Although I’m a fan of the second-hand riding gear and lovely old musty military surplus gear, there is something wonderful about buying brand new gear specifically designed for riding. Items like the excellent Underhoody from Corazzo. Of course, one can always go a bit upmarket with fantastic dedicated gear like the Zodiac Jacket from British Motorcycle Gear. From the inexpensive to the extravagant (hello, Belstaff), they are all pretty good when you are coming from riding in a vintage parka or a smelly old field jacket. Safer, too.
I’m a fan of a quality first/under layer as a dirty little secret of riding comfortably in the medium to cold weather that we get quite a bit here in the Midwest. An underlayer (at least a good one) controls moisture near the skin, hopefully “wicking” it away from the skin and sending it out towards the outer layer for it evaporate. It must be a good technical fabric, as even cotton doesn’t always do a good job – it gets soaked and traps moisture. That’s sort of OK for summer, but kinda crappy for winter, when you want to stay as insulated and dry as possible.
Before a recent European trip, and aware of the strong dollar vs. the Euro, I was looking for a retailer so that I could try on some European-only scooter safety gear and hopefully find some deals. That didn’t work out so well (although I got a killer deal on Ben Sherman in Droghedra, Ireland), but when I got back I searched for a modest European online retailer to perhaps fill a gap in my cool weather riding gear. During this search, I chanced upon a charming little site that I had never heard of. The site is Burn Out Italy from Palermo, and is both English friendly and has some good prices on premium gear – especially in their sales/clearance area and with the power of the U.S. dollar vs the Euro. I navigated to a brand that I’ve heard has great stuff, but is rare in the U.S. I found the Spidi page, and navigated to the the product category, base/mid-layers, and I was there.
Immediately, I discovered the coolest-looking base layer garment that I had ever seen – the Spidi Thermo Chest Shirt. “Thermo” is is mid-weight version of their three undergarment weights and looked good enough to be worn as the only layer. The Thermo is entirely constructed of a technical fabric (one designed for multiple purposes), and is only available in complimentary black and gray.
Of course, there is a drawback from buying European and Asian clothes – sizing. It seems that there are slightly different body shapes around the world, and because of this, the sizing charts require careful study (and a centimeter measuring tape). The good news is that Spidi offers a very comprehensive sizing chart that includes detailed fit sets from not only men and women, but for also type of garment from track suit to outer protective jacket to underlayers.
As guided by the chart, I selected the extra large size and completed my order. About 10 days later the package arrived and within seconds, it was on my body. With more than a little surprise, I found that it fit very well indeed, if not perfectly. It was properly snug across the chest and the sleeves even accommodated my long arms. The neck is a little snug, but then my huge neck is a problem on most of my gear.
Riding impressions were very good. I rode four times with the Spidi Thermo Chest Shirt, and each time was impressed with the performance. The Thermo Chest Shirt features their COOL DRY® stretch fabric that manages skin level moisture and provides insulation while also letting air flow through. It’s got a half zip front, a high soft collar with a neck protection pocket for the zipper and has a flattering two-tone design. Well, it will be flattering if I can lay off the pizza.
Riding in cool weather (high 50s – low 60s), I felt the garment insulating my torso and providing a much more snug feeling than my old surplus polyester-mix t-shirt and long sleeve cotton t-shirt combo. I had a light polyester sweatshirt on above the Spidi (as I did with my usual set-up for one ride and my Underhoody on two of the rides), and my Corazzo Tempeste (no liner) as a windblocker layer. The final ride that i took was a bit warmer, at just over 70 degrees, so I had the Spidi on as a single layer with a Hein Gericke light armored jacket on over the top. In the warm weather, I could amazingly feel the breeze going through the Spidi and even though it’s a cold weather undergarment, I was very comfortable wearing it under a jacket in 70+ degree weather.
I also try to wash the garments that I test, just to put them through a “real life” experience. Although I noticed that the Spidi was listed as hand wash in warm water, it faired very well in a nylon bag on the delicate cycle in my washer. The fit remained true and the colors and appliqué was perfectly intact after I line dried it. It looks so good that I’m ready to put it on and head out again!
The price for “extra EU countries” was $31.75 plus about $19 shipping, coming out to about half of what a similar garment from a stateside Spidi reseller has on offer. The Burn Out Italy site is a little tricky (be sure to select a color first, even if the item is only available in one color), and of course, heavy items are going to hurt you on international shipping, but shipping across the U.S. isn’t always cheap anymore either.
I’d recommend the combination of Burn Out Italy and Spidi if you are looking for a reasonably priced, high-quality underlayer garment for three season riding (maybe the lightest “Basic” version for Summer).
I’m always on the prowl for bargain riding gear and will continue that quest until my wife tells me to stop.