Recently, Klim invited eight European journalists to the company’s Idaho-based HQ for a bit of local touring to showcase the usefulness and practicality of its products. “Welcome to one of the most scenic test and development laboratories on earth, right here in our own backyard,” said Klim representatives. Thankfully, someone must’ve felt adding a few real-life Americans to the pot would really kick up the Americana experience a notch for our visitors, and yours truly got the invite.
After being told I needed to bring nothing more than my favorite pair of boots, I grabbed my favorite trucker hat, an old dirty denim jacket, slugged a PBR, and headed for the airport! I had some Europeans to help welcome to the ‘Merican High West.
Located just north of Idaho Falls in Rigby, ID, sits Klim’s HQ. We were fortunate enough to get a brief tour through the company’s warehouse and offices before the start of our journey. It was interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes to see what a fairly large American motorcycle (and snowmobile) gear manufacturer was working with. Perhaps most interesting was just how new everything was and how much the company is expanding within its current facility. Larger offices and areas are being added, and warehousing has been expanded complete with new shelving and processing areas – all this making it obvious that Klim is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The company’s founder and president, Justin Summers, grew up in the area and established the brand in 1998 – then known as Teton Outfitters – which now encompasses the Klim and 509 brands. Klim got its start with snowmobile apparel and didn’t delve into the motorcycle landscape until 2005 when it saw a hole in the market for off-road specific dirt bike gear. At the time, all of the dirt gear on the market was motocross focused. Klim aimed to add items to the market that were a better fit for off-road riders outside of racing. A few years later, Klim got into the ADV market.
World renowned for its robust technical apparel, Klim now offers a little bit of everything in terms of motorcycling apparel from riding jeans, to carbon fiber modular helmets, and of course a litany of items suited for adventure and off-road. Since we were just getting into opening season for the Yellowstone area and many of its surrounding mountain passes, Klim chose to let us loose in the top-o-the-line touring jacket and pants, the Kodiak.
The Kodiak jacket and pants represent the pinnacle of Kilm’s touring gear. Focused more toward pavement strafing than the majority of Klim’s products, the Kodiak is still packed to the gills with features to help ensure your comfort, no matter the elements you’re faced with. Klim describes the jacket’s features on its website over the course of 70 bullet points, which hints at just how technical the jacket is.
In practice, it’s all of those features that make the Kodiak extremely versatile, a key component of touring gear. Adjustability in terms of fit, layers that ensure warmth well into low temperatures, and venting that can be open and closed as the need arises, all help to deliver a comfortable ride no matter the weather. Armor from D3O, the 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro shell fabric, and leather panels aid on the protection front.
The functional layers for cool temperatures such as the down filled storm collar and quilted down jacket really show just how down the Kodiak is – the jacket also functions as a separate piece for time spent off the bike, further extending the Kodiak’s usefulness.
The pants are much the same story in their construction without the extra layers. Klim set us up with merino base and mid-layers as well. During our ride, temps dipped into the high 30s in the early morning and well into the 80s at lower elevations. I was never close to needing to use all of the included layers at any one time.
I was able to pair my Kodiak suit with the In&Motion Klim airbag vest and carbon fiber TK1200 modular helmet. While perusing Klim’s HQ, we noticed a wind tunnel testing helmet drag coefficients. Klim reps tell us some big things are in the works for its helmet line and that nothing currently being sold has been through their in-house wind tunnel.
We left a warm and sunny Klim HQ and headed for the hills, the hills of course being some of the craggiest mountains this side of the Sawtooth range – the Tetons. The tips of the Tetons were socked in reminding us of the omnipresent precipitation that we could become shrouded in at any moment. And we did. Again, with Gore-Tex/Klim having my back, and the rest really, weather wasn’t a concern.
It was great to get back out into this part of the country for some spectacular riding. I’ve been through some of the area twice, once on my own quite a few years ago, and again about a year ago on the Harley-Davidson Pan America. If you’re looking to spend some quality time on the bike though, I might not recommend going through Yellowstone unless it’s a destination on your trip. The major roads through the park can be brutal in terms of slow traffic. Thankfully, since we were getting in at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t bad.
It’s interesting being with a group of folks visiting from all over Europe. Some on the ride had never been to the U.S., and none of them had been out in the area where we were riding. You end up becoming a bit of an ambassador for our way of life here in the States, fielding questions about the constant onslaught of diesel-belching gargantuan trucks used as daily drivers, taking Swedish journalists to Wal-Mart on the back of your motorcycle just so they can marvel at the size – you know, all things we consider pretty standard fare, particularly when you grow up in the middle of the country. I found myself genuinely hoping that our crew was enjoying the trip as much as possible, and was happy to laugh at the absurdity of things when considered relatively.
The scenery through this part of the U.S. is unrelenting in its beauty. We were treated to impossibly green fields, towering canyon walls, and plenty of big sky country. Day one was fantastic, and it just kept getting better.
For the coolest morning temps, I opted for using the down jacket included with the Kodiak, but left my mid-layer stowed. The In&Motion airbag vest also adds a layer, so again, I never felt the need to wear everything. The nice thing about using the down jacket is that it creates a breathable pocket of warm air which worked really well with the merino base layers and jacket to keep me perfectly comfortable. It really is amazing how well layering correctly works.
