Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 6)

Frank Thomas Strike Pants Reviewed

No stock photo this time.  These are an older model and really just being reviewed in the interest of being thorough.
I found these on sale at our local Cycle Gear a few years back.  I already had a full one-piece suit and a couple different jackets.  These pants opened up my comfort options for long rides with a fair number of stops.

Riding Impressions

My budget two piece setup was great, if only because it kept me from ever cutting the corner and riding in jeans.  It's a lot nicer to stop for lunch when you don't have to have your jacket dangling behind you!

Here's why I like them:

  • Comfort:  The pants have a nice liner and are cut for comfort rather than racing. 
  • Ventilation:  Large perforations in the thigh panels help keep things if not cool, at least reasonable on hot North Carolina summer days.  If wearing black leather can be described as "bearable" in the summer here, you are winning.
  • Price: I think I paid $169 for these.  That was quite inexpensive at the time.  There are more options today.
  • Pockets:  I was able to carry my wallet and keys comfortably in the pockets.  I could have put my cell phone in there but have always opted to keep it in my jacket.  For a piece of street-only gear, this is a big plus.

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Knee Slider Velcro Location:  Too far to the side for my riding style.  You can see on the right knee where I have scuffed the leather.  This wasn't from the crash.
  • Slightly Baggy Fit:  This is a pro for comfort, but not as good for safety.  If the leather can roll, it's more likely to tear or break a seam.
  • Lightly Armored:  Flimsy knee armor and very limited padding.  That's all you get.
  •  Jacket Attachment:  As far as I know, the only jacket that could be attached with the zipper in the rear without a bit of custom tailoring is a Frank Thomas made jacket.

After the Crash

The back of the pants.  Almost unscathed.
The pants took the least abuse in the crash.  I wonder if they touched down at all until after I left the asphalt.  The impact they did take was focused around the left knee.

How I Fared

No road rash on any part of me protected by the pants.  My left knee took some pretty significant impact trauma.  There was quite a bit of swelling and bruising at the top of my knee.  While this was all a bit unpleasant, there doesn't appear to be any damage that will not easy heal on its own.

How the Pants Fared 

Let's look at a few of the detail shots to see a bit more.

Seam failure at left thigh,  I believe this was caused by both the slightly loose fit and the fairly basic stitching.  Not much redundancy in the seams on these pants.  Luckily, the failure was in a location not subject to much impact or abrasion.
I had just replaced the knee pucks, so they show how minimal the contact was.  There is also a tiny bit of abrasion at the bottom right where the Velcro ends.  Note: Dainese sliders were all I could find locally.  Feels a bit like the an AMG badge stuck on a base C250. :)
More of the left knee.  Only slight abrasions on the stretch panel.  Lots of dirt, little damage.
Cheap knee armor with big crack.  Not CE rated, I feel like my knee would have been better protected by armor like what was in my AGV jacket reviewed in Part 4.
Cheap knee armor inside.  Is that made from recycled packing peanuts?


These pants were not great, but they were cheap, comfortable, and a hell of a lot better than jeans.  Given that when I bought these I was broke, and they were the best I could afford, I don't really have any regrets.  They were on my list to replace, but I needed to do my helmet, jacket, and gloves first.  I will definitely be moving up market with my next pair, probably to a custom two-piece suit.

Thanks for reading, and safe riding to you all!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 5)

Spidi Carbo Track Gloves Reviewed

Photo borrowed from Spidi

Along with my jacket and helmet, my Spidi Carbo Track gloves were nearly new, with only a couple rides while wearing them.

Riding Impressions


I've been through many pairs of gloves over the last thirteen years.  I've worn out a few, and got tired of others.  Finding gloves that I really like has always been a struggle.  I tend to be happy with either the finger or the palm fit, but seldom both.  During my gear refresh this year, I decided to give moving upmarket a try.  I ordered in both the Spidi Carbo Track and Knox Biomech gloves to a local retailer so I could try them on.  The Knox turned out to run a full size small, but the Spidis fit very well.  I really liked the look and feel of the Carbo Track gloves, so I went ahead and coughed up the dough. 

