A dozen years ago, I purchased my first pieces of textile riding gear—a Firstgear jacket and matching pants. Between the warm jacket lining, the internal armor and the waterproofing, I was able to ride comfortably and safely—all while staying dry—throughout the winter. I’ve worn the gear many times since and it’s still quite serviceable, but this past winter I decided it was finally time for an upgrade.
My trip to the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis in February provided the perfect opportunity to shop for new riding gear. As soon as I hit the exhibit hall, I made a beeline for the Firstgear exhibit and asked the representative there to show me their best-performing jacket and pants. He immediately pointed me toward the all-weather TPG (Technical Performance Gear) line. It didn’t take much convincing for me to try the TPG Escape Pants and TPG women’s Monarch Jacket for my upcoming ride to Daytona Bike Week.
When my Escape Pants and Monarch Jacket arrived at my home a few days later, I set to examining the outfit. TPG gear consists of a three-part layered system that includes Basegear, which Firstgear terms a second skin. The Basegear, sold separately, is supposed to help you maintain a consistent core body temperature, fight odor, protect you from chafing and bacteria, and keep you dry. Since I already owned plenty of high-tech full-length undergarments, I opted to use those instead.
For the Monarch, the second layer is the zip-in Tech Liner Jacket, included with purchase. The micro-fleece mid-liner is water- and windproof and also serves as a surprisingly stylish standalone jacket. The chest vents line up with those on the outer jacket, and there are two inside pockets—one for a phone and the other for a map or whatever else you can fit in the roomy 7″ x 9″ compartment.
The third layer, the Monarch outer jacket, is a marvel of modern technology. (Note that Firstgear offers the similarly equipped Rainier and Teton jackets for men.) It employs the trademarked d3o T3 removable armor in the shoulders, elbows and back. The armor is very thin and flexible, but provides excellent shock absorption—and it’s so comfortable I forgot it was there. The outer nylon shell incorporates Kevlar-reinforced Teramid at the shoulders and elbows, as well as waterproof and breathable Hypertex PLUS material. There are a total of six vents on the chest, sleeves and back for the warm weather, and the zippered cuffs and fleece-lined collar contain neoprene to block wind and retain body heat.
There’s storage aplenty—four pockets on the outside and the two inside pockets have the same configuration as the liner jacket. All exterior pockets, vents and cuff zippers are waterproof, and the collar has an integrated rain hood worn under your helmet to prevent water from running down your neck.
The jacket is 3″ longer in the back to keep it from riding up, and there’s a 10″ jacket-to-pant zipper, as well. The waist and sleeves have adjustable straps, and there are zippered side gussets to make the jacket fit looser or tighter, depending on what you’re wearing underneath (or how much weight you’ve gained or lost). You can also pull the built-in bungee-like cords to create a wind and rain block around the bottom of the jacket.
The Escape Pants (third layer of the pants system) provide many of the same features as the Monarch Jacket, including the Hypertex PLUS outer shell, waterproof zippers and reflective panels for nighttime visibility. The Teramid-reinforced Kevlar protects the knee area, over the removable d3o T5 Pro “intelligent” CE-approved armor at the knees (the armor is also placed at the hips). The pants are sized to fit over your jeans or the inner liner that comes with purchase.
One pant feature I like best is the articulated knee and seat, meaning that the fabric doesn’t pull or bind while riding. There are two vents on the fronts of the thighs, and two front pockets (the men’s version also has two front cargo pockets). The waist expands or contracts via two ratchet-style adjusters (I found this to be very helpful after stuffing myself at truck stop diner buffets).
I discovered that the pants are very easy to pull on and off by virtue of side leg zippers that actually go above my knees. Each leg has an inside elasticized cuff for snugness and to keep rain from coming up the pant legs. And there is heat-resistant fabric on the inside of both lower legs to protect the pants from the bike’s mufflers.
Layer two of the pants system is an inner liner that can also double as standalone pants. The liner pants are made of nylon fabric, and they have two jean-style front pockets. Similar to the outer pants, they have a very long zipper on each leg for easy on and off, an adjustable waist, and articulated knee and seat. They connect to the outer pants with leg snaps and a zipper that goes around the waist. The liner has two-ounce fiberfill insulation, as well.
On my ride to Daytona, I wore the jacket and liner over a long-sleeved shirt, and the pants and liner over a pair of thin long johns. Even though the temperature was in the mid-20s some mornings, I was toasty warm throughout the ride. On the days when it was a little warmer (mid-40s or higher), I just wore the outer pants over a pair of jeans. When I got to my lodgings every night, rather than looking for a complete change of clothing to go out for dinner, I wore the pants liner and jacket liner. Once I got to Daytona where the temperature was in the 70s and 80s, I just wore the Monarch Jacket without the liner and with the vents open, and left the Escape Pants (minus the liner) in my saddlebag in case of rain.
Since my Daytona trip, I’ve worn the Escape and Monarch set a number of times in all sorts of conditions, and I can’t find a single thing to complain about. Not a drop of water has found its way anywhere inside the jacket or pants, and I’ve never been too hot, too cold or uncomfortable in any way. I fully expect this gear to serve me well into the next decade and beyond.
Firstgear offers a five-year limited warranty and a two-year crash protection policy for both the Escape Pants and Monarch Jacket. 4
TPG Monarch Jacket and Escape Pants
Monarch Jacket: $469.95
Women’s Sizes: XS-2XL (sand/brown, black/grey or green/blue)
Escape Pants: $379.95
Women’s Sizes: 6-18 (black)
Men’s Sizes: 30-48, Tall 34-40, Short 34-40 (black)