Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Dream of the Integrated Riding Outfit

A few years ago I came across a project to produce an integrated riding outfit. The product would include jacket, gloves, pants, helmet, and boots, sold as a set. Presumably this set would work together, and fit you properly, and I suppose it would be a bonus if everything had the same style and was somewhat colour matched. There is a company in the USA that sells a product like this. They are Aerostich, and they produce most of the stuff themselves, but also sell suitable helmets and boots. The boots are made by Sidi, but to Aerostich specifications.

I do kind of like the idea of getting something that is supposed to work together. Because you don't want pant legs that don't fit over the boot tops. You don't want gloves that leave a gap with the jacket cuff, or will not fit over the cuff.

But although I mention Aerostich, I have never bought any of their gear. It's a bit pricey, but worse is that it is not sold in local motorcycle stores. So you need to order it, and for Canadians this not only means you don't get to try it on, but if you need to return or exchange an item, two additional border inspections are possible. I prefer dealing with a local dealer, where I can go back to the store easily if something is wrong with my gear.

But Aerostich does not sell a true integrated outfit. You still need to pick and choose, and put together an outfit for yourself.

I have become a gearoholic lately. Because the garage is full, I cannot just go out an buy another motorcycle, and I have three of mine out in the garage, and Mary Ann insists on parking her Burgman 400 there. Anyway, motorcycles are so good these days, why bother getting a variety of them. But motorcycle gear is not so well developed as the motorcycles themselves. We still get cold riding in the winter, wet when it rains, and perspire when it gets hot.

I have two pairs of leather boots, summer and winter. Five pairs of gloves, two pairs of leather mitts, four helmets, three motorcycle jackets, an electric vest, leather bib overalls, two pairs of rain pants, and a plastic rain jacket. Choosing the right outfit every time I go out is very complicated. For example, I try to remember to not wear my Scorpion jacket when riding my Honda 175. That's because the green high visibility colour does not match the black spots from chain lube that gets on the back of the jacket. Also, the Scorpion Commander jacket has not one but two liners that can be added or removed, separately or together, along with a removable storm collar.

Every time I get dressed for a ride, it's an agonizing set of decisions, based on which bike I choose (another decision), where I'm going, and the weather. Where I'm going is very important not just for the distance involved, but also for where I park and what I do when I get there. If I'm going to a high crime neighbourhood, and leaving my jacket and helmet on the bike, maybe I want to take my oldest worn out stuff in case it gets stolen. By the way, I am not thinking of Port Dover as a high crime area.

Some of my equipment needs modification to work together. The electric vest does not work well under the bib overalls, because the electric cord exits the vest right behind the leather bib. So I had to cut through a pocket of the bib overalls to slide the plug out the front. One jacket has sleeves that are a bit short, so then I need to wear gloves with a long cuff. When I wear my leather overalls on my summer boots on the freeway, the pant cuffs flap around excessively, enough to actually unstitch the seams of the legs. But if I wear my winter boots with those pants, the tops fill out the space under the legs so that there is hardly any flapping.

If it is very cold or raining, I have to be extra careful about choosing the right components. I can't have any leaks around my neck for air or water to get in, so the helmet and collar have to fit together. And I still need to be able to turn my head, and I still need some air to prevent the helmet from fogging up. That's partly why I have a Scorpion jacket and Scorpion helmet, although there seems to be no particular advantage to having the same source in this case.

Another big factor in the decisions is which bike? The CD175 has no windshield, so it never goes out in rain. It also rarely goes on long trips or on the freeway. The Vulcan has a big windshield, and also some protection for my feet. Another issue is the gear shifter. On some bikes (like my BMW) I had to adjust the gear lever to accommodate different boots. My winter boots need more space to get under the lever. But the Vulcan has a heel-and-toe type shifter, so I can wear just about anything from flip-flops to mukluks, and still shift gears comfortably. That is even more true of the Burgman 400, which does not even have a gear shift lever and so I can have bare feet or stiletto heels if I want.

One final point, you must put together an outfit that you can get into and out of, alone, and in a reasonable amount of time, and still allow yourself to perform functions such as going to the bathroom. A lot to think about.

So in conclusion, the moral of the story is this. If you think you have too many bikes, stop buying bikes, just buy more motorcycle gear instead. It can keep you busy and entertained for years, and prevent your pockets from getting too loaded down with extra cash.

Picture: The bio-suit system for space. We can learn a lot from NASA, they really have some harsh conditions to work in.


  1. Your gear requirements are much more extensive than mine. I can appreciate where attempting to cover off all riding conditions would call for quite a riding wardrobe.

    My requirements are simpler ... if the weather's no good, I simple won't bother rolling the bike out.

    On the other hand, I must admit I'm a bit envious when you do manage to get out there on those occasional beautiful winter and early spring days - while my bikes are still up on blocks.

    Motorcycle Classics did a write-up on riding jeans. Although I do have a pair of chaps, I find them a hassle and have only worn them once or twice in the 15-20 years I've owned them.

    The idea of jeans with protection seemed ideal. Until I checked out the styles and the prices!

    Perhaps I need my sweetie to sew me an aramid 'bio-suit' ;-)

  2. guess i'm a little between matti and you

    me---mostly decision is jean jacket or leather?

    riding pants or not?

    cowboy boots or not?

    full face or 1/2 helmet?

    do also have a few glove choices as well

    OK--so maybe I have more options than I thought! :-}

  3. There are other various one piece suits on the market but I can understand the other readers comments. Not everyone is going to like the one piece efforts offered by the likes of aerostitch Revit and Held amongst others they are simply to touring focused in appearance. If yu get on a sportsbike no matter how advance the material is if it aint a leather race suit it aint gonna look right. The same goes for your classic triumph or Harley rider bmw style touring gear aint gonna look cool.