Alpinestars Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket and Apex Drystar Glove Review: In the Storm

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The rain is falling in sheets as we pull out of San Luis Obispo, ditch the 101 and its stutter-step panic braking traffic, and head for the Pacific Coast Highway. Pre-Christmas 2010, these are the worst rains to lash California in recent memory. It’s the right day to break out the heavy weather gear, but in the name of science I’ve refused instead relying on Alpinestars’ Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket and Apex Drystar Gloves to resist the onslaught.

Of the two items, the gloves that are the weaker. Leaving the Long Beach International Motorcycle show, they soaked through by the time we’re across LA and picking our way through rain addled traffic up the 101. Common sense and driving ability it seems are water soluble in these southern climes. Pulling over for a roadside confab with Kevin, I shift my position on the bars and water sluices down my jacket’s arms and into the gloves.

In fairer weather the Drystars are fine, a combined leather and textile construction ensure you have a good feel for the controls, without the bulky all-weather space-glove effect. Impact protection comes in the form of foam inserts on top of hand and wrist cuff, and abrasion resistance is beefed up with a layer of Clarino and leather on the palm. Unfortunately for me, while breathable and warm (including when wet) they aren’t waterproof as advertised, even before my unfortunate filling of them.

I’ll admit to having used these gloves on road with the Multistrada 1200 S Touring and off-road with the KTM 690 Enduro R sporadically through out the winter, and not needing the heated grips on either bike. In dry and cold weather, cool fall days through the winter and on to chilly spring nights, I wouldn’t hesitate to plunge my hands into the soft welcoming liners of the Drystars, but dive into the storm you can’t call them all weather. Not so the Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket, which is a miracle of all-weather versatility.

When I finally break and don my rainsuit, it’s because the water is slowly wicking it’s way up the arms of my longsleeve shirts under the Frontier’s removable Gore-Tex SoftShell liner, rather than the jacket itself soaking through. Zipped into that liner, Russian doll style, is the warmest quilted thermal liner I‘ve ever tested. Even a hair below freezing I’m finding my heated-vest isn’t needed.

The liners are the important bits here, first because the Gore-Tex SoftShell is breathable and waterproof, insulating you from the non-water-absorbent outer from the jacket as it soaks through – just stash your wallet and electronics in the waterproof pockets. Second, being removable the liner means you don’t need to pack a shell for around town while traveling. It also adds to the jacket’s versatility as temperatures increase.

This trip alone, we’ve tested the jacket from 0°C up to 30°C. Remove the quilted liner and you’re set for a spring day. Pull the Gore-Tex on as temperatures continue to rise. Hitting a warm summer’s day? The Frontier has that covered too with two large chest panels and a massive, back-wide, rear panel that zip open and pocket away for cooling, both revealing large mesh openings for extreme ventilation. In facing the elements, the Frontier is one of the most versatile jackets I’ve encountered.

Protecting you in the event of a spill, there’s the removable CE certified “Bio-armor” in the standard elbow and shoulder locations, but it’s lighter, more flexible and cuts the transmitted force in half over traditional CE armor. An improvement over a number of adventure jackets in this class there’s also a foam back protector. As important, the fit of the jacket sees the armor well-placed and sitting well for a down. Upping the game is the internal PE padded chest protection that sits just under the vents and is upgradable to Alpinestars Bionic chest guards. There is, as one would expect, abrasion resistant inserts covering your most vulnerable areas when the slide comes.

There are a couple issues with the Frontier though. The zipper, your main closure, is frail, fine-toothed and finicky to operate even with ungloved hands and have a tendency to jam. Should the main zipper break, if you’re riding with the Gore-Tex liner in there’s a back-up closure, but we found the zipper a hassle on the road.

There’s also the fit of the Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket to consider, it’s downright comfortable. There’s a relaxed fit, and the pre curved sleeves feature inner forearm stretch panels so they naturally fall into the riding position, though for those of us who are tall the sleeves themselves are a bit on the short side. Reducing chaffing there’s neoprene neck and wrist edges and micro fleece lined collar, though the neck opening itself seems a bit tight.

Beyond the spendy price, which is matched by the quality, there is one final consideration to Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket. The Frontier is the rarest of all things in a piece of adventure gear — not just exceptionally functional, but fashionable. So if you choose, you don’t have to look like an overlander on your way across the continent.

Apex Drystar Glove
Colors – Black, Black/Red, Black/Blue
Sizes – S to 3XL
Suggested retail price – $79.95 USD
Current Mileage: 5,000km

Frontier Gore-Tex Jacket
Colors: Black, Yellow/Gray
Sizes: S – 4XL
Suggested retail price: $699.95 USD
Current Mileage: 10,000km

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