So I had this vision for what I wanted this review to be. Unfortunately, this is not that review. This is a lesser review. I made an editing pass and added a few more impressions here and there.
The Executive Summary of My Impressions of the Aerostich Transit Suit
Yes, it is 100% water proof. A couple thousand miles of epic rain proves it. The only time water gets in is if you're stuck in slow traffic and some leaks down your neck or there's no one to remind you to close your pockets.
Yes, it is about 30% cooler in direct sunlight when compared to comparable black leather.
Despite having no vents to speak of, it does breathe surprisingly well.
Yes, it's very well constructed and is surprisingly comfortable as a result of the softer TF armor.
In 100% humidity DC summer heat it does NOT vent nearly well enough when compared to traditional leathers with large vents such as the Tourmaster Magnum Jacket.
The pockets leave something to be desired.
No, it is not worn over clothes.
No, it cannot be dry cleaned. As a matter of fact, it has to be washed by hand in cold water with a sponge using something like Woolite.
People seem to like the way it looks.
I think it rocks and wear it every time I ride.
For more info read on ...
It had been my intention to write up a Road Report about the Deal's Gap trip with Josh. I may yet get around to that but the memories are starting to fade a bit.
The problem I have is that when I'm developing large software projects, such as the one I'm working on now, my mind gets so deeply into it that I don't have the mental "space" in which to write prose. When I was traveling Out There I would spend my whole day just thinking about how I could present what I was seeing, feeling, and thinking. Here, now, in the midst of these practical concerns, I just don't find those calm introspective hours in which to craft words the way I want to.
Sometimes it's better to do something badly, or at least not as well as you would really like to, than not to do it at all. So here it is.
While I was traveling to Deadhorse and back, I got a few requests for more photos of my Aerostich Transit Suit.
I've gotten quite a few compliments about this photo, so, by request, I've posted this larger version, bug splatter and all.
Last week, a new m-by-mc member, JohnnyDanger from the West Coast, asked if I could post a longer review of the toxic suit. That has put me over the top. Now that I have the Facebook login code finished, I figured it'd be a good point to stop, take a break and put together some of my impressions.
I've now put over 14,000 miles on this suit through every imaginable weather condition.
On day 4 of my 77 day journey I stopped by the Aerostich wearhouse in Duluth Minnesota as I made my way to Missouri. I must confess right up front I am quite the Aerostich fanboy. They have this fantastic catalog of serious functional gear for motorcycle travelers. I've bought so much stuff from them over the years, for instance my coveted motorcycle espresso maker, that if they were publically traded I think I'd have to own stock.
Aerostich is primarily a garment manufacturer. They produce extremely practical armored riding suits designed to be worn over normal clothes. For years their Roadcrafter suit was the defacto standard commuters and tourers alike. A large percentage of the long distance riders I've met wear Roadcrafter suits. I've had one myself for years but rarely wear it. It's too hot for the summer extremes here in DC and, I hate to say it, but it looks like shit. As is the case with almost all of Aerostich's stuff, the Roadcrafter suits will never win any fashion contests. They are about the ugliest looking things out there.
After Gesa's fatal accident, I decided to retire my ancient set of Hein Gericke V-pilot leathers in favor of armored gear. I eventually settled on a jacket and pants combination made by Tourmaster. They were armored leathers and pretty substantial. The Tourmaster gear is not bad and for the money it's hard to beat. Even from the start, though, I viewed them as a stop-gap solution while I looked for something more to my liking.
I saw the Transit suit in the last Aerostich catalog but didn't understand that it was anything special. My first impression based on what I saw in the catalog was not all that positive. I thought that maybe Aerostich was feeling the pressure to produce something a little bit more aesthetically pleasing. Then a few days before I left for Deadhorse, I happened upon the Motorcyclist Magazine long term test where they mentioned that this suit is completely water proof and gave it 5 stars, which they rarely do.
That got my attention.
It began to rain on my first day out and after needing to put on the rainsuit one too many times, I decided to head North and take a look at one of these suits. I endured some of the longest hardest rains I've ever ridden through on my way up to Duluth. It was absolutely pouring when I arrived at Aerostich.
