By : ANINDA SARDAR
You heard right, clown pants. That’s how one of my ex-bosses described the riding pants I used to own back then. While it would keep my bum safe if I got too close to the black top, it would certainly not keep me safe from ridicule. The same could be said of the kind of riding jackets or boots that we could have worn. You simply couldn’t have your cake and eat it too. You would have had to open yourself up to scorn and mockery when you decided to ride a motorcycle, because safety in the saddle can never be compromised. Right? Wrong. It appears you can now have your cake and eat it too, courtesy the good folk at the apparel and riding gear department at Royal Enfield.
The brand had in fact started experimenting with some amount of accessories nearly a decade ago but it was only in 2013 when the Indian owned British brand was prepping to launch the Continental GT 535 that it forayed seriously into the world of RE branded apparel. A venture was even inked with the legendary Lewis Leathers of the UK, which resulted in a fantastically crafted and very vintage looking, though decidedly pricey, black leather jacket. There were t-shirts, shoes, bandanas, helmets and gloves too. But most of them could either be worn for style or for safety. From then to now, much seems to have changed with Royal Enfield having introduced a slew of products for the brand enthusiast or the intrepid biker. The company has even inked a partnership with the world renowned motorcycle riding gear brand Alpinestars to that end. However, what I think sets RE apart from the rest of the crowd is its newfound ability to balance need with everyday style. The result are these three riding jackets and three pairs of riding shoes that will see you safely through most of your regular in-city biking without having to suffer snickering faces or snarky friends.
First up there is the Café Racer Jacket, priced at a reasonable INR 9,000. It is inspired by the style of the bikers who rode the original café racers of the UK in the 1960s. Although the styling of the jacket harks back to a different era altogether, you will still not be a misfit because it looks retro-chic. Although it has features that cater to a modern motorcyclist’s needs – high quality YKK zippers, pockets for shoulder and elbow pads and back protector and stretchable Cordura at the front and back, it still reflects all that heady hedonism that England of the Swinging Sixties was famous for.
If you’re not into café racers then you can easily opt for the Panzer Jacket at INR 8,900. Unlike the Café Racer Jacket that’s made of 100% abrasion resistant leather, the Panzer is made of wax-coated fabric. Like the other this too has pockets built into the shoulders, elbows and back – all set to accept the CE approved armour that you can buy at the same Royal Enfield store and simply put into the jacket. Zippered vents allow decent ventilation without compromising on safety.
At the top of the value chain is the Airborne Varsity Jacket that will go for INR 14,000. Inspired by moto sports, this colour blocked jacket is made of high grade 100% abrasion resistant leather for extra protection along with the usual pockets in the shoulders, elbows and back for accepting CE approved armour. What is striking about this jacket is that in spite of being anything but discreet, you will still end up feeling stylish and dapper. What is incredible about all three jackets is that you can keep them on as a regular stylish accessory instead of having to take them off as soon as you get to your friend’s.
The same can be said of the three pairs of shoes we have here today. First up, are the Ambler and Hankler shoes, at INR 3,800 a pair. The Ambler is crafted from a mix of leather and polyester and has a padded collar for that little bit of extra protection. It also gets a toe cap, a heel cup and an ankle protector – all handy bits to have in your shoe if you kiss the tarmac. What I particularly like is the toe patch that covers the area of the shoe that will be used for shifting gears. The extra protection is thoughtful because this is exactly where shoes start degrading from if you regularly ride a motorcycle.
The Hankler shoes are for casual riding and give you an outdoorsy feel thanks to their sneaker-ish feel. These too are made of full grain leather and have cushioned quilting at the back for protection. Finally, you have the Tribe Boots at INR 4,800 for a pair. Crafted from a combination of high grade leather and polyester, the Tribe Boots offer a lovely balance between style and safety. The latter being provided by the presence of a toe cap, heel cup and two ankle protectors – one inside and one on the outside. Like in the case of the jackets, what is incredible about these shoes is that you don’t necessarily have to ride a motorcycle to wear them. You could go for anything wearing these shoes because they offer whatever safety they do while looking like a regular shoe. As a result you can wear them to a friend’s house party and not feel out of place. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling?