As a motorcycle commuter, I spent almost all my money on gear in the quest for comfort, warmth and safety. When I first started commuting, I thought the Roadcrafter was a wildly overpriced eccentricity reserved for gray-bearded BMW riders. As I spent more and more time uncomfortable, cold and wet on my motorcycle, I started to wonder if maybe those guys on the BMWs were on to something. When my Roadcrafter finally showed up in the mail I could hardly contain my excitement, but there were many dissenters to my new theory that this suit is the one piece of gear every daily rider should own. Now, I’ve convinced the biggest critic of them all.
Photos: Ashlee Goodwin
Turns out I’m not the only outsider. When you buy a Roadcrafter, it ships with a printout of an article written by Steven L. Thompson back in the 80s. He writes about being laughed at for wearing appropriate gear. First, after walking into a roadside tavern wearing leathers in 1967 and again at a D.C. motorcycle shop wearing an Aerostich. Thompson closes his piece by saying: “Most American riders today have the political and economic freedom for any kind of self-expression they wish. What they lack–still–is the social freedom for that self-expression. You don’t get that freedom by talking about it. You get it by exercising it, by ignoring the yahoos in the tavern, smiling at the waitress, sitting down in the booth and ordering your food. Do that long enough, and one day the yahoos are wearing what you wear.”
I gave up trying to tell everyone how cool this piece of gear was, and just started wearing it. I’ve been wearing my Roadcrafter nearly everyday since it showed up back in August. From trips to coffee shops and parties to learning the secrets of APRC to a 10 day, 3000 mile West coast Goldwing trip, the versatile Roadcrafter has kept me protected and comfortable.
A few days after I returned from my trip, I got a text from (Wes’s old roommate) Sean MacDonald: “How are you liking the Roadcrafter? It’s been getting cold in the AM and I’ve been thinking of trying to get one.” For a minute I thought hell may have frozen over. I figured the best course of action was probably just to give him mine for a few weeks. The result? Another text:
“We definitely aren’t quite the same size, but this suit is the jam.”
Photo: Sherman Thomas
I’ve already covered TF3 extensively here. With TF3 armor covering all your pointy parts (elbows, shoulders, knees), a massive back protector, TF5 (or SAS tech) hip protectors, and a TF4 chest protector (also helps keep you warm), it’s hard not to feel safe. The TF3 armor isn’t CE approved because of its shapes, but it provides more coverage than normal armor and it’s a lot more comfortable.
Armor handles impact protection and Cordura handles abrasion. You may think this fabric is outdated or in some way inferior, but it does the job, and actually stands up to abrasion on asphalt even better than Kevlar in real world tests.
When I first started riding, I wore jeans and a beat up old leather jacket. I always wore a back protector underneath, but that was about it for armor. I used my bike to get to work everyday and it didn’t take long before better riding gear was all I could think about while I froze for 45 miles on the ride home each night. In my first year and a half of commuting, I think I spent more than $1,500 on riding gear. First was one-piece leathers, race boots and better gloves, next was a two-piece textile suit and waterproof boots. It was nice stuff to start with, but eventually fell apart with daily use. That’s not going to happen with the Roadcrafter.
Comfortable when you ride, comfortable when you get there
Step in, zip up, get on the bike and go. It’s as fast to put on as a jacket, but protects your legs too. I use the right fore-arm pocket to hold my gas card, and a silk scarf lives in the right chest pocket when I’m not wearing it. The small pocket on the left contains extra ear plugs and a quarter for swapping shields on my XR1R. The left thigh pocket is a good home for a garage door opener. The right chest pocket and the large thigh pockets are built hold lots of stuff. You can fit a dozen eggs in the long chest pocket, an FZR400 chain slider, or a pair of flip-flops.
When I first got my suit, the knee armor was too high and caused some binding, in addition to positioning my knee pucks too high. After a few rides, I decided this wouldn’t work so I sent Aerostich an email. They’d encountered this problem before and the fix was 2″ added above the knees. The suit fits great now and my pucks are in the perfect place. Riding in it is remarkably unremarkable. You’re in complete control of how much air gets into the suit and it never hinders your movement or causes you discomfort. Even if the weather suddenly changes by 20º, you simply adjust the vents and collar and continue riding.
And when you eventually arrive at your destination, the suit comes off just as fast as it goes on.
One size doesn’t fit all
I think everyone should own a Roadcrafter, but they’re somewhat complicated to buy. The Roadcrafter comes in four different varieties: one-piece, two-piece, lightweight or ultra lightweight. The first three are constructed of 500 Denier Cordura Gore-Tex (strong, waterproof synthetic fabric) with 1050 Denier Nylon ballistics (really strong and thick synthetic fabric) on the shoulder, elbow, forearm, knee, and shin. The ultra lightweight gives up the ballistics. They all have the same back and underarm vents, pockets everywhere and 3M Scotchlite reflective. TF pads are included in the one and two-piece suits and are a $100 option on the others.
Why opt out of reflectives and order the darkest colors possible? I lane split whenever there are cars around and I’d honestly rather not have drivers see me most of the time (for those other times, I use retina-searing HID lights). People freak out, swerve into other cars and generally give me dirty looks. The forward rotated torso and arms make things more comfortable on sportsbikes and the knee pucks let me ride as fast as I’d like without having to worry about chewing up a knee if I come in a little hot. A&G leather pucks are also the smoothest I’ve ever ridden with.
Will you opt for the black-ops special like I did? Probably not. Unless you’re a Southern California dwelling hooligan, there wouldn’t be much point. I use my unique situation as an example of both what can be achieved with Aerostich’s custom options and why you should consider the riding you will be doing before ordering. If I lived in Portland, I’d have probably opted for the Roadcrafter light with hi-viz ballistics. Where lane-splitting is an illegal and risky option for getting around town, you need drivers to see you. When it’s dark and raining, that’s even more important.
The Roadcrafter lightweight loses the inner liner to drop some weight, has trick magnetic collar clasps, and a helmet holder clip. Its lighter-weight shell is two-thirds as abrasion resistant as the original road crafter, but with the optional (for $100) armor its plenty safe. It also has its own special options: Chest pad velcro (I glued my own) and rain covers for your boots (think of them as a feety-pajama conversion kit). It’s available in any colors you want so long as they’re a combination of grey and hi-viz. $667
I chose the one-piece because I ride in all types of weather, go on long trips and because I wanted the suit to go on and off as fast as possible. Living in Los Angeles means I hit 70mph just about every time I get on a bike, so I like to have knee armor as well as chest and pack protectors. I also wanted custom options that are only available on the one or two-piece. My suit has no reflectives ($49, I know, it costs more money to get less), a forward rotated torso ($60, and only available on new suits), forward rotated arms ($85, also only available on new suits), knee pucks ($60 for the velcro, plus $49 for A&G leather pucks), TF4 chest protector ($75, doubles as extra insulation from the wind), competition back protector ($120, velcros in place, use the strap to keep the suit roled up when you get where you’re going) and stealthy black on black colors.
Yes, it’s a large, upfront expense, but I already spent that much looking for a silver bullet to no avail. The Roadcrafter isn’t perfect, but once I’m able to wrestle mine back from Sean MacDonald, I’m going to keep wearing it in any weather, every day for years and years to come.