It’s no secret that Kim and I have been wearing Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suits for years. You probably know that we really, really like them, so we wanted to be up front with our “bias” towards this piece of kit. That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to compare and contrast the differences between the standard Roadcrafter one piece suit and the newer Roadcrafter Light suit. We’ve literally ridden these suits tens of thousands of miles in extreme heat and cold. We’ve also ridden them for hours on end in dry, damp, rain and bucketing down rain. As such, we’d thought we’d offer our impressions of the suits.
Both of our original Roadcrafter suits have handled the years very well and we still use them on a daily basis. That being said, we’ve been riding in hotter and hotter locations and heat has become a more significant issue. Our recent trip along the Trans American Trail in the hottest, muggiest weather we’ve ever experienced, made checking out a lighter weight option almost mandatory. Ten or twelve hour days in the saddle in significant heat certainly makes the riding more difficult and potentially more dangerous.
So it was with some excitement that I ordered an Aerostich Roadcrafter Light for Kim for our wandering trip across much of Europe in mid July heat. Kim has a pretty off the shelf size frame, so I was able to order one right off the rack for her in grey and hi-viz yellow. It arrived in just a couple of days ready to wear.
The standard Roadcrafter is made with 500 denier cordura Gore-Tex with 1050 denier cordura in the ballistic areas (i.e. high impact areas). Both these deniers are much thicker and heavier than the 200 denier outer layer cordura Gore-Tex of the Roadcrafter Light. Aerostich claims that the Roadcrafter Light is has roughly two thirds the abrasion resistance of the 500 denier cordura. They don’t publish the denier of the ballistic areas for the Roadcrafter Light, but it seems to be similar to the ballistic material used in the standard Roadcrafter, meaning it is very sturdy.
There are significant differences between the standard Roadcrafter and the Roadcrafter Light. Think of the Roadcrafter Light as the evolution of the standard Roadcrafter. According to Aerostich, there have been numerous improvements including:
snap down collar,
removable rare-earth magnetic collar clasps,
water-resistant inner wallet/phone/iPod pocket,
adjustable impact pad positions,
inner pocket hook for accessory pocket
and a mini-carabiner helmet holder clip.
There are additional options, including:
Integrated Boot Raincovers,
Chest Impact Pad,
Chest Insulation Pad (Standard and Electric/Heated versions) can also be incorporated.
Having tried it on, Kim commented immediately it felt lighter than the standard Roadcrafter. The difference in weight is indeed very noticeable and it is significant. She also said that it felt ready to wear and exhibited none of that having to “break it in” feel. We note that although the standard Roadcrafter has a brief “break in” period, it eventually becomes like an old pair of jeans; very comfortable. Fit in the Roadcrafter Light appears to be the same and Kim thought it was quite comfortable. Getting in and out was also the same easy procedure as it is for the standard Roadcrafter.
Since the Roadcrafter Light has some claimed improvements, we thought it appropriate to discuss them. So far, the suit has been entirely waterproof. There have been no leaks and none of the previously dreaded Aerocrotch. The zippers do seem to have tighter teeth, but it has not effected the ability to zip or un-zip them easily.
The snap down collar (in the back) is easy to use and makes the collar snugger and easily closed. As you may know, there are now strong rare earth magnets in the base of the collar and in the collar tabs. They keep the collar down while riding so you don’t have to ride with the collar closed. They are very effective, however, perhaps a bit too effective. When you are suiting up and you want the collar up, you need to exercise a bit of care zipping up so that the collar doesn’t automatically fold down. This is a minor annoyance and if you had to choose between having or not having the magnets, you’ll definitely prefer that the suit have magnets unless you are riding in the Antarctic and the collar always has to be up. The water-resistant pocket seems to do it’s job, we’ve not seen any water in the pocket.
There is a very definite difference between the armor mounting in the two suits. The standard Roadcrafter has a sort of inner liner that has sewn in pockets to hold your armor. The Roadcrafter Light comes with separate pockets which you Velcro into the suit in the appropriate places. While the pockets stay in place once you position, Kim has found that she has to use a little more care when putting her booted foot into the suit, especially on the right leg where it does not open all the way. She’s never had an issue getting the suit on or off, it’s just that she needs to be more careful putting it on so that her boot doesn’t get hung up with the pocket. That said, if you don’t wear armor, this is a non-issue. If you do wear armor, it shouldn’t be considered to be a big enough issue to turn you off from buying the Roadcrafter Light. Lastly, the inner accessory hook and the helmet carabineer are nice to have, but aren’t anything spectacular.
We did not order the integrated boot rain covers, chest impact pad or chest insulation pad so we can’t comment on them or how well they do or don’t work.
Overall, Kim really likes the Roadcrafter Light and now wears it most of the time. If it’s going to be cold, she opts for the Roadcrafter standard, but in all other cases, she rides with the Roadcrafter Light. It is lighter, fits the same, watertight and packs smaller than the standard Roadcrafter. There’s really nothing not to like about this suit.
