Saturday, May 26, 2007

GEARTALK: Supermoto Protective Clothing Part 1: Leather Suits


What type of protective clothing should you get?

Supermoto racing or riding has its own unique set of riding conditions and with those come a whole set of protective gear issues not found in other sports or activities.

For racers- we're talking about tracks with both asphault and dirt terrain, typically tighter tracks at lower speeds than roadracing and greater chances of contact between bikes during a race. A supermoto track will typically have one or two long straights, a lot of tight twisty sections, a few good jumps either in the dirt or by steel ramp and, for the pros, even a few odd obstacles like tunnels, un-even pavement and other stuff thrown in for fun. Many tracks are built in parking lots where run-off room is scarce- ie. the chances of running off and crashing into a chain link fence pole is considerably higher in supermoto. Rider position is usually more upright, yet all over the bike. Both feet will often come off the pegs on either side, with one foot stuck out forward for extra support in a sliding turn.

All of these conditions call for a unique and purpose-made protective gear system designed to protect the rider while also doing something to keep the rider comfortable when they aren't busy crashing.

It's important to note at the start here that the S1 World Championship pro racers in Europe and abroad are required by organization rules to wear a one piece leather suit for all races. Two piece set-ups like the Troy Lee Designs leather pant and jersey set-up are prohibited. Full leather suits made of either cowhide, kangaroo or goat are required. In the US, on the other hand, you can run light weight MX nylon pants and honestly I don't even know if we require any real protection under that stuff. A real shame really- when you consider we've retired a good many racers to crashes in Supermoto just in the last few years.

Although Motostrano offers various two piece SM protection set-ups, if you ask us, we'll recommend a full leather supermoto suit like the Alpinestars S1 Supermoto suit when it comes right down to it, no matter what the conditions. Yes, the two piece leather pants and upper body protectors are more comfortable, particularly in the heat, but they just won't protect your skin as well as a one piece leather suit if you get off on asphault doing 65 mph. On the other hand, leather is heavy. Between 12-20 lbs for a typical higher end suit.

I was at an Italian Championship race one year in Latina. Heat temp in the pits alone was unbearable to the point that just watching the race I had to keep pouring water on me just to keep standing up. After the race, former World Champion Max Manzo came into the pits, sick from the heat, collapsed off the bike and then vomited all over his seat, barely able to stand. If he had been wearing an MX style gear set-up, he may have been a little better off. So, there are trade-offs, no doubt.

At the present time, the very best Supermoto suit on the market for the money is the Alpinestars S1 suit, developed by Alpinestars from years of research and testing. The suit is sort of a hybrid suit of leather and textile mesh, with an integrated GP back protector zipped into the back of the suit. You've got mesh panels on the front area to cool off the torso, leather on the arms and legs and butt. The zipped in back protector also acts as an exhaust system for hot air coming out the back.

Getting back to the two piece set-ups, as by TLD or Thor. Comfort is certainly their high point, with protection being their low. They're certainly a huge step up from standard MX gear, no doubt about it. They're main fault lies in the two piece design. Depending on how you crash, when you crash, the two piece design means you're very likely to burn the hell out of your skin any where on your torso.

You don't have to get a purpose-built supermoto suit. Plenty of roadracing suits will do the trick, though supermoto suits are designed for an up-right riding position and typically have room for a full-blown knee brace. Things to look for in a suit would first be quality of the leather and stitching. We've seen low end suits literally come apart in a low speed crash. Make sure what ever you get is double stitched with at least 1.2 to 1.4 mm leather. Since you're going to be traveling at speeds well under what a roadrace bike typically goes at, you'll want as much ventilation as possible. Hybrid leather/textile suits are ideal, a well-perforated suit like the Alpinestars S-Moto suit is a great choice.

Make sure your suit has integrated CE approved armor in key areas like the shoulders, elbows, knees. Padding in the hips is a great idea as well. You can upgrade your armor by buying padded shorts, chest protection and back protection like the stuff we sell by TPRO and Alpinestars.

For more information on selecting a suit, read our leather suit buying guide.

Future installments of this blog post will include head to toe protection and a talk on each of them, including: back protectors, knee braces, boots, protector jackets, gloves, kneck protection, eyewear and anything else we can think of that's designed to protect your bones and skin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that blog says everything and all very clearly.. If you are thinking about riding supermoto, no matter where you are street or track slow or fast... LEATHER SUIT!!

I don't know how some of the AMA pro's do it because lots of them do not wear leather. I crashed in the rain a few day's ago 5th gear tapped probably doing 80mph or so. Front end washed out and before I could blink I was sliding down the pavement and right into a barrier.

Listening to some friends who have been racing SM for a while and hearing how hot it can get, we can all figure a full suit is going to be hot. So figuring I should be ok and at least i'll be a little cooler. Wearing TLD leather pants and a top of the line SixSixOne back protector/body armor, I am missing plenty of skin on my hip. My pants are totally torn up and elbows got enough wear right to the skin through the armor because it is mostly mesh to keep you cool.

I run 450 expert and push it every time I go out there. I am buying a FULL leather suit before I go back out and I feel just having that confidence on my bike that even if I do fall, I should be ok sliding at least.

Cost? A skin graph is not cheap either.. how much is your skin worth to you!? And after 2 crashes this season, I have ripped off 2 $50 really nice brand new TLD jerseys.. This could get pretty expensive haha!

In conclusion... WEAR LEATHER IF YOU WANT TO RIDE HARD AND HAVE FUN DOING IT, BECAUSE EVEN THE BEST HAVE TO HIT THE GROUND ONCE AND A WHILE!!!