Part 2: Dainese D-Explorer Pants Review
Just when you thought that every possible iteration of the classic 3/4-length motorcycle jacket had been done, along comes the Dainese D-Explorer.
This may just well be the "perfect" all-season, all-around, touring, dual-sporting and adventure-touring outfit you'll find.
Or should we append a "yet" to that sentence?
If it weren't for one very special feature on both the D-Explorer jacket and pants, this wouldn't be all that much different than any of the other high-quality Dainese 3/4-length outfits we've come to know, respect and admire.
But the D-Explorer has a killer feature: the most unique front, rear and sleeve venting system you'll find.
It means the jacket converts from a full-on winter protecto to a super-cool ventilated shell for the hottest summer days.
In fact, that capability is the "holy grail" of motorcycle gear. Many have tried and few -- or none -- have succeeded.
The phenomenal all-season capability of the D-Explorer, combined with its Gore-Tex water- and wind-proof liners and the superb build quality make it worth the rather hefty asking price. Besides, you also get a D-Wave back protector; something we've been pressing for on high-end jackets and the manufacturers have responded.
That lofty price may just well be worth it; after all, the D-Explorer is literally two outfits in one -- a true all-season outfit that, knowing Dainese quality, should also stand the test of time.
Dainese has one of the most extensive motorcycle clothing lineups in the business and just about each and every item is designed for the real world of motorcycle riding or racing.
We were impressed with the unique features of the now-defunct Dainese Teren jacket (review) and its rock-solid feel. The vent system on the Teren is and was unique, but the Dainese engineers came up with something even better for the D-Explorer.
The D-Explorer is the top-of-the-line Dainese outfit for 2015. Dainese has its own "D-Dry" waterproofing system but the D-Explorer goes one step further with a Gore-Tex membrane removable liner.
There are definite pros and cons to a waterproof liner versus having the waterproofing (or water resistance) built into the shell (example: the Gore-Tex Performance Shell described in the REV'IT! Defender GTX jacket review). In the case of the D-Explorer, you would not want a Gore-Tex Pro Shell that makes the shell itself waterproof.
That's because you can remove the Gore-Tex and the insulating Valtherm White Bear insulating liner and, along with the efficient and versatile ventilation system of the D-Explorer, you'll go from winter protection to summer cool in no time at all.
In this case, the removable liners give you more versatility. The D-Explorer jacket shell is made from a tightly-woven Duratex and Mugello fabric that repels a lot of water, which reduces the amount that will penetrate the shell. And the shell fabric also has a quick-drying capability, so even if it does get wet, it dries relatively fast.
The rest of the specifications are top-drawer, with real CE-rated protectors in the shoulders and elbows; an included D-Wave back protector (Level 1) and the Dainese "D-Stone" fabric on the abrasion wear points.
The short-lived Teren jacket had a "Why didn't I think of that?" vent system, as we wrote in that review. It's not clear why the Teren disappeared from the Dainese lineup so quickly, because it was a ruggedly built near all-arounder.
The D-Explorer is more expensive for sure, made so by the inclusion of the removable Gore-Tex liner, the Valtherm removable liner and the overall build quality that looks and feels more upscale than the Teren's more workaday shell.
Surely the "Dainese Modular Flap System" (what -- no catchy trademarked name?) adds cost, as does the 3D mesh that lines each "flap".
One thing's for sure: the D-Explorer is certainly a four season jacket, and that's not easy to do, especially at the 3/4 length. Granted, we've only had a limited number of opportunities over the last several weeks to even get out on the bike in this Winter From Hell that the East Coast of the U.S.A. has become. And summer is just a dream and hope at this point.
But with those "flaps" zippered up and with the Gore-Tex and Valtherm liner installed, the D-Explorer is as warm and comfy as any other non-ventilated 3/4-length jacket we've tried. Just for grins, we took out the liners and opened the flaps. The result -- at least in this weather -- is a bone-chilling breeze right through the front and out the back that points to hot weather excellence.
Let's take a closer look at the D-Explorer's ventilation system, because it's the standout feature of both the jacket and pants.
The system is both easy to use and one of the best parts is that you don't have to worry about storing and carrying pieces of fabric removed from the vents.
The front vents on either side are a full 33 cm tall (13") and 13 cm wide (5") and that provides a huge amount of surface area for a front vent -- more than any other jacket in memory.
