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Motorcycle Riding Suits

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Riding Suits

Executive summary: The top suits are, in no particular order, the Aerostitch Darien (loose fitting for comfort), the Aerostitch Roadcrafter (tight fitting for sporty riding), the AlpineStar Drystar Edge, the Belstaff Discovery, and the Firstgear Kilimanjaro. I am completely comfortable recommending any of these - if you can afford them, they will give long service and satisfaction.

The main reasons to want a riding suit are for protection in case of a fall; because they are substantially (but not perfectly) waterproof; and because the good ones go on and off quickly. So, you can put on your work clothes, put a riding suit on over your work clothes in about 30 seconds, drive to work in pretty much any temperature from about 45° to 90°, rain or shine, and get there in decent shape. It then takes about 30 seconds to remove the riding suit.

Riding suits are not so comfortable when the temperature is above about 90°, depending on your personal tolerance for heat, and you need additional layers if you're going to spend significant time riding in temperatures below about 45°, depending on your personal tolerance for cold. Most people seem to prefer the two piece suits for the added versatility. Riding pants are generally uncomfortable to wear above about 85°, again depending on your personal tolerance for heat weighed against your fear of road rash.

Whatever you buy, it's important it be comfortable or you won't want to wear it. The Aerostitch people will work with you until you are happy. The other products have to fit off the rack, so it's important you try them on before buying. Particularly the one piece suits, where if your body dimensions are at all unusual they will not be a good fit. I, for example, cannot wear a Firstgear one piece because when the top fits me, the legs are too long.

For rain suits, the unfortunate reality is that the cheaper and uglier the rain suit, the better it works. The yellow "mushroom" suits that crossing guards wear made out of non-breathing PVC will keep you really dry. If it's above about 80° they will also roast you to medium well. The "best" suits all eventually collect some water inside which works its way down to your crotch, or if it's a gore-tex breathing type of suit, it will eventually let in water that inevitably pools at your crotch. Sorry. Think of it not as a bug, but rather as a design feature: it's a built-in birth control accessory.

If your only purpose for riding pants is to stay warm, you won't need them in temperatures above about 55°. Below 55° you can get a pair of ski pants on sale at any sporting goods store for about $25 which work at least as well as everything here for keeping you warm.

There are no leather suits here. Leather is very nice to look at, and it's the best stuff to be wearing if you're going to fall down, but it is not very warm in the winter and it is extremely hot in the summer. It's also hard to make leather get and stay waterproof. If you want leather, the best leather is available at Harley dealers, Fieldshear and Hein Gericke.

There are numerous stories on the internet of people falling down in all of the products below and walking away unscathed. Aerostitch stands out after a crash in repairing or replacing their garments at reasonable prices. It's moderately likely that after a significant crash you would have to replace the other products here.

Generally speaking, the Aerostitch products do not seal against wind, but seal reasonably well against rain. For this reason they're comfortable into the low 90s. However, somewhere in the mid-60's you're likely to want to put on the liner or a sweatshirt or something. Aerostitch suits are, as the brits say, 'quite dear.' Their pricing is 25% - 50% higher than anyone else. The AlpineStar, Belstaff and Kilimanjaro are both reputed to be more waterproof than the Aerostitch. Belstaff invented motorcycle riding gear, and they remain one of the very best manufacturers. They're in the UK, so availability in the US is spotty. The Kilimanjaro has the best venting, and is therefore comfortable at higher temperatures than the Aerostitch or Belstaff. Unfortunately, the Kilimanjaro has a completely inadequate liner, and because of this is pretty much useless below about 40°.

There is a European body called CE which makes standards for vehicles, much like our DOT. They have a standard for motorcycle clothing and protective armor. All of the suits below which feature armor are CE certified. CE armor is good stuff for protecting you in a slide, or from small impacts.

People seem to focus on the injury caused by the slide. This is not where you tend to get hurt. On a taller bike like a touring or sport touring bike, you get hurt more from the fall. The bike is tipping over at 1g, but that number relates to the bike's center of mass. Your shoulders are about three times as high up as the center of mass, so you're actually levered into the ground at 2 to 3 gs, which means the fall from like 3-5 feet above the ground is effectively more like a fall from 6-15 feet above the ground. Leather and CE padding aren't going to have much effect on this.

You see these films where GP racers go down at 100 mph and walk away. It's worthwhile to remember that they are falling from only a foot or so high - often their knee is already on the pavement, and their elbows are only a few inches up. It's only a slide, and leather handles that just great.

There are summer-only jackets which are thin and highly perforated for ventilation, and have the CE armor. The most popular are the Firstgear Mesh Tex and the Joe Rocket Phoenix. Pictures and prices below. Although it's more money, if you want to ride in armor all year round, I suggest you consider a warmer jacket for October through May, and a mesh jacket for June through September. I don't believe there is a single jacket that's waterproof and warm enough for winter, and sufficiently vented to use in summer.

Sometimes these jackets are available at large discounts at NewEnough.com, MotorcycleCloseouts.com, or other places I haven't heard of yet. It's worth checking there before you buy.

There are a lot of reviews of the following products at MotorcycleGearReview.com. Unfortunately the reviews were mostly written by people who have only owned one or two products, so they are not so good at comparisons.

Many of the manufacturers below make lower price products. Generally I have shown only the top of the line, and then found the best price on it. One can get something for perhaps $100 less by giving up some features. To quote long distance rider Ray Stevens, "Buy the best and just cry once."

Alpinestars Apex Jacket Alpinestars Apex< Jacket Alpinestars Apex Jacket Alpinestars Apex Jacket
Alpinestars Apex Jacket. Waterproof and breathable, adjustable collar. Back, shoulder and elbow protection. Removable quilted liner, reflective piping, 4 external, 2 internal pockets. About $270.

