Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Motorfist Ranger pants - first impressions review

After a couple of seasons in my Olympia Motoquest suit, and having recently completed a 2500km dual sport ride through Northern Ontario (ride report coming soon), the limitations of my riding gear only become more apparent and intolerable over time. While there's no one set of gear that works perfectly across a wide range of heat, cold, wind, and rain, it's clear that some of the niggling annoyances of the Olympia gear--like fit, comfort, and usability--have been avoided by other designers. In particular, I wanted an over-the-boot adventure pant that actually fit adventure boots and had room at the knee for better knee armour. The question is, what options?

Klim is an obvious choice for good quality gear, and the Dakar over-the-boot pant was a prime upgrade candidate over my Olympia pants while still being reasonably priced. Unfortunately, due to a Klim supply chain issue this season, the Dakar pant rapidly sold out in my size range (34-36) and was ultimately discontinued even though it was apparently a best-seller. An experiment with a size 32 which--according to Klim's own fitment guide should've been the right size for my 36" waist measurement and weight--proved impossibly small. None of the other comparably priced and desirable Klim options were available. I can't quite justify spending $2k on the Klim pants and jacket I'd ultimately like.

So I was intrigued to discover Motorfist, a relatively small and new company (founded 2009, now owned by Arctic Cat) that makes technical gear for enduro riders and snowmobilers. While they have a modest but growing product line-up, their gear appears to be thoughtfully designed and well-made using quality materials, with clearly defined product feature sets and no pointless overlaps between items. Not a lot of reviews online and I don't know anyone who has worn their gear. But their Ranger pant caught my eye so I took a chance and ordered a 36" in the basic grey online directly from Motorfist.

The pants arrived well packaged, fit true to size, and look really sharp. Features I immediately like on them include the waist adjustment and expansion bellows, which allows a high waist without the pants pulling down when you bend your knees. The thigh and front pockets are well sized and functional. Fabrics, fasteners, and other details are all well positioned and appear to be top quality, with a minimalist design approach to avoid flaps and straps that just get in the way (like on my Olympia gear). It's clear the designers have put a lot of effort into function while respecting form. These are pants by riders, for riders--so props to Motorfist for respecting their target market.

I'm now going to focus on what I feel are some minor areas where Motorfist could refine the design and achieve a truly exceptional product still at a competitive price:
  • Knee and hip armour is not included. This alone isn't a big deal because everyone has their own preferences, so I'm not recommending to include armour. But--and as I'll cover below--the armour pockets are impractically small. This eliminates using some common armour products out of the box which I feel is a significant shortcoming in the pant design. There needs to be a better way to integrate armour into the pants.
  • Overall tailoring is excellent, without excessive bagginess or tightness in most areas. However, I'd cut the area above the knee/lower thigh just a tiny bit larger to allow for more athletic builds. Currently the pants become uncomfortably tight around my quads when my knees are bent or when sitting on my bike, although the plus is that the knee pads remain securely located. Hopefully the fabric breaks in enough to provide a little more give and mobility. 
  • I'd encourage Motorfist to investigate how the stretchable crotch-panel could be reshaped and/or raised slightly to allow a little more mobility. It seems to be positioned a little low, making it hard to bend the legs at the hips if the pants slip down even a tiny bit. And the stretch feature doesn't really help in this scenario.
  • The half-zip legs use YKK coil zippers. These should really be moulded zippers, e.g. a #10 for durability (especially when they become fouled by wading through swamps).
  • The legs fit over my relatively narrow Forma Terra boots (size 45) no problem. In fact, the legs are just a little too roomy at the shin and the elastic cuff does nothing. I would encourage Motorfist to either tighten up the elastic in this area, or offer a way to further cinch the cuff tightly around the boot to improve resistance to water being sprayed up inside.

Although I was able to squeeze simple knee pads into the unadjustable knee pouches, there was no way I could get any meaningful hip armour into the hip pouches. As you can see, the pouches are very small compared to modest CE-rated hip armour.

My solution was to make some sewn pouches for my hip armour which then attach to the pants with Velcro. Rather than sew pouches into the pants at the factory, maybe Motorfist could consider this concept as a modular approach to their pants.

For materials, I bought a cheap sports shirt (in wicking material) and adhesive Velcro at Walmart. Total cost about $20.

The first step was to locate where the pad should go. Right up against the waist seam was about right.

Next, I traced out the pad onto the doubled shirt material, using the bottom hem as the location for a Velcro closure to reduce the amount of sewing. Leave enough of a margin around the perimeter (about a cm) to allow for the thickness of your pad and sewing the pocket closed. 

Now you need to attach the fuzzy portion of the Velcro to the pants. Don't attach the prickly half, because if you ever choose to ride without the pouch, the Velcro will rub your hip. I used a cloth-adhesive Velcro and secured the edges to the pant liner with a few quick overcast stitches to prevent the edges from eventually rolling up. The glue itself seems pretty strong to hold it in place. The original armour pouch is still usable.

Now sew the mating half of the Velcro onto the outside of the pouch, and the Velcro closures at the bottom. Don't forget that you'll then need to turn the pouch inside out to sew the perimeter closed, and if you're using asymmetric pads, be sure to get the right side and shape to match the Velcro mounting. 

Here's a completed pouch with pad inserted:

Now repeat the process in mirror-image form to make the opposite pouch. These installed nicely into the pants and stayed securely in the right spot when worn.

I've only had a few short rides in these pants since getting them, so I'll need more time and weather variation to truly see how they perform. I'm curious to see how the fabric inseam performs in gripping my bike compared to leather. On the plus side, it should dry a lot faster.

Overall I'm impressed and look forward to evaluating other Motorfist gear.

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