Several things come to mind when I think of protective moto gear: super heroes, Bladerunner, and racing stripes, for starters. To be clear, none of these is exactly my thing. So when I first saw GoGo Gear’s line of protective scooter apparel for women, a single word summed it up for me: finally!
GoGo Gear is the brainchild of Arlene Battishill, founder of Scooter Girls, a mobile marketing firm whose calling card is blazing hot women on two wheels. Battishill founded the line after becoming frustrated when looking for stylish and feminine protective gear for her employees to wear while trolling Los Angeles on their 50ccs. She couldn’t find it anymore than I could when I first started riding scooters. Helmets are one thing. Finding a jacket that doesn’t make you look like a pink stormtrooper is another.
GoGo Gear has multiple styles to choose from, none of which scream “armored jacket,” including their Trench style, which I was loaned for review (see the entire line at http://www.scooter-girls.com/gallery.html). This jacket retails for around $299 in the gray colorway, and $279 in black.
GoGo Gear’s Trench is based on that classic wardrobe staple we’re all familiar with, but with a protective and functional twist. It has the quintessential trench features – wide lapels, double rows of buttons, and a waist-cinching belt – combined with CE-certified elbow, shoulder and back armor and 600-denier polyester abrasion resistant fabric. The armor and waterproof abrasion resistant fabric are “disguised” by a "fashion" layer of fabric, in this case a gorgeous charcoal gray with a very subtle lined texture. The idea is to have one piece that can move seamlessly from the road to the sidewalk café without anyone realizing exactly what’s under that fashion layer.
Since this coat is a double agent of sorts, its best reviewed on both aspects – function and fashion.
OK, so this review won’t be as thorough on the function side as it could be, as I did not actually slide across pavement or launch myself into a ditch to test its safety features. However, since most of my rides are mercifully pretty low on the crashing side of things, I opted to critique the trench for comfort, convenience and overall functionality. (Batishill herself has fearlessly tested her own products so that I didn’t have to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bme_xRM42Ok )
In addition to the aforementioned armor, the Trench is outfitted with highly reflective material underneath the lapels and collar, on the reverse side of the built-in belt and the inside of the cuffs. At night, you simply flip the belt, turn up the cuffs and pop the collar. While I felt vaguely ridiculous doing this, it definitely beats wearing the florescent yellow high-vis vest I keep under my seat for night riding. That being said, I guess I’d rather look like something out of Fast Times at Ridgemont High than like I just clocked off the local construction site. And, much like just taking off the vest, these features can be “turned off” for daytime riding or when you pop into the café to order your skim chai.
GoGo jackets all feature what must be the most underrated jacket detail out there – a windblocking inner cuff with thumbholes. This is a snug but stretchy hidden layer of technical fabric that fits close around the wrist to block out the wind. A thumbhole keeps the fabric in place and extends the layer down to the top of the knuckles. In all my riding I did not once experience a draft infiltrating the sleeves of the jacket.
As a rider new to wearing armored jackets, the presence of the armor did take a little getting used to, particularly the back panel. The elbow pieces stayed perfectly in place at all times, and for the most part I was completely unaware of their presence, especially while riding. In fact, they were so perfectly contoured I’m thinking of getting new elbow pads for hockey, as GoGo’s are far superior to the ones I use on the ice. The shoulder armor was more of a visual presence for me than a physical one. They didn’t bother me when riding or walking, but they jumped out a bit at me in the mirror. This is likely due in part to my broader-than-average shoulders for my size, and my general aversion to anything resembling 1980s fashion (shoulder pads, anyone?). The back armor plate was rigid enough to be noticeable, but not uncomfortable. It didn’t quite disappear for me the way the other pieces did, but on longer rides I definitely adjusted. I could liken its presence to wearing a small backpack. You can feel the pressure is there, but it’s not troublesome.
None of the armor hampered me in any way while riding. Off the scooter was different, as your range of motion is slightly stilted by the back and elbow pieces, but this just took a little getting used to. At first I found it awkward to button the jacket because it required bending my arm, but I stopped noticing this altogether after the first few wears.
The armor is easily removed if you want to wash the jacket, and is accessible via a zipper in the interior lining. I tried the jacket on without the armor, and barring the back shield that does have a slight Quasimodo effect when it’s in, you really couldn’t see too much difference, which is to the Trench’s credit.
The jacket features two exterior pockets that are just big enough to put your hand into, and are probably there for decoration more than anything. The pockets don’t have a closure, so they aren’t terribly secure when you’re actually riding. There are two roomy interior zippered breast pockets that were large enough to fit my cell phone and wallet together, but access isn’t fast or easy if the jacket is buttoned. But you’re not answering the phone while you’re on your scooter, anyway, right? Right?? The interior lining seemed flimsy, and with the small-toothed zippers on the pockets I was a bit worried that I’d zip the material into the teeth and shred the fabric. I was also concerned that too much weight in the pockets would rip them. While that didn’t happen, I’d say that this is a feature that could use some upgrading, seeing as the rest of the jacket appears to be made with high quality materials.
