Talking Motorcycle Gear Tech: Interview with First Gear’s Greayer Clover

Apr 14, 2014 View Comments by

Talking Motorcycle Gear Tech: Interview with FIrst Gear's Greayer CloverGreayer Clover is currently the Brand Manager for the high-tech company Firstgear. He has worked extensively in the industry and is an expert in the field of touring and adventure outfitting.

RR: How did you get started in the motorcycle and apparel industries?
Greayer Clover: My first foray into technical attire was with The North Face back in the mid-80s. I was immersed in backpacking, climbing, and back-country skiing. I learned first-hand the use and development of waterproof-breathable fabrics in outerwear, the importance of micro-climates within a garment, and layering to accommodate varying levels of aerobic output. After almost a decade with TNF, I got involved in the bicycle industry where the fit requirements were quite different. That set the stage for understanding fit dynamics.

What do you ride?
I’m a committed motorcyclist, but I’d consider myself a strong intermediate rider. I’ve never raced—though I am a fan. I really love, and aspire to, dual sport. A 1976 Honda XL350 got me hooked, and currently I ride a 2007 DL650. I lovingly refer to it as “The Mighty ‘Strom” (to the chuckles of my friends on their DL1000s).

 

What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of various materials used in technical gear?
As with anything in riding, and in life, it’s a series of compromises. Everything has its place in the spectrum. Assuming a suitable grade, leather has terrific intrinsic qualities; it’s classic, breaks in nicely, has a quality of character, and all things being equal, a long useful life. However, it’s also very heavy and it’s not good in the rain. Additionally, the volatility of cost and availability makes it challenging to source, price, and construct. Firstgear is proud of the leather products we’ve made in the past but because of the challenges I’ve mentioned, we’ve moved totally into textiles. Cordura is a brand name of air-textured nylon with a canvas feel. It has some key properties for motorcycle apparel, but it is one of many. Some are good; some are better. It depends upon the application. At Firstgear we utilize many fabrics and components to create a garment that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Which materials are ideal for specific applications?
There are numerous options available, and new innovations are coming online all the time. In a very broad sense, mesh fabrics (which provide more airflow to cool the body), are suitable for hot weather. At very high temps, Phoenix summers for example, it will dry out the body in no time. So it has its limits. Polyester fills can be used in removable liners for additional insulation in colder climes, and of course a plethora of nylons and polyesters can be used in any number of applications depending upon the design requirements. We use a wide variety, each with a specific purpose in mind. It’s a great time to be a designer of practical attire (and more so to be a rider) because of the many textile fabrics and materials that are currently available.

Talking Motorcycle Gear Tech: Interview with FIrst Gear's Greayer CloverExplain the importance of a “micro-climate.”
Science tells us that the body is at its most efficient when the humidity level is 37.5 percent at the body’s natural temperature. So the “holy grail” for us as technical apparel makers is to produce clothing that maintains this climate inside the garment, which is the microclimate.

What have been some of the major breakthroughs in touring equipment?
Armor protection. At Firstgear, we use D3O armor technology in some of our clothing. It’s unique because the molecules that make up the polymer stay soft and supple until impact. Then they instantly stiffen to absorb and dissipate energy. Utilizing this technology has allowed a better fit and more dynamically reactive articles while providing the same, or greater, levels of impact protection.

Explain how a material can be both waterproof and breathable.
Waterproof/breathable technology, regardless of brand name or type, all works the same way. It has a coating or laminate with literally billions of microscopic holes per square inch. The water molecules (in a liquid state) are too large to pass through the micro porous membrane. Moisture vapor (or gas) can pass through the membrane to the exterior of the garment.

What does “moisture wicking” mean?
Moisture wicking refers to increasing the surface area of the moisture—in this case, perspiration. Again, moisture in a liquid state cannot pass through the membrane, but moisture in a gaseous state can. The trick of getting sweat turned into vapor is to use body heat. Synthetic fiber base layers (usually some form of polyester) allow the body’s perspiration to be “wicked” via capillary action. It literally spreads out the moisture to an increased surface area.

Why is cotton a poor choice?
Cotton absorbs more than 90 percent of its weight in moisture. If it’s cold out, wet cotton sitting against your skin will suck the heat out of your body. When it’s hot, that same wet cotton will insulate by holding body heat in.

Talking Motorcycle Gear Tech: Interview with FIrst Gear's Greayer CloverDoes the idiom “you get what you pay for” hold true for motorcycle apparel?
For the most part, yes. It’s a great time to be a rider though because many lower priced garments (that’s subjective too!) offer features that were out of reach not so long ago. Modern materials and designs have greatly expanded the selection. There’s just no excuse for the denim jacket any more. There are some amazing technologies from a number of manufacturers that dramatically improve the riding experience—and yes, one has to pay more for those. But today’s “latest and greatest” advances become tomorrow’s mainstream. It really depends on where one’s needs and desires intersect. While I’d like to see everyone in Firstgear, it’s more important to get riders into some kind of motorcycle-specific gear for their safety and comfort while riding.

What advice would you give to someone shopping for some all-season riding gear?
Decide on a good exterior shell (pants and jacket) that will keep you protected from the elements as well as an impact. Don’t bulk up when it’s cold. Instead, consider active heated apparel. Minimizing bulk while staying comfortable allows the rider to be more agile and dynamic on the bike.

What technological advances are on the horizon?
The real advances will be in impact as well as environmental protection. D3O (and other effective armor technologies) are next generation and have a place in riding. The waterproof/breathable revolution has certainly changed how people interface with the environment, and for the most part, that technology has reached the apex of efficiency. I believe the next steps are in properties to help facilitate moisture transfer, base layers, impregnations to existing w/b’s (e.g., 37.5 Cocona) as well as lighter, stronger fabrics that these treatments are bonded to. We are always on the lookout for new technologies to improve safety and comfort. RR

Photography courtesy of Greayer Clover

 

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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.