I first met Wes when he moved into my house to live on my couch. He was a friend of my roommate’s and just needed a place to land while he looked for an apartment. Two things are obvious when you first meet Wes. One, Wes thinks he’s the best thing that has ever happened to the human race. So much so that he loves to share with anyone close to him just how awesome he is every time he’s given the chance a la Schmidt on FOX’s "New Girl" television show. Two, he thinks he knows EVERYTHING. These two traits led to a full “douche jar” on the kitchen counter and daily debates about bikes, gear, style, riding abilities and techniques, and a variety of other things no one really cares to read about.
I had been riding motorcycles for 5 or 6 years by the time Wes moved in and, as the resident hipster, had done so in the steps taken by most 20 something white kids who like overpriced coffee, skinny jeans, and listening to music too obscure to have a fan base. I started with years of buying ‘70s Japanese bikes that “should be bulletproof” and that I spent too much on and didn’t know how to fix until I was finally fed up and took out a loan on a new Bonneville. With a bike that I could finally depend on to start when I wanted it to, I began using my motorcycle to commute to work, for which I was wearing one of my denim or textile jackets, jeans, shoes ranging from vans to high top sneakers, and my ¾ non-DOT Biltwell helmet with a pair of fake $5 Roy Bans glasses.
Sean, before his bromance with Wes went into full swing. Photo: Sherman Thomas
So this Wes guy moves in and sets up shop in the living room and spends most of his time playing on bikes or sitting either on our couch or at the taqueria down the street with his computer “working.” Every day when I’d get home from work I’d walk into the kitchen, grab 2 beers, and throw one at his head while yelling at him to wash his dishes and then we would sit and talk about bikes or how he didn’t look like Ryan Gosling no matter what some girl said on Facebook. Most of the time he’d nag me about my bullshit café racer and that I might as well be riding it naked with how little gear I wore. My bullshit café racer was a huge step from my ‘70s Japanese bikes and I had a leather jacket a friend had given me I wore sometimes, but that I didn’t love wearing and it all seemed like a big step for me compared to what I saw people around me wearing. Plus I have a hard time swallowing advice from anyone who thinks that Grant is the weird one in the duo, so I blew him off. Plus, that shit is expensive.
Summer turns to Fall and the dude is still on the couch and it’s getting colder outside and I start considering getting some kind of jacket to stay warm on the freeway in the morning and once again I get the lecture about riding gear. Wes’ stuff had finally all made it out to California and with the extra gear around he suggested that I borrow an Alpinestars jacket with full armor that he could spare. My roommate had an extra full face that sounded like a warm idea and was gracious enough to let “can I borrow this to try it out for today?” turn into “can I just keep wearing this because it’s cold outside?” The jacket and helmet felt stifling and claustrophobic at first, but it was warm so I wore it on my daily commute for a week. That weekend we went for a ride and I grabbed my Biltwell and my old leather jacket and headed out with the boys and for the first time, I felt naked. I kept feeling like I was going to smash my chin on something and I didn’t feel nearly as stable without the armor and back protector I had gotten used to; I felt so vulnerable. The next week I started wearing boots on my commute and bought a pair of armored gauntlet gloves to wear and it felt good to be on a bike at 80mph and not feel like some part of my body was exposed.
This left me with one last problem: I looked ridiculous. This was fine for my commute, I could care less what I look like showing up to work. We live in Long Beach, about 20-30 minutes south of Los Angeles, so the commute to LA is about the same as my commute in the opposite direction to work. I have been blessed to have a social circle that contains some wonderful people, some of which are famous for various reasons, and many of our outings are to fancy events or shows or parties at clubs or nice private residences blah blah blah. I also do some work as a model and use my bike to get around LA after work to jobs or castings and wanted to look cool when I got to them. Us hipsters care about our appearances far too much to let safety get in the way of looking cool and I was faced with a real dilemma (at least to me, hopefully this is ridiculous to you). I began to look for gear that would give me the same protection I had grown used to and finally believed I needed, but that I could wear to some party, event, or casting and not feel lame.
I pitched the idea to get some gear to test to Wes (and lied and told him he did look kinda like Ryan Gosling) and he contacted Dainese to see if they would be interested in giving us some gear to review with the idea that we were looking for gear that was extremely functional while still looking nice. As my role within HFL has grown, I have done a lot more riding, ridden a much wider variety of bikes, and experienced motorcycling in almost every capacity. We have taken big trips, ridden dual sports and adventure bikes off road, and ridden sport bikes all over southern California’s best roads. If I was going to own gear, it needed to keep up with all of that, and STILL meet my aesthetic expectations. Luckily for me, Dainese was gracious enough to accept our request.
I decided on the Dainese R-Twin Leather jacket, Dainese Alien Leather pants, Dainese Druids gloves, and the Torque Race Out boots. Overall, the gear is great. The jacket is fully armored, though I believe the back protector that came with mine must be purchased separately. It has an awesome liner you can put in or leave out to help manage the temperature and the jacket is the warmest thing I’ve worn short of the other Sean’s Roadcrafter (still the most amazing piece of gear I’ve ever seen) while also not being much hotter than my denim jacket with the liner removed and vents opened. The jacket looks very nice and I have no problem wearing it to any event. I thought I would want to try and take a seam ripper to the Dainese logo on the back, but I don’t mind it much in person. The pants and jacket zip together to form a leather suit which works great for road trips or riding in the canyons, and I’ve worn just the pants with a lighter textile jacket when we have ridden offroad. The boots are great, though it is obvious that they are designed more for racing than anything else and I often prefer to stick with my Icon Reigns for long trips or off road because they are simply the most comfortable boot I have ever worn.
The only negative aspect I have to say about any of it is more of just a personal problem than a problem with the gear. I have an unusual body size at 6’1” and 150lbs and I wish the jacket was just a little bit longer, both in the torso and in the arms. I find myself always layering a hoodie underneath to add an extra few inches in length and it’s the only bummer with any of the gear. As with all Dainese’s stuff, the fit can be a little different, so I advise trying the stuff on if you can find it before ordering online or just be prepared to possibly spend a few weeks shipping things back and forth with Revzilla. I ordered a size 52 jacket (best mix of length and width and it’s easier to take out width than add length), size 98 pant, size 10 boot, and XL gloves because the fingers in Dainese gloves tend to run short. I also bought a Shoei RF1100 which I’m pretty happy with, though I don’t think it is worth the premium you pay over Icon, AGV, Nexx or Scorpion.
Wes finally moved out but we still have our weekly debates about bikes, gear, and why he isn’t as awesome as he thinks. Since then, I have become a much bigger supporter of wearing gear and as my experiences and adventures now spur on my friends to get into motorcycling, I always stress the importance of buying gear to protect themselves for when shit goes wrong. Not only do I feel responsible as the person who helps get them in to motorcycling, but I also truly believe it’s crucial to riding a motorcycle. The other Sean crashed wearing full gear and was still out for months. I can only imagine what he would have looked like had he been wearing what I used to wear, and he’s a far better rider than I.
I only plan on saying this once in my life, so it might as well be here: Wes, you were right.