Martin Fitz-gib­bons

Deputy ed­i­tor

RiDE (UK) - - Welcome - Words Si­mon Weir Pic­tures Mark Man­ning

It’s not of­ten a £250 jacket is called a “game-changer”, but Ox­ford’s new Mon­dial is just that. It of­fers tech­nol­ogy that, un­til now, has only been avail­able on kit cost­ing three or four times as much. RIDE has the full story, and an ex­clu­sive first test.

IF YOU WERE asked to name a top-end tex­tile suit, what would spring into your head? Is it Rukka, Dane, Klim or BMW? Some­thing from the premium end of the Dainese, Alpines­tars, Held, Hal­varssons or Rev’it ranges? All of­fer high-end gear, but it’s all slightly dif­fer­ent in terms of de­sign and ap­proach to lay­ers and de­tails like col­lars, cuffs and fas­ten­ers. But it all has two things in com­mon: a lam­i­nated wa­ter­proof ex­te­rior; and a hefty price-tag.

Now Ox­ford Prod­ucts is look­ing to rad­i­cally change the per­cep­tion that lam­i­nate kit is for only the wealth­i­est mo­tor­cy­clists. The firm is launch­ing a new suit us­ing a Dry-to-dry lam­i­nate ma­te­rial – for a frac­tion of the cost of the big-name brands’ of­fer­ings. Where a jacket us­ing the tried-and-trusted Gore-tex Pro lam­i­nate will set you back £800 to £1300, Ox­ford’s lat­est jacket costs just £250.

It’s called the Mon­dial – part of a new ‘Ad­vanced Se­ries’ that cur­rently con­sists of the Mon­dial, with the Dry-to-dry lam­i­nate ex­te­rior, and its match­ing trousers. There’s also the Con­ti­nen­tal, a more con­ven­tional three-layer jacket where the Dry-to-dry makes up the re­mov­able wa­ter­proof drop liner – giv­ing even greater adapt­abil­ity for hot­ter cli­mates – which will cost £200.

Where did it come from?

“We’ve been steadily ex­pand­ing our cloth­ing range,” ex­plains Ox­ford’s Henry Rivers Fletcher. “If you look at the vol­ume we pro­duce, we’ve gone from be­ing a com­pany that also does cloth­ing to now

be­ing a cloth­ing com­pany in our own right. But we don’t in­tend to spend years con­tin­u­ing just at the value end, as Frank Thomas did – never de­vel­op­ing a prod­uct that re­tails for more than £200.”

To grow the range means mov­ing into new ter­ri­tory. Ap­parel cat­e­gory man­ager Thomas Plum­mer ex­plains: “It’s im­por­tant not to lose cus­tomers if they want to trade up from one of our sub-£200 jack­ets to one they per­ceive as more premium.” This meant cre­at­ing a premium jacket – which in turn meant find­ing a lam­i­nate ma­te­rial. This in­volved spend­ing a lot of time at trade shows – for the out­door trade, where there’s a lot of in­no­va­tion in the cre­ation of wa­ter­proof and breath­able ma­te­ri­als.

“Find­ing the Dry-to-dry wa­ter­proof el­e­ment wasn’t enough, though,” Plum­mer adds. “We then had to find the cor­rect ma­te­ri­als for it to work with.” The fi­nal se­lec­tion was a high thread-count ma­te­rial. “These have a finer fin­ish, while be­ing lighter and stronger than lower thread count ma­te­ri­als. They also take dye bet­ter.”

How was it cre­ated?

The Mon­dial was de­signed in Wit­ney, by Ox­ford’s own team, rather than by an ex­ter­nal de­sign agency. There are four de­sign­ers and a gar­ment tech­ni­cian — an ex­pert both in the con­struc­tion of cloth­ing and the way the fac­to­ries need to op­er­ate to make it to the re­quired stan­dard.

Once the de­signs were com­plete, they were sent to the fac­tory, which makes pat­terns and pro­duces pro­to­types. These then came back to Ox­ford to be ex­am­ined by the de­sign­ers to check the styling and for the gar­ment tech to check con­struc­tion. Al­ter­ations are noted and fed back to the fac­tory, with care­ful mea­sure­ments to en­sure changes are made cor­rectly. There were three pro­to­type stages to reach the fi­nal pro­duc­tion ver­sion.

Ox­ford doesn’t just de­sign the jack­ets and trousers: it has a team of three 3D CAD engi­neers who de­velop ev­ery­thing from hard shoul­der ar­mour for leather jack­ets to paddock stands. The ac­cu­racy of the 3D mod­els can save a year of de­vel­op­ment time, as get­ting a phys­i­cal sam­ple from the Chi­nese fac­tory can take two months.

How tough is it?

The Mon­dial and the Con­ti­nen­tal are built to meet the new CE stan­dards for PPE mo­tor­cy­cle equip­ment. There’s CE Level 1 ar­mour in the shoul­ders and el­bows, plus a pocket for rid­ers to add a back pro­tec­tor. The high thread-count ma­te­rial was se­lected for its strength and light­ness.

Which is all well and good to say, but CE is only one stan­dard – the Euro­pean one – and prod­ucts need to meet all stan­dards around the world. Test­ing adds time and cost into the de­vel­op­ment process, mak­ing

“Not a sin­gle drop of wa­ter got through to the wearer”

it im­por­tant ev­ery­thing is right be­fore sub­mit­ting a prod­uct to the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion test. Which is why the Mon­dial was tested in Ox­ford’s own lab first.

There is a range of ma­chines, in­clud­ing a huge ac­cel­er­ated weath­er­ing tester, run­ning through heat, UV and damp cy­cles to see how ma­te­ri­als re­act. Not just fab­rics — me­tal is checked as well. There’s also a huge high-ten­sile press/puller that tests ev­ery­thing from how strong seams and sheets of ma­te­rial are to the weight it takes to break a paddock stand.

“Do­ing our own test­ing means we know ev­ery­thing is up to the stan­dard,” ex­plains Rivers Fletcher. “We can see not only if some­thing will fail but also where – and that helps us with the de­vel­op­ment.” At­tached to the lab is a ma­chine shop, turn­ing out clamps and grips to test ev­ery­thing from but­tons to bike parts.

How dry is it?

Just be­fore this is­sue of RIDE had to be sent to the print­ers, we re­ceived one of the very first pro­duc­tion Mon­di­als to land in the UK. We headed out for a wet ride (on the same day the Bri­tish GP was rained off) and the jacket stayed com­pletely wa­ter­tight. To give it an even tougher chal­lenge, the next day we turned a gar­den hose on it for a solid two-minute blast. Once again, not a drop of wa­ter got through to the wearer, while the two outer pock­ets kept their con­tents dry. On in­spec­tion, it didn’t seem wa­ter was bead­ing and run­ning off the outer in the same way it does with Gore-tex Pro, but it cer­tainly didn’t soak through. Af­ter hang­ing overnight, it was touch-dry the next morn­ing. Im­pres­sive for £250.

De­vel­op­ment and qual­ity con­trol is con­tin­u­ous

All de­sign work is car­ried out in-house

First im­pres­sions of the Mon­dial jacket are very good

Ma­te­ri­als are tested for strength and per­for­mance

Two min­utes un­der RIDE’S hose and to­tally dry

In-house test­ing re­duces de­vel­op­ment time

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