An Unexpected Gear Test
When we first came up with the idea to put together a clothing style guide for the Los Angeles Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, we wanted to assemble stylish, yet motorcycle appropriate clothing. I could have hardly imagined that I would actually put the gear we featured to a real-world crash test.
For last month's ride, I was given a pair of Rayburn motorcycle shoes from Oscar by Alpinestars. Right out of the box, the shoes were comfortable to wear and walk around in. With the styling of a high-end leather work boot, they didn't require any break-in, but felt substantial and protective in all the right places you expect from a real riding shoe.
The toe box and heel are heavily re-enforced and feel supportive. The top of the shoe comes up well above the ankles and has substantial ankle disk pads on both sides. The Rayburn Shoe is CE certified to CE 89/686/EEC – CAT 2, yet still manages to look great. The brown, full grain leather upper with white, slip resistant rubber compound soles make for a shoe you would want to wear even when you're not riding a bike.
But do the Rayburn Shoes Really Protect Your Feet?
From first hand experience, I can categorically say yes.
After the official Distinguished Gentleman's Ride had ended in downtown Los Angeles, a group of us were lingering in the parking lot of the Ace Hotel. I asked our friend Damian if I could ride the 1980 Yamaha XT500 custom supermoto bike that he built and had ridden that day. With its 500cc single cylinder and low gearing, it has loads of torque and it's quite the wheelie machine. Showing off in the parking lot, I started ripping back and forth, lofting the front wheel with only the slightest twist of the wrist.
Random Cycles XT500SM
Being that the bike is a fresh custom build from Damian's shop, Random Cycles, it still has a few kinks to be worked out. The rear brake still needs some fine tuning as it doesn't yet deliver enough stopping power. I discovered this nuance when I tried to slide the rear wheel around after a couple wheelies. The front end of the XT500 is from a later model Yamaha YZ450 and has a large 300mm brake rotor that delivers extreme stopping authority.
Crash Test Dummy
After what was going to be my last wheelie pass, I turned the bike around and grabbed a bit too much front brake and everything went sideways. Before I knew it, the front wheel washed out and I hit the pavement hard enough to knock the wind out of me. My right foot got caught under the XT and slid a few feet before coming to a stop on the parking lot's dirty asphalt.
The Rayburn shoe took the brunt of the impact, and it allowed my feet and ankles to come out completely unscathed. It no doubt saved Damian's beautiful bike from any substantial damage as well. I popped up and quickly lifted the motorcycle off of the ground doing my best to look cool. But as it turns out, it's hard to look cool when you get the wind knocked out of you. My dress shirt was ripped (no, I wasn't wearing my leather jacket) and there was some nasty road rash on my right arm. The impact had cracked one of my ribs, which more than a week later still smarted when I took a deep breath, coughed or sneezed.
The boots were scuffed, but held up to the impact with no serious damage. Most importantly, the Rayburn shoes actually protected my ankles and feet from both the weight of the motorcycle and the pavement, saving that area from certain road rash and a possible broken ankle. My cracked rib, however, was another matter entirely.