- Product Review (submitted on February 10, 2010):
Aerostich Transit Suit
Update: My other gear hung in the closet during the 2009 season. The Transit suit was what I wore, although sometimes I substituted my First Gear over-pants for the Transit pants. When it was cold I wore it with the Aerostich Kanetsu Airvantage Jacket Liner (reviewed separately).
It was an especially cool and wet summer so I rarely had a chance to experience how this suit performed when the ambient temperature was above normal body temperature. In the upper 80’s and low 90’s it was comfortable and I partially unzipped the jacket only a couple of times.
The Transit is absolutely waterproof and windproof. In cold, wet conditions I’d rather wear this jacket (with a heated liner) than any other I’ve ever owned or tested. At below 40 degrees the ability to withstand wind while riding a naked bike made it practical to travel, although under these conditions the longest I rode was 4 hours.
Cleaning bugs off the leather was easy, despite the perforated texture. This is a heavy jacket and although remarkably flexible for new leather it will require at least another year to break in. The pants are heavy and perfect for long days in the saddle, but not for walking around at rallies or strolling about taking in the sites. I’d suggest buying them a size or two larger and wearing them as over-pants. The mesh lining does make them comfortable heat-wise and the flex-panels work as they should, yet these are heavy leather pants.
I must profess to feeling safer when wearing the Transit than anything else I’ve worn for street use. The last time the ground caught me, my ballistic-nylon jacket felt mighty thin.
I sorely missed having a nice large glove pocket on the jacket and those on the pants aren’t worth much except for some folded bills and a spare key. I would like to have at least one cargo pocket on the pants. For safety reasons, having stuff in pockets is not a good idea, but as a touring rider I like having pockets for a variety of essential items.
The test is over. I have other gear. What will I wear? For long hard rides where I’ll cover a couple thousand miles, I’ll wear the Transit. When the weather promises to be cold and wet or just very, very wet – the Transit. For test riding new bikes I’ll always wear the gear that offer the greatest crash protection, i.e. the Transit. For cruising downtown to hangout at a café and people watch – nope, I have more stylish leathers in the closet.
The Revolutionary Transit: First Impression
The Transit leather suit from Aerostich is something quite different. Imagine a leather jacket and pants that are perfectly waterproof, absolutely windproof, and keep you up to 30-degrees cooler than regular leathers when riding in the hot sun. Fitted with TF5 military-grade foam the Transit probably offers more impact protection than anything short of competitive racing leathers or Motocross body armor. Although it contains several familiar elements, the leather material used in its construction is a state-of-the-art laminate made by W. L. Gore & Associates.
Gore-Tex Pro Shell Leather consists of three layers: leather, Gore-Tex membrane, and nylon webbed lining. The outside is the highest quality cowhide—1.2mm thick perforated and 1.4mm thick smooth—that has been treated to resist water absorption and the use of a special dye that reflects up to 30% of the solar radiation striking it. These treatments also have the added benefit of prolonging the life of the leather. The newest Gore-Tex membrane is laminated to the inside of the leather and the seams are electronically welded to form a 100% waterproof barrier. This new membrane allows 25% more water vapor to be expelled than previous Gore-Tex products and the lamination process allows the membrane to stretch with the leather. The nylon webbed liner protects the membrane, shields the rider’s skin from leather abrasions in the event of a crash, assists air circulation within the suit, and provides a convenient means of creating pockets for armor and personal effects.
The benefits of this new material are: 1) 100% waterproof, 2) 100% windproof, 3) reduces solar heating by 20 to 30 degrees, 3) increased pliability, 4) increased durability and abrasion resistance, and 5) prolonged life (for the leather—and possibly for the rider). The downside is that the material is expensive and it requires special techniques—i.e. higher expense--to make anything from it.
Gore-Tex has licensed only a handful of the world’s best motorcycle apparel manufacturers to use this new material and Aerostich is the only one in North America who was granted such. The Transit design comes off the drawing board of Andy Goldfine, the innovator who introduced ballistic nylon to the motorcycle-touring world. There’s no question that Gore-Tex Pro Shell is superior to conventional leather, but how well does the Transit compare against the two-piece Roadcrafter suit?
