May 24, 2011
What’s my favorite, most-used item of riding gear? That would be my Aerostich Roadcrafter suit (see MD’s review here), the third I’ve had since 2000 (and that’s only because one was shredded in a crash and I got too fat for the second). It’s a durable, functional and useful product, but aside from adding Gore-Tex a decade ago and occasional updates to the armor, not much has changed since it was first sold off of Aerostich founder Andy Goldfine’s pushcart back in 1895 (or is that 1985?). I love it so much that despite its foibles—it’s hot in summer, the waterproofing isn’t ideal, and it’s kind of pricey compared to made-in-China textile riding gear—it’s still what I wear on 80 percent of my rides. But how nice it would be if those issues were addressed…sigh…
Well, be careful of what you wish for—meet the Roadcrafter Light. Goldfine (who doesn’t like the spotlight, but I feel it’s key here) spends weeks on the road, testing and improving his products, and this must be the cumulative result of hundreds of thousands of miles. First off, the suit is made of the lighter 200-Denier (a Denier measures the weight of the thread used to weave fabric—it’s not a direct measure of thickness) used to make the Darien Light jacket and pants, which reduces the weight of the garment by two pounds and lets the user roll it up into a compact 7-by-15-inch bundle (without armor). The optional soft TF3 armor is now vertically adjustable, and there’s a double layer of fabric in high-impact areas—not the protection offered by the standard Roadcrafter, but close.
Waterproofing has been improved. A new zipper design (Andy Goldfine will tell you everything you need to know about zippers, and then some) is claimed “absolutely” waterproof, but there are also new vents to keep things cool on hot days. By the way, this super-duper zipper can be retro-fitted to your old Roadcrafter, and starting this year, all Roadcrafters get the zipper.
Other features include a special rain-resistant pocket for iPods and other electronics, a mini-carabiner attached to one pocket to help you carry loads when you’re off the bike (ever attempt to roll your bike out of somebody’s way while trying to carry your helmet?) and a snap on the back of the collar to help hold it open on hot days. The collar gets a rare-earth (!) magnetic tab to keep it from flapping open, and fold-away rain covers (a $57 option) are ready to protect your boots the next time you’re surprised by a downpour. An optional chest insulator ($32 or electric for $97) helps keep you warm. And for the really minimalist, an Ultra Lightweight version does away with the additional fabric panels on shoulders, elbows, etc.—it may be all an urban commuter (or mostly off-road adventure tourer) needs.
Finally, this improved suit is $667 ($797 for the special-order Ultra Lightweight), over $200 less than the old Roadcrafter (add $100 for armor). And yes, it is made overseas (Vietnam, to be precise) to keep the price down, but the overseas-made Aerostich products I’ve seen are indistinguishable from the Duluth-made ones, as far as I can tell. I’m hot to test the new suit and will tell you how it works. In the meantime, check it out yourself by ordering one of the fat Aerostich catalogs to peruse by calling 800/222-1994 or going to the Rider WearHouse.