Spark Windproof Underwear Review
by Bill C. for webBikeWorld.com
Spark specializes in motorcycle underwear and the Italian company also makes an assortment of other motorcycle related products.
This selection of Spark motorcycle underwear is beautifully constructed, soft, comfortable and fits me perfectly.
Best of all, everything you see here is made in Italy and now available in North America!
What's the world coming to when you can't find a fellow motorcyclist to pose in a set of skin-tight undies? All we wanted was a couple of photos but "No way" was pretty much the answer from anyone I called.
People really don't want to do this. They'd come up with stuff like "Uh, I volunteered for an exploratory root canal with a first-year dental student that day..".
OK, so no live model photos. You'll have to depend on my narrative. But that doesn't make this Spark motorcycle "Technical Sports Clothing" (i.e., motorcycle underwear) story any less thrilling, right? In fact, believe me -- you don't want to see me in a pair of skin tight knickers anyway...
I knew nada about Spark until the Editor sent over this bundle, which was provided by Advanced Motorcycle Gear, the U.S. distributor and retailer (who also provided the cool Falco boots reviewed on webBikeWorld a few months ago).
I have no idea how popular the "Spark Technical Sports Clothing and Accessories" (the actual company name) brand might be in Europe, because my research didn't result in many leads, but here's a hint: Spark makes clothing for Ducati and Held, so you know we're talking top-drawer goods.
I know one of The Ed's biggest thrills is uncovering (wait - can I say that in an underwear review?) interesting and unique motorcycle gear, which is nowhere near as easy to do in 2009 as it was in 1999 when the site was first started. Nowadays, it's darn near impossible to keep a secret very long, which is why it's very cool to learn about a company like Spark, which is headquartered in the Tuscan region in the city of Montemurlo, Italy, about 115 klicks south of Bologna.
It seems that Montemurlo is famous for their fine Italian wool, with products like men's jackets and sweaters and things. Even the popular Arcteryx brand of outdoor clothing has some products touted as being made from Montemurlo wool.
Now none of the clothing items described here is made from wool. But stay with me, because eventually this all ties together.
The Sherlock in me says that a region that's famous for wool products must also have some excellent textile crafts people too, right? I don't know that for a fact, but what I can tell you is that the Spark clothing items shown here are beautifully made and, I can definitely say, the most comfortable windproof motorcycle underwear I've ever stretched over my limbs.
I'm 176 cm and weigh about 86 kg (190 lbs.) on a Friday right before happy hour, and this gear fits me like Grandma Francesca knitted it for me with her own two loverly hands.
Comfort is pretty important when it comes to knickers, but we're motorcyclists, right? So the stuff also has to keep us warm and dry on the run.
I've never been quite sure whether the motorcycle windproof underwear I've tried is keeping me warm, or windproof, or...is it the jacket worn over the top? The windproof gear I've worn before now seems stiffer and more "plasticky" than the Spark underwear.
The Spark "Camelot" (Shirt #3070; Pants #3071) clothing does not have that stiffy outer layer like other windproof underwear I'm familiar with -- and I'm not about to ride without a jacket in this winter's nasty weather, but I can tell you that the fabric and the weave used in the Spark clothing is different than anything else I've seen. It's softer, and it keeps me drier (no sweating) and warmer and more comfortable.
The weird thing is that I can sort of see through it -- when I look through it into a bright light, it looks like a mesh or matrix type of weave, with plenty of air space that I guess acts as the thermal insulation.
So how it keeps the wind out is beyond me. I never thought I'd actually like to wear long underwear, but I honestly feel more comfortable with this stuff on than off. Well, almost...
Spark calls the fabric "Windless", their registered trade name. It's said to be a "technical fabric" that is windproof, breathable and even waterproof. And it's also supposed to be good for summer or winter because of its moisture wicking capabilities.
I don't know how it could be waterproof because of the openness of that weave. The Camelot shirt and pants are made from what look like a couple of different types of fabrics, with a lot of stretchy material in the right places.
It's all sewn together with what looks to be very high quality flat stitching and I can't imagine the stitching coming apart without working a shiv over it.
The inside of the fabric has some type of treatment that makes it as soft as a baby's armpit. It's a nice soft fleece-like feeling. Very soft and gentle-like feel. Put on the shirt and pants and with the way it's cut and the comfort, it's simply heaven underneath regular moto gear.
Sorry to get all gushy about a pair of undies, but I guess you can tell I like it! The Spark Camelot undershirt and pants are made in Italy. The shirt comes in sizes M to XXL and lists for $76.20. The pants are available in sizes M, L and XL and lists for $65.40.
Spark says the pants have an "ergonomic shape ideal for cooler temperatures" of 14–68°F (-10–+20°C). The shirt is a "Windless membrane" in front, has a slanted neck zipper; open mesh sections in the underarm area; is cut longer in the back like they say and is also rated "Ideal for cooler temperatures at 14 to 68°F (-10 to +20°C).
