Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aerostich Transit Waterproof Leather Suit

By Gabe Ets-Hokin

Photos By Bob Stokstad

If the San Francisco Bay Area’s motorcycling community was to become a separatist republic and design a flag, it would probably be a picture of a lane-splitting commuter wearing an Aerostich suit. Come to think of it, the flag would probably be a tattered, faded Aerostich suit. In fact, the Bay Area is Aerostich’s best market. For 26 years, the one-piece (and two-piece) Roadcrafter suit has been the gold standard of riding apparel.

Sure, it has its flaws. It’s not 100% waterproof (although Aerostich claims it is with proper preparation). The baggy fit isn’t exactly flattering and can slow you down at higher speeds what with all the flapping and fluttering. And although pound-for-pound nothing is as abrasion-resistant as the heavy Cordura, a freeway-speed crash will usually total a Roadcrafter. And importantly, for Aerostich at least, is the fact that a guy riding a cruiser or vintage bike in a bright-colored jumpsuit looks freakish, closing off a huge segment of the U.S. motorcycle market. The dream: the fit, look and abrasion resistance of leather with the versatility and comfort of a Roadcrafter.

Luckily, former DuPont chemist Bill Gore built a multi-billion dollar company based on tapping the potential of polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. Only in America, I tells you! Gore-Tex outerwear is well-known for being waterproof and warm, thanks to its semi-permeable nature which allows water vapor out and blocks water droplets from coming in. Hey! Why not bond it to leather? Well, because it’s a pain in the ass, but after 32 years, Gore finally brought its Pro Shell leather to market, and Aerostich quickly (okay, not so quickly) brought its take on waterproof leather to market, the Transit suit. 

The Pro Shell leather is a unique, much-engineered and very expensive material. It’s perforated and treated to reduce absorption of both water and solar radiation. It’s a truly global product: Spanish cows sacrifice their hides to Italian tanners who send the leather to the U.K. to be turned into Pro Shell. Aerostich then has its Transit suit sewn in a specially-equipped factory in Vietnam

The Transit is designed to be your basic black leather riding suit with some of the functional features the Roadcrafter has. It has full-length zippers on the pants and plenty of pockets inside and out. It has the big back vent with massive reflective flap. It’s got a tall collar and numerous stretchy panels for a comfortable fit. For safety, it has Aerostich’s latest CE-approved armor, dubbed TF-5, at the knees, elbows, hips and spine.

Your relationship with a leather jacket starts the moment you touch it for the first time. The Transit’s first impression is very favorable. It’s very light (the jacket and pants weigh only 2 pounds more than my one-piece Roadcrafter) and is nicely made. Fit is familiar to anyone with an Aerostich, if a little closer. For leather, especially brand-new leather, it’s comfortable and easy to walk around in. If you’re used to textile apparel, it’ll seem restrictive, but if you’re used to heavy roadrace leathers, the simple, boxy jacket and jeans-cut pants will feel like pajamas.

The riding experience is what you’d expect from Aerostich gear. It’s warm and comfy – the perforations don’t flow any air (thanks to the PTFE film bonded to the inside) – and a 20-minute shower (in an actual shower) revealed true waterproofiness, with no damp crotch or damp anything underneath. It dries off quickly, too. The leather is remarkably flexible and soft, and Aerostich tells me it will get better as it breaks in and molds to the rider. It’s also warmer than either textile or standard leather, which is handy as there isn’t much room to layer underneath; order a size larger if you want to wear a fleece and an electric liner. Ditto for the pants if you want to wear street clothes underneath. 

Warm weather will be a little more comfy than a Roadcrafter or standard leather gear, as the Pro Shell is designed to absorb less heat, keeping the rider cooler. Let’s hope that’s true, as there is no front venting other than the main zipper.

Other downsides to consider: sizing is even only for the jacket (sizes 38-52) and pants (30-44), with no provision for inseams or short or tall sizes. And as of press time, Aerostich can’t do any alterations or add any features like knee-slider Velcro. Expect this all to change if the Transit catches on.

So that’s what you get for almost $1500 ($797 for the jacket and $697 for the pants). That’s a lot of money for street-riding apparel, but less than a custom-made roadrace suit, and most riders only use theirs a few times a year. The Transit is an everyday leather suit that won’t look out of place on any bike from a vintage Triumph to a BMW GS to a GSX-R1000, or whatever it is you’ll be riding 10 years from now.

Aerostich/Rider WearHouse






V said...

Neat-o. Did you test-ride it with street clothes on underneath? I rock an old-skool Roadcrafter but wouldn't want a Transit suit unless it had the same ease-of-wearing-street-clothes-under-it as my current suit.

