Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rukka Outlast review

Using Rukka garments and under garments means we don't need to strip layers and yet stay comfortable, whether riding to the top of cold mountains passes or standing still in glorious sunlight for a photo
Remember the old saying 'use layered clothing to prepare yourself for changing weather conditions'? The theory is to wear all layers when it's cold and take layer by layer off when it gets warmer. It works of course but when on a bike, where do you leave all those layers? There is a small problem with stripping layers when riding a bike too as they are generally worn under the jackets and pants. Somehow stripping layers of clothes by the side of the road doesn't appeal to me. Surely there must be something better?

Especially when traveling on a bike, we like to pack light and small. Yet when on an extensive tour, like the around the world tour we are on now, we need to be prepared for all sorts of weather. Which is why we have more clothes with us than we would like. It makes the bikes heavy and the bags bulky and both weight and bulk are a killer of enjoyment.

While in Alaska we learned that the old fashioned cotton t-shirts we have are useless when it's cold. Of course when Alaskans talk about cold they mean seriously bloody cold! But still, there is a lot to learn from people living under those conditions. We hopefully won't face much colder than -15°C but take the wind-chill factor into consideration and we quickly get conditions comparable to what they call cold. The problem with cotton is that it holds moisture and moisture conducts rather than insulates. Once sweat enters a cotton shirt, it becomes a big conductor. Switching over to Merino wool shirts gave a remarkable improvement. Remarkable as a Merino shirt is relatively thin and light yet kept us much warmer than cotton.

The improvement which Merino wool gave us made me wonder what else is available. Rukka, the manufacturer of world class motorcycle and ski-clothing told us that all we would need to wear under their Cosmic suit is their undergarments… A pretty bold statement but then again Finland has some bloody cold winters and yet summer temperatures of 30°C plus aren't uncommon either, so you'd think they know a thing or two about clothing for extreme conditions.

Where Merino wool is a pure natural product, Rukka has taken the scientific approach. Outlast technology was originally developed for NASA and is the only product certified by NASA for this purpose. It utilises phase change materials which absorb, store and release heat for optimal thermal comfort. It works similar to ice cubes in a drink, whereby the ice cube absorbs the heat and cools the drink. Unlike the ice cubes, the Outlast material is encapsulated in microscopic small cells and can change back and forth depending on need, keeping the temperature optimum. Merino wool has a wicking effect by reacting to your sweat and pulling it away from the skin. Outlast technology prevents excessive heat and thereby prevents sweat. 

Rukka has gone one step further and combines Outlast technology with a fibre that has wicking capabilities like Merino wool, which is literally the best of both worlds. It promises the impossible: keeping you warm when it's cold and keeping you cool when it's warm... A sort of climate control for motorcyclists then? Sounds too good to be true. 
When they arrived we wondered even more how this could possibly work as they are so light and thin, even compared to the lightweight Merino wool we had. Two sets of long-johns and shirts are smaller and lighter than one pair of conventional socks! How could that possibly work?

Having used them every day for 10 months now, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week and in conditions from -10 to +30, I still don't know how they could possibly work... but they do! So much so that we are going to drop off everything else we have with us in clothes at my parents place and only take the Rukka stuff for the rest of the trip. We simply love it! We can reduce the volume of clothes we have with us to at least 25% and yet have more comfortable clothing than before. 

Motorcycle clothing is important, very important! It protects us from the elements and protects us in a fall. That alone should be reason enough to invest in good quality gear. But it does much more than that. It also keeps us comfortable and as anyone with motorcycling experience will tell you, concentration slips away when cold or overheated on a bike. Switching over to Rukka has been the biggest single improvement of our gear. The Rukka undergarments are a big part of this. Yes, good motorcycle clothing is expensive but I find it astonishing that motorcyclists easily spend a couple of grand on bling and other accessories while riding gear always seems to come last. Having experienced first hand the difference they make, I'd rather trade my motorcycle for something smaller than I'd trade my Rukka gear for anything less!