So if you are the type that always wants the most protection that you can get in a cordura suit, or you ride in mostly cold temperatures (i.e. 50 or below) you’ll probably want to opt for the standard Roadcrafter. But if you are ok with having two thirds the abrasion protection, in a lighter, cooler suit for $200 less, then the Roadcrafter Light may be for you.
You should really check out both suits yourself, but we thought we’d offer you our perspectives. Your perspectives may be different, so take the time to investigate what will work best for you.
For about six years now, Kim and I have been doing nearly all of our daily and adventure riding in an Aerostich 1 piece Roadcrafter suit. We thought that perhaps you’d like to know a bit about the suits themselves and how they’ve performed for us. The short answer is “remarkably well” with only a couple of reservations.
So let’s talk a bit about the suit itself. With its “armor” inserted, it’s big, fairly heavy, and at first not really easy to get on and off. Are you put off by this? You shouldn’t be, because here’s the complete story about the suit.
The suit is made of 500 Denier Cordura (i.e. heavy weight) which is highly abrasion resistant and which although not as abrasion resistant as leather, is pretty damn good. It’s also made of man’s single greatest accomplishment in textiles since the first diaper; Goretex. I am convinced that Goretex was a divine miracle of some sort. Water resistant (nearly water proof) and breathable, this fabric can keep water out and breathe (letting hot damp air out) at the same time. If you have ever ridden in the rain on a warm/hot day and you are wrapped in the sauna of an non-breathing rain suit, you know the miracle that Goretex represents. You stay dry and cool. Nice!
There are some bugaboos however. Downpours of greater than an hour or so will ultimately overcome the Goretex fabric and you will get wet. Light rain or drizzle for extended times can be handled without issue and you will stay dry. One issue that does occur on a hit or miss basis depending on the suit is what’s been known as “Aerocrotch”. After extended periods in the rain, water can accumulate in the crotch area of the suit and ultimately soak through leaving you with a wet crotch. It’s uncomfortable riding with a wet crotch and even more so when you arrive at your destination and you take off your suit with that “I just pee’d in my pants look.” Strangely, this doesn’t occur in all suits. I may have something to do with the fit of the suit. For example, I can get Aerocrotch, but Kim does not. Hmm….
I do note that Aerostich has redesigned the zippers of the one piece Roadcrafter suit and they claim the Aerocrotch issue has been solved. They are now offer retrofitting of old suits with new zippers and I was so satisfied with my suit that I sent mine in. Unfortunately, I still get Aerocrotch on occasion.
The suit has plenty of vents to let air in. One opens across the entire portion of your back and there is one under each arm that travels from mid-bicep to mid ribcage. There are also two hip vents just behind the hip pockets. As a result, as long as you are moving, you can get quite a bit of cooling air through the suit. Our experience has been that you can be comfortable in the suit as long as you are moving into the high 80s, low 90s. However, if you consistently must travel in a lot of stop and go traffic with temperatures in the high 80s or greater, you might want to seek another option.
A total of 4 large pockets are available as well as zippered pockets that allow access to your pants under the suit. You can carry just about anything you could possibly need in this suit. There are two velcro closable pockets on the thighs of the legs, a large zippered compartment on the chest, one on the left arm and two large pockets where pants pockets would normally be.
The neck and wrists are adjustable for size (and air flow) with velcro tabs. Options galore exist for the suit including clear map pockets for thigh, arm, made to specification sizing, extra comfort neck material. You should really go to their website at http://www.aerostich.com/roadcrafter-one-piece-suit.html to check out all the options.
After you learn how to put the suit on, it is really, really easy to get on and off. Literally, you can get the entire suit on or off in less than 30 seconds. Really. When you first get the suit, you feel very clumsy putting it on or taking it off, but as you learn how to get in and out, and the suit softens up (it is a bit stiff when you first get it – sort of like blue jeans) you’ll put the suit on or take it off just as fast as you take off all your other clothes. It really is that easy.
All in all, we really, really like these suits. They have served us very well in our travels all over the world including our rides on and off pavement. If you consistently ride in very hot temperatures in stop and go traffic, the regular Roadcrafter one piece suit is probably not for you. However, we note that Aerostich has come out with Roadcrafter Light and Ultralight suits that offer less abrasion and armor protection but are reportedly cooler and lighter weight. We have not tried either of these suits so we can not render an opinion on them. Oh and BTW, if you ever have a problem with the suit, or want it reconditioned (which we have done after abusing our suits for 5 years), Aerostich has fabulous customer service and will repair and refurbish its suits for a nominal charge. They offer the same service for crash damaged suits.
So what does this all boil to? If we were to use a star rating system, we would give the Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suit 4.5 stars. We’ve seen a lot of suits and a lot of options, but the Aerostich Roadcrafter works best for us.
As we said earlier, we stopped at the McKinley View Lodge where we were in for a special treat. After a brief lunch we learned a bit about the history of the lodge and its progenitor, Mary Carey. Mary was one of the first female pilots to fly an aircraft over Mt. McKinley and she also built the lodge with some of the tools and heavy equipment you see in the slideshow. Google Mary for she was a very interesting woman.