I was fortunate in that they had just gotten a shipment of suits in in various sizes. These suits are not made on premises like their Roadcrafter line, but instead are outsourced to a factory in China. They currently do not have the ability in Duluth to make alterations. They mentioned they needed some additional equipment before they can do that.
They had a number of sizes and my first impression was that they are not cut that well for my frame. The 40 jacket was too short in the arms and too tight in the shoulder but seemed to fit across the chest just fine. The 42 had correct arm lengths but the waist was much too large. There's a stretchy draw-string on the inside of the jacket around the waist to tighten it up a bit. Once I pulled that in tight, the jacket seemed to fit ok, but definitely not perfect. I would have preferred a much more tapered cut. There's too much room around the waist in my humble opinion.
The pants were a much easier fit and generally seem to follow the cut of regular jeans. This suit is not designed to be worn over regular clothes. There's enough room in the jacket for a fleece sweater and a heated vest. The pants fit like jeans.
They claimed the suits are completely water proof, as in rainsuit waterproof, and that they are cooler in direct sunlight than comparable black leathers. I didn't believe either claim but was willing to suspend my disbelief and take a leap of faith.
So largely because I was absolutely disgusted with my rainsuit and soaked Tourmaster leathers, I bought my Transit Suit.
If you visit them they'll give you 10% off the purchase price. I'll have to check my receipts but I think out the door with taxes and all it was a little over $1400, which is alot for "normal" leathers but not out of the ordinary from what I understand for high end suits.
They kindly packed up my Tourmaster leather and rainsuit and and shipped them back home for me for free. That was nice.
It was absolutely pouring down rain as I left the building. I put on my helmet, walked outside and stood there in the pouring rain for quite a while in this brand new suit. I wanted to verify that it didn't leak.
I can't believe it, but no lie, this damned thing is 100% water proof! During my whole trip which involved a tremendous amount of rain, I got only mildly wet in two conditions. Since there was no one to remind me that I needed to zip close the pockets, water would get in that way. Note to self, zip pockets closed when it rains. The second way water got in took me a while to figure out. I was caught for hours doing 25mph in a soaking rain in Pennsylvania. Everything got wet and as best as I can figure it, water got in around the collar. Doing highway speeds, that was never an issue.
What's interesting is the entire suit is perforated across almost all surfaces, I'm guessing to help breathability. There's an inner goretek shell that gives it it's waterproof quality. Wearing this suit I have ridden through literally thousands of miles of the worst rains I have ever been in and it is waterproof. I mean, like rainsuit waterproof. By contrast the Roadcrafter is at best water resistant.
The perforated leather doesn't actually feel like leather. It's "krinkly". Even after all these miles it does not feel like it's broken in. I don't get the impression this stuff will stretch or loosen the way normal leathers do.
I've gotten quite a number of compliments on the pants. I had been riding earlier today and didn't bother to change out of them. They are pretty comfortable. My friend Donna came over unexpectedly and commented on them.
In terms of having something to wear when you're off the bike, these pants actually perform pretty well. They have belt loops, which is something I'm very grateful for. Both the Tourmaster and the Hein Gericke pants don't have belt loops so without a jacket to zip to they tend to fall down. Not so with the Transit Suit pants. They have two front pockets deep enough to accomodate wallet and keys.
I find that because the pants are so "wearable" I can tour without packing extra jeans, which is a great benefit. I like to travel light and only bring what I really need.
They are armored in the knees and hips. Interestingly, they have extremely long zippers which extend up to the lower edge of the pockets. This makes getting in and out of these things much easier than other leathers I've had.
One concern I have is that because this zipper is so long I wonder how it will perform during a get off. I can see, over time, the zipper wearing and losing some of it's strength. It's easy to imagine skidding down the pavement and having the zipper teeth let go. It's a fine toothed zipper.
They are gusseted in the crotch with stretch material that extends down the inner thigh and wraps around the back of the knee. The rest of the material is the perforated leather.
The front zipper is very heavy duty. There a snap at the top.