Here's why I like them:

  • Feel:  The super-soft cowhide leather is great from a tactile standpoint.  These gloves do improve feel at the bars, throttle, and levers versus other gloves.
  • Looks:  Without a doubt, the coolest looking gloves I've ever had.  The real carbon fiber armor, "warrior armor", and great colors really add up to a unique and sharp looking glove. 
  • Fitment: The gauntlet closure system is great.  It allows easy adjustment, and always felt secure but never felt restrictive.
  • Ventilation:  The Carbo Tracks breathe well for a full-on racing glove.  There is a perforated layer that air flows between the fingers to reach..
  • Fit and Finish:  These gloves are a really big spend at $300, but they do look the part.  No rough seams, cuts, etc. 

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Tough Break In:  The armor on the pinkie finger is cool, but it is extremely uncomfortable until the gloves loosen up.  That said, they were much more comfortable after one all-day ride.
  • Slow to Put On and Remove:  You don't want to have to take one of these off and put it back on at a red light.  Between the relatively complex closure system and a tight wrist opening, it took me at least twice as long as most other gloves.
  • Cost:  $300 is a lot of money, especially for a pair of gloves. 
  • Hard to Find:  Dealers don't normally stock them.  Luckily Competition Accessories in Rock Hill, SC allowed me to order some in to try on before buying.

After the Crash

Like my boots, only the left glove sustained any damage.  My right hand hit something, but i think it was part of the bike, since there were no marks on the right glove.
I've been putting this review off  in hopes of hearing back from Spidi, but it's been a week and a half with no response to my request for contact.  More on this in a moment.  If I hear back, I will include the response in my final post in this series, detailing manufacturer responses.

How I Fared

When it comes to my hands, to put it bluntly, not as well as I think I should have.  I dislocated my right index finger and jammed my left wrist, thumb, index finger and pinkie pretty well.  I understand that hands and especially fingers are fragile, so I'd be inclined to let this slide.  What I do have a problem with is that I came up from the crash like this:
I recreated the scenario for this photo.  My pinkie came through the leather, and was sticking out just like this after the crash.  No seams failed, just the leather on the inside of the finger.  
Sorry for the crappy photo, this was taken while under the effects of the super-strong meds they shot me up with before I left the ER.  This was the only road rash I sustained in the crash, there's a pretty large chunk of meat missing from the back of my finger, the nail is smashed up, and there is a smaller abrasion on the fingertip.  I feel like I'm lucky it wasn't worse given how exposed my finger was.  Thankfully I wasn't sliding on asphalt for long at all. 

How the Gloves Fared

Aside from the aforementioned failure, the rest of the glove fared very well indeed.  They look like they might have been able to stand up to another crash of the same magnitude if it weren't for the pinkie failure.

The carbon armor took most of the slide.  It was visibly damaged, but protected well.  The other leather areas that touched down on the back of the left hand all show minimal abrasion damage. 


This review would have been very positive overall had it not been for the one failure.  With a $300 price tag and the MotoGP pedigree, I feel like it's a failure that should not have happened.  I'm also quite disappointed in the lack of response.  I have had a next day response from a manufacturer I had nothing but praise for, and a same-day after hours response from the one other manufacturer that I notified of a defect.  I will be posting a follow up on all of the manufacturer responses after I get my last review done.  Maybe by then I will have heard back from Spidi.  Late would be better than never.

As it stands, I cannot recommend these gloves.  I will be replacing them with something different.  I will probably give Knox another try in a larger size, and take a look at Held, Hazardous, and maybe a couple of others.

Thanks for reading, and safe riding to you all!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 4)

AGV Sport Photon Jacket Reviewed

Image borrowed from AGV Sport
 Another piece of nearly-new gear this time.  I bought this jacket a few months ago after deciding that my one-piece suit was just too awkward for group rides to the mountains with lots of stops.  I had a pair of leather pants, but I wanted something to replace my old Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh jacket.  Something that would provide a bit more protection.  I never really had complete faith in mesh jackets, even if the airflow is appealing in the heat and humidity in North Carolina.

