Getting dressed for work
Former World Champion and current Red Bull KTM Ajo star, Brad Binder, explains the kit needed for his ‘day job’ in Moto2TM.
In a dark and undisturbed corner of the Circuit of the Americas vast Media Center, Brad Binder is happy to be wearing his full race kit. Outside, the Texan air is stifling. Inside, the air conditioning is chiming along with good effect so the likeable South African does not mind squeezing into his shiny, dark and occasionally squeaky leathers. The 23-year-old is fairly uncomplicated and undemanding when it comes to his requirements for what he needs on the motorcycle in order to race for the tenths of a second that divide vast numbers of riders in the ruthless Moto2TM division. He counts on excellent support from various brands and poses for Rob Gray’s impromptu camera setup to reveal what (and where) he uses and why.
1. The Underlayer
Binder pulls-on a special top and bottom fabric layer that sits nicely under his suit. It helps both regulate body temperature and increase the comfort aspect of the whole get-up. ‘Layers’ are one of the fastest evolving areas of sportswear in the last five years thanks to the complicated properties of the materials that deal with sweat absorption and even compression.
“One cool thing is this special type of material where as soon as it gets wet and the wind blows on it then it feels very cool,” Binder says. “It has a cooling effect. It’s not ideal for winter obviously but helps a lot with temperature control. The pants are also made from a material that means it is super-easy to slip on the leathers.”
“I used to wear long, motocross-style socks but now when the boots are tailor made and the suits are made to measure that it was all a bit tight. Nowadays I wear socks that are much shorter and come about ten centimeters above my ankle. It is actually difficult to find a good pair! When I get some that I like I stick with them all year.”
“Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be that hot at a grand prix and you are wringing the gear out because it is so wet! It is quite normal to come in to the truck soaking. The leathers keep you quite warm and you are working hard on the bike so you can lose weight over a race weekend.”
“Before a race I take off the team-wear and put on the under-suit, or layer, and then do some stretching and my normal warm-up routine. After that it will be the suit, the boots, back and chest protector, zip-up and then everything else is waiting for me in the box.”
2. The Leathers
Nowadays race suits are complicated mixes of (usually) kangaroo or cow leathers and other stretch fabrics to ensure flexibility, lightweight, ventilation and protection. They are carefully constructed, resilient and very modern with airbag technology now obligatory in MotoGPTM for the last two years.
“The amount of steps forward for leathers suits in the last six years is incredible. If I compared the suits now to what I had a few seasons ago then it is like ‘another world’ for general fit and comfort when I’m on the bike. We also have airbags as compulsory now – it’s packed into the hump and the panels are in the suit – and I think I have one of the lightest in the paddock when all is fitted.”
“The suit is made for me, so my body is being re-measured all the time. With all the training we are doing it is normal that your arms or chest can get a bit bigger. You might even get a bit skinnier. Every half year – and at the end of the season – I’m re-fitted and the suits are redone accordingly. The support at the track is incredible and anything that we want in terms of an adjustment can be done at the circuit. We get well looked after.”
“Sometimes at the beginning of the year – or if you haven’t ridden for a while – it can all feel a bit ‘hectic’ with everything on but once you’ve worn it for a while you get used to it and once it’s ‘broken-in’ then it gets more and more comfortable. I finished 2018 having used around 18-20 suits. By the third round of this year I’d already used six.”
Just before the final zip is done up Binder will place a small chest protector inside: another part of the MotoGPTM rulebook. “The chest pad is just to absorb any possible impact. It is flexible and super-comfortable. How much it can help you is unknown … but it is probably better to have it than not.”
3. The Rest
The last items for Brad will be his race boots, gloves and the helmet: all items tailored specifically to his fit and needs.
“The boots are basically the same as the ones from the shelf but they are customized a little bit. I have extremely small calves! So, I need them adjusted enough so I can tighten them properly. I really like my boots tight! I also like the profile of the boot to be narrower around the toes so they are less bulky. I am well looked after. I think I had 12 pairs of boots last year and I used two, to be honest. If I have something that fits and works well then I like to carry on with them; I think it is a bit of a superstition as well. The ones I’m wearing now I think I’ve had since the mid-point of last season.”
“I hear a lot of people talking about gloves and how they often need a new pair. Personally, whether it’s brand new this doesn’t bother me at all and again it is something customized for me. If any of the fingers are a bit tight then they stretch them out, or if they are long then they shorten them. I’ve had 3-4 crashes in the gloves I’m using now and they look brand new. I know there are different materials so that when you crash it slides on the surface, like a small carbon piece near the palm of your hand. It can be quite scientific but I’m lucky that I have not had many injuries at all with my hands.”
“For my helmet a 3D scan of my head was made so that the inside was totally custom-fitted. It is almost like an internal liner that fits every little bump! It’s perfectly formed and I’m using the new model to fit the new homologation and it must be a kilo lighter! On a normal day I’ll wear a tinted visor. If it has been raining and there are some patches on track or it’s cloudy then I will wear a half-tint. The company I’m with brought out a visor with some new technology last year where water never sits on top and it never mists up. Since then I’ve never worried about it. Before we had that dual visor system that you get in normal helmets for the road but water could sometimes drop in between the two layers. Since the new visor it’s been really cool.”
Finishing our shoot we ask Brad if there is anything that he’d like to see changed or introduced to his race outfit. Riders obviously need to move and react to the full behavior of the bike so flex is key, but aerodynamics are also vital in the chase of winning lap times so keeping their shape slim and narrow is paramount. “I don’t know what else we can wear or do,” he thinks. “I think every aspect is covered!”
Photos: Rob Gray