At the base of each leg is a large reflective patch which is surprisingly visible at night. It has a velcro backing and can be used to tighten up lower leg. In my case, I haven't needed to do this.
While they are comfortable as expected they can be quite warm if you're moving around, so it's not advisable to go on hikes in them. A mile hike down into the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and back out again on a 95degF day was a bit much.
The construction of the jacket is similarly to the pants.
It has a full back protector, shoulder armor and elbow armor.
There's stretch material that extends from the armpit down to the elbow on the underside of the arm. It also extends around back slightly to the edge of the reflective band.
There is no liner for this jacket. The inside material is a very light and thin perforated fabric. I wonder how this is going to hold up over time.
There are three pockets on the front of the jacket.
The two main pockets are lined with what could be described as something that feels like felt.
Gripe #1: When your hands are wet or you have gloves on it seems damn near impossible to pull anything out of the side pockets without the liner sticking to your hands and coming out with whatever you're trying to grab which then summarily dumps the contents of your pockets into the muck or whatever else you happen to be standing on, which of course will be wet because it's raining. I would much prefer some kind of other material that didn't stick so much.
Gripe #2: I really miss a pocket on the armsleeve for keys and earplugs. The side pockets are not that deep and if you ride with them unzipped in a vain attempt at additional airflow the contents are likely to spill out. I have, however, since gotten used to keeping my keys and earplugs in the right front pocket.
The back of the jacket features a reflective strip of the same material that's used on the pants.
Where you see the folds near the waist is where I have the drawstring pulled in tight.
The reflective strip conceals a zipper that supposedly acts as a "vent".
I've left this open for the entire trip. Under the reflective strip it doesn't seem to let any water in. However, I don't know how much good this actually does in terms of venting.
On the subject of venting, this suit breathes much better than I would have expected given how water proof it is. Compared to the Tourmaster Magnum jacket, I find that I need to add layers under it much sooner as it gets cold. I picked up a fleece sweater thing that I use in place of a liner. It works surprisingly well.
In direct sunlight, as they claim, the suit is cooler than comparable leathers. If the ambient temperature isn't too hot, you'll sometimes forget that you're standing in direct sunlight.
However, this suit does NOT perform that well in Washington DC summer heat. It's hot and humid weather performance is probably it's weakest point. While it does vent, you need to be moving at a good clip. If you're stuck moving at only 25mph in traffic you'll cook much worse than in comparable leathers with huge vents. In 90+ degrees of soupy heat the Tourmaster jacket with all the vents open vents much better than the Transit Suit.
Gripe #3: I really wish this suit had zippers in the armpits to let air through there. That would go a great length towards improving it's extreme heat performance probably without sacrificing much in terms of water proofness. Extra vents across the front of the suit would be a welcome addition. Obviously, waterproofness and good venting are contradictory design goals.
Being stuck in the humid heat in this thing is just miserable. "'orrible I tell you! Simply 'orrible!". Dry desert heat when you're moving is no problem. The heat reflective treatement they have on this suit works as well as advertised.
There is also a single breast pocket.
With the jacket on it's very difficult to get anything out of that damned pocket. I have a carbon fiber plate I use under the kickstand when parking on very hot pavement or dirt. I also have my small air pressure gauge there. Both are quite difficult to extract.
The inside of the jacket features two pockets. Both pockets are made out of this perforated thin material, so I would not put keys or other pointy objects in these pockets.
The right pocket is closed with velcro. I find it's suitable for holding a smartphone.
The left pocket is closed using a small zipper.
I find the left pocket is useful for holding a wallet. Of course, from a safety point of view you probably don't want to be carrying anything in any pockets while you ride, but sometimes practical concerns override strict safety issues.
The jacket zips to the pants using a Hein Gericke style connector in the back.
It's a substantial zipper but I find it's very awkward, especially if I have a sweater on to connect this zipper to the pants. It requires quite the twist. The first time I tried it it took me several minutes to figure out how to bend my torso enough and reach around to get the damned thing to line up. With a lot of practice, I now hardly notice it. If you get this suit especially if you have a gut and or back problems, you may want to try that maneuver a few times to make sure it's going to work for you.
