Waterproof All-Weather Leather
After a solid six months of testing in all weather conditions from coast to coast with temperatures in the 30s to the 90s, I’m happy to report that the Aerostich Transit waterproof leather Transit suit has made obsolete the duct-taped trash bags unceremoniously wrapped around me in the 1980s before discovering rain suits – plastic body condoms that I’ve struggled with and detested ever since.
The technological breakthrough that gave birth to the Transit is Pro Shell leather, a truly revolutionary material. Invented by R.L. Gore – of the windproof and waterproof Gore-Tex fame – the triple-layer Pro Shell sandwiches a Gore-Tex membrane between specially manufactured leather and a webbed, nylon lining.
During processing and tanning, the 1.2mm cowhide is impregnated with water repellants in two stages, giving it a lifetime of moisture-shedding abilities, according to Aerostich.
Much of the suit is micro-perforated. Unlike conventional suits, these tiny holes in the leather don’t perform a venting function. Instead, they act to pull water out of the leather in inclement weather and also wick moisture from skin.
The material also gets a unique TFL Cool treatment. According to manufacturer claims, this new, proprietary, solar-reflective pigment makes the suit wear up to 30 degrees cooler than traditional leather gear. As a bonus, this process is also said have anti-ageing properties, so the leather will last longer.
Gore simply provides the material. How Aerostich integrated these high-tech materials to craft a motorcycle-riding suit is the real key here. The Minnesota-based company used experience gained in 26 years of building the most innovative, easy-to-use and comfortable riding suit available, the legendary, Cordura-based Roadcrafter, and other garments in its extensive catalog, to make the Transit its flagship suit for the early 21st century.
Beautifully detailed, ruggedly constructed and fully equipped, the Transit suit was designed in the U.S. and made in Vietnam under strict quality standards. The jacket is of medium length and styling is straightforward.
The high-back pants are similarly simple in design. Unlike many competitors’ garments, the Transit is spared flashy colors and boastful logos. The Transit has just two discreet, embossed Aerostich logos on the jacket and one on the pants to remind those in the know that you’re an Aerostich devotee.
For protection, the garments have flexible, removable, TF5 impact armor in the shoulders, elbows and knees. The material is also formed into a removable back protector. Nylon stretch panels are built into the jacket’s armpits, inner arms and waist.
There are adjustment tabs on each side of the waist. The pants have a leather flex panel integrated just below the beltline. Speaking of which, there are five belt loops.
A horizontal, 3″ x 15″ strip of Aerostich’s signature 3M Scotchlite reflective material covers the zippered, rear vent panel, and 3″ x 8″ vertical pieces cover the adjustment tabs at the bottom of each leg.
Lastly, the jacket has a pair of hand-warmer pockets and an outside breast pocket, as well two inside pockets; one vertical and zippered, the other open and horizontal. The trousers have two hip pockets. Other than the pectoral stash, all exterior pockets have waterproof zippers.
Not only is it hydrophobic, loaded with cool technology and lots of useful features, but according to Aerostich, the Transit comes in sizes to fit anyone from 5’5″ and 130 lbs. to a burly 6’5″ 260 lbs.
It helps that the jacket, as well as the pants, are available in short, regular and long versions. The top comes in chest sizes from 38 to 52, the bottoms in 30- to 44-in. waist sizes. Bought separately, the jacket and pants are $847 and $747, respectively.
Nonetheless, getting the jacket without the trousers doesn’t make any sense. Who wants a dry torso and wet legs? Besides, buying the complete, $1497 Transit suit saves nearly $100. The suit is available only from Aerostich.
On my short-armed, 30-inch-inseamed, 5’7″, 155 lb. frame, a 40 short jacket and 32 short pants mostly fit well and are super-comfortable, requiring very little break-in to feel like they were custom-built.
On this weirdly proportioned body, the upper arms were a bit too long, causing the leather to bunch up around my biceps. For cold-weather riding, I dressed in layers – just enough to keep me warm, but not so bulky that movement was restricted.
The trousers are of perfect length – great with tall boots and just long enough to cover ankle-length kicks – but also bunch up on the outside of the knee joints when riding. I wore them mostly commando-style, but they are roomy enough, but less comfortable, when wearing over pants.
There’s a lot to like about these garments. Best of all, the suit really keeps motorcyclists dry when used with some sort of a neck wrap (more on this later). Carrying on an Aerostich tradition, the Transit pants are simple to don and remove, even with boots on, because they have 25 in., waterproof zippers on the outside of each leg (like chaps) that make getting in and out a breeze.
