It's getting towards the end of the year so it's time to look back at all the new gear from 2019 that's piqued our interest here at Bike Stop; chances are this will be some of the gear to beat next year and inspire a bit of rivalry so the gear you get only gets better!
First up it's got to be the Dainese Smart Jacket which is a significant step forward for airbag-equipped gear. It used to be you had to install sensors on your bike or attach a rip-cord, then we moved to jackets with integrated sensors, but the smart jacket goes further. This is a vest with the full D-air tech that is slim enough to be worn under your own jacket (or over if you prefer). At £569.99 it's at the upper end of the airbag-vest range, but for the tech in play and the sheer subtlety of its size and fit it's very hard to beat. It's foldable (so you can wedge it in a top-box) and ventilated so you can take it wherever you want trouble-free. A long 26 hour battery life means it can last a week's commutes without trouble, or a couple of hefty touring days at a time. It's only just hit the shelves, but it's my favourite new bit of kit to come out this year; it shows the future is bright for airbags in motorcycle gear.
Sticking with the theme of airbags, and Dainese in fact; next up it's the first airbag-equipped suit for women. It's a fact, more women are riding bikes than ever before but the range of suitable gear can be sorely lacking. Things are improving gradually and the introduction of the Misano 2 D-air is a major step forward for the serious lady rider. Admittedly, the aforementioned Smart Jacket might also be another new way to integrate airbags into your gear for the ultimate in protection, but this suit is the one to beat in this segment for women.
Moving away from airbags, and onto helmets. The Shoei GT-Air 2 caught my attention at the start of the year as it's the successor to one of the best all-round helmets you can buy. Improved in almost every way, the GT-Air 2 is everything you'd expect from Shoei. Retaining all the useful features that made the original great, such as the great ventilation, low noise, bombproof visor seal and super smooth friction-based sun visor, it adds superior intercom integration for the Sena 20, the ability to reliably crack the visor a notch, and an even larger sun visor to reduce glare and improve the ability to open the main visor while riding at speed. Top marks from me; starting at £449.99 it's a premium helmet that's worth every penny.
Gloves-wise, a long-standing favourite of mine has been the Knox Handroid range of gloves, and ever since they were released a decade ago they've been steadily improved upon. Now on Mk. IV, the latest set look just as eye-catching as always, while remaining one of the most protective gloves you can buy. New for this year is a major improvement to the Boa closure system. For those unfamiliar, this is steel cable ratchet system that closes the gauntlet about your wrist with a single twist - extremely secure and user-friendly. It did, however, rely on a secondary strap to assist it, but now they've managed to get the entire fastening of the glove done with the Boa closure - super convenient and easy to do with gloves on. Superb quality, excellent crash protection with British design and manufacture - for £220 you'd expect nothing less.
Wrapping it up we've got the Shark Skwal 2, a helmet that integrates a feature you'd expect to be commonplace by now with improving technology: LED lighting. Obviously the first question is how long they last for, and how long they take to charge. 5 hours in constant mode, 10 hours in intermittent with a 20 minute charge time will make it very usable for the winter commute. The most relevant use case for it is for when you're forced to pull over in the dark; not many riders use hi-viz or reflective gear, and having actual lights on your head is only a good thing in this scenario! Otherwise, extra lights that draw attention to you = top marks. Add improved soundproofing with this iteration of the Skwal, an included Pinlock, sun visor and space for glasses, all starting at £199.99.
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