If you’ve ever been close to an Indian motorcycle, you’re not going to be surprised by how nice their new line of protective gear is. You might be surprised at how race inspired it is, though.
Why, strip away any telltale logo, and this stuff is at home on any fully-faired crotch rocket as it is on one of those glorious, ode-to-chrome, American- made cruisers. Maybe it’s because after the brand’s utilitarian service in World War II (some 40,000 bikes were deployed with US troops), they set about tearing things up on the racetrack, taking the trophy in the Daytona 200 in 1947. Rather than the post-war, rebellious bad-boy image popularized by the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, Indian looked to it’s roots in American racing for inspiration.
Defying the laws of brand loyalty (whilst paying homage to fast motorcycles, I guess), I suited up for a clash of the icons to test a couple of pieces from Indian Motorcycle’s new line of protective gear via a ride on my Ducati Monster. Talk about a rebel...
Aesthetically, the Indian Ladies Racer Jacket is glorious vintage Indian: signature colors of brick-red and cream on black, rally stripes, and varsity-stitched leather logo in that classic script font. The leather has a decent weight and is pleasantly soft. Described as “bovine (cow) embo (?) leather”, thirty-minutes of research left me none the wiser about it’s durability (but with countless leads on Alibaba where I could buy some wholesale). Metal YYK zippers and hardware have a heavy-duty, antique feel.
Indian left no thoughtful feature for serious riders unturned, here: Knox® molded CE- approved armor at the shoulders, and elbows (elbow armor thoughtfully extended to protect most of the lateral forearm), a zippered pocket for spine armor, bilateral zipped inner pockets, a zip-in/-out thermal lining, and a perforated nylon liner and clever placement of zippered vents for maximum ventilation in warm weather at typically sweaty zones (low back and underarms). Fit is enhanced to accommodate a riding posture with elasticized, leather-covered side panels, Span-Cordura® (stretchy textile) underarms, and a little extra dip in length at the back to keep the low back covered.
The Retro Mesh glove is a bit less serious (well, a lot less serious) than the jacket, but nonetheless vintage-ey, with a palm of contrasting cream and black leather/nylon blend and shorty cuff. The mesh back is enforced with solid, molded knuckle armor (hand/ finger joint) and puffs of that leather/nylon blend at finger knuckles. I was unable to find any studies that compared this sort of leather blend to 100% leather in motorcycle protective gear, so I can’t comment on it’s durability (other than to say I wouldn’t count on it). Not a racing glove by any means, but cool, comfortable, and grippy.
If you love Indian for it’s honest Americana, you’ll love their gear, albeit for separate but equal reasons. It’s beautiful, it’s thoughtful, and it’s very well-made, but no, it isn’t made here. It’s inspired by here.