And, oh, those glorious zippers and their sublime pull-tabs. It’s clear that Aerostich owner Andy Goldfine searched far and wide for these beautiful, easy to use and highly functional closure systems. The armor doesn’t add much weight to the gear and offers great mobility. Thankfully, I didn’t get to test its crashworthiness.
At 6.2 lbs. dry, the Transit jacket, equipped with its 13 oz. back pad, weighs the same as my trusty, old-school Vanson Falcon leather jacket with its hard-armor back protector. The Transit pants weigh 4.7 lbs. dry.
After a thorough drenching from riding in torrential rainstorms (all in the name of testing, of course), the Transit jacket gained just 1.2 lbs., whereas the soaked-through Vanson took on another 3.1 lbs. The Transit pants weighed just 9.5 oz. more when wet. This proves the Aerostich’s water-shedding abilities.
Resigned to the fact that any leather garment is heavier and hotter to wear than a similar textile item, when not ensconced in my Roadcrafter, I wear hides on the street and track. This is mostly for their protective qualities, but also for the look, feel and smell of the leather.
In warmer weather, the Transit is just as toasty as standard, motorcycle-specific leatherwear. Although I can’t vouch for its solar-reflective pigment making the suit 30 degrees cooler without a scientific, lab- and thermometer-based investigation, I can say that the rear exhaust vent does help to flow air through the jacket with the main zipper opened a bit. This is how I cool myself when wearing most leather jackets, most of which don’t have similar vents.
The main complaint is the Transit’s short collar. In wet weather, it allowed water to seep in the front and back of the neck; in colder climes, it lets in frigid air; in wet, cold weather, it…well, you get the picture.
In Aerostich’s defense, Goldfine said: “Any jacket collar may leak in severe conditions because of how it fits certain necks and helmets.”
A $18 Aerostich bandana, worn over the collar and up under the edge of the helmet can prevent this. I often wear Aerostich’s super-comfortable wind triangles. They come in fleece for $18, but I’m partial to the Ultrasuede version, which is $25. I’m not exactly a pencil-necked geek, but as Goldfine promised, when using a bandana (or triangle) with the Transit jacket, my neck and body stayed dry. Another manufacturer using the Pro Shell leather provides a removable collar made of elasticized Gore-Tex.
Also, when riding a sportbike, I found that water made its way over fuel tank and inside the front of the suit, soaking my shirt. This may be due to the lack of a full-length zipper connecting the jacket and pants, to, in essence, form a two-piece suit.
The trousers and jacket must be donned separately, then come together at the rear with an 18 in. zipper. This not only invites the possibility of moisture reaching riders’ torsos, but also effectively outlaws the suit at many track-day schools. According to Aerostich, this circumnavigating zipper might be integrated down the road.
Thankfully, the zippered pockets keep out moisture. To test their waterproofiness, moisture-sucking paper was stuffed inside each. After riding through one spectacularly noisy storm, it was found that all the inside pockets and the exterior waist pockets were 100-percent dry; only outside breast pocket is susceptible to a soaking.
There are a few more nits to pick. I found the Velcro-backed wrist closures to be quite bulky. When used with gauntlet-style gloves, they make it tough to pull gloves over the sleeves. Recognizing this and listening to its customers, Aerostich will be modifying the closures. If the Roadcrafter’s evolution over 26 years – where it has benefited from nearly 100 significant modifications – is any indication, the Transit gear will evolve in a similar manner. Being the company’s first leather suit, these relatively small design flaws are quite understandable – and easily fixable.
Another simple one is that the pant pockets openings are too tight. This problem is being remedied. The pair of inner pockets are good for my phone and wallet. On a final–and more personal–note, urinating (without dropping trou) is almost impossible. Perhaps the trousers fit too well. The zipper doesn’t go down far enough and there is a gusset right behind it.
Even with these foibles, the Transit jacket and pants are tremendously useful garments. Many times, those plastic torture togs (rain suits) kept me from riding in soggy weather. For this tester, the Transit gear has fully supplanted rain suits, and sadly, it has also relegated my two-piece Roadcrafter nearly obsolete–and no greater compliment could be bestowed on Aerostich’s new flagship.
Aerostich Transit Suit
Jacket only: $847
Pants only: $747
Photos by Steve Osman