Riding Impressions


This jacket was a bit of an impulse buy, but it quickly became one of my regular pieces of gear.  Being lightly perforated, it flows just enough air to be tolerable on a hot summer day.  The fit of the jacket is much more of a "race" profile than most jackets sold as separates.  The arms are deeply pre-curved, and the jacket fits very closely.

Here's why I like it:

  • Looks:  I really like the styling of this jacket.  Visible without being too flashy, and the logos are not overdone.  I got lots of compliments on this jacket, from riders and non-riders alike.
  • Price:  Like most AGV products, the price is very reasonable at $300 MSRP and deals to be found at various dealers.
  • Comfort:  Some may see it as a con, but I like the race fit.  The jacket stays in place better than most, and isn't prone to riding up.  Neoprene at the wrists and neck are another nice comfort touch. 
  • Armor: The jacket comes with CE approved, dual-density internal armor, and a soft foam back pad.  There is also external hard armor on the shoulders.  Very well-equipped for a jacket in this price range.
  • Leather Quality:  AGV selected some nice hides for this jacket, the leather is soft and flexible.  The colors are also very well-done.
  • Removable liner:  I like it because I can take it out!  It's too hot for liners here most of the time.  There is still a mesh lining to keep you from sticking to the jacket and hold the armor.

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Ventilation:  I feel like better perforation would have improved this jacket.  It also would have been nice if the perforations in the back pad had been completely cleared.  I just discovered this today while shooting photos.  It might have been a bit better had the holes all been punched all the way out. 
  • Pocket Placement:  The inside pockets are fine, but the external pockets are high enough up that they are quite awkward to use.

After the Crash

Along with the left side of my helmet, the left shoulder of the jacket took the biggest hit.

I think I've established my belief in always wearing the right gear in my prior posts, so let's get on with the analysis.

How I Fared


Most of my injuries fall into this review, so we aren't off to a good start.  I have a broken collar bone, two cracked ribs, and two small compression fractures in my back.  To be fair, I hit really hard on my left shoulder, but I do wonder if a different jacket might have offered better protection.  I do not have any road rash on my arms or torso, so abrasion protection was satisfactory.

How the Jacket Fared 


The jacket sustained considerable damage in the crash.  While it could possibly be repaired by a professional, I will be replacing it rather than repairing.  This is the first of my reviews where I feel some components underperformed or failed completely.  On to the photos:

This shoulder plate took the initial hit and slide.  I'm glad for the external armor, It seems to have been well placed and effective.

A couple small tears above the armor plate, these weren't too bad, nor were they surprising.
Failed seams at the shoulder stretch panels.  Not good.
The failed seams open up enough area to put my hand into the shoulder cavity from outside.  This isn't good at all!  I wonder if this might have allowed the internal armor to displace, exposing my shoulder to greater impact. 
Back pad along with left-side internal shoulder and elbow armor.  The armor shows no visible damage.  The lack of damage to the shoulder armor makes me think it might have been displaced.  I was expecting dirt or abrasion on the armor after finding the huge hole exposed by the failed seams.
The leather and stitching lower down on the left side saw mild abrasions, and fared much better.
Perforations in the back pad, only a couple of which were punched out all of the way.


The AGV Photon was an excellent jacket to ride in, but I can't give it a positive review for performance when it really counts.  I (obviously) don't want to crash again, but if I do, I don't want to be in the same jacket.  The usual caveats apply: this was a sample size of one, may have been a fluke, and I may have suffered the same injuries had the seam failures not occurred.  That said, I can't shake the feeling that this jacket was one of the vulnerabilities in my gear that day.  As always, I will share this information with AGV Sport and invite them to respond. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 3)

Sidi Vertigo Boots Reviewed

Photo borrowed from Motonation
Unlike my nearly new helmet from my last post, my Sidi Vertigos were the grizzled old veteran of my gear collection.  I had more than five years, and many thousands of miles on them.

