Review: Knox gear and their layering system

I live in Spain, where I teach Swedish and English. My motorbike is my only mode of transport and I see myself as an all-year and all-weather rider. This means that I use it for my supermarket shopping, riding to my evening Catalan classes, as well as for trips across Europe. My priorities when choosing motorbike gear are functionality and flexibility. If it looks good, that is an appreciated bonus. I don’t like bulky gear nor do I like gear with built-in/detachable liners for much the same reason, but also because the liners can’t serve as warm layers off the bike – that kind of lack of versatility is a big no-no for me.

Knox clothing works with a layering system, which means that their items are designed to be combined and you can add and remove layers depending on the weather. This review will be about the following items: the Olivia jacket, the quilted warm layer jacket, and the Cold Killers Blue Collection sports jacket and trousers. I will describe how I use them on and off the bike, how I combine them, and how I use them with Knox’s armoured layer, the Urbane Pro which I’ve reviewed here.

I was really excited to get the opportunity to try these new items, but I had some initial concerns. How versatile would the items be? For example, would they serve me better than the general fleeces and warm layers I use? Would they be comfortable and functional? What about the looks, would I be able to use the clothing for casual wear? However, I would not have needed to worry, I have found all the items very versatile, both on and off the bike, and I have been able to combine them in many ways to adjust to the temperature. In addition to when riding, I have worn all of the items casually in my spare time and also to work. Now, I’ll talk you through the items one by one.

The Olivia Jacket
I chose the blue Olivia jacket as I think everything is better with colour, but it is also available in black. For added visibility it has reflective thread woven into the arms and the upper back panel. This is a great waterproof and windproof jacket which I have worn on the bike with just the Urbane Pro armoured shirt underneath, but also with the quilted jacket and even a heated waistcoat on a particularly cold ride. I must admit that adding the heated waistcoat pushed the layering a bit, but I was still far from being a marshmallow woman. I really like that the jacket is long, this in combination with the belt, prevents cold air from coming in. A vertical zip on the lower back can be opened to allow the jacket to unfold enough to keep its shape when sitting on the bike and not bunch up. I have also worn the Olivia jacket walking to work, as it is great in the rain. All Knox outer layer jackets have side zips that run along the inseam of the arm to the waist, which make the jacket adjustable in size. When you open the zips, the jacket expands one size to make room for the armoured shirt and warm layers, while still being a true, well-fitting size when zipped up. When riding, the collar is just the right height to deflect wind and prevent water coming in, but without being too high to interfere with the helmet buckle. As an optional extra, I would wish for an attachable hood to wear when off the bike, just like my partner’s Knox All Sports jacket. I’m always very jealous of his attachable hood on a rainy day.

This is from a weekend in December when we went to Manresa to see a band we like. It is colder than it looks. This is what I am wearing under the Olivia jacket: a wollen baselayer, the Urbane Pro, my heated vest and the quilted jacket.
This is my favourite feature, the reflective panels. Here I am standing about 15 metres in front of my bike.
Casual wear, out hiking Losehill on a drizzly day in August during the WIMA rally in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Quilted jacket
This is a quilted, lightweight, warm layer that I use between the Urbane Pro armoured shirt and the Olivia jacket when riding. You can use it with any outer jacket or rain jacket, of course. For casual wear, I often wear it in the house when it is cold and I wear it to work as a light jacket, it goes surprisingly well with skirts. The quilted jacket is also really comfortable to sleep in if it is cold, this will be a true asset for me when I go camping next summer. The most brilliant thing with this is that it is not down but still very light and packs small – this makes it a great option for those of us who don’t buy items made with feathers for ethical reasons. The jacket has a few features that makes it an excellent mid layer: firstly, the collar rises in the back to protect the neck but is low in the front to not interfere with the outer jacket’s collar. Secondly, it zips low so you do not get the zip on your chin. Lastly, it doesn’t have cuffs and therefore it fits smoothly under an outer layer without adding bulk around your wrists.

Sunday efternoon and time for tapas, yep, the quilted jacket works fine as a light jacket.

