New Gear for a New Year
Aerostich AD-1 Pant, Darien Falstaff Jacket, Arborwear Pants and New Fleeces
story by Gabe Ets-Hokin and Staff, Photograph by Bob Stokstad, Aerostich and Fonzie, Created May. 25, 2007
Every so often a box of wonderfulness comes from the kind and generous folks at the Rider WearHouse in Duluth, Minnesota.
It is often packed with wonderful, warm, functional and butch-looking riding gear that is remarkable for being well-made, durable, comfortable and as practical as a spoon at a clam-chowder eating contest. We've received a few of these boxes lately, so let me tell you about the goodies we got.
The Falstaff Jacket $327 [#170]
I'm in love with my old blue Roadcrafter, so I was excited to try out the Darien Falstaff jacket I received last year. I got it for our "McQueen v. Knievel" shootout to look cool riding around on the Triumph scrambler. After all, waxed cotton -- the original waterproof textile, used by whalers and the Gorton's Fisherman, as well as riders in the sunny British Isles, is a classic look for motorcyclists. Andy Goldfine of Aerostich is kind of a garment nerd and loves to experiment with different fabrics and "stiching," with a love for old-world craftsmanship.
The Falstaff is the basic Darien design, which is a looser-fitting, lighter-weight version of the Roadcrafter, with many of the same features, like 1,214 pockets, TF-2 foam armor in the elbows and shoulders, and reflective material front and back. Instead of using 500-denier Cordura nylon for the outer shell, the Falstaff uses heavy-duty waxed cotton that Aerostich claims offers crash protection that is "better than you'd think." It's also blessed with an ultrasuede collar lining, a soft cotton inner liner and adjustable tabs at the waist. Unlike the Darien, you have to pay extra for either the standard fleece or electric liner. I ordered a medium, and the baggy size felt odd compared to the tighter fit of the Roadcrafter, which is designed more for high-speed touring and commuting. There's plenty of room for fleece, sweaters, electric vests or gaining a few extra pounds going to press introductions. The sleeves were just long enough, and I have short arms; I get a 33-inch sleeve when I shop for dress shirts. Someday I will buy a dress shirt.
The baggy fit flaps in the wind and keeps my speeds down much more effectively than the CHP does. They should issue this jacket to speeding motorcyclists. However, it's also very wind- and rain-resistant, keeping out the worst of the drafts at even very high speeds and keeping me dry on a 60-minute test loop in the rain. However, you will want to wear something underneath this to stay warm; the cotton shell and flannel liner are poor insulators. They don't breathe very well either. Unless you live in Edinburgh, you will want a better-vented riding garment for the hot times of year. The underarm vents are Okay but have their limits. Even a 70-degree day with low humidity will have you sweating unless you're going pretty fast.
But that's the price of fashion, and outside of Billy Idol's leather jacket, this is one of the hippest garments I've worn, as long as the motorcyclists I'm with are over 55 years old. Then I feel like Kanye West at a Bot Mitzvah, with the old codgers checking out my jacket, reaching out and touching the sleeve to feel the fabric. Anyone who remembers the '60s or '70s (clearly) will love the look, feel and smell of this retro-garment.
It requires a bit of maintenance, like any garment worth keeping. You're advised to roll it up rather than hang it (so the waterproofing doesn't migrate from the shoulders), and you might have to re-wax it after a washing or a few days in a tropical storm. But I love it; it's a cool casual jacket, and it has an aura of well-made dependableness that all the Aerostich products share.
AD-1 Pants $297
I have a pair of old Darien trousers, and they're pretty nice; soft like an old pair of jeans and very waterproof. However, everything can use improvement, so Andy sharpened up his pencil and made some, creating the "Advanced Darien" AD-1 trousers.
The basic design is still mostly the same. It's a jean-cut trouser with full-length zippers on both legs for easy doffing and donning. But the AD-1 also gets hook-and-loop secured front and rear pockets, an additional cargo pocket on the right leg, and a gusseted crotch for greater freedom of movement and comfort. The knees are also constructed for more range of motion, and there are other little touches. Construction is of 600-denier Cordura with Gore-tex waterproofing.
I'm about a 33 or 34-inch waist with a 30-inch inseam. I ordered the AD-1s with a 32-inch waist and the regular inseam, as I use my Dariens as regular pants, not overpants. This resulted in a perfect (if slightly snug) fit, but if you want to wear these as overpants, make sure you follow the sizing recommendations. However, if you have a short inseam, you might have a hard time finding either Dariens or AD-1s that will fit you; there is a regular and long inseam, but no short.
In use, they fit well, although they are very stiff and will probably take several months of regular wear to soften up. They block the wind as well as unlined Cordura can (better than jeans, not as well as leather), and are very waterproof. Aerostich's TF-2 foam armor is soft and holds the fabric of the pants away from your legs for maximum airflow and comfort.
So there you go. The AD-1 is an expensive pair of riding pants, but one look at them will tell you that they're worth it. They're functional, well-made and will probably last longer than you want them to.
Fleece Jackets $87-$127 [#1658]
Aerostich knows that every rider needs a good insulating layer between his t-shirt or other base layer and his wind-blocking outer garment. Years ago wool would have been the best thing, but for the same reasons Cordura and other synthetics are in some ways better than leather -- consistency, washability, ease of manufacture -- fleece is a big improvement. But not all fleece is the same. Rider WearHouse offers you three different kinds, so I got what my father used to call the Russian dessert: "Oneovitch," three garments all with different insulating capabilities.
