Aerostich's Darien rider gear provides increased safety without discomfort from the very first use. And even more so during an “Ah Oh” moment.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- July 23, 2009
Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants were worn while testing the BMW F 800 GS’ braking power in a deserted parking lot located in upstate VT.
For CleanMPG’s Best in Class riding gear review, we traveled to the beaches of LA overlooking the Pacific, the inlet of Long Island overlooking the Atlantic, up to Lake Placid in the mountainous Adirondacks, and to the edge of Canada. This gear was tested in the warm southern California sunshine, the dense inner city environment of New York City, and in heavy rains while riding through Northern NY and Vermont.
Truthfully, using Aerostich’s Darien riding gear proved to be a somewhat uneventful experience through a variety of weather and traffic conditions. This is the way rider gear is supposed to be experienced; it should allow riders to concentrate on engaging vistas without gear concerns... regardless of location. In this respect, Darien apparel performs exactly as advertised.
Aerostich’s roots are in rider wear
Andy Goldfine founded Aero Design & Manufacturing in 1983 and is best known for his pioneering effort to bring lighter, more comfortable, and safer riding gear for motorcyclists. This is accomplished with body armored pads internal to the garments and a textile vs. leather-based construction.
His first suit (the Roadcrafter) was designed to allow quick and easy donning as well as removal while still remaining light enough to wear over regular clothing in warm weather. This was only possible through the use of newly available synthetic materials. Combining a Gore-Tex breathable membrane with Cordura nylon fabrics created a new material enabling Aerostich to invent the world's first lightweight, armored, abrasion and weather resistant motorcycle rider’s suit made of textiles.
Andy is well known as the founder of the Annual Ride to Work Day advocacy program
, and he also serves on the board of Directors for the American Motorcyclist Association.
A final item of note is one all of us should take to heart. Andy designs Aerostich clothing with real world experiences in mind. He has ridden across frozen Lake Superior in mid-winter. In fact, he rides his XR 650L year round commuting in Duluth, MN -- even when temperatures reach a bone chilling minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit! He has ridden around the world in every environment imaginable in order to test the performance of his gear against what the rest of the market offers. This has been Andy's daily mission for over 26 years... After all, safe and comfortable riding gear suitable for both daily and long trip use is a serious business. Who could possibly be better at designing gear than someone who doesn't just talk the talk but walks the walk? No matter what your requirements are, you can be sure that not only has Andy already thought of them but personally tested his wares to ensure they meet and exceed your expectations.
The Darien - What does that mean?
An Aerostich excerpt: The Darien Jungle is an unbelievably hot and swampy area in southern Panama and is considered impassable on foot or by any type of vehicle. The “Darien Gap” has been taken on by a few adventurous motorcyclists -- including world traveler Helge Pedersen who placed his BMW R80 G/S in a canoe and paddled it through. Ed Culberson on his own R80 G/S conquered the “Darien Gap” by hacking out an overland path. With those experiences in mind, both Helge and Ed helped test and refine the “Darien” jacket and pants for extreme weather and for facing unimaginable adversity. This is precisely what the Darien was designed for and it offers riders unparalleled protection, durability, and comfort in almost any situation.
A two day motorcycle review trip to LA scheduled back in late April provided our first opportunity to procure and test Darien apparel while mixing it up in heavy commuting traffic. In particular, the HiViz bright yellow Darien jacket proved its worth in this environment. This was only a short ride but we gained a lot of insight into the comfort and visibility of the gear, though it wasn't really enough to give a quality review.
In early July, we had review rides scheduled with both the BMW F 800 GS and R 1200 RT motorcycles. We traveled from BMW’s New Jersey HQ up to Canada via NY State, back down through VT, MA, CT, and finally back through NY to NJ. This ride proved a perfect venue in which to discover Aerostich capabilities over much longer segments with more diverse terrain and large variations in weather conditions.
The most important safety feature of the Aerostich Darien – HiViz
Wayne with the Aerstich HiViz Lime Yellow Darien Jacket and black Darien pants, Silver Arai XD-3 helmet and steel toed work boots.
Harry with the blue Aerostich Roadcrafter suit with HiViz construction style vest, White Arai Profile helmet and steel toed work boots.
In an Australian Motorcycle rider conspicuity and crash related injury: case-control study
, the relative risk of motorcycle crash related injuries attributed to conspicuity (standout visibility) was measured. This study weighed the use of reflective or fluorescent material and found that riders wearing this type of clothing had a 37% lower risk of injury than other riders.
The dangers facing motorcycle riders are unique and place operators at a much greater risk of injury than the driver or passenger of an automobile. Because of this, wearing a HiViz Yellow colored Aerostich Darien jacket can immediately reduce your risk by over 33%.