Riding Impressions

These were my first proper pair of sport/race boots after many years of riding in combat boots.  The transition did take a little getting used to, but after a couple of rides I couldn't have gone back.  In addition to the obviously superior protection provided versus my previous boots, I was amazed at how much more feedback and support I got just by having the right boots for the job.  It's all about having the right tool for the job.

Here's why I like them:

  • Feel:  The thin, rigid sole provides much more feedback from the footpegs, and much more positive shifting and use of the rear brake (if you use that thing).
  • Riding Comfort:  Once broken-in, the boots were very comfortable for riding, and the better support from the sole actually reduced fatigue on long or fast rides.  They are also very lightweight.
  • Looks:  The Vertigos come in a bunch of color options, so there's something for everyone.  They're visible and certainly look the part of a really nice bit of racing kit.
  • Fitment: The adjustable calf system is one of the best features of Sidi boots, it's quick and easy to size them properly for different gear, or just to get the ideal fit.  Just twist the little dial on the back of the boot to tighten as needed. This makes it easy to wear the boots over your leathers or under your jeans.  Also of note is that this setting is retained even if you take the boots off due to the side-zip design.
  • Ventilation:  Although I did not get the Vertigo Air, which is perforated, I never had heat issues with these boots.  The side vents really do channel a fair amount of air.
  • Replaceable Components:  The ability to remove/replace armor pieces and toe sliders is a nice touch.
  • Fit and Finish:  These are high-end boots, and they look and feel that way. 
  • Warranty and Support:  I never needed it, but the five year warranty is nice.  Always good to know the company is going to stand behind their product.  It also seems that Motonation, Sidi's US distributor has a good community presence and is very responsive.  I checked out their Facebook page prior to writing this, and will be posting a link to their wall to allow response to this article.  
  • Women's Sizes:  Sidi also offers the Vertigo Lei model for women.  It has a slightly different cut and size range, but all of the same technical features as the men's boot.  It is a rarity to find top-quality gear with female-specific fitment.  I got my girlfriend, Magda, a pair earlier this year.  I'll ask her to comment on riding her CBR with them.

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Calf Adjustment and Vents:  It is possible to bump these into things walking around and change your setting without realizing it.  Luckily these can be fixed very quickly, even while riding.  Not a big issue, but definitely something I noticed.
  • Fitment Issue:  The Vertigo does not have adjustable tension across the top of the foot like the Vertigo Corsa / Vortice boots (higher priced models) do.  My boots broke in to be a little loose in this area, so that's a feature I would have liked to have.
  • Wear and Dirt:  My boots did show wear and dirt very quickly on the red areas.  This would likely be less of a problem with black boots, and more of one with white.  
  • Visibility:  On the bike, this is obviously fine, but off the bike, especially if I happened to be making a short trip in jeans, I often had to explain why I was wearing Iron Man shoes.  Not for the extreme introvert.
  • Squeaky:  They can be a bit noisy when just walking around, not too bad, but don't plan on being able to sneak up on anyone.  Some at my old job found it disruptive when I wore them.  The SQL Sentry crowd just finds them amusing.

After the Crash

Left boot was the only one that hit anything, it slid across approximately ten to fifteen feet of asphalt, and about that much dirt and gravel afterwards.

Again we reach the time for the important bit, and a little bit more preaching from me about wearing the right gear.  Even if you don't go to a full-on roadracing boot like the Vertigos, get proper motorcycle boots.  It will make riding not only more pleasant, but safer as well.  Here in North Carolina, I see more tennis shoes than anything on other riders.  I even see a dumbass wearing flip-flops at least once a month.  I can put my Sidis on faster than my tennis shoes thanks to the side zips, so there's really no excuse.  If you want something lower cut, or something that you'd feel more comfortable wearing in a non-riding setting, there are loads of options.

How I Fared

I'll preface this by saying that the impact force of this particular crash was definitely focused on my head and shoulder.  That being said, as far as my toes, feet, shins, ankles, and calves are concerned: what crash?  No injury, no marks, no pain, not even a little bit.  End of story.  For this particular incident, these boots were perfect. 

