Gear Selection From a User Perspective
Written by Lyndon Poskitt
Photos by Alessio Corradini, Dario Leonetti, Hilde Lenearts, Tim Buitenhuis
Having spent the last 6 years riding around the world on a motorcycle, covering over 250,000km and all 6 rideable continents, at least 50% of that off-road, I had plenty of time to try out different clothing and technical solutions before settling for what worked best for me. In addition to the adventure riding I did, I also competed in 8 International Cross Country Rally races along the way, often using the same clothing, so, to say I needed something versatile is an understatement. I wanted the ability to ride in the freezing cold driving rain in Siberia and Alaska but also enjoy comfort in the Atacama where I saw temperatures of over 50ºC (122ºF).
So, I’m not going to talk about all the systems that I tried but I will discuss the system that I settled on for the last 3 years of my trip and even my latest adventures in 2020. Travelling light is important to me, I ride off-road a lot and like when racing, you need to be able to move freely, so anything big, bulky and heavy is just not comfortable. I was always looking for lightweight solutions with features that could also double up as casual clothing to keep my clothing requirements (and luggage) to a minimum when travelling.
The basic principle is known as “layering” and it comes from the mountaineering world. It is about controlling the microclimate around your body, staying warm in the cold, and staying cool in the heat. So, the layers and riding gear I settled for looked like this:
1) The Base Layer – This layer wicks moisture from your skin and promotes evaporation. Base layers are designed to protect you from excess moisture in cold weather and enhance cooling in hot weather. I found them useful to have with me to wear under my casual clothing in cold weather and even sleep in when temperatures were below that recommended by my sleeping kit! I also find these layers extremely useful in protection against chafing, especially from the likes of knee braces.
2) The Mid Layer – This was simply an additional layer of insulation for me, helping to retain heat when required. It’s an optional piece of clothing, you wear it if you need it or pack it away if you don’t. The best are very lightweight, pack down small and are made from materials that offer good insulation. This was my go-to casual jacket for walking, going to the bar with friends or just hanging out in general.
3) Primary Shell – This is the layer that held my body armour in place while adventure riding (during racing I choose to wear a pressure suit) and also offered some level of abrasion protection in the event of a fall. This was always used while riding, and rarely for casual use because of its armour and being the largest item of the four layers. The best primary shell for me has immense ventilation (lots of vents) to promote the best airflow for hot environments but also these vents are closable to offer a mild outer shell too. Often there are times when full mesh / full open vents are not required, but neither is the outer shell that I will talk about next. Often just a mild level of wind protection or protection from the cool morning air was enough from this layer without the need to add more. With optional opening and closing of vents, this offers great control while riding without having to change layers. Often if it was cold in the morning I would add the mid-layer and start with the vents closed, then as it got warmer I would leave the mid-layer on and just open the vents until I stopped for lunch. My primary shell is always my main carrying shell when riding also, so it is the layer with the most pockets, front, back, chest and internal, it is what I use to carry all my small personal items when travelling or racing.
4) Outer Layer or secondary shell. Really, this is just the main defence against exterior weather forces, namely wind and rain. This layer provides waterproofness and breathability to maintain a comfortable microclimate. If I was using this layer day in and day out I would choose something strong and durable but since this was a rarely used layer for me and one that I wanted to be able to pack away lightly, I chose thin and light weight over strength and durability. The risk there was, if you fell, you risked damaging the shell, easily fixable with some duct-tape on the road!
In addition to the above, and only really required in extreme cold, I carried an electric base / mid-layer. I only used this in Siberia, Alaska, South America and high altitudes. I could have survived without it but for me it was about comfort and not having to struggle along as the cold worked its way through the layers to my core. If you are working hard, like riding off-road in difficult conditions or racing, it was not required, but on rally liaisons or long road stretches in the cold it often came in handy.
Ultimately, you have to do what works for you. I write this to share my personal preference and experience for the diverse riding that I do, it’s always a compromise but I find working with these principles helps me to be prepared whatever comes my way. The same principle applies for the bottom half of your body as the top but for me, typically it is more important to take care of your core (upper body) as a priority, so if I was racing and didn’t have much room for clothing, I would just take my upper outer shell to save volume. Getting caught out without the right layers sucks, always remember, you cannot control the weather but you can control your ride.
KLIM gear chosen for Team Races to Places in the Africa Eco Race and my personal Adventure rides for 2020:
- Base Layer – KLIM Aggressor 1.0 shirt and pants
- Mid Layer – KLIM Inferno (Team Races to Places Limited Edition)
- Primary Shell – KLIM Dakar Jacket and Pants.
- Outer Shell – KLIM Stowaway
- KLIM Socks
- KLIM Dakar Pro Gloves
- KLIM Mojave Gloves
- KLIM Balaclava Windstopper
- KLIM Inversion Gloves
Additional KLIM gear worn by support crew and in the bivouac at Africa Race:
- KLIM Torque Jacket