But we were in for a more interesting treat when as we were leaving, we struck up a conversation with a couple who noticed our NH plates on our bikes. After telling them about our journey and where we were headed, they asked if we would mind if they shared our email address with one of their friends who also motorcycled around the area. Of course we agreed and we were on our way.
We continued our way towards Cantwell in a dreary overcast, hoping that the cloud cover would lift a bit so we could see Mt. McKinley in all its glory, but persistent rain showers pestered us as we moved north. Although at times the clouds did appear to break a bit, they never fully opened and we did not get to see McKinley. But as the day progressed, it did brighten and we were treated to some breathtaking scenery.
When we rolled into Cantwell, it had pretty much cleared. It had been a long day of riding and we were pretty tired. We checked in to a small off the road hotel and asked them for a place to eat. It turned out that the closest place was called “The Perch” and was about 15 miles away. So we jumped back on the bikes for another ride which turned out to be quite beautiful and to top it off, the dinner was quite awesome as well.
After a long and sumptuous dinner, we lazily headed back to the hotel for a night’s rest before we headed out across the Denali Highway in the morning. I must say that I was concerned that it would a potholed, RV clogged, gravel disaster, but as we started out westerly on the Denali the following morning, it became quite clear that I needn’t have worried.
The “highway” was indeed gravel for all but 24 of its 135 miles, but it was nearly free of any traffic. As we rode along, we really could have used clamps to keep our hanging jaws shut as we were awed by one after another beautiful view or scene. Mountains rose from vast plains covered in spruce. The air was so clear you could see that the trees went on miles and miles until they reached the soaring mountains covered in snow.
Glaciers slid down the sides of several mountains leaving ice falls which glinted in the bright and sometimes almost harsh sunlight. The whites of the snow and ice at times became silver and almost clear as the refractory fire of the light bounced and reflected off the many facets of the mountains’ faces. Each time we thought we could not be more awed, we were indeed even more floored at the visual treats we encountered. It is difficult to explain the beauty of it all. In fact, we were stopping so much, we were in danger of having to stop and camp on the side of the highway if we didn’t get moving.
So with great difficulty, we soldiered on without stopping. After about 5 hours of stopping and starting on the road, we came upon the only place on the highway that serves food. We had seen only two or three vehicles the entire time we were on the highway, but as we pulled into the parking lot of the Gracious House and the Home Style Cooking Cafe we found where they all were. The dirt parking lot was packed and there was not a single seat in the house. Not one. We waited about 20 minutes and not a single seat opened. We then broke the code and decided that our lunch would consist of almonds, cashews, power bars and water, served on a bluff overlooking mountains and glaciers.
Boy did we make the right decision. It was a stellar 20 minutes of relaxation and communing. Few words were said between us while we munched on our meager lunch and soaked in all the surrounding elements would give us. It was 20 minutes or so that neither of us will ever forget. Soon it was time to get back on the road if we were going to get to our destination for the evening, the Tangle River Inn in Paxson.
We loaded up our gear and got back on the road, the scenery birthing a tranquility that I’d not previously known. We had been riding about an hour on a section of the highway that had been built up about four feet off the tundra. Steep embankments rolled off each side of the road into a thick green underbrush. I was just motoring along at about 45 miles per hour when suddenly from my right, a gigantic blackish blur darted out from the underbrush and ran up the embankment from in front of me. It was very large and it was moving fast, but then suddenly a second smaller brownish blur followed immediately behind the big black blur.
The only thing I could do was nail the brakes and try to avoid hitting the blurs. Then it dawned on me. As we were packing our gear, the agents that we used to ship Kim’s bike warned us that it was moose calving season and the moose were plentiful and wherever you might see a moose, there might be a calf with it. Well surer than heck, I’d just found my first two moose in Alaska. I managed to get my heavily loaded bike stopped about 10 feet short of and behind the adult female moose and the calf which was running with her. They both continued running across the road and down the opposite embankment.
It just so happened that we were approaching a small river at the time. I reached into the sleeve of my Stich to grab my point and shoot camera, but by the time I got it out of my sleeve, they had already dived into the river and gotten to the other side. By the time I could focus, they were in the brush and gone. I was so happy and sad at the same time. I had missed hitting the moose and avoided injury, but I had missed an awesome camera shot.
Moose avoided we only had about 40 miles to go to get to our destination. When we arrived, we found that the accommodations were less than stellar. But once again, in keeping with the Alaskan tradition, the food was home cooked and amazing and there was plenty of it. For dessert, there was spectacular scenery from our room with lake and mountain views. Well satiated after dinner, we took a few pictures outside battling our first real difficult encounter with Alaskan mosquitos, but it was well worth it. Tomorrow morning, we would head back onto the pavement towards Tok and ultimately the Canadian Yukon as you’ll see in Part 3.