How the Boots Fared

Like my helmet, my boot (the left one) gave its life to protect me.  While I could probably still wear them, I wouldn't trust them to stand up to a second crash.  Even without a crash, I don't think they'd hold together for too long.  That said, it was nice that I was able to put them on and wear them out of the hospital until I could get to some comfy tennis shoes.  On to the photos!

They still look like boots!  The right boot is in the foreground, and obviously looks much better.  The lower portion versus the upper shows where the red got discolored over the years.

Crash closeup #1.  The left boot's vent is destroyed, and this is not a replaceable part.  There is also a hole right near the sole, I believe from the shift lever.  It is important to note that this does not penetrate into the interior of the boot.  It stops short of the insole.  These two areas make the boot done for as far as I am concerned. 
The toe slider also took a large portion of the damage, and collected a sample of the local vegetation! :)  This and the prior photo clearly illustrate how hard parts touch down first on these boots.  It looks like this boot would have been able to withstand a much longer slide without much issue.
The trademark calf adjustment mechanism.  the little red wheel at the back of the boot adjusts the tension on the clear mono filament lines visible between the Sidi logo and the red armor plate.  The black button below the wheel is the release. 

Another look at the red on the right boot, looking every bit of its age.


Overall, I would rate my Sidi Vertigos as excellent, and would recommend them to anyone.  They served me well for many years, and when the time came, they did their job.

I will be buying another set of Sidi boots, but I think I may upgrade to the Vortice Air.  I don't like the price tag on the Vortice at nearly $500 street price, but I'll hunt around for a good deal.  I think the extra adjust ability and a bit of extra armor is worth it, since I plan to do more track riding in the future.  I'll also be switching to black.  I think they will age better.

Thanks for reading, and safe riding to you all!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crash and Burn (Part 2)

Bell Star Carbon Reviewed

Photo borrowed from Bell Powersports

After using Shoei helmets for most of my riding career, this year I decided to try something different, and bought the Bell Star Carbon.  I loved the carbon look, and the helmet was getting great reviews.  Once I got to see it in person and try it on, I understood why.  Bell helmets were the leader for many years, but when I started riding, they had fallen far behind.  Recently though, Bell has returned as a serious competitor...every bit of a match for Shoei and Arai, widely regarded to be the best.

Riding Impressions

This became my favorite bit of gear after the first ride!  I was always satisfied with my Shoei RF-900, but what a difference 10 years of design makes!  The Star Carbon was better in almost every way.

Here's why I like it:

  • Aerodynamics:  The helmet cuts through the wind so easily, it is stable at any speed.
  • Ventilation:  The Star Carbon felt air-conditioned compared to anything else I've worn.  This was the most striking observation from my first ride.
  • Visibility:  Great in every direction, comparable to my old RF-900.
  • Looks: High-tech and understated.  I'm getting too old for flashy lids! :)
  • Comfort:  After wearing it for a few rides, perfect.  The interior of this helmet is beautiful.
  • Fit and Finish:  Everything about it looks and feels like a super-premium helmet. It even comes with a sweet carry bag.
  • Gizmos!:  Magnetic strap retention and the optional Transitions shield are phenomenal.  I cannot imagine not having these on every helmet I own from now on.

Here's what I don't like quite as much:

  • Noise:  Earplugs are a must.  This is the price you pay for spectacular ventilation, and I think it's a fine trade off.
  • Price:  This is a premium helmet at a premium price.  $649 for the helmet plus $120 for the Transitions shield is a big spend!  That said, I still think it's a fair price for what you get.
  • I'm really reaching for cons here.  It was hard to find one in-stock anywhere in Charlotte to try on. 

After the Crash

After the crash
Now for the part of the review you don't normally get.  When I went down, the brunt of the impact was borne by my left shoulder and the left side of my head.  Without a helmet, I wouldn't be here.  It's really that simple.  No matter what you ride or where, a high-quality helmet should never be regarded as optional, regardless of the laws of your state.

