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The ups and downs of leather testing

 

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As I sat on the start line of the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, I had a million things rushing through my mind.  Here I was on race day, after a week-long build up of practice and qualifying, about to compete in an international racing event on possibly the most dangerous motorcycle course in the United States.  There was no warm up lap.  It was line up, take the green flag and GO!  Honestly, my Segura S Race 3 test suit was the last thing on my mind.  Little did I know what was in store for me as the green flag waved and I blasted off on a Harley-Davidson XR1200 race bike. In exactly 3 minutes and 42 seconds I would be sliding and tumbling down the racing surface and into a rock-lined culvert ditch, with a 500lb Harley Davidson on top of me. If ever there was a true test of the durability of a set of leathers, this was it…

 

 

The Suit

When I first received it in February, this Segura S Race 3 leather and kangaroo suit fit a little snugly on my 200 pound frame. It was a European size-large, supplied by the fine folks at NTC-45.  This slight tightness fit into my grand plan to get healthier and slimmer, so that I'd be able to race comfortably at altitude at Pikes Peak later in the summer. I was impressed with the $1195.00 retail Segura S Race 3 leathers upon first inspection. The suit was a white and black model, with titanium armor on the shoulders and elbows. This set of leathers just looks plain cool! The suit features strategically placed cow and kangaroo leather, and felt surprisingly lightweight compared to the suit I'd been wearing previously.  There is multi-layer armor in the major impact zones and a new generation KNOX labeled CE approved ‘soft’ back protector that I found to be very comfortable. Props to Segura on the armor, as it was properly placed and fit very well.  You really don’t feel the armor at all while riding and overall, the suit feels like a second skin.

Segura_scuff_2To provide comfort, the Segura S Race 3 suit features limited but effectively placed perforations.  There are generous flex panels and stretch panels in non-critical areas, all in nicely contrasting black.  I was really impressed by the liner, both from an aesthetic and functional perspective. The heavily perforated liner is held in place by a combination of Velcro and zippers and proved to be not only very comfortable, but also durable over the short time I had the suit . The liner zips into an eye catching bright red internal leather zipper flange that runs the perimeter of the inside of the upper suit .  It is quite striking unzipping the suit showing off the cool internal red striping, which adds a bit of cool factor to the wearer at those partially leathered up rider meetings or leisurely strolls down the hot pit.

The first opportunity to try the new Segura suit came at the Memorial Day start of a solid 5 weekends of racing or riding.  Our first outing was at the relatively shade-free but entertaining Autobahn in Illinois, at a Sportbike Track Time track day.  We were there shaking down both our Pikes Peak XR1200 and also our Daytona Sportbike-spec Buell 1125R Battle of the Twins race bike. By this time I had slimmed down to about 185 pounds and found the suit's sizing to be comfortable, with the leather just needing some break in time. I will be the first to admit that I don’t do well in hot conditions and must have double the number of sweat glands found in a normal human.  Despite the blazing heat at Autobahn, I found the suit to be very comfortable both riding the bike as well as sitting on hot pit road out in the sun.  This being my first white suit after a decade of black ones, I am guessing that color scheme must have something to do with it.  Ventilation was excellent on the unfaired XR1200, and good on the 1125R as well, The only areas that required some break in time were the legs and hips, but by the end of the first day the suit was working well enough for it to not be a distraction while riding. The Segura labeled knee pucks worked well and were not too grabby, although they felt a bit thick to me initially.

I had two small complaints about the Segura suit.  First, the liner tended to bunch up in the lower arms once I got good and sweaty, which might have been cured by the inclusion of a few more Velcro attachment points.  In Segura’s defense, the arm length of this off–the-shelf suit was a bit too long for me, which could have been contributing to the issue. Second, the zipper clasps for both the lower arms and main center zipper were very small, which made it difficult to find and grip them with road race gloves on.

