Common Tread is going rogue.
Every year, the gear experts at RevZilla hand out the ZLA Awards, highlighting the best and most innovative of the thousands of new products that pass through our walls. The ZLA Awards have been celebrating the groundbreaking, the show-stopping and the best damn tool for the job since their inception four years ago and you can see the winners here.
At Common Tread, however, we’re taking a different approach. We’re letting a few of our experts have their say on not just what they personally liked in 2015, but also the products and trends in the industry that fell short or just personally ticked them off. Agree or disagree, tell us what you think in the comments.
Women, hands and Pleasuredome? These rants aren’t what you think
Anthony “BoochZilla” Bucci
Co-founder and CEO
Dear manufacturers: Why do you continue to frustrate me with your lack of support for hardcore women riders? Why can’t I get a fully technical race gauntlet for women? Why can’t I get a clean, classic and nasty leather jacket that’s the top half of a two-piece suit? Why, when I see an $800 price tag on a women's race suit, don’t I get R&D-infused leather or a dual-comp honeycomb slider? Why don’t women commuters get SAS-TEC? Why don’t female adventure-seekers get SuperFabric? Why don’t they get a jacket with an ergonomic venting scheme?
Dear manufacturers: Hire a woman designer who also rides to take the best innovations from R&D and build a hero in every key category — boots, gloves, Gore-Tex jackets, leather jackets and pants. Build products to make the two-wheeled sisterhood proud. The number of women riders is only growing and you’re all on notice. Up your game or be forgotten. Guys' gear that's "pinked and shrinked" stopped working in 2006.
Ranting on, motorcycle gloves are typically the first line of protection in any crash. When things go sideways, you’re going to hit the front of your helmet and you’re going to put your hands down as a natural reaction. So who brought something new to the game in 2015? Rev’IT, with their Dominator GTX, Cayenne Pro and winter gloves. Not for their technological protection, but for the new strap system. Simple and effective for warm or cold. It’s going to keep the glove on your hand, offer support and let you quickly cinch down one glove with the other glove already on. It’s progressive design and engineering by the folks out of Holland. Keep making me smile with innovations, Rev’IT.
Finally, let's talk about the Icon warlords of Portland: The Icon Airframe Pro made me wait for so long. I wish I could have gone to cryo-sleep from a terrible Stallone movie waiting for you to overhaul the original Airframe. The Airframe used composite, the Airframe was round, the Airframe was heavy, the Airframe was loud. Somehow you felt it was appropriate to make me wait six years for upgrades, but I can now say I’m happy. I see super aggressive lines and I see a carbon fiber weave that edgy and refined (and this is a guy who typically doesn’t like carbon fiber). A massive cutaway for ventilation and an upgraded interior round out your flagship, with function, style and bravado. Undoubtedly, next year I’ll see you Pleasuredome it with a side order of skulls, odd birds and Thor. I will also potentially see you come out with other designs that are bizarre, absurd, and, at times, utterly banal. I actually love the approach.
Keep being the motorcycle madmen who make products that ultimately punch you in the mouth, hit on your girl at a party and scared Chuck Norris back to two-a-days on his Total Gym in 2012. I applaud your steadfast determination to shock every soccer mom on the street.
Protect my hands and head, win my heart
Ed “Buzzsaw” Wildman
RevZilla Product Expert
Over the course of the year I get to put my hands on just about every new product that comes down the pike. You and I both know that a product can stand out for one of two reasons: It can be a game-changer in a positive way or it can miss the mark by a long way. When we approach a review, we assume the “Consumer Reports” approach. Tell it like it is, the good, bad and occasionally the ugly. We don’t bash for headlines, but if something can be improved, we are not going to shy away from it either.
Here’s what made it onto my radar this year.
Gloves for me have really been among the more controversial apparel groups this year for a couple of reasons. Gloves are typically expensive to produce, due to the complexity of the form, and they have to meet conflicting goals of dexterity and protection. For these reasons, we have seen many companies replace natural materials, such as cowhide and goatskin, with synthetic materials, such as Clarino and Ameca suede, to keep the price in check.