The bottom of the flap secures with hook-and-loop and there are zippers on either side. Open the zippers and the flap can be secured open at 1/3 intervals with a clever sliding soft plastic "M/W" shaped tube closure. The top part of the "M" slides over a matching "W" part underneath, which holds the flap open and the flap folds upward so that it is stored in a cavity above the vent.
Here's a photo, this is the right leg of the D-Explorer pants to illustrate the vent system:
The rear of the jacket has another massive flap vent opening. This measures about 44 cm by 28 cm wide (17.5 by 11 inches). The flap can also be folded in thirds or this one can be completely removed and stored in a special pocket at the bottom on the inside of the lower part of the back.
The arms also have a full-length dual-runner zipper. You can open the vent completely from wrist to armpit from either the top or bottom.
With the front vents completely open, the rear vent open all the way or with the flap removed and with the arm vents open, the D-Explorer jacket is, for all intents and purposes, nearly a full mesh summer jacket. The conversion from full winter to full summer makes the D-Explorer the most versatile 3/4-length motorcycle jacket we have ever seen.
The Gore-Tex liner also has a special front wind-blocking entry flap that's larger (wider) than normal. It has 6 metal Prym snaps to secure the other half of the flap across. This gives a superior doubled-up wind block for the chest. The Gore-Tex liner also has a full-length zipper up the front for entry.
The jacket shell has a Coats OPTI brand zipper for main entry. It's backed by a wind block flap underneath and another flap on top that snaps to the right side of the shell placket with 6 more Prym metal snaps; the bottom two are rubber-covered.
SSo you can see that there are effectively 4 levels of wind-stopping protection under the main entry zipper on the D-Explorer jacket. This, and the use of the high-quality snaps and zippers, adds to the value and helps justify the asking price.
The removable liners in the D-Explorer can be mixed and matched. In other words, you can wear the jacket shell with no liners (maximum ventilation in hot weather with all the vents open); with the Gore-Tex liner only for wind- or water-blocking; or with the Valtherm liner for warmth on cooler but dry days or nights.
The Gore-Tex liner attaches with vertical zippers on either side at the placket, with the high-end Italian Prym brand "F.I.O." (Fastening is Ours) Buttons snaps at the collar and sleeve cuffs.
The Valtherm insulating liner is thin and light but works a treat in cold weather, as it's buffered by the wind-stopping power of the Gore-Tex layer and the jacket's shell. It attaches to either the inside of the Gore-Tex liner or the D-Explorer jacket shell with 4 of the Prym OPTI snaps at the placket and more snaps at the collar and sleeve cuffs.
The full-length (arms, back and chest) Valtherm liner is comfortable and has a silky taffeta lining on the inside.
We've described the main feature of the D-Explorer jacket first -- the unique ventilation system. Now let's take a look at the rest of the features, in no particular order.
The D-Explorer has another unique -- or at least different -- collar adjustment system. The wide variation of collar adjusters we've seen indicates that there's no "perfect" system yet designed, which is interesting.
The D-Explorer collar has two Prym metal snaps in front and hook-and-loop adjustment straps on either side. The straps run through metal "D" rings on either side, which make it fairly easy to tighten or loosen the collar.
The collar is relatively thin and backed with soft micro-fleece corduroy, but the collar is rather tall at 80 mm (3.25"). It fits under the one or two full-face helmets we've tried but it would be nice if there was a way to fold the collar down or secure it open for dual-sport riding in hot weather.
Here's the one issue with the D-Explorer jacket: the lower half of the sleeves feel tight, out of proportion to what Dainese specifically says is a "Relaxed" fit of the jacket (we call it more like "Normal").
With the liners installed, the arms are tight, especially with bent arms. It's not a deal-killer and not too noticeable when riding (at least on an adventure-tourer like the V-Strom), but another 25 mm or so diameter would be better.
With the liners removed or with the full-length sleeve vent open, the problem more or less disappears. The sleeves have a single adjuster at the bicep that you probably won't need.
The cuffs have a single metal F.I.O. Buttons brand snap with one adjustment. No hook-and-loop but the full-length sleeve vent can be opened with the bottom runner and it's backed by a sold fabric dart. The sleeve cuff is tapered though, so it fits over or under gloves, although we'd like to see more adjustment made available.
