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Thought I'd finally contribute something to this great site since I've had a summer of commuting on my 09 500F.

This review is for the Aerostich Darien Light riding suit as warm-weather gear. I have been commuting just about daily on a 12 mile highway trip across town usually in the Darien jacket and jeans. The "light" version of the Dariens is made of a thinner nylon than the typical cordura but uses the same humongous armor and inside weatherproofing layer. According to the literature, relative to the regular Darien and Roadcrafter it sacrifices some abrasion protection for comfort at high temperatures. When I was shopping for gear, I let my stepdad, who is a long-time BMW GS rider, talk me into the Aerostich gear.

Overall first impressions: Very high quality stuff, good workmanship. Armor is a composite shell backed by sheer hardening viscoelastic something or other mumbo jumbo high tech pad. In short, easy terms - the pads bend easily, but if you smack them it is quite hard. The jacket is loaded with pockets (I'm still finding new ones), and there is nothing on it doesn't serve a useful purpose. As such is it shall we say, somewhat lacking in style. Me being a typical engineer "function over form" type, it meshes perfectly with my aesthetic tastes (or lack thereof). The first bit of commentary from one of my good friends upon seeing me in it was "You should follow the firefighters to the next fire, and pick up chicks." It is also quite spendy relative to what you can get from the more mainstream brands. I don't know if I'd call it gear for folks with more money than sense (like say... BMW riders ;) ), but it trends in that direction. In my case, I bit the bullet, picked up a pallet of Ramen noodles to get me through the next three months, and maxed out my feeble credit card to the tune of 900 bucks for the jacket, pants, and additional back and hip pads.

Reno summer temperatures vary wildly, but are most often in the 90s to low 100s. On the highway the jacket is comfortable at nearly all temperatures, slow speeds get miserable in the mid to upper 90s. The jacket vents very well- most of the air enters the wrists as well as above and below the front zipper and exits the back vent. The front zipper can zip up and down from both ends which lets me adjust how much air I want blowing through. There are underarm vents which I occasionally notice airflow through, but to a lesser extent. Because it is a long jacket, the lower zipper can ride up against the gas tank - I picked up a tank protector to ease my mind of getting any unwanted scratches on the bike. I had some issue with the jacket wanting to lift in the wind, likely due to my skin-on-bones build keeping me from fully taking advantage of the integrated waist belt. Installing the back pad solved this issue by keeping it fairly rigid along my spine (and adding some much-needed girth to my girlish midsection). Now that I have it well-configured, it fits well and all of the armor stays in place despite it being a relatively loose fitting jacket.

The pants are a bit different beast. While the jacket breathes and is comfy to higher temperatures, the pants are not and become uncomfortably warm in the low 90s even on the freeway. Part of this is due to the lack of airflow, and part of this is due to my wisely choosing solar-absorbing solid black. If I wear them over shorts on a hot day, my legs sweat into the gore-tex layer which leaves a less than pleasant sensation. There may be some means of getting airflow at the thigh and hip by manipulating the upper zipper (both legs have a full-length zipper along the side) - but I'm wary of having the pants held together by the snap and velcro on the hips. I ordered pants in the same size as my jeans and they fit well over a pair of jeans or shorts. They do not come with hip pads (which I ordered as well) and the hip pads do add a bit of girth. If I were to do it again, I'd consider going up one more inch in the waist to accommodate the hip pads. I do expect the pants to stretch a little bit, so we'll see how they are next year.

I intend to commute by bike year round, so I'll try to update this in the spring with further comments on the Darien gear in cold weather. It is fantastic to wear on the cooler mornings (60s to 70s) with just jeans and a light shirt underneath, and I'm confident in it down to 40s with some additional layers under the jacket.

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Page last modified on September 03, 2010, at 03:35 AM