cut in male and female styles. Cleverly, it avoids prominent BMW branding and you can wear the jacket without the trousers in warm climates.

When my wife said: "Wow, that really suits you" instead of: "Please put your gear in the cupboard," the decision to buy was taken. I think it will look just as good on her.

The Streetguard 2 riding suit comes in black and stone grey: jacket £475, trousers £345

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