Aerostich's fleeces were all redesigned last year, and I couldn't wait to get the new ones. They're designed for use with the Roadcrafter suits, but they work well with any kind of loose-fitting motorcycle jacket. If you wear an ordinary fleece under your jacket, you probably notice the collar sticking up and whipping against your throat, and a lot of bunching from the cuffs or sleeves. These fleeces are designed for riding, with forward-rotated sleeves and low collars that match the Mandarin collar on your Roadcrafter suit.
The sleeves use a Lycra binding to avoid having a cuff stick out from under your jacket's sleeve to absorb water in the rain, with a similar hem at the bottom of the jacket to keep bunching to a minimum. Other nice touches are the mesh inner pockets for your sundries and the zippered external pockets.
Which one do you get? Well, the grey wind-resist is $87 and is thinner than the others, with less-warm fleece that has light wind-blocking properties. This jacket is good for wear under a lighter riding jacket and also good as a windbreaker worn alone in milder weather. The $97 blue (it looks more like purple to me, but some folks dig that; purple is the color of royalty, after all) windblock is the thickest, warmest fleece; it's very warm under a proper wind-blocking layer, isn't very bulky, and shouldn't "pill" (developing those annoying little dingleberries like cheap fleece) too badly. My favorite is the black wind pro that's covered in a wind-cheating nylon insulation layer. It's warm enough to wear as an outer garment, so that when you get to where you're going, you can shed your Aerostich and look like a normal -- if sporty-looking -- dude.
The fit is a little loose (and long-sleeved) for a medium, and the material of all three is stiff and bulkier than I expected. They are too thick to wear under a close-fitting leather jacket, but perfect under a looser textile jacket. The warmth of all three are superlative, and my only real complaint is there are no women's sizes, (although they will do custom sleeve lengths for you) so The Wife is always poaching the warmest one to wear on her ride over the chilly San Francisco Bay home from work. They're pricey but they're my new favorite items of gear that you'll love too.
TLTec1, TLTec2 and Windblock Fleece Pants $77-$97 [#630/1634]
It's time-consuming -- not to mention chilly -- to change into long underwear, so Aerostich provides these three different fleece pantalones to wear between your riding pants and your street pants underneath. They're made of warm, warmer, warmest TLTec1, TLTec2 and Windblock fleece material and sport side zippers to make them easy to put on and remove, and a front zipper to make it easy to... you know.
They're pricey but they're my new favorite items of gear that you'll love too.
Our Executive Editor Al "Al" Palaima has been using a pair of TLTec Fleece Pants [#630], and the man won't take them off. It's a little disturbing, as he walks around wearing them over jeans in the Motorcycle.com offices, and that front zipper looks like...well, we don't need to say what it looks like. But he loves the softness and warmth, finding them great for camping or just knocking around the palatial swing-pad that is the Casa de Fonzie.
Aerostich Arborwear Pants $57-$77 [#2814]
If you think the motorcycle world is segmented into a lot of little niches, you should check out the world of pants. There are special pants for climbing trees, of all things, and the folks at the Rider WearHouse think they make ideal casual riding pants, too.
| Nits and Notes:|
| The Falstaff's cotton construction is very waterproof but not very insulative. Opt for the electric Darien liner ($227 or $257, depending on the type of fleece) and you will be very toasty. |
Be sure to secure the Falstaff to your riding pants; at speed wind can blow up the back. If my back -- which is excessively hairy -- can feel the cold, yours will too.
Also be sure to secure the two humongous zippered pockets on the front of the Falstaff. They are great for holding your wallet, but if they come open a little bit, the wind will blow them the rest of the way open and your wallet will fall out on Hwy One and a Vietnamese-American woman driving by later will pick it up, call you, and when you go to pick it up at her house, try and match you up with her daughter in Vietnam who is very lovely, judging from her picture, but you're already married and thanks for the tea.
Andy Goldfine has finally surrendered to the forces of Globalization and is making his AD-1 pants in a very large country filled with people who do not speak English but who sew and cut velvet very efficiently. Comparing these items and Duluth-built Aerostich items reveals no differences in quality, as Andy is obsessive about quality control.
The side pocket on the AD-1 pants is very useful. Sitting on your wallet sucks.
The grey fleece is remarkably warm for its thickness and would be the one I would buy with my own money.
The Arborwear pants have a strange baggy/tight fit that I didn't care for, but I have skinny legs, narrow hips and a comically protruding belly that makes fitting me for pants difficult. Al likes them, and you may too. Aerostich makes it easy to return stuff, so shop with confidence.
I'm also wearing the Combat Tour light boots in the photos, which work very well with the AD-1 pants.
They sent Fonzie a pair of their Arborwear Gusseted Pants to see what he thought of them. Aerostich orders Arborwear's standard tree-climbing pants and then adds a hook-and-loop compartment to hold their specially-sized TF-2 armor in the knees. The pants are made of heavyweight cotton duck canvas and available in many sizes and inseams. The well-placed and comfortable armor adds both a wind buffer to fend off chilled air in the evening as well as bumps and bruises caused by getting down on your knees... you know, off the bike.
Al says "they're jeans that can stand by themselves when you first get them. In time they break-in just like a pair of Carhart overalls. The velcro pockets for the kneepads are a snap to install and remove the pads, even while wearing the jeans. I wonder about the thigh-side pencil pocket however, it is designed with an opening that would dump out its contents when you get on a motorcycle, or up in a tree".
There you have it; some new developments from the boys and girls in Duluth. It's all practical and stylish stuff that you will keep, use and wear for a long, long time. Order by web at http://www.aerostich.com/ or have them send you one of their incredibly entertaining catalogs by dialing (800) 222-1994.