Monday, June 8, 2015

Olympia Motoquest Guide jacket and pants review

Last weekend's 1000km of riding in Roaming Rally 2015 was an excellent opportunity to assess the capabilities of Olympia's premium DS ride gear, the Motoquest jacket and pants. 

While there's a lot of really good gear coming onto the market in the last few years--especially the Klim products--prices are becoming astronomical for technical garments that in other markets (like mountaineering or skiing) offer comparable materials and construction details for much lower cost. I don't mind paying for good quality. But price doesn't always guarantee quality. It proved frustrating trying to find a good compromise between form and function at a reasonable price. Many of the popular brands I looked into closely (including Rukka, Held, Rev'it, Klim, BMW, Dianese, etc.) offered some great looking designs that on closer inspection were either poorly executed (cheap materials, zippers and fasteners, poor stitching, etc.) or excellent quality but really expensive (I'm looking at you, Klim). Where's the middle ground? Olympia is one of the few manufacturers I've been able to access that offers good products at reasonable prices. Props to them for trying to address both form and function.

So I was excited to finally settle on the Motoquest jacket/pant set, ordered sight-unseen from Canada's Motorcycle (web-only store; great service and dead-simple to arrange returns). None of my local bike shops in Ottawa were able or willing to bring in this gear for me to try on unless I paid a premium. As it turned out, the first set I ordered was one size too large. Although I normally take a 35" pant, the Motoquest 36" was swimmingly enormous and the 34" fit me almost perfectly. Likewise, the XL jacket was huge and a large fits me very well. For reference, I'm 6'-1" and 190 lbs with a muscular cycling physique (larger thighs/buttocks and chest/back, and narrow waist). Most North American motorcycling pants are cut too roomy for me at the waist and too tight in the thighs, and jackets are usually cut for a paunch and gorilla arms. European cuts tend to be too tight for my height and proportions.

For the purposes of this review I'm not going to cover all the features of the Motoquest set. You can read all that here. Instead, I'll cut to the chase of what worked well for me, and what I think Olympia should seriously consider changing. They've got a good product here that could be great with some mods that would not necessarily add cost. Indeed, my suggestions would be to simplify the products in a few critical ways.


Overall the jacket is well made, with good stitching and choice of materials. It looks like it's been thoughtfully designed with rider input, and it shows despite some usability WTFs that I'll cover below.

Looking closer, I was disappointed by the choice of interior padding. It's a cheap, waffle-like expanded dual-density foam like you'd find in a bicycle helmet. Even though it's CE rated, I can't see it holding up to normal wear (like being leaned on) without losing significant protection capability. This got removed in favour of wearing my Fox armored jacket for protection, which fits under the jacket surprisingly well but not with the Motoquest insulated liner (included with the jacket) worn over top. It's also a pain to remove the jacket when you're wearing the Fox; things get hung up and you have to do this ridiculous shrugging dance that attracts funny looks in restaurants. Ahem.

The Olympia back pad is a joke. It may be CE-2 rated, but it's small and narrow and I wouldn't trust my back to it. My Fox suit is CE-2 rated for the back and provides some hyper-flexing protection. If I was planning a longer tour in cooler conditions, I'd probably opt for an aftermarket separate CE-2 back protector with kidney belt, and replace the elbow/shoulder pads with something like D30.

One niggling problem with the jacket is the velcro neck strap. I just couldn't keep it closed. My helmet strap would catch on the tab and tear it open with the lightest contact. Velcro is nice in principle but this is a high-wear area and a solid snap or two (even a magnetic one) would almost certainly work better here. There's also little adjustment possible at the neck given the way the neck is cut, so you're always closing it in the same position anyway. A slightly smaller neck opening would be nice too.

The ample vent panels pose several usability challenges:

  • The front panels have zippers right beside the main jacket zip that I was always pulling by accident when I wanted to open the jacket. The vent zips should be hidden--this is not something you are adjusting on a DS ride as often as opening and closing your jacket. 