How I Fared

I was a bit dazed immediately following the crash, but I was conscious.  I understood what happened, where I was injured, and was able to communicate immediately and effectively with my friends and emergency personnel.  Aside from some light bruising on the left side of my forehead and cheekbone, there was no visible injury.  A head CT scan came back negative for problems.  In short, my head was nearly unscathed.  The Star Carbon did its job flawlessly as far as I'm concerned.  The visor even stayed attached and in the down position in spite of the impact striking right at the attachment point.  This is a common point of failure.

How the Helmet Fared

Needless to say, helmets are a one-use item.  This one gave its life to save mine.  That said, upon inspection, some interesting details emerge.  The pictures will do most of the talking here.

The vertical line is where the carbon fiber shell broke along the ridge at the rear of the helmet.  I suspect this is a designed point of failure, allowing the energy of the impact to dissipate.

The chin curtain was the only thing out of place, and I left it as it was after the crash.  It is flexible and did not interfere in removing the helmet.

With the interior padding removed, cracks in the hard foam inner shell are visible.  More energy dissipated.

A few more faint cracks and deformations are visible in the interior, well-spread across the helmet.


I can't sum it up any better than this: my next helmet will be another Bell Star Carbon.  I hope that I never need it like I did this one, but if I do, I know I'm well protected.

This review might sound a bit gushy, but it's honest.  There were some letdowns from my gear, but none from my helmet.  Thanks Bell, well done!

Thanks for reading, and safe riding to you all!

Crash and Burn (Part 1)

This is a project I've meant to start for quite some time.  Why the sudden end to my procrastination?  A few reasons, but first among them is that I find myself with time on my hands.

On Saturday July 20th 2013, I was in a motorcycle crash on Old NC Highway 18 near Morganton, NC.  I went down after contact with road debris at corner entry.  I just missed seeing a stick about the size of a toilet paper tube that took me down.  It's humbling to an experienced rider to be taken out by a piece of kindling, but that's the way of things sometimes.  On the bright-side, though the bike was totaled, my injuries will be nothing but a memory in a couple of months.  I broke my clavicle, and a couple of ribs, and suffered a couple of tiny compression fractures in my back.  What I don't have is any road rash aside from a little scrape on my pinky finger., because I was in full safety gear at the time of the crash.  

Enough about the crash, that’s just background for why I’m writing today.  The real reason I’m typing one-handed with my other arm still in a sling is to review the performance of the gear I was wearing at the time of the crash.  If there is a good side to what happened, it is an opportunity to provide the motorcycle community with a review of my gear’s performance when it really counted.

Never, ever go without a helmet.  A low-speed crash can still crack stronger-than-steel carbon fiber!

 Keep in mind that this is done with a sample size of one, and your results may vary.  Hopefully the only part of my reviews you will ever get to validate are the pre-crash opinions.  In cases where I have found a product did not meet my expectations, I have contacted the manufacturer to offer them the opportunity to respond or request the item for analysis.  Those responses will be posted when and if they are available.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will begin the reviews with the Bell Star Carbon helmet pictured above.


Enjoying some of the great roads North Carolina has to offer.
Hi, I'm Scott Fallen, and this is my first excursion into the blogosphere.  This page is going to be a mix of pretty much everything that interests me, and hopefully some of it will interest and entertain you.  I'll be posting about my varied personal and professional interests.  The title of the blog is a pretty good hint of what to expect: motorcycles, SQL Server, food, and travel.

Let's hit some of the highlights:

  • I live in Huntersville, North Carolina, and I'm originally from Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
  • I work as a Sales Engineer for SQL Sentry, a software company.  I love my job!
  • My lovely girlfriend, Magda, lives in Dublin, Ireland.
  • Between a long-distance relationship and my job, I travel often.
  • I have perhaps too many hobbies, but my passion for the last thirteen years has been motorcycles.   
  • I love food, especially sushi.
If it sounds like some or all of this might interest you, stay tuned!