The Transit is fitted with removable TF5 armor—lots of it. Unlike conventional foams, military-grade TF foam is soft and pliable until struck. The harder it’s struck, the stiffer it becomes as it absorbs the force of the blow. Afterwards this “memory” foam returns to its previous pliable state and is ready for the next impact. I’ve bench tested TF2 foam with a five-pound hammer and (unintentionally) crash tested it on the highway. As a result I’ve become a believer in the advantages of TF armor over destructive cell foams. Not only does TF5 absorb more destructive energy than TF2, the armor used in the Transit is encased in a flexible shell that is contoured to fit the body part being protected and pockets in the nylon web lining keep the armor properly positioned.
Waterproof leather justifies the use of exceedingly high-quality waterproof zippers. The Transit has eleven of these: the primary jacket zipper, the two 28-inch-long zippers on the legs, the 14-inch long back vent, one on each wrist, the fly, and on four pockets (two on the pants; two on the jacket). Behind the long zippers are positioned 3-inch-wide storm flaps and a there’s a gusset behind the fly and cuffs. YKK zippers are used on inside vest pocket and for the heavy 18-inch rear security zipper that attaches the jacket to the pants.
The flexibility of Gore-Tex Pro Shell leather is augmented by strategically placed panels of ballistic nylon and, on the pants, accordion-like leather panels that cover the kneecaps and back of the waist. I suspect this suit will become much more supple the longer it’s worn.
The subtle touches that often get overlooked include soft-lined pockets, a heavy waist tab with snap, Velcro tab closures at the ankles and wrists, an adjustable waist cinch cord, and soft fabric on the inside of the collar. The large 3-inch wide by16-inch long reflective strip across the back of the jacket is a flap that covers a horizontal double zipper for the expansive rear vent--the same proven feature as found on the Darien and Roadcrafter jackets. The reflective material is also applied to the Velcro tabs on the ankle leg closure. These reflective strips are a sedate pewter color in daylight, but a transformed into brilliant white beacons when illuminated by headlights. I believe these are essential on a suit of matt black leather.
The Darien jacket has ten expansive pockets. Coupled with those in my liner and pants I can carry—and loose track of—an incredible amount of gear. The Transit has a total of seven modest-size pockets. The Darien and Roadcrafter allow a liner –jacket, vest, heated, or not—to be zipped into place. Not so for the Transit (although I will wear an electrically heated Kanetsu AirVantage jacket liner with mine). When temperatures exceed 100 degrees I often load the huge front pockets of the Darien with ice, with the Transit I’ll be limited to using the wet tee shirt method of evaporative cooling.
Being water and wind proof the Transit offers major protection against hypothermia. Add the new electrically heated Kanetsu and you can ride until Hell freezes over. In direct sunlight the Gore-Tex Pro Shell leather will keep you much cooler than conventional leathers and possibly a little bit cooler than ballistic nylon. Improved vapor venting of the Gore-Tex membrane and perforated leather will practically eliminate the sauna effect and greatly reduce the need for complicated venting openings (thereby retaining suit integrity in the event of a crash). Still, when ambient air temperature exceeds body temperature (i.e. 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) evaporative cooling methods --an ice vest or wet clothing—are highly recommended and the closer humidity approaches to 100%, the less effective the Gore-Tex vapor membrane becomes. The Transit is not a jungle suit.
The Transit doesn’t offer the crash protection of competitive racing leathers, but promises to perform better than any recreational motorcycle suit on the market – Roadcrafter included. These aren’t sexy leathers, unless you remove all the armor and buy one size too small, but the design is classic and won’t go out of style. I believe that the Transit offers a greater range of rider comfort (especially when augmented with a heated liner) than any suit on the market and the pants can be worn as jeans or as overpants. The Transit is a justifiably pricy, although it probably costs less than the deductible on your accident insurance. Regretfully the Transit is only available in standard sizes since the manufacturing process precludes custom tailoring.
The honest truth is that no comprehensive evaluation of the Transit can possibly be made until tens of thousands of miles have been logged and at least a year or two have passed. The best I can offer are my first impressions of a suit that promises to transform my riding experience.