When BMW launched the new GT and GS Adventure models in Sedona, Arizona, last month, their Apparel Manager, Joan Horst, used the opportunity to show off some new items in their extensive line of riding gear. One of these particularly caught my interest -- the new Streetguard 2 riding suit.
Now, I'm no novice to press intros, and am probably more cynical than most when it comes to digesting the marketing hype attached to new products and then regurgitating it to my readers without some pretty solid, real-world evidence that the product can actually live up to the claims made by any manufacturer's representative. However, I have also learned through the years that the folks in charge of BMW's product line are real innovators, and are often a couple of years ahead of everyone else when it comes to incorporating radical new technology into their products. Because of that, I probably paid a lot closer attention to what Joan was saying than most of the other journalists in the room, who had their attention riveted on the new bikes.
I had ridden and tested the original Streetguard suit, and though I found it to be a well-built piece of gear, it really had nothing to recommend it over many other, similar suits, made by folks like Aerostich, FirstGear and Motoport. It was a good suit, but nothing special. And, at first glance, the new Streetguard 2 didn't appear much different. But then Joan went into her spiel.
The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that BMW was using the very new, Gore-Tex "XCR" material for breathable waterproofing. We all know how great Gore-Tex is, and how it has virtually revolutionized riding gear as we know it, but few people know that the patent on the process recently ran out, and there are now dozens of companies copying the original formula and makingtheir own waterproof, breathable membranes. To maintain their market dominance, the genies at Gore-Tex needed to up the ante, and developed their new XCR Gore-Tex membrane, which passes 25% greater airflow than the original Gore-Tex, while still maintaining its waterproofing. For those of us who sweat like pigs in rain gear, or waterproof riding suits, this is a big plus.
But it turned out that even the new Gore-Tex was just the icing on the cake, as the Streetguard 2 was also chosen to launch something called "TFL Cool Technology." Now, I don't claim to understand exactly how TFL works, but basically it is some kind of high-tech outer coating put on textiles that reflects about 40% of the sun's radiant heat. For example, if you place two identical pieces of Cordura out in the sun, one coated with TFL and the other not, then photograph them with thermal imaging film, or test them with a thermal laser "heat gun," the temperature of the coated fabric will be an average of 39% lower than the non-coated fabric. Using the same tests, on the inside of the jacket, with someone wearing it, the one made with TFL will be an average of 22 degrees F cooler.Most of that sounded pretty impressive, but I was still skeptical of how it would work in real-world riding conditions, so I got one of the Streetguard 2 suits from Joan, and set off on two days and about 700 miles of riding in the mountains and deserts of Arizona. And without going into a lot of extraneous detail, let's just say I was very impressed. I had ridden these same roads for years wearing a variety of different kinds of suits and jackets, but I had never been able to ride through such widely-varying temperatures, and still stay comfortable, without changing jackets or liners along the way. From a cool, 55-degree morning start in the mountains, to a hot, 91-degree afternoon in the lower desert, I was still perfectly comfortable in the Streetguard 2, with no changes other than zipping open the two sleeve vents. And remember, this is in a waterproof suit. It wasn't until the dash gauge read 94 degrees that I began to get uncomfortable, which is a good 15 degrees warmer than what I could normally tolerate in a full-coverage, non-mesh, textile riding suit (with full CE armor, no less).
The Streetguard 2 also comes with a removable, thermal liner for cold weather, and a full-coverage, removable "storm collar" that covers your neck and face all the way up to your nose. There are fully-waterproof document pockets in both the jacket and the pants, and the pant legs zip open for easy access, then adjust snugly around your boots. Though I have found suits that are better in the heat, or better in the cold, or better in the rain, I have never found a suit that does it all so well as the Streetguard 2, making it probably the most versatile riding suit I have ever found. And for now, BMW has an exclusive on the TFL technology, so you won't be finding these features on anyone else's riding gear, at least for a year or two.
In addition, the Streetguard 2 was considerably more comfortable than other textile suits I have experimented with, mainly because the Cordura and Armacor laminate was noticeably less stiff and abrasive than the others. I'm not sure why this is so, but BMW claims it is an added benefit of the TFL coating. Whatever the case, the new suit felt like older suits I've owned, after they had been washed three or four times and started to loosen up. The Streetguard 2 also seemed to be tailored for more "ample" frames, like mine, and didn't bind up as much. However, when looking at the pictures, you might want to keep in mind that the reason the pants seem to bunch up around my knees and calves so much is that I am "inseam challenged," with only 29 inches of reach from my crotch to the ground. On more normally-shaped individuals, it will probably look a lot better.
Now the bad news -- all this high-tech goodness comes at a premium price, as you might well expect. The Streetguard 2 jacket sells for $725, and the pants for an additional $525. That makes $1250 for the full setup. If I hadn't tried it, and found out for myself just how well it works, and how comfortable it was to ride in, I'd have to recommend against buying one, just because of the price. But, all things considered -- especially the fact that it effectively replaces at least two, if not three other riding outfits -- I've got to give the Streetguard 2 my personal "thumbs up."