The D-Explorer jacket is available in European sizes from 46 to 56 (U.S. 36 to 46 chest). This jacket is a size 54 and fits like a U.S. men's size L for a 44" chest. The jacket shell gains about one size (or a half European size) with both liners removed.
The D-Explorer pants in size 54 also fit like a snug men's size L, for a 35" waist and the pants have enough extra inseam for a 30" to 31" street pant size.
The D-Explorer has a full array of pockets. The lower pockets in front are both waterproof, with a covering flap that secures with two metal F.I.O Buttons snaps. The pockets have a waterproof zipper underneath the flap.
In front of the waterproof pockets are separate non-waterproof quick-access pockets that open with an "L" shaped zipper.
The left sleeve has a clear plastic covered waterproof pocket that opens with a zipper, accessed from under the sleeve vent for added waterproof protection.
Inside the jacket is a placket pocket on the left side. There are no other pockets in the shell, to enhance the flow-through ventilation aspects of the jacket with the vents open.
There's the rear pocket underneath the lower hem of the back, which stores the removable rear vent flap or other items if the vent flap is in place. Another rear cargo pocket is accessed through 20 cm vertical zippers on either side at the lower back.
The insulating liner has a pocket on the lower right. This is a large square 17 cm by 17 cm pocket that closes with a strip of hook-and-loop at the top.
Altogether, the D-Explorer may not have the ultimate pocket count of a true dual-sport jacket or even the Dainese Teren, but there should be enough storage for anyone and the two front waterproof pockets are a bonus.
The D-Explorer has the thermo-formed shoulder protectors also used on the Teren jacket. Full CE Level 1 removable shoulder and elbow protectors are also included of course but the surprise is that the D-Explorer also comes with a Dainese Wave G2 Level 1 back protector insert (it was optional with the Teren).
The insert limits some of the ventilation capability with the vents fully open but the protection it provides is worth it and quite honestly, you won't even know the protector is there.
The Dainese D-Explorer jacket is the Italian company's top-of-the-line offering for 2015 and it shows. The overall build quality, styling and construction, along with the name-brand hardware (snaps and zippers) are what you're paying for.
The versatile and removable Gore-Tex "Guaranteed to Keep You Dry" liner and the Valtherm White Bear insulating liner make the jacket work in wet and cold weather.
Remove the liners and open the modular vent panels in 1/3 increments and you have a jacket that works in Spring, Fall and Summer.
Something else to note: Dainese gives a 5 year warranty on the D-Explorer jacket and pants.
Add all of that up and you have what may be the first true all-season 3/4-length jacket that really does work in every weather condition you can throw at it. This means that the D-Explorer can effectively replace Summer and Winter separate outfits, making the $899.99 asking price (for the jacket) more justifiable.
Next: Part 2 Dainese D-Explorer Pants Review
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From "H.S." (March 2015): "Vanson has at least two jackets that use the tuck-away vent flap idea. These jackets has been around for years. Vanson Cobra (Inside flap) I've owned this one. Works as advertised. Vanson Challenger (Outside flap).
And few sites have ever reviewed Vanson jackets, especially deeper into their lineup. Up to you! P.S. Not on their site right now but available is the classic Model A with protectors. It's on my list! P.P.S. Their Facebook page has lots of interesting custom jackets. Not sure why they don't feature them on their site. P.P.P.S. Not affiliated with Vanson in any way, just a fan."
From "S.S." (March 2015): "This looks to have lots of nice features and clever engineering for temperature modulation. The million dollar (or in this case $899.95) question, though, is how will the fabrics and thread hold up in a crash?
Maybe I am misunderstanding the description, but if you crashed and slid with all of that open mesh exposed on your back, isn't there a pretty good chance that the mesh will burn through or get caught on something and tear out?
At $899.95, you are in the same market as the Motoport Kevlar jackets, which are custom made to your individual dimensions, and have a proven record of crash worthiness. Comfort range is excellent for these, and custom features may be added as the rider sees fit. Just some food for thought."
Rick's Reply: I think the mesh is located in a way that it would be very unlikely to cause damage. Also, I'm not sure that the "melt and burn" issue isn't an urban legend. It would take a very long slide on the same spot to melt through polyester and chances are on the street the rider would hit a curb, guard rail or something else long before the material got hot enough to melt.
I think comparing with the Motoport gear is a bit of an apples vs. oranges, but there are many different brands and models available at this price range and others.