Buell Adventure Jacket and Pants – Switchback Betrayal

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buell_adventure_gearI’ve toured over 5000km by the time I exchange the Buell Gear in Quebec City, and that’s long overdue.  That means I’ve already ridden through Atlantic Canada with “Adventure” gear designed by someone who clearly has never ridden in the rain, drizzle, fog, or temperatures below 20 Celsius.

Wearing the label “Adventure” one would expect a hint of water resistance from the Buell Adventure Jacket and Pants.  It’s a basic and assumed expectation of textile gear in this niche, yet by the time I’ve reached Ottawa on my eastbound way from Toronto I’ve learned otherwise.  The Buell Adventure gear soaks through with sponge-like enthusiasm in the first wave of rain I hit.

So a mental note on my part then, read the specs and don’t assume a products functionality based on a name taking advantage of a hot motorcycle meme.  Core to the Buell Adventure gear’s faults is the one innovation that Buell strongly touts on its marketing materials – “Switchback Technology”.

“Switchback Technology” consists of zippered textile outer panels that run from collarbone to waist of the Buell Adventure Jacket and along the thigh of the pants, with magnets at top to affix the ends.  To create additional airflow one simply zips out the “Switchback” panels.  It is hard to believe anyone would require additional airflow – crossing the Saharah maybe?

Open at the top, despite the efforts of the magnetically affixed flaps, the panels leak air in.  The zippers, not waterproof or resistant numbers, do likewise.  In rain the entire system simply transforms itself into aqua-intake scoops.  If the water hasn’t entered through the switchback panels, it rolls down the jacket and pools in the folds of the riding pants’ crotch… Until you shift slightly and the last vestiges of water resistance is disrupted, sending a cold tsunami running through your crotch and down both legs via the switchback panels on your thighs.

Then of course there are the magnets.  Do not put hotel room key card into the pants pockets unless you fancy the front desk clerk.  You’ll be seeing them repeatedly to re-code your demagnetized key-cards.  Gas cards are similarly ill affected, the first time testing motorcycle apparel has cost me gas money – $75.48 to be precise.

It would have taken so little to make this gear effective.  In reality, all the “Switchback” technology, a lofty term for zippered panels of fabric, needs to overcome its detriments is waterproof zippers and a better means of affixing the end of each strip.

A temporary fix was to duct-tape over the panels, so sealed the Buell Adventure Jacket and Pants become quite acceptable and almost warm.  At least at speeds below 130kph, beyond that you end up trailing streamers of duct tape a la Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

The Buell Adventure Jacket and Pants, are only meant for adventures involving dry warm days, which limits the usability.  It’s hard to develop a positive relationship with motorcycle gear that seams intent to watch you die of hypothermia.  I’d like to suggest a re-branding of the “Switchback Technology” to something more appropriate and truthful – “Backstab” would do, any Touring or Adventure rider would feel betrayed by this gear… Or in the end simply remove the word “adventure” from the label, and with expectations thus adjusted the gear would be fine.

Adventure Jacket with Switchback Technology:
Men’s S – XL – $225.00 US / $264.95 CDN
Men’s XXL – XXXL – $235.00 US / $274.95 CDN

Adventure Pant with Switchback Technology
Men’s S – XL – $125.00 US / $144.95 CDN
Men’s XXL – XXXL – $135.00 / $159.96 CDN

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