We headed south into Yellowstone via Paradise Valley nestled between the Gallatin and Absaroka-Beartooth mountain ranges along highway 89. After a stop to walk around Mammoth Springs terrace-like travertine pools and springs, we saddled back up and headed west on Grand Loop Road toward Highway 212.
I slotted myself in behind our lead rider and Klim prez, Mr. Summers, who was riding at a good clip. After an epic detour blast at high speed south toward Yellowstone Lake to retrieve some lost items, we made our way back north to Cooke City for lunch. We continued along hwy 212 before diverting south due to Beartooth Pass being closed. Nearing Cody, WY, we passed over the Sunlight Bridge, the tallest bridge in the state, I hear. The construction itself is fairly simple, but the chasm it spans is impressive.
Our last bit of twists and turns was a good ‘un. We blasted up hairpin after hairpin toward Dead Indian Hill. I was sure the bags on the back of Justin’s BMW R1250 GSA were going to kiss the pavement at any moment. The views from the overlook up top were incredible and we spent some time up there appreciating them and the fantastic day’s riding we had just nearly wrapped.
Of course, our night wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the nightly Cody Rodeo. We watched kids, adults, clowns, and horses manage to not get gored by some feisty bulls – bulls trucked all the way up from Florida, no less.
Another day of gearing up for a cool morning. I opted for the mid layer instead of the down jacket as temps weren’t quite as cool as the previous morning. Our friend from Sweden had been “stuck” on the Indian Chieftain for the duration of the trip so far. We had our pick of all sorts of bikes, and since I had enjoyed the Norden 901 on our first day and the Tiger 1200 on day 2, I offered to swap with him for the final day. The Indian is nice for the full American experience, but not as nice when blitzing through hairpins up mountainsides.
This was really the first downfall I felt in the Kodiak jacket and pants. For me, getting a proper fit in Klim gear is somewhat difficult. Everything is always a bit long which leads to bunching up and when you have jackets and pants as robust as the Kodiak, or Badlands Pro for that matter, at 5’8” you have to be fairly thin to fit into something that won’t end up with excess fabric. I ended up using a size 52 jacket and pants. The Kodiak does, however, offer a better sizing range than some of the other Klim products thanks to the “Euro” sizing. This meant the jacket and pants already felt a bit bulky, but in the cruiser riding position, it really emphasized the extra length in material. The jacket’s double zipper’s ability to unzip the bottom helped greatly for the Indian’s riding position, but the gear is clearly more at home on anything but a cruiser.
Just west out of Cody, we made a stop at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir for a peak at what is said to be one of the oldest high concrete dams built in the U.S. Part of the Shoshone project, the dam was constructed between 1905 -1910 and has a structural height of 350 feet.
Hwy 14 continues into the Absaroka mountain range and follows the Shoshone River west back into Yellowstone National Park. We skirted around the north end of Yellowstone Lake before heading south on hwy 191. This section heading south is one of my favorites in the area. It’s so incredibly scenic you almost don’t mind going with the flow of slow tourist traffic. The view of the eastern side of the Tetons is also particularly spectacular.
It was about this time that it started warming up. Layers were shed, and vents were opened as we made our way back down to lower altitudes. The Kodiak gear had performed quite well during our trip. Klim also offers the Kodiak in short and tall sizing for the pants and just short sizing for the jacket so, maybe with a bit more time I could’ve gotten fitted better into that kit. That said, the rest of Klim’s lineup follows the more standard Small through 2XL sizing structure. For a brand as premium as Klim is, it would be great to be able to get the sizing more dialed in. We’re told they have a position at the company specifically dedicated to this, so that’s promising.
Back home from the weeklong trip – that somehow still felt like a whirlwind thanks to projects pre and post, I found myself thumbing through Instagram to find that many of the roads we had just enjoyed with near perfect weather had been completely destroyed by biblical flooding. Yellowstone’s social media videos and pictures reported indefinite park closures just days after we were there. News reports from the surrounding areas showed damage in nearby communities such as Gardiner and Red Lodge that were devastated by the combination of three to four inches of rain at a time on top of the rapid snow melt that had set in just after our trip.
It was said that the Yellowstone river was at a higher level than it had been in 100 years. This year marks the 150the anniversary of the world’s first National Park. I’m thankful to have been able to enjoy it when we did and my thoughts go out to the people in the area affected by the storm. Thankfully, the flooding receded fairly quickly, but plenty of damage had been done in a short time span. Among other roads, the north entrance to the park remains closed and others are forcing massive detours around the area.
If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past couple of years it’s that adaptability is crucial and sometimes you’re forced into it. It’s better to bend like the reed than to break like the oak, they say.
Thank you to all of the folks at Klim who made this possible. These guys are the real deal. Born and bred in the mountains and the robustness of the gear shows it. We were told Justin’s 80-year-old father still gets out snowmobiling with him. I guess that unforgiving yet beautiful terrain makes you a bit tougher, or at the very least, will make you want to enjoy it as long as possible.
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