According to Aerostich, Hi-Viz Lime Yellow ‘jumps out’ because it is not naturally occurring, and because the human eye is most sensitive to light in this part of the spectrum. The brightest color possible under visible light is Hi-Viz Lime Yellow. The piercing Hi-Viz Lime Yellow carries plenty of visual ‘punch’ even under incandescent and low-light conditions. Among preventative measures in the repertoire of an urban commuter, these garments are unmatched.
If you choose instead to ride with the standard Red, Blue, Gray, or Black Darien Jacket, please wear a construction colored vest as demonstrated by Harry (above) in order “to be seen”. A seen rider is an alive and well rider.
Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants - Price and Specifications
|“||w/ standard TLTec Liner||$510.50|
|“||w/ Wind Blocker TLTec Liner (Blue)||$520.50|
|“||w/ Kanetsu Wind Blocker Electric Liner TLTec (Blue)||$627|
|“||w/ Kanetsu WINDSTOPPER Electric Liner (Black)||$647|
|“||w/ AirVantage Electric Liner||$687|
All Darien jackets are made from waterproof 500 Denier Cordura® Nylon with a breathable Gore-Tex® inner fabric laminate. This lightweight fabric out-performs denim, ordinary synthetics and lighter weight leathers for abrasion resistance. Additionally, the exterior Cordura® nylon fabrics is “smoother” than leather so in a crash you will slide slightly farther but roll and tumble less.
Armor protection is provided by four removable hard shell TF3 foam elbow and shoulder pads with an optional back pad -- all of which enhance the jacket’s crash protection.
Darien pants are constructed of 500 Denier Cordura® Nylon and lined with GORE-TEX® fabric that is fully seam taped for comfort and strength. Available in either black or grey, the pants include two front pockets, one back pocket, a flapped front fly, and a waistband with belt loops containing a removable Aerostich belt. Full length side zips with inner and outer flaps insure easy on-and-off convenience and severe weather protection. Bent knees, large 3M Scotchlite™ reflective ankle adjustment tabs, and shaped, removable TF3 knee pads complete the specifications. Optional Hip pads are available and I recommend them highly.
Aerostich's Darien Jacket and Pants - Impressions
Aerostich Darien gear worn in a very heavy rain in upstate NY.
- Pockets - The Darien jacket includes 8-pockets (5-external zipped, one external Velcroed, and 2-internal Velcroed). All the zippers are YKK type and the four main front chest, front hip pocket, as well as underarm ventilation zippers include a heavy rubber covering for easy operation with gloves on. A cautionary note directly from Aerostich specifies that tools, cameras, and other items carried in your pockets can cause injuries during a crash. All pockets were designed to provide additional abrasion layers first and as storage second. For safety, do not carry any hard or pointed objects in the pockets. As it happens, there are so many of these pockets you may become confused as to what has been stored where. I did and began to limit which and how many pockets I used.
- Ventilation - Built in ventilation works well up to 90 degrees F with a light shirt underneath as long as speeds are above 10 mph. The very large zippered underarm vent openings and zippered opening across the entire back are all storm enclosed so you will not get wet in anything less than a tornado. I left the external vents wide open in 65 degree temperatures and during 2 + hours of very heavy rain not a single drop entered my liner-less Darien jacket! I zipped everything closed for another 2-hours of rain riding without any water leaks at all. This is a great jacket for rain riding without having to use additional gear. In heat, unzipping the sleeves completely and lowering the front a few inches sufficed for a 2-hour NY City stop and crawl in low 80 degree temps. I rode with the liner-less Darien into the low 60 degree range with all ventilation openings zipped up for an hour or so of night time highway driving around Anaheim, CA. The jacket proved to be very comfortable. With the fleece liner and good gloves, riders should have no problems down to perhaps 45 degrees or so.
- Armor - Shoulder and elbow padding are preinstalled in the Darien jacket with an optional back pad for additional protection. You can both feel and see the wind, rain, and weather protection in addition to crash and abrasion protection offered by this suit. Protection is there without getting in the way.
- Adjustability - The sleeves are adjusted with included and sewn in Velcro strips while ventilation is regulated by standard zippered expansions in the forearms of the jacket. The waist can be adjusted by both a belt and adjustable Velcro. The dual height storm collar is a Velcro belt like solution to meet the needs and size of any individual wearing the Darien. The collar without the fleece liner chafes a bit and could use a softer lining.
- Fleece liner - The base liner is more than a simple hook and loop Polartec fleece jacket. It includes unique attributes including 2-zipped, 2-Velcroed, and 2-open interior pockets. It also features two large, zippered, underarm ventilation openings and a zippered section for storage of the entire (inside out) jacket. Once collapsed and rolled into a pouch, there are attached handles for easy carrying or securing to other items. The jacket is also lined with a lightweight material called TLtec which is wind resistant, breathable, and moisture wicking yet water repellent. This liner was used sparingly but was very soft, light, and comfortable.