Alpinestars Edge Drystar Jacket Alpinestars Edge Drystar Jacket Alpinestars Edge Drystar Jacket Alpinestars Edge Drystar Jacket
checkmarkAlpinestars Edge Drystar Jacket. Waterproof and breathable, adjustable collar. Back, shoulder and elbow protection. Removable quilted liner, reflective piping, 4 external, 2 internal pockets. Excellent rain protection and liner make this a good choice for riding in cold weather. Lack of venting makes this jacket a poor choice for 80+ degree weather. I own one of these.About $300.

Aerostitch Roadcrafter 1-piece suit Aerostitch Roadcrafter 1-piece suit
Aerostitch Roadcrafter 1-piece suit. Also available as a 2 piece. 500 denier Cordura® nylon with an integral multi-layer Gore-Tex® laminate that sheds rain and wind. Shoulder, knee and elbow pads. Form fitting - this is their "sport" model. About $725.

Aerostitch Darien 2-piece suit Aerostitch Darien 2-piece suit
Aerostitch Darien 2-piece suit. 500 denier Cordura® nylon with an integral multi-layer Gore-Tex® laminate that sheds rain and wind. Shoulder, knee and elbow pads. Looser fitting, for those culinary-oriented tours. About $800.

Belstaff Atlas 2 piece suit + gloves
Belstaff Atlas 2 piece suit + gloves. DuPont Cordura, ventilation zippers. Detachable wearable Thermolite liner. Knox shoulder, elbow, hip and knee armor. Pants zip to jacket. About $190 + $200 + $40.

Belstaff Discovery jacket Belstaff Discovery jacket
Belstaff Discovery. DuPont 500d Cordura with Duratec reinforcement. Reflective panels on shoulders, elbows and near front pockets. Microskin liner. Knox shoulder, elbow and back armor. Underarm and back ventilation zips. Detachable neck warmer. Comfort fit waist belt. Zip out wearable Thermolite liner with water resistant rain skirt to stop water wicking upwards. Pants zip to jacket. About $300.

Belstaff Trekker jacket Belstaff Trekker jacket
Belstaff Trekker. Waterproof, breathable and windproof Dupont 500 denier Cordura with Duratec reinforcement. Reflective panels on shoulders, elbows and near front pockets. Knox shoulder, and elbow armor. Underarm and back ventilation zips. Detachable neck warmer. Comfort fit waist belt. Zip out wearable Thermolite liner with water resistant rain skirt to stop water wicking upwards. Pants zip to jacket. About $250.

Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket Fieldsheer XP.Tech jacket
Fieldsheer XP.Tech. 600 Denier Carbolex, Cowhide on Sleeves and Shoulders. Waterproof breathable Jet Liner, Removable CE Armor at back, shoulders and elbow, SPX Foam protectors on front and top of back. Zip out satin quilt liner. Four front and one back zip vents. 3M Scotchlite tape on front, arms and back, 5 front pockets, map pocket, inside pocket, cell phone pocket and 2 pen holders. About $220.

Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket
Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket. Waterproof 330 denier Hypertex, Sheltex membrane for breathability. Shoulder, back & elbow armor, 2-port vent system, Zip-out, wearable fleece jacket liner. 1 year warranty. Perhaps the most waterproof jacket here, but the price for this is it's relatively difficult to get in and out of the jacket, or into the pockets. Excellent venting make this a good choice for riding in higher temperatures. Worthless liner makes this a poor choice for colder weather, below 40°. I rode in one of these for a year, 24,000 miles. About $260.

Firstgear Thermogear 1 or 2 Piece Suit Firstgear Thermogear 1 or 2 Piece Suit
Firstgear Thermogear 1 or 2 Piece Suit. 100% waterproof 210 denier Hypertex, 120-gram polyester insulation, full-length storm flap closures on zippers / pockets / cuffs, hip-length leg zippers. Two large waist pockets, chest pocket, inside wallet pocket, elasticized ankle closure and adjustable waist. No armor. About $120 (1pc), about $100 + $80 (2-pc).

Teknic Cyclone Kevlar Jacket
Teknic Cyclone Kevlar Jacket. Entrant GII XT outer shell is vented, waterproof, windproof and breathable. Lifetime waterproof guarantee. Teknic/Knox CE approved armor in shoulders, elbows and back. Exterior armor pockets made of Kevlar. Zip out fleece inner jacket. 3/4 length cut with 15 degree rotated arms. Snap out neck insulation. Scotchlite 3M reflective piping. 8 inch zipper connects to all Teknic pants. About $310.

Teknic Sprint Jacket Teknic Sprint Jacket Teknic Sprint Jacket Teknic Sprint Jacket
Teknic Sprint Jacket. waterproof / breathable, CE armor shoulders & elbows, integrated back protector, leather shoulder reinforcement, venting system w/ rear exhaust vents, fleece jacket liner, corduroy lined collar, 3M scotchlite® reflection About $240.

Tourmaster Cortech II Tourmaster Cortech II Tourmaster Cortech II Tourmaster Cortech II Tourmaster Cortech II
Tourmaster Cortech II 3/4 jacket. Waterproof 500 Cordura-Plus shell with 1000 denier at the shoulders and sleeves. Sealed seams. Corduroy-lined collars and cuffs with adjustable Velcro closures. 3M Thinsulate® Ultra full-sleeve zip-out liner. Triple-density pre-curved, removable armor in the shoulders, elbows and back. Chest vents, upper-arm sleeve vents, zippered rear vent. Two top and two side-entry chest pockets, two front pockets, two inside pockets, and a built-in fanny pack. Adjustable forearm straps. Reflective Scotchlite panels and piping. About $200, also $200 here.