Fox Racing Defend Offroad Gear | Track (Trail) Tested
Fox Racing Defend Offroad Gear and Recon Offroad Jacket
Photos by Mattia Meneghello
While Swapmoto Live is a media outlet focused mainly on motocross and Supercross, that’s not to say that we don’t like to spend time enjoying some two-wheeled action outside the confines of a closed course. While we don’t currently compete in any offroad racing disciplines, I’m proud to say that through my 30-plus-year career as a moto-journalist, I have competed in or ridden virtually everything involving two wheels and dirt. Motocross, Arenacross, Hare and Hound, GNCC, Enduro, Flat Track, Trials, Grand Prix…and that’s not including the ATV racing I did in my ignorant youth. Haha!
One of my favorite things to do in the winter is hit the trails with my buddies. I actually have a love/hate relationship with the days I spend in the mountains with my buddy Jason “Hapa” McCune, mostly because he is a much better offroad rider than I, and he thrives on the opportunity to make me suffer as a crash or get stuck in the conditions that test me. Last week, following the crazy storms that have hammered California this winter, Hapa invited me to join him at his secret spot but warned me that we might not be able to get to the rock waterfalls due to the low snow level. (Oh, darn… I really love eating crap in the rocks.) It had actually been two years since I took a trip to the hills, so I could justify replacing my well-worn offroad kit.
In recent years, Fox Racing has made a substantial investment in the offroad arena. And why not? Motocross tracks are actually the smallest piece of the overall offroad pie in America, as the majority of dirt bikes sold never actually see a starting gate. Utilizing the same high-performance design themes for its offroad-specific pants, jerseys, gloves, and jackets, Fox now produces three different lines of gear designed specifically for offroad: mid-level Ranger, high-end Defend, and super-deluxe Recon, which is made to offer the pinnacle in performance for the snootiest offroad rider. (Think: adventure bikes.)
For this season’s offroad kit, I chose the Defend Jersey and Pant. Available in three colorways that include earthy Copper and Khaki, I selected the slimming all-black version. Since we’d be riding in the snow a bit, I opted for the Defend Thermo Glove. Fox does have several offroad-specific gloves to choose from, including one with burly D30 foam knuckles that look great for punching Joshua trees with. I couldn’t resist dipping my toe in the deluxe pool and chose the Recon Jacket to keep me warm on the ride. All told, I came away super-impressed with every piece of equipment at the end of the day as it was very apparent that the Defend and Recon garments are much different than Fox’s motocross lines of gear, and designed to address the different needs of offroad riding. I’ll break my kit down, piece by piece…
The Defend Jersey costs $89.95 and is available in sizes S-XXXL. The main body of the jersey is made of Fox’s Tru-Dri fabric, which is lightweight, stretchy, and had moisture-wicking properties. Vented panels on the back and in the underarms allow for airflow, while the cut of the Defend jersey is patterned around the crouched riding position. I liked that the jersey has a traditional fit, and is not of the super-slim trend that is sweeping through moto. The most impressive feature of the jersey, in my opinion, is the fabric on the outside panels of the arms. Tougher and more resistant to tears and snags from brushing against shrubs, the arm panels also have a degree of water resistance. In cold weather, I wore my older Fox jersey of this design on my mountain bike plenty of times and it is still tear-free. With its subdued logo hits, the Defend jersey has a classy look and doesn’t scream, “Look at me I race!”
One of the most unique features of the $229.95 Defend Pants (Available in sizes 28-44) is the metal YKK zipper and waist fastener, which offers a super-secure closure. Adjustment in the waistband is obtained through Velcro adjusters on each side. To be honest, I was puzzled about the use of metal instead of the more-common plastic ratchet system, but it worked flawlessly and gave me the impression of higher quality and greater security. I did note that the pants come with the adjusters set with the waist as large as possible, so be sure to order on the larger side if you are in question.
The pants have a traditional fit and have tough Cordura panels in the wear areas, and plenty of stretch panels for comfort. Also pattered around the riding position, they have no restriction on the trails and are quite comfortable. Each leg has a hidden zippered pocket that’s perfect for your vehicle key, a nutrition bar, or smartphone; although I found it tough to wedge my massive iPhone 13 Pro Max inside. Full-grain leather panels in the knee area protect you from exhaust pipe burns and – more importantly – offer excellent grip traction against the side of the motorcycle. i really appreciated being able to clamp onto the sides of my KTM when bouncing through the seemingly endless rolling whoop sections.
Because they are designed to be ridden with in the elements, the Defend Pant doesn’t have the traditional vented panels that MX pants have (and on this day I was thankful for that!) but instead have two large zippered vents on each thigh. Opening them up allows more airflow in than you might expect, and I was thankful for them when we negotiated a tight, tricky canyon that got my heart racing and my blood boiling.
To be honest, I was skeptical when I chose the Defend Thermo Gloves ($34.95 in sizes S-XXL) because they seemed a little thick. Designed to protect against the cold with a closed-cell foam panel on the back of the hand, they felt bulkier than the super-minimalist style of gloves that have become the trend in moto. With a single-layer Clarino palm without padding, however, they actually broke in very quickly and never caused the arm or hand pump I was afraid they would. I won’t say that they are as comfy as the Fox Flexair minimalist moto gloves, but they were a pleasure to spend five hours on the trail in as I developed no blisters or hot spots anywhere on my hands. The insulated back panel kept my hands warm and I appreciated the silicone traction print on the fingers as they felt extra grippy on the levers. If I were to wish for a feature that the gloves didn’t have; it’d be touch-screen compatible thread in the fingertips.
The $449.95 price tag that the Recon Offroad Jacket (available in sized S-XXXL) carries seems steep, but I will tell you now that this is the best offroad jacket that I have ever ridden in, and I have also worn it on cold days at the motocross track, and worn it as a rain jacket with casual clothes. Unlike other stiff and cumbersome offroad jackets that I have in the past (or comfortable, but not functional ones I’ve had, too), the Recon jacket is lightweight, comfortable, and water- and wind-resistant. The Polartec Neoshell material that the jacket is made of allows your body heat to escape, yet guards against the cold and elements. The jacket is cut generously to allow for movement while riding, yet slim enough that it is not bulky and does not catch on things or flap excessively in the wind. The seams are taped on the inside of the jacket to keep water from seeping in, and the hand and chest pockets are completely waterproof to protect valuables that are not.
The hood is handy when you’re off the bike, and it can be rolled up and fastened in place with a Velcro strap on the collar if you don’t want it to flap around at speed. To be honest, I never noticed it at all, even at the motocross track.
Each wrist is equipped with Velcro adjusters that allow you to really cinch the cuffs down to keep the wind out. More durable and longer-lasting than elastic cuffs; this is a simple, yet effective design.
At the start of our ride, everyone in my group elected to ride without jackets. Jason wore a vest, while Todd, Brian, and Mattia wore base layers beneath their jerseys. I really wanted to give the Recon Jacket a test, though, so I wore it even though the temperatures at base camp didn’t call for it. And I am glad that did! As we climbed a tricky canyon I started to overheat, but I simply stopped and opened the two generous underarm vents built into the jacket and enjoyed immediate airflow and cooling. Because the fabric is light and flexible, I practically forgot that I had a jacket on at all. Once we reached the snowline, though, I zipped them shut, and was nice and warm while my buddies complained about the lower temperatures!
For more information about the Fox Racing offroad line, visit foxracing.com
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