- Stiffness - This is a stiff jacket when new! It should become more pliable with age but it never got in the way. The sleeves are sewn in the bike leaning forward rotation position so riders won't have to fight the jacket during the 100 hour break in period.
- Visibility - This garment exhibits absolutely the best visibility I have ever experienced. While traversing stop light to stop light intersections in and around downtown Los Angles, I actually saw 3 drivers tracking my movement through intersections vs. the normal momentary eye contact (in many cases drivers do not register a rider's presence when only a fleeting glance is seen). It was an amazing sight and made a deep impression on this reviewer. I will definitely use HiViz gear in whatever form I can wear from now on!
- Pockets - Two open front pockets with a Velcroed rear location for wallets round out its utility. The rear pocket was a bit tight for my own wallet so I placed that within the jacket.
- Ventilation - Unzipping the side openings (starting from the bottom) will allow lower leg ventilation but this also exposes these areas to abrasion in an accident if open more than 3 or 4 inches. Unzipping the top under the storm flap would be a mistake as riders cannot zip them back up in a sitting position. At least I could not? I wore shorts throughout the evaluation period and would recommend that others do the same if traveling for over 30-minutes at a stretch. The pants are comfortable in temps up to 90 degrees in sunny weather as long as the legs are stretched out and the rider is moving at a decent speed. In a 2-hour stop and crawl through NY City in low 80 degree temps, they were hot and I unzipped the lower legs almost to the knees. We were traveling less than 10 mph and it was quite warm on the baking pavement.
- Armor - The Darien comes with knee pad/armor preinstalled. I also installed the optional hip pads. Riding with regular jeans makes me feel absolutely naked in comparison to the phenomenal protection provided by Darien pants now.
- Adjustability - Waist adjustment is accomplished through the use of snaps alongside the waist as well as a standard cinch belt. The pants are zipped from the waist all the way down to the ankles on both sides with a Velcroed Storm enclosure for the top 10” or so. There are also standard storm flap enclosures from the middle thigh to the ankles. Ankle adjustment is via std. preinstalled Velcro overlaps and a lower snap. If a proper fit cannot be achieved, the pants are either a size too large or small.
- Sizing - If you are going to wear the optional hip pads (I highly recommend these), you may want to order a size larger than you wear in jeans. I wear 36 waist/34 inseam Levi’s while the Darien pants at 36 Waist/Long were too tight with the pads installed. Moving up to a 38 Waist/Long resolved this issue.
- Optional Left Leg Map Pocket ($22.00) - This is an option riders must be careful with as they will be tempted to take a longer look at the map while moving when their eyes should be on the road ahead. If you do order this option, your maps will stay dry -- I tested that capability out extensively. Be sure you are at a complete stop and out of harms way when looking down at the map beneath the clear see-through plastic covering.
Aerostich’s Darien Jacket and Pants - Conclusion
Aerostich advertises that it will attempt to fix crash damage and even update any of its riding suits. Some companies will replace an item that has been crash damaged at half price in many cases, but none go to the lengths that Aerostich does. With an average of 30 suits a month coming back for repair, nobody comes close to meeting the promises offered by Aerostich.
Additionally, I know of no other manufacturer that will customize their suits to fit a particular build or need. For those who can wear a jacket and pants off the rack, you will enjoy many years of use. For those who cannot, a few modifications can be performed during or after the order process which will make the Aerostich Darien fit just about anyone.
Darien wish list: The Jacket could use two storm enclosed vertical front vents on each side of the chest and a softer interior collar material. The Pants could use vents (of some sort??) to help cool us off without having to open them up from the bottom when stuck in a stop and crawl for over 10-minutes.
The Darien is quite possibly the best general purpose bike outerwear on the market. It has more than adequate protection from a lengthy slide at speed (read road rash), rain, sun, and even cold when properly equipped. There is other gear available that can perform better in a particular condition, but none have the utility to handle them all as well as the Darien Jacket and Pants do while meeting both the recreational and daily commuter rider’s needs. Serious gear for serious riders is an understatement and simply does not do full justice to this fantastic equipment.
Moving from my standard all-leather Hein Gerick gear to the fully synthetic Aerostich Darien was at first a large step outside of my comfort zone. However, now that I have placed some miles on this gear it will take a very special riding suit to overtake the Aerostich Darien.
Individual behind the scenes
The Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants – Made in the USA and worn with pride while overlooking both the Atlantic and the Pacific... and everything between.
I would like to thank Andy Goldfine of Aero Design & Manufacturing for not only making such great gear but also for using it day in and day out. In doing so, the improvements since first release have been subtle yet extremely effective while features that do not need improvement have been left alone. From those of us who will be riding in the Darien for years to come: Nice job indeed!