The Cold Killer Blue collection, sports jacket
The jacket has a surprisingly good fit as a sporty casual jacket. Worn on its own, it is not at all bulky, yet at the same time it fits nicely over the Urbane Pro armoured shirt for riding. This is due to the design, with wind protection on the front and a stretchable material on the back. For casual wear on a cold day, I can also wear it with the quilted jacket underneath. When riding, it is a well-fitted windcheater thanks to the combination of stretchable material and wind-deflecting panels, this means that the jacket is slim and doesn’t flap in the wind. The jacket has a specially designed throat guard that deflects the wind from your throat but without the discomfort of the zip on your chin. The wind deflecting panels have a nice fleecy lining which makes it pleasant to wear. If I would ask for an upgrade of any kind it would be the colour. I would prefer some coloured elements and/or hi-viz panels, as I wear this as an outer layer and I would prefer to be more visible. I’m now using it in combination with a hi-viz vest, but I would prefer to have some coloured sections on the jacket itself to not have to wear the vest on top.

Casual wear. Out and about walking, wearing the Cold Killer jacket.

Cold Killers Blue collection, sports pants
As with the jacket, these trousers are designed with a windproof front and stretchable back. They have the same fleecy lining as the jacket and their high waist (to my navel) make them really comfortable. They are designed as a midlayer but I often wear them without long-johns underneath. I also found them comfortable to sleep in, which makes them great for long journeys when I’m camping. These trousers, together with woollen long-johns and my riding trousers, keep me warm and comfy on the bike in temperatures around +4C at least (it has not been colder here this winter). They also work fine on not-especially cold days under my ventilated riding trousers, as they prevent the ventilation very efficiently. This, I think, will be the combo for my summer riding in Sweden, where the weather can vary from quite cold to warm even in July and August. I must admit that I wear the Cold Killers trousers most nights at home, and for the Christmas period in Sweden I wore them under my tracksuit trousers indoors and when out and about. Of all the items these are my favourite, perhaps that was unexpected but I promise you, I would wear them every day if I could get away with it. However, they do look rather weird with a skirt.

These trousers are soo comfy! This is me most evenings – although the books vary.

Summary
As previously stated, I’m no fan of detachable liners in my riding gear, they are so bulky when riding and they are then quite useless to wear off the bike. I am really pleased with the way the Knox layering system works, as it allows me to wear the warm layers when I get off the bike and still be comfortable and warm. I have not owned these items very long, just a few months, but I have worn them extensively both on and off the bike. The Cold Killers and the quilted jacket wash well in 30C, with no issues at all. I have not yet washed the Olivia jacket yet but will provide an update when I do.

If you, like me, are looking for flexible gear that you can wear on and off the bike and combine for different needs, you should definitely look into the Knox layering system. If you are interested, I recommend you try on the gear first, if possible, as you would with any motorcycle gear.

From left to right, quilted jacket, Cold Killer jacket and trousers. The tape measure is set to 28cm.

The kit, taking care of it

I’ve done a fair bit of tidying this weekend, the flat, the bike, my gear. We are temporarily settled again and have therefore retrieved some of our boxes, yay! Unfortunately, some of our stuff had gone mouldy, boo! I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised as we were constantly fighting mould in our last winter-let. As some of these things are motorbike gear and other stuff with waterproof membranes, I want to clean them with special washing detergent and re-impregnate them afterwards. It all makes sense doesn’t it, it is expensive stuff so you’ll wanna take care of it. I have been to every sports shop and motorbike shop in the nearby town and further afield. I usually get Nikwax, but anything similar could do, however, there is nothing to purchase. The guy in the bike shop actually laughed at me when I said that people must want to wash their gear at some point. I actually had to go back to the same bike shop to ask for chain cleaner a few days later, same lack of success – I suspect they believe that I’m making these products up as they are explaining to me that they have never heard of these things. A rather nice guy in a mountain gear shop explained to me that Spanish people don’t take care of their kit. He actually had some re-impregnation spray, but he said that no one buys it. He’d had it since the shop opened. In the end I gave up and placed an internet order to cover all my foreseeable cleaning needs. So while I’m waiting for that stuff to arrive, I took on some general cleaning.