This jacket to pants zipper issue was almost a deal breaker for me as I was trying the suit on. As is the case with so many things in life, first impressions have to be tempered. As I mentioned, I now no longer see this as a problem although I do wish the zipper extended further around. My concern is, again, what happens in a crash. You won't want the jacket and pants to separate exposing your back.
Yea, I know. Scary picture. When I first got the suit I could only get the zipper to "start" using both hands.
As for armor, the components are made out of this TF material which is flexible and "squishy".
For example this is a photo of a piece of shoulder armor. It bends readily but when you let go it returns to it's former shape very quickly.
One side effect of this, however, is that if you hang the pants or jackets up on a chair or fold them over you can fold the armor which then gets to be a bit awkward when you go to put the suit on. I end up having to bend the armor back into shape or move it around more often than not. This seems especially true of the left shoulder armor which always seems to need to be positioned. It's another thing you get used to and it's not a big deal. The fact that the armor conforms to my shape is a benefit in my opinion. In fact, most of the time you don't notice that you're wearing something that's armored.
The armor is easy to remove, largely because it bends. Each armor compartment is made out of that thin perforated fabric and feels very lightweight. They are closed with velcro. I question how long those pockets will last. To get the armor in or out you end up bending the armor into contorted shapes. To get the back protector out, I literally had it fold it over on the edges. Putting the armor back in caused me to become concerned about ripping the fabric.
I do find the shoulder armor tends to move around and it's easy to get it caught on your arm as you're trying to put on the jacket.
As I mentioned above, there's a stretchy draw string that can tighten up the waist.
But even with the drawstring pulled in as tightly as you can, the fit is not the greatest. Part of this is because it's cut for a riding position, but my impression is it could at least be cut a little tighter.
As you can see, the jacket tends to bunch up around the shoulders, but again it's optimized for the riding position.
Despite there being only three reflective strips, they light up impressively so I don't think lack of visibility is an issue.
One concern I had very early on was that the stitching wouldn't hold up to the punishment. No later than the day after I bought it, some of the stitching on the sleeve started to unravel.
I was pretty bummed about this because I feared the whole suit had some manufacturing flaw that would cause it to unravel. I'm happy to report that so far this is the worst it's gotten. There are a few threads on the right sleeve that also show signs of coming undone, but they have not gotten any worse in the last 14,000 miles so I think it's probably a non-issue.
The suit held up well. I thought after taking it all the way to Deadhorse with all that calcium chloride eating away at it that it would look worse for wear but it really isn't too bad.
As Phil outside Boston commented, these leathers can develop quite the serious funk especially after you've been stewing in them in East Coast heat and rain. By the time I reached Pennsylvania they were truly foul. I began to call it my Toxic Suit. I would sit down at a bar and people would clear out. I guess, depending on how social you're feeling, the could be considered an advantage.
Yea, it was bad.
Unfortunately, the suit CANNOT be dry cleaned. As a matter of fact, it has to be washed by hand in cold water with a sponge using some kind of light detergent like Woolite. So there I stood, sponge in hand in front of the sink trying to clean the inside and outside of the thing. It worked surprisingly well. I had to remove all the armor. Putting the armor back in can be a challenge, but actually cleaning the suit was not nearly the chore I had feared it would be. The result wasn't bad either.
So in summary, I really like the suit. The more I wear it the more it grows on me. It has a serious feel to it. It's comfortable. It's water proof. It's leather. It reflects heat better than comparable leathers. It doesn't look too bad. It's functional. Strangely, it gets a lot of attention from the hardcore longdistance riding set. Standing around in Deal's Gap, I heard someone say, "Hey, you, do you know what the Alcan is like? You look like you've been to Alaska". He was talking to me. Weird, eh?
The gripes about the suit I have are minor and are mostly related to the lack of a key pocket on the sleeve and insufficient venting for the brutally hot and humid days we get here in DC.
However, all this aside, the big innovation with the Transit Suit is the fact that it is actually completely water proof while remaining breatheable. This seemingly minor detail has completely changed the way I ride. I just don't pay attention to weather as much anymore.
"If it rains, just let it rain and ride on."