My hands allow me to eat, type, play with tools and ride motorcycles — pretty much all that is important to me. So when companies like Dainese, Icon and Alpinestars start using synthetic materials to cut costs, I call foul. There will always be inexpensive gloves for the rider who's less concerned about protection. But for a premium glove, like the $199 X-Strike, the manufacturers shouldn’t be inserting Ameca Suede just to save a few bucks. A $200 glove commands that price because it doesn’t cut corners. You only have to watch the first minute of Anthony’s Icon Raiden DKR Glove’s review to see how we call out manufacturers for cutting corners.
Like Anthony, I love the way Rev’IT! Introduced the innovative new wrist closure on the Cayenne Pro and Dominator GTX gloves, but I also love they way the kept using real leather.
What excited me most this year were the ground-up redesigns of some key helmets, including the Icon Airframe Pro. But most importantly, we finally saw a challenge to the accepted convention that Styrofoam is the best we can do for head safety. Bell is challenging that notion through years of R&D showing that the materials currently used are not the end point, but just the beginning. The new Star series of helmets shows how Bell plans to implement new materials to handle the different types of the trauma that can happen when riding a motorcycle. Bravo, Bell for challenging the norm and saying that's not good enough.
Cheers and jeers, brand by brand breakdown
Spurgeon “like ‘surgeon’ with a ‘p’” Dunbar
Metric Motorcycle Media Lead
You want the specifics of materials and thread counts? We have videos for that. I’m going to hit the stuff I thought was notable in 2015, good and bad, brand by brand.
Alpinestars: I just returned from a 2,000-mile trek where temps plummeted from the low 70s to the high 30s. Your Tech Jacket mid layer was much appreciated. It is a functional mid-layer that keeps me warm and moves freely under my outer layers without binding. It also looks great alone. I love the silicon strip at the bottom to keep it from riding up.
P.S. — The Techstar Factory and Techstar Venom gloves should not both exist at the same price. The Venoms have no reinforcement on the palm and no airprene on the knuckles. Lose the Venoms.
Icon: OK, Icon, you got me. For years I have enjoyed the videos, but your gear was never quite my speed. Enter the Raiden DKR jacket. I got to use this jacket for the KTM 390 Duke review and damned if I was not impressed. It fits nice and snug, the thermal layer doesn’t feel bulky, the waterproofing works, it comes stock with D30 armor, and it looks good. If you keep offering gear like this, you are going to attract a whole new style of rider.
P.S. — Your Raiden DKR gloves were not even close to being as impressive as the jacket. They offer no protection, have lousy feel, and inspire no confidence for me to go out and crash my ADV bike.
Rev’IT!: I have used your gear for years. My first “real” motorcycle jacket was the RS2 I bought back in 2006. But this year, the crotch on my Cayenne Pro Pants ripped on their very first ride and my Rodeo boots are falling apart after less than a year. I have Frye boots in my closet that are 15 years old, have been resoled three times, and work better than my 10-month-old Rodeo boots. I expect more from a $300 pair of boots from one of my favorite manufacturers.
Speed and Strength: I was pleasantly surprised with your release of the Light Speed jacket. This is clearly aimed at a more mature audience. I applaud the clean lines, minimal branding, and the super comfortable stretch material that is also protective. You have my attention.
P.S. — Look at the video where I am modeling the Gary Nixon jacket for Anthony. I look sad. That was not your finest hour.
Scorpion: I am quite pleased to see that you have toned down your branding a few notches. The Covert Flannel Shirt looks like something I would wear to chop wood. Sneaky sneaky, it is actually a Kevlar-lined shirt with pockets for elbow, shoulder, and back armor. Way to go.
P.S. — What the hell is up with the Illuminati graphic? You did some great graphics this year, but this thing is hideous.
P.P.S. — Then again, what do I know... The kids, communists, and conspiracy theorists seem to love ol’ Benji’s face done up as a skull on the side of their helmets. Carry on.