Gabe said...

V, I did manage to get the pants on over jeans, but it definitely does not fit the same as a Roadcrafter or Darien of the same size.

I think it will never match the Roadcrafter for versatility or comfort, but for leather it's pretty good.

jimstinnett said...

Being the survivor of a deer vs VTR high speed impact collsion, followed by about 100 yards of asphalt surfing, I have to say it's either a Roadcrafter or nada for me. Why change protection in the middle of a scream?
I support them in any effort to build a bigger market share. It will keep more of us alive to ride again.
Thanks for the write-up.
Jim S (moto-rama)

Violet Mae said...

Oh GABRIEL! You are just SO handsome!
And SUCH a good writer.

haha. But really though. :)

Gabe said...

Comedian, eh?

Bi said...

i am a little confused. the leather is perforated but you say it does not pass air? plus there is no venting. so basically int eh summer its not going to have any kind of airflow?

Gabe said...

Yeah, it's perforated, but the perforations don't really flow air the way regular leather does because of the Gore-Tex. There is a rear vent and a very large vent that goes all the way down the front, also known as the "zipper." But you are right, there is no other venting.

I think this jacket would be good up to about 85-90 degrees, as long as you kept moving, but you'll have to read my summer review for that...

Thanks very much for reading and posting! I appreciate it. (But would it kill you to click on an ad? How about it?)

Guru G said...

lol! i just clicked on an ad..hope that works out for you

so basically. the perforation are just for show..

isnt there goretex behind the vents too, making them as inaffective in flowing air ??

Gabe said...

I don't think they're really for show: they are functional. The holes (and this is my opinion, not backed up by Aerostich or Gore-Tex) make the leather lighter and more flexible. The whole suit only weighs 3 pounds more than an Aerostich Roadcrafter. They also (according to Aerostich) help keep water vapor (which can pass through the Gore-Tex) moving from the inside of the suit to the outside.

So there are no vents (other than the main zipper of the jacket) in front, but the vent in back has a big flap over it. It's zippered, so there is no Gore-Tex in the way of airflow.

M said...

hey, could i ask, what's that red bike you're riding there in the picture?

Gabe said...

That would be a Kawasaki Versys. Great bike.

Thanks so much for reading and posting!

Dela said...

Hi Gabe. I've just returned from Aerostich, having done a 1200+ km trip to pick up a pair of these pants at their factory. I'm sitting in them right now (sorta breaking them in) and my hope is they are as bomb-proof as they make them out to be. Pretty comfortable right outta the box.

Gabe said...

Excellent! I hope you enjoy them.

Thanks so much for reading and posting!

Paul E said...

Hi Gabe,
I'm considering buying this suit.
What is the pant sizing like? I wear size 32 jeans, and plan to wear the Transit pants over my jeans for commuting. What size would I need then, for the Transit pants?

Gabe said...

Hey Paul,

If you want to wear these as an overpant, I'd start with the 34. And don't worry if you need to swap them: Aerostich has a great return/exchange policy.

Elux Troxl said...

Thanks for your review. I am agonizing over buying a set of these especially with the $155 off offer I got in email from Aerostich today.

I rode in black leathers for 20 years, but one afternoon after getting stuck in traffic on a 101 degree day, I went home and ordered a Roadcrafter. Took me weeks to feel comfortable not wearing leather. Now I ride in a Roadcrafter or BMW Airflow, depending on the weather.

Now I am thinking about going back to leather, as I am gonna be riding an S1000RR next summer, but still worry about the heat. Anyone worn the Transits in warm weather?

Gabe said...

Elux, my guess is that it would be about the same experience as wearing a Roadcrafter, maybe a little hotter. I'd wait for hot weather and try it out; if you don't like it, return the suit.

Paul E said...

Thanks for the advice Gabe, I am also swayed by the discount offer mailed out, so I'll go for the 34 and see if that works. The annoying thing is that the site says size 32 won't be available till April 2010.

Paul E said...

Gabe, I received the Transit suit today, and the fit is better than I expected. I got the size 40 jacket and size 34 pants (as you suggested), and the 34 is perfect as an overpant, which is what I intended to do. The jacket is a little long in the front (as I have a short torso), but I can just tuck it under in front, which is made possible by the fabric notches at the sides. This way I can assume a sitting position on the bike. Anyway, the quality is excellent, comfortable out of the box, well-armored, including a great back protector!
The sleeves and pant leg length are just right for me, so I lucked out on sizing.
I can hardly wait to take my first ride on it.
Thanks for the online review.

Joey Metro said...

The perforation let sweat moisture out. I have a Transit suit and I love it.