WORDS BY DAMO ASHENHURST
By design, adventure gear is generally bulky because it’s asked to serve throughout changing seasons and across so many terrains and scenarios.
To get a full kit that is as comfortable in the summer heat as it is in the milder months isn’t a simple task in Australia, where the swing in temperature can be huge from month to month or even location to location. But, it’s the heat that’s the toughest to battle in adventure gear.
I’ve been wearing Fly Racing Patrol gear for a few months now. It’s not a name particularly synonymous with adventure riding, with much of the brand’s focus being on motocross, but few brands have made the type of sustained R and D push that Fly Racing has over the last decade.
This effort has risen the variety and the quality of the product to the top and I was keen to see how it translated away from the motocross track, over long days and through diverse weather events. And I have definitely experienced diverse weather events whilst wearing the Patrol kit, from biblical rains and flooding to stifling heat and humidity. The Aussie summer has been a roller-coaster and that’s given me a great opportunity to trial the gear in the more extreme circumstances.
PATROL SOFTSHELL JACKET
As the name suggests, the jacket is softer than the less flexible form of the average adventure kit. It doesn’t house padding, nor does it offer additional layers which in turn cuts down significantly on the bulk.
You get four pockets, one on each side at the bottom and two on the chest area, each of which is mesh lined so I tend to consider the top pockets more as vents and open them up when the heat hits. There is a shielded vented strip right across the back of the shoulders and that, somewhat disappointingly represents the extent of the venting options.
To pacify any horror at the thought of little venting, the Patrol jacket offers removable sleeves which, once detached, can be stored in a large pocket inside the rear of the jacket.
In my experience, and I’ve ridden in some stupid heat lately, removing the sleeves solves any issue with the lack of venting.
On colder days the jacket is impressive. Its fleecy liner offers a lot of warmth and it’s certainly nice to fight the freeze but not be wrapped in a stultifying cocoon of bulk and multiple layers. The wind resistance is top shelf, and the wrist cuffs do up nice and tight to stop ninja breezes infiltrating your sleeves as does the shock-chord waistband.
It’s rated as water-resistant, not waterproof, but it fights the good fight when the heavens open up. I appreciate the fact that it dries faster than a bigger jacket so you’re less likely to be putting on a completely wet kit the next morning. Fly Racing does make an excellent clear rain jacket that’s easy to store which I’d take along with me on the colder wet days just to ensure dryness.
Across the full Fly Racing Patrol kit, it’s the pants that I love the most. Light and easy fitting, they’re supremely comfortable straight away and remain so through days of riding.
To beat the heat there are two vents at the front and two at the back, as well as two large mesh pockets which can be opened and act as vents if you’re not storing anything. An inner mesh liner and overall loose fit (compared to a motocross pant), also helps promote airflow.
The wide waistband offers a silicone strapping that grabs your jersey to help prevent slipping while the ratchet clasp is complemented by elastic and Velcro adjustment for the perfect fit.
The three-piece knee sections are constructed to allow braces or pads and my Pod K8s fit very nicely, while multiple stretch panels throughout help provide even greater comfort right up and down your legs. You can also buy the pants in either under boot (like mine) or over boot configuration should you have a clear preference.
My pants show no sign of wear thus far and that’s not from a lack of trying. I think I’ve come off the bike more in the last 12 months than I have in the previous five years. Like the rest of the Patrol kit, they wash easily in the machine which is an automatic advantage over a lot of other adventure gear sets, which don’t fit so well alongside your undies and tee-towels.
PATROL XC GLOVES
I am picky about my gloves. I hate having no feel on the levers, but I also don’t like my hands freezing to the grips when it gets cold. It can be hard to find a good middle ground but I like to have a good mid-weather glove around at all times that gives a decent feel but also reasonable weather protection.
The Patrol XC are an excellent all-around glove choice, offering hard-knuckle protection and nice stretchy finger feel as well as a padded palm and thumb for crash protection and resistance to grip rubbing.
The fit is very much spot on for me in that they aren’t tight at all but also not too loose and benefit from Lycra patches that add flex. They hold their form throughout any weather and feel equally fine on the road as they do in some pretty silly offroad riding.
As a mid-weather glove, they handle the heat well but I reckon once the temps dip into single digits they’d get a bit chilly.
The downsides? The gloves don’t work on a smartphone screen and after a horrendously wet week of riding, I ripped the cuff on one pulling them on in a hurry. As an explainer, I was photographing that ride all week and would’ve taken the drenched gloves off 20 to 25 times a day which is absolutely not something you’d do on a normal ride, but I was surprised it ripped a little.
PATROL XC LITE GLOVES
Presenting as more of a motocross-style glove, the XC Lite are so good on those hot days or for when the route is technically tricky and good feel is paramount.
There is an amount of protection beyond a normal MX glove through direct-inject knuckle guards and an extra layer on the inside of the thumb. The palm is free from padding for maximum feel.
As a warm-weather glove I’m happy to reach for them or pack them away should the heat sneak up on me. They do work the smartphone screen reasonably well which is a bonus.
I have done a lot of riding in the gear now and I’m happy to return to it over and over. I like the crossover of enduro riding and adventure that produces a lighter, easier fit and the overall flexibility of the full ensemble.
Some riders might be concerned about the lack of padding which is fair enough. It’s not a natural fit for road miles but it comes into its own when the weather heats up or changes wildly and you want to respond quickly. And it’s a great option for anyone that’s not comfortable wearing the more common, bulkier gear.
The jacket would benefit from extra venting but on the whole, the Fly Racing Patrol set-up is well built, well-sized and impressively versatile. If you know you’re heading towards the heat or you simply want to lighten the load you’re carrying on your body, this is a great kit to consider.