Firstly, I cleaned my helmet. I absolutely love this helmet, it is comfortable and it is red. It is also rather noisy, so I always ride with earplugs. But the annoying thing is that the visor is clunky. I had a similar model of Shoei before this one and the visor did not have these stages to hold it open on different levels, which is what I think makes closing and opening clunky, so much that it shakes my head. Today, I found a small silicone bottle belonging to the helmet when unpacking a box and I thought that putting some silicone on the fastenings of the visor would work wonders, but I’m so disappointed that it didn’t. The helmet cost half an arm and a leg to buy so this sucks. But it does look good though, doesn’t it 😀 and it goes really well with my Spanish bike, aka Red Fox.

After the helmet, I got working on my boots – they are the same Altbergs as I have been wearing for the last 3 or 4 years. Well, since after my motorcycle vagabonding period when we were homeless and trying to figure out a plan for living after Brexit. I actually visited the boot factory up in Richmond, Northern England, which you can read all about here. The boots are super cozy, and they accommodate my wide calves as well. They have literally been all over and they are well broken in but I still love them, and I will even wear them with a dress on occasions. Well, honestly only at motorbike events, but hey, they look good I think, and now they are prepped for the next event. Below, in addition to a boot close-up, are screen shots from the WIMA World website, me and my boots doing some official thank you’s and awards. Photographer Tracy J Wheldon

Lastly, I took on cleaning my trousers. I got some new kit in Andorra after the official hand over of the WRWR baton. Everyone had kept on telling me that these trousers were doomed, being light grey. I like grey and have been wearing grey trousers for the last 5 years or so, but a shade darker grey I must admit. I was super pleased with the comfort of the trousers, really light and airy, not attracting much heat from the sun and comfortable on and off the bike. However, they did get rather dirty, especially inside by the boot and all along the inner leg. I did wash them once in Sweden in early July, but then I seemed to forget and coming back to Spain I’ve been so busy, working full-time plus taking evening classes, I kind of only thought about how dirty they were when I sat down in class 😀 Now I finally got scrubbing. I use Galltvål, an organic soap made of ox bile, works like a treat on difficult stains such as oil and insects. I wish that I had taken a photo before washing, but you have to believe me, the hem was absolutely black before I started scrubbing, now there is only a slight discolouration. After the scrub with magical soap, I washed them in a gentle 30°C with washing detergent and voilà!

So, at least part of my gear is clean and tidy, hopefully I will not need my mouldy winter riding trousers for next weekend’s event with Mujeres en Moto, maybe I can manage with the now clean summer trousers.

Knox Urbane Pro shirt – review

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This review is based on about two months of daily use of the Urbane Pro. After I purchased it I used it every day on my tour in Ireland and England, as well as returning to Spain through France. I experienced a wide range of weather, from storm and rain in Ireland to baking heat in France and Spain. I have tried it with different types of base layers and different layers on top. I can already now reveal that I think this is an awesome piece of kit and save you reading the whole blog post – however, if you’d like to find out why I recommend it, stay put.

Why did I buy it? I saw the Knox Urbane Pro in an ad on the internet before the summer and trying it on was one of my goals during my holiday. Knox is not yet available in Spain and is not easy to get hold of in Sweden, so I contacted Knox prior to my trip to Ireland to make sure that I would be able to include a visit to a retailer on my route. They pointed me in the direction of Overlanders AMI in Gorey, Ireland, where I could try on the shirt before deciding whether to purchase it or not. The Knox layering system appealed to me as I was tired of the armour not fitting securely in my summer riding jacket. I was looking for a safer solution but without giving up the comfort of a ventilated jacket. I’m sensitive to the heat and get heatstroke easily, so I need something fulfilling these two practical needs. 