The Spark "Ci-Co" (#0708) is a real favorite. Bald guys will love it - this is a seamless balaclava. How they knit it is a mystery.
I know it can't be, but it also looks like it was a labor of love from Grandma, right down to the "Spark" logo that's knit right into the fabric and not just a sew-on. It's made from "Viscose", which I gather is a blend of some synthetic materials, but it's as soft as fine Merino wool. It even has special mesh ear and mouth sections knitted right into the fabric, and if you get the mouth mesh placed just right, you'll never know it's there.
It's stretchy and light and airy and comfy, yet just right for keeping the noggin warm. It's not real long, so it doesn't cover the chest, but it fits down under the collar of a jacket no problem. Spark says it's "ideal for temperatures at 23 to 68°F (-5 to +20°C) and it comes in a wider size range, from XXS, which must be for kids, up to XXL.
The "Artů" (#3025) is different. It has a seam across the top, running from front to back. The seam isn't as flat as I'd like, but I don't feel it with most helmets -- bald guys may think differently.
The Artů has a longer front and back, made from Windless material. It has stretch panels on either side at the neck (Spark says they're "Tactel" fabric) and what seems like a larger eye port, but including the mesh mouth covering. It seems like more of a heavy-duty winter balaclava.
It's rated by Spark for 14 to 68°F (-10 to +20°C) and it is available only in sizes small and large, I think because it has the elastic panels, the two sizes can probably fit a wider variety of head circumferences. The list price of the Ci-Co is $40.00 and it's also available in gray as the "Paco" (also $40.00 list), but that one is made from "Dryarn" and I think is rated for not quite as cold temps. I like the Ci-Co better.
This one's a bit strange -- it's a very stretchy but thin shirt with a built-in stretch-tight panel all the way around the middle over the entire circumference of the shirt.
When I first put it on, I thought it was two sizes too small, but then realized it's supposed to be tight because it acts as a sort of compression garment. I'm not fond of kidney belts, and this shirt feels a little too tight for me (the rest of the clothing mentioned here runs true to expected sizes), but it's way more comfortable than any kidney belt I've ever tried.
The Pablo feels lighter than the Camelot shirt; it's made with "Dryarn microfiber", according to Spark. It's also supposed to resist absorbing moisture but it does breathe well and helps slightly with keeping warm. Spark says it also is anti-allergenic and won't attract static electricity.
It's rated by Spark for cool, but not cold, weather of 41 to 104°F (+5 to +40°C) but I'm not sure how they come up with these ratings, because the Pablo feels better than a cotton long-sleeve shirt even in cold winter weather.
The Pablo has a list price of $39.99 and is available in sizes ranging from small to XXL.
All motorcycle underwear is not created equal, as I have learned. No need for itchy stiffy stuff when you could be wearing soft, comfortable, well made clothing like this. That it's all made in Italy is a bonus.
See Also: Spark Diablo and Carbon Shirts Review
|wBW Review: Spark Windproof Underwear|
Advanced Motorcycle Gear
Manufacturer: Spark (G.P.R. srl, Italy)
|List Price: Varies - see narrative.|
|Colors: Black or Silver.||Made In: Italy|
|Review Date: February 2009|
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From "P.G." (09/10): "I’ve used a Spark Coolmax balaclava for years. Spark’s "Pa-Co" made with phase-change Dryarn is very comfortable. The thin seamless design is a real joy. The Advanced Motorcycle gear site says it’s for 41 F to 104 F."
From "B.S." (2/09): "I live in the Seattle/Tacoma area and if your unfamiliar with this area you can drive with your sunglasses and windshield wipers on at the same time if you don’t like the weather drive 10 more miles.
I don’t mind riding in the rain but I do mind being cold, I have been looking around a bit for some better gear to keep warm without buying heavier coats and pants. So I came across advancedmotorcyclegear.com’s site and talked to their sales team about what kind of gear was out there that would keep me lightweight yet warm. They recommended Spark long underwear and so long story short I have the Spark pants and shirt.
With the bike in the shop for service, I worn the spark gear around the house for a bit and I was a little suspicious of its “windless” properties. The day came the bike was finished I threw on the undies, my favorite icon hoodlum pants, and I chose to leave the heavy jacket at home and went with my lightweight first gear jacket with its liner. Paid the invoice strapped on the helmet and like most of us I suspect with a new toy found 3rd gear before even leaving the lot J.
Friday was one of the warmest days of the year so far, clear and 45 degrees (and getting colder as evening set in) and I have to admit I am now a believer. I didn’t feel the wind on my legs nor chest on the 45 minute ride home. I did feel it on my back but then I remember the sales person reminding me to tuck in my shirt which I didn’t.
The nice thing was I didn’t get hot either the spark gear breathed real well I didn’t get sweaty like one would think with long underwear and a skin tight shirt. I would recommend this gear to anyone, it was lightweight, truly “windless”, a little pricey but worth every penny to be comfortable."