GoGo Gear recommends the Trench for mild to cool weather. I tested the jacket in mild, cool, wet and hot weather. The jacket performed very well in mild and cool weather. Despite my freezebaby tendencies, I felt snug and warm. While I hadn’t planned on testing out the jacket in a downpour, I decided to view a poorly timed afternoon ride as an opportunity to test the jacket’s waterproof claim. The exterior “fashion” fabric seemed to absorb water, as it didn’t bead, but the interior layer of fabric prevented me from getting wet. The exception to this was a small triangle on my chest, as in my haste to get home I had neglected to secure top lapel button that I imagine is there for this exact purpose. This one can be chalked up to operator error.
I don’t recommend the jacket for hot and/or humid weather, as it is clearly not designed for those conditions. I wore just a t-shirt under the jacket one warm afternoon in the upper 80s and the interior fabric clung uncomfortably to my sweaty arms. And make no mistake about it – if you wear the Trench in hot weather, you will sweat any time you’re riding less than 20mph.
For function, the Trench rates a 4 out 5 stars.
While I could never be accused of being a fashion victim, I do have a style, and it isn’t aligned with the Power Ranger aesthetic of most armored gear. The Trench appeals to me because it has a classic feminine shape and subtle detailing but retains enough function and sporty appeal to keep it from being fussy. I don’t do fussy.
A big, if not the biggest, part of looking your best is having the right fit. The GoGo Gear Trench – along with many other styles – come in a range of women’s sizes from 2-24, so there should be a size to fit anyone that’s likes to look cute and scoot. It’s recommended to size up if you will wear anything but a single layer under the jacket. Given that this style is best suited for cool weather, it’s reasonable to assume you’ll be wearing more than a t-shirt while riding. I’m a typical size 6 (5’5”, 120 pounds, 34” chest), but followed recommendations and borrowed an 8, as I am almost never NOT wearing two layers (see: freezebaby). A 6 would have not accommodated a sweatshirt or light jacket comfortably, so the recommendation to size up is sound.
The sleeves are somewhat longer than a street jacket to accommodate a riding position, but not to the point where you’ll be inadvertently dipping them into your skim chai. The length of the jacket on the body is spot on. Long enough so that you’re not tugging it down while you ride, but not so long that you have to adjust it out from under you when you’re getting settled in for a ride. Many sportier armored jackets are cropped at the waist which is not as universally flattering as the GoGo Trench, which hit me at the top of the thigh. This was also long enough to cover my rear, which comes in handy for riding in cooler temperatures, but not necessarily when I’m walking by the cute guy at the café.
My favorite part of the Trench is the gorgeous charcoal gray fabric. It also comes in basic black, but I tend to find black just that: basic. In fashion I believe this is called “classic.” The gray is neutral, refined and has a subtle lined texture that gives it a richer feel. The overall structure of the jacket is excellent. It has enough weight to feel substantial but isn’t overly cloying while riding or walking. It looks and feels like a quality product.
There is an adjustable belt at the waistline and matching adjustable mini-belts at the wrist. The wrist adjustments are likely more just for looks because the presence of the inner wind cuff eliminates the actual need for cinching down the sleeves. The detail is attractive without being intrusive.
Unfortunately, the belt did not hit me at the narrowest part of my waist, so the effect wasn’t quite as attractive on me as it should have been. Please take note that I am slightly shorter in the torso than average, however, so this is probably in the right place for most women. If I cinched the waist enough to outline my shape, the result was an unfortunate bulking of material at the back of the jacket. This did absolutely nothing for my…assets.
As mentioned earlier, some of the armor does detract from the overall aesthetic, but this is, after all, an armored jacket. The reflective bits that stand out even when not “turned on” are a little flashdance-y for my tastes, but they are still pretty subtle provided you’re not standing in headlights. As the jacket’s chief purpose is to keep me safe, I’ll spot it some fashion points, and this is worlds above and beyond your standard moto jacket.
One caveat about the lapels on the jacket is that if one or the other was positioned just right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) it would vibrate loudly against my helmet while riding at high speeds. While this is easily corrected by smoothing it down at the next stop, the noise and sensation could be distracting. Distraction at any speed on a scooter is terribly dangerous.
The GoGo Gear Trench rates a 3 out of 5 stars on fashion, but only because it wasn’t quite as flattering for my shape as I’d like. If I were to base it on overall looks on a mannequin, for example, it would probably warrant a 4.
I would recommend finding a showroom that carries GoGo Gear’s jackets and trying them on in person. There are a number of styles in the line that I like, and if the Trench is any indication, they are all a quality hybrid of safety, function and fashion.