The fit: I found the size L a very good fit, sizes available range from S to 3XL. I strongly recommend trying it on before buying as the Urbane Pro Shirt fits differently from conventional jackets. Because I was used to wearing my loose riding jacket I thought it felt too tight at first. The sizing advice I got in the shop was invaluable and I soon got used to the snugness of the Urbane Pro. The shirt is worn with only a base layer underneath and because of this the armour is always in the right place, protecting the elbows, shoulders and back. With my body heat, the protectors quickly mould perfectly to my body contours and I hardly notice them. I even slept in the shirt on my early morning ferry crossing from Poole to Cherbourg without any discomfort.

Safety: As the fit is snug, the armour is always in place. The armour is CE approved and the shirt itself has an A rating, which means for urban use. You kind of get that in the name, I think. As the shirt is abrasive-resistant, no extra layer is needed J at least not at speeds up to around 70km/h. However, while cruising on the highway through France I did feel a bit under-dressed and could have done with an additional abrasive-resistant layer, as my speed could hardly be compared to urban riding. But it was way too hot to wear additional layers that day and, like I said, I’m sensitive to heat.

The design: The Urbane Pro comes inthree different designs; black, black with denim details, and grey and black with denim details. It is available in male and female versions. The women’s jacket has two side pockets perfect for pocketing small things such as your keys or small wallet. I’m wearing the women’s jacket in grey and I give extra points for the cool design with black armour pockets on the grey jacket, which I think looks futuristic in a sci-fi kind of way and matches my personality. Plus, grey is my favourite colour for summer gear, it stays cool and doesn’t show stains much.

Functionality: The Knox kit works by the layer principle in a similar way to when you dress for outdoor sports; base layer – armour – warm layer/windproof/waterproof. I have tried several variations of combinations depending on the weather and I’ve been using the clothes that I had with me in my panniers, plus the Knox Olivia jacket which I will review separately later on.

I appreciate the flexibility, after putting on the base layer and the Urbane Pro I can choose other layers depending on the weather, some days in Ireland I was lucky enough to get away with only this, but honestly most days I needed a warm and/or waterproof layer.

As the Urban Pro is fully ventilated, i.e. ventilated everywhere, not just panels like other ventilated jackets, the wind cools you very effectively. Therefore, I would need a sweatshirt on top in a temperature lower than 25°. If even cooler, I would add a windcheater or perhaps a vest to keep my chest warm. In cold and rainy weather, a fleece and a rain jacket will do nicely, or the purpose made Knox Olivia jacket which fits perfectly on top and is fully wind and waterproof.

On a hot day, which for me is 28° and above, I would use the Urbane Pro with only a base layer. My favourite base layer would be a long-sleeve silk top. In temperatures above 32°, as I experienced at the end of August when riding south through France and into to Spain, I would soak my base layer with water for added cooling and/or wear a wet neck tube. As the shirt is fully ventilated, the wet base layer enhances the cooling effect nicely. With this in mind, a warning is in place – if you’re going out riding all day and the temperature is likely to cool off in the evening, pack a windcheater or you’ll get a very cold chest on your return ride. In addition, bring a neck tube to protect your neck from the insects that buzz around at dusk as the Urbane Pro doesn’t have a collar.  

Is there room for improvement? I’m super pleased with the shirt, but if I would ask for one improvement it would be for the possibility to attach the shirt to my riding trousers. I didn’t find this necessary when using the shirt on its own, but when wearing many layers I missed being able to zip the shirt and my trousers together to keep it in place. Edit: there are two loops which you can use to attach the shirt to your belt, a very discrete and clever solution. (So discrete that I didn’t notice it myself).

In conclusion: I appreciate the versatility of the Knox layering system and I think the Urbane Pro is the core piece of kit. I ride all year and in all kinds of weather, I travel extensively by motorbike and I commute to work, buy my groceries and, very occasionally, I’ll go on a Sunday ride. I need great, flexible gear that fills my needs on all these different occasions. When I started riding 20 years ago, I was happy to put on whatever gear was available on the market, most of the time ill-fitting men’s gear. Times have changed though, now I want good quality gear, designed to fit a woman. I think the Knox Urban Pro shirt fits the bill.

You can read the full specs on Knox’s website and you can also download the homologations certificate for the A rating.