BMW Kalahari Riding Suit


Riders who tour on motorcycles accumulate riding gear for all kinds of conditions and have a pretty good idea of what will work, what won't, and how much of it will fit in the saddlebags. There's nothing worse than being caught without sufficient gear for the weather conditions, but it's silly to carry around stuff that won't be used. Ideally, there would be a single garment that could be worn rain or shine, blazing hot or freezing cold, but such a thing doesn't exist...  Or does it?  

It is loaded with zipper vents, Velcro closures, snap-in Gore-Tex liners, wind flaps, waterproofing flaps and doo-dads galore.

BMW's new Kalahari suit comes close, and it reduces a rider's load of gear considerably. It was designed for the purpose of widening the range of suitable conditions under which a single garment can be worn. It is loaded with zipper vents, Velcro closures, snap-in Gore-Tex liners, wind flaps, waterproofing flaps and doo-dads galore. It also offers some useful crash protection in the form of semi-flexible plastic armor on the spine, elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees.

 We subjected the suit (and rider) to a wide range of conditions during a wintertime ride from Los Angeles to Denver. Temperatures ranged from 85 degrees to freezing and included a rain deluge of biblical proportions. With its vented sleeves unzipped the suit was perfectly comfortable in warm conditions, and with a BMW (made by Widder) electric vest and a pair of polypropylene long johns, was sufficiently warm for extended riding at 32 degrees. Below that temperature however, additional protection is required for the arms, as there is no insulation in the jacket sleeves.

BMW advertises their suit as being completely waterproof with the Gore-Tex liner installed, and this proved to be the case. A classic desert squall was encountered between Albuquerque and Santa Fe that combined rain in buckets with a 60 mph crosswind. While the shells were completely soaked, the rider (and his checkbook stored inside the Gore-Tex pocket pouch) remained completely dry.

 Though the Kalahari suit's performance and construction are impressive, it is not without problems. Its closures are all fiddly and the zippers are small and cantankerous, making it a chore to don and doff, especially with the waterproof liner installed. Also, elbow armor pieces refuse to stay in place and continually annoy the rider. Nothing on the suit can be operated with gloves on.

These problems are mostly minor for the touring rider though, who puts his suit on at sun-up and doesn't take it off until evening. These riders will welcome the performance and versatility that this suit offers.

Your local BMW dealer has Kalahari suits at about $469 for the pants and just over $600 for the jacket. This is higher than the competition's already-pricey products. Overall, we give the BMW Kalahari riding suit three stars. It works well, and for many riders, it will extend their range of comfort and simplify their equipment. However, $1100 is a lot to pay for a riding suit, even one that can fill many or all of your riding gear requirements. Also, BMW should have realized that anyone wearing the suit will be wearing gloves, and fitted beefier zippers to accommodate them.

Motorcycle Online Rating: ***

The Kalahari riding suit is available from local BMW motorcycle dealers, and comes in Woman's sizes from 8 through 16 and Men's sizes from 38 regular to 56 regular. Also 40 long to 50 long.

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