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Review Details

Darien Jacket

Darien Jacket

Product Review (submitted on September 15, 2009):
I'm getting gas in Montana. It's only 10AM, but the temperate has ripped past 95oF and is still climbing. It will top 105oF before sunset. The moment I get off of the bike, I pull off my gloves, helmet, and Darien jacket. A couple on a Harley laugh at me and the guy asks me, "Don't you get hot in that gear?" Neither of the two wore helmets and their riding gear consisted of leather vests over tee-shirts, jeans, designer boots, and bandanas.

"I'm fine, as long as I'm moving," I said.

"Seems like a lot of clothing on a hot summer day. Couldn't you get by in something a little more comfortable?" the lady says.

"I don't believe in magic," is the only reply I can think of.

They wandered away, probably confused by my response. It's the truth, though. I don't carry a rabbit's foot, a crucifix, a picture of Jimmy Carter in my wallet, or have a Suzuki tattoo on my butt. I don't believe in magic. I do believe in preparation and luck, but I only have control of the first of those ingredients. So I practice my riding skills, wear good gear, and leave the luck to whatever is in control of that aspect of my life. My Aerostich Darien suit is the best full-body gear I've ever owned and I wore it non-stop for 26 days and almost 10,000 miles this past summer.

This piece of equipment has received so many positive reviews that it is probably pointless to add another. However, I feel an obligation to tell the story of my Darien riding gear. I "tested" the Darien suit in a 45-55mph crash on 4" of arrowhead shaped rocks and the suit held up better than my helmet. I can't say I came away from the crash undamaged, but I didn't lose a drop of blood. From the waist down, I was completely unharmed. The shoulder armor absorbed most of the impact and the 500 Denier Cordura barely shows any evidence of abrasion, even though I slid thirty feet on my side and back on that godawful road surface. I crashed on the 9th day of a 30 day trip and my Darien suit is responsible for my being able to go on with my lifetime-dream motorcycle trip to Alaska.

I spend a lot of my year riding in the rain. Since sometime in the mid-1980's, I've covered myself in an Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suit, but the GORE-TEX® has long abandoned the waterproofing realm and I've "grown" a bit in the last 25 years. I bought the Roadcrafter when I lived in California when a local dealer recommended I look into Aerostich because I was "crazy" enough to want to ride year around in L.A.'s insufferable winter weather. Some folks say I look like an over-stuffed gray sausage in my old Roadcrafter. Last season, I too often became a wet, over-stuffed gray sausage when I got caught in the rain. I hauled out my old Belstaff rain suit for emergencies for the rest of the year, but I decided to upgrade to a more modern Aerostich.

In January 2007, I drove to Duluth and got fitted for a new Darien two-piece suit. I picked the Darien over the Roadcrafter because Mr. Subjective said the Darien is more waterproof. Since I expected to be rained on for a good bit of the 12,000 miles I planned to be on the road, I went for waterproof-ness over style and convenience. I bought whole Darien rig, including the standard liner. I should have gone for the electric liner, but I can always add that to the garage closet later.

After decades of breaking in my old gear, I wasn't looking forward to dealing with the stiffness of the new suit. My old Roadcrafter is so worn and worn-out that it will wad up into a ball small enough to stuff into a tailbag or a GIVI E21 side case with room to spare for lots of other stuff. The Darien suit takes up all of both E21 cases. The stiffness relaxed with use, but storage has not become less of an issue. That is the high cost of better protection.

After wearing the Darien suit almost every day for two months, it became much more flexible. After two years of wear, the suit is part of me. The Darien pants-jacket combination is warmer, drier, more visible, more versatile, and tougher than anything I've ever worn. I'm still discovering pockets (at least 9, not counting the liner) in the Darien Jacket. I'm pretty sure there is a cup holder somewhere on the jacket.

I often used the large front pockets to store a video camera, a still camera, and lenses on my Alaska trip. I was rained on for 20 days on a 27-day trip stayed mostly dry for the whole trip. I am the polar opposite of a "pencil neck geek" body type and my one complaint is that the Velcro'd neck gusset is too short when the collar of the jacket liner is added to my neck circumference (18 1/2"). When the Velcro lets go, water dribbles down the front of the jacket and the back of my neck. Not much water gets in this way, but enough to let me know that I'm riding in cold weather.

Aerostich has offered to extend the Velcro tab, but I have to give up the jacket for a few days for that to happen and my desire to be perfectly dry hasn't overwhelmed my affection for this jacket. When I'm zipped up, hook-and-looped, belt and shock-cord adjusted down, I'm water, wind, dust, and abrasion resistant and secure in all ride-able weather and some weather that a smart person would only observe while sipping whiskey in front of a fireplace.

At each end of weather extremes, the jacket's air flow design is good enough that I'm comfortable on a 90oF or a 25oF day. I'm not flexible enough to unzip the jacket's under arm ventilation without removing the jacket, but I've seen it done. A combination of open sleeves, under arm vents, and the large rear jacket vent allows for a lot of air flow. When you stop moving, it gets hot in the Darien suit fast, but when I'm moving I'm comfortable.

The Darien pants have fewer features than the jacket. The pants are equally waterproof, abrasion resistant, and adjustable for comfort and fit. There are two deep front pockets and a single back pocket closed with a hook-and-loop patch. The TF2 armor is held securely in place where it protects the rider's knees and a good bit of the shin. The zippers are on the outside of the leg, as are the Scotchlite™ covered ankle adjustment gussets, so they don't hang up on kickstands or footpegs like another brand's gear (left unnamed). The zippers are well covered by inner and outer flaps for weather protection. A heavy-duty removable belt is included so you have someplace to hang your Leatherman case.

Last, but among the best, is the Darien liner. It is removable and becomes a very nice free-standing insulating jacket when separated from the Darien jacket. Nylon on one side and fleece on the other, it's a good looking casual windbreaker away from the bike. One of its seven pockets doubles as a stuff sack, including belt loops so you can carry it like a fanny pack. The liner is a highlight of the Darien suit, in my opinion: comfortable, practical, good-looking, and compact.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine
http://www.motorbyte.com/mmm/
http://geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/
thomas@motorbyte.com
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