Next followed four weekends of racing in both AHRMA and the Battle of the Twins series.  The suit performed well and continued to get more comfortable as it broke in. We ran a diverse group of tracks, including Road America, Grattan and even the local drag strip. My only other insight (and no fault of Segura) is that you should really think long and hard about buying a white suit if you are going to be racing either Vintage bikes or Harley-Davidsons.  I am pleased to say that the oil cleaned off of the suit very well…

Segura_scuff_3Last Dance

By the time we headed to Pikes Peak in June, I had full confidence in the Segura S Race 3.  Prior to heading to Colorado, the suit took a short detour to Alexa Krueger at Spider Leatherworks for some graphics and sponsor patches.  She did a stellar job and the suit proved to be a great canvas for her artistry.  By the week of the Hill climb, I was at 180 pounds and the now broken in suit was a perfect fit. Again, the Segura proved very comfortable in the extremely diverse conditions that our team experienced in three days of practice and qualifying, which ranged in temperature from 40 degrees to 80 degrees, between altitudes of 9000 ft. to 14,000 feet above sea level.  I guess the best compliment I can give the Segura is that it was completely off my radar, allowing me to concentrate on my riding during my rookie week on the mountain.

As noted in the first paragraph, things didn’t go quite to plan for us during the actual race, which thrust the safety performance of the Segura suit quickly to the forefront of my consciousness. Understand that aside from the lack of oncoming traffic, all the other road hazards which we escape when at the racetrack are right there alongside the Pike's Peak course, since it actually is a road for 51 weeks of each year.  Essentially, this was a big, ugly street crash, similar to what a canyon or mountain road rider might face.  I was only into the course about 4 miles when I tucked the front end of the bike under trail braking at about 70mph, heading into Brown Bush corner. I suspect I hit some debris in the road, based on the response of the bike. It was one of those crashes which happened so quickly that I was completely caught off guard. I wound up sliding on my left side under the 500lb bike, with that leg hooked on the engine. The Harley then proceeded to tumble over me, dragging me by the leg and flipping me to the right side, where I finally separated from the bike and slid into a cement/rock drainage culvert.  Judging from the hot, searing pain emanating from my knee, I knew even before I stopped sliding that I wouldn’t be walking back to the pits anytime soon.

Medically, it was a good news/really really bad news scenario.  My knee was blown to bits, tearing the PCL, ACL, and MCL, as well as an evulsion fracture of the Tibia where the ligaments tore the bone away. Despite the beating my knee had taken, there were no other injuries. Zero. Not even a bruise.  My helmet, boots, and Segura leathers did an amazing job considering that they were sliding down the road with a 500lb motorcycle pinning them to the asphalt. The doctor said that he'd never seen this serious of a knee injury without an accompanying compound fracture. I have to give credit to the double armor found in the shin area of the Segura leathers for keeping my leg in one piece, even as the knee joint failed.

Segura_gridUnfortunately, the Segura leathers had to be cut off of me and were later pronounced un-repairable by Spyder Leatherworks.  Ironically, it wasn’t the crash damaged that did the suit in, but instead was first responder-induced damage, as they cut the suit apart while extracting my swollen leg from the leathers.  Except for the cuts made by the paramedics, the suit was in remarkably good condition post crash. I was amazed at how well the light, thin kangaroo leather in the arms and shoulders  protected me without  ripping, tearing or getting punctured. Although there are abrasions over 75% of the suit, none of the seams was compromised and the only hole was where the bike’s exhaust system burned through a flex panel during the crash.  Had I not blown out my knee and been removed from it with paramedic's shears, I could have continued to ride in this suit after the crash.

Conclusion

Whether you race, do track days or ride the streets, we all accept that there is inherent danger in this truly wonderful sport we all enjoy.  One of the ways we can minimize risk to ourselves is to wear the most effective riding gear that we can buy. The Segura S Race 3 suit offers style, comfort, light weight, and unquestionable crash protection, all at a reasonable price.  Three minutes and forty-two seconds into my rookie race up Pikes Peak, I found their value to be priceless.





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