  • The breast zipper pockets are too small to hold things like energy bars or a wallet. I only found them useful for earplugs. 
  • Worse, the shape and orientation of the breast pockets (and contents) interferes with rolling down the vent fabric, further reducing the utility of the breast pockets.
  • The arm vents are a beast to open and close, even with the jacket off and on a table. This is because of how the Velcro flaps tuck under the armpit and around the curve of the sleeve. It'd have to be a really hot day before I opened these, and god forbid I had to close them quickly such as if a storm came up. 

My first ride in the jacket was on a cold, blustery March day. Even with all the fasteners and vents closed tight, it felt like the wind was going right through me. While this is great on a hot day, I just about froze on that ride. Fortunately, donning the excellent rain shell included with the jacket (it can be work over or under the jacket) provides good wind protection.

The sleeves are closed with Velcro and create a funny protruding gusset that interferes with gauntlets. I'd prefer to see snaps in this location and some rethinking of how the stitching is arranged so the gussets naturally invert when closed. 


I was originally attracted to these pants because they were one of the few affordable designs that incorporated a leather wear strip on the inside of the thighs. With all the standing and grit that DS riding throws at you, extra wear protection in this area is warranted as the Roaming Rally certainly showed.

Again, like the jacket, the knee pads were made of the same cheap expanded foam stuff in a waffle form. I could not imagine grinding my wet knees into these waffles over hours of riding, so I opted for D30 replacements which were about the same size but confirmed to my knee a lot better.

The knee pad pouch on the inside of the pant see a lot of pressure and wear from the knee. Some kind of soft liner material in this location, instead of thin nylon, would be great to help pamper the knees. It could be a patch of a terry-cloth like material that removes with Velcro. 

The full side zips on the pants make it easy to change and adjust the knee pads. All main zippers on the pant and jacket are chunky YKK models that operate even when full of grit. This is an important detail: cheaper coil-type zippers are a disaster when plugged with mud.

The hips pads are made from a different kind of foam and, although small, are comfortable and unnoticeable when riding. I don't know how much protection they'd offer. Integrated protection for the coccyx and sides of the thighs would be welcome, even if it meant shortening the side-zips.

The mud, heat, and rain of the Roaming Rally over 12-14 hour days of technical off-road riding combined to give my butt a serious case of saddle sores. They were painful and the worst I've experienced despite wearing cycling short liners that have never previously failed me. I'm not sure how much the design of the pants contributed to this misery. However, the following are some things I would love to see changed.

First is the cut of the crotch area. If it incorporated a seamless gusset as shown in a different pair of pants below, it would eliminate one critical seam that can cause chafing.

Second is providing more room in the crotch. Frank and the Beans need some space to move around without getting wrestled by a flat-front design. The nylon fabric provides no stretch in this critical area and that can catch you unexpectedly and painfully when you're up and down on the pegs so much.

Third is to add more belt loops, especially on the side. Wet pants are heavy pants so they're going to sag. You can't connect the pants to the jacket when wearing a full back protector. Suspenders are another option, but they can interfere with back/body protection.

Finally, the legs need to be either wider so they fit over an MX boot, or narrower so they fit into an MX boot without requiring the fabric to be bunched up and cause irritation. If you're DS riding you're going to be wearing a more aggressive boot to provide both a stiff sole for standing on the pegs, and vital shin protection. I can't tell what kind of boot the Motoquest pants had in mind. Besides MX boots, every other boot I've seen at pretty street-oriented and wouldn't last on a typical 50/50 DS ride.


To be fair, the Roaming Rally is an aggressive DS event bordering on an enduro in places. I  pushed the Motoquest gear probably to the limit of its intended use-case. At least half of the 100+ participants were outfitted in full-on MX gear including knee braces, hard armor, jerseys, MX boots and helmets, etc. The other half were dressed like me. So it's reasonable to compare the Motoquest suit against alternatives from the likes of Klim which were quite popular at the event.

Despite my nitpicking and griping I'm pretty happy with this suit and the overall value and quality it offers. I may modify it in a few places (adjusting the legs, cuffs, and neck closure; replacing certain zipper pulls) to solve the most irritating issues. It would be even better to have a conversation with the Olympia designers to help come up with a version 2 that improves on an already great start. Meanwhile, I'll probably invest in some more MX-oriented gear for riding in rougher conditions, where any suit like the Motoquest would be hard challenged to solve all problem perfectly.

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