Friday, July 25, 2008

Q: How do you avoid looking like a gimp?

A: Leave the ball gag at home.

The more I've been riding, the more protective gear I've been buying. Aside from the original helmet, armored gloves and jacket, I now have racing boots and a back protector. It's a lot of stuff to put on, but I've gotten to the point where even just riding a block to the gas station, I can't NOT wear the back protector, helmet, gloves, jacket and, at the least, thick boots. It just doesn't feel safe without the gear.

And now I own a leather racing suit.

Before my first track day back in June, I tried ordering a full suit off the rack and had no luck. I am WAY too...ahem..."curvy" to fit the waifish outfits motorcycle apparel companies are churning out. Usually, I have to resort to men's gear, but a man's suit wouldn't work...guys have no ass area. I, however, wear three. Asses.

So that rack suit shows up, I don't fit it, and it was a scramble to get my old blue and gold jacket and a borrowed pair of racing pants (that just BARELY fit) to a local seamstress to get a zipper put in both, so they'd make one piece (a requirement for track day). It did the job, but was not my first choice for long term.

No, I don't plan to ever race. I don't have the need for speed. Just fun. In my case (as with most people, I'm guessing), increased speed is fast becoming a by-product of experience, whether I like it or not (I do, weeee!). However, I want to do many more track days and a full leather suit is a necessity. Most of the guys in the club wear full suits whenever we ride.

I decided, after track day, to research more on the was obvious I was going to need custom fitting. For the asses. All three. A trinity, if you will. Suits can be expensive. Custom suits, well, they border on the ridiculous, but the better the fit, the more the armor stays put, and the less likely you are to spontaneously combust from the inside due to abrasion against your skin. You won't see a custom-fitted rider rolling around on the pavement screaming, "I'm on fire! Help me, Oprah Winfrey! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft to get the fire off me!"

Here comes the part where every sensible-thinking person goes "whoa." I found a company in California, that might as well be a no-name, who offers a variety of racing suits for $480 with FREEEE custom-fitting AND shipping. Yeah, I thought it too..."Oh right. I throw $500 out there and 'wait-and-see.'" But, with the depressing thought that there is no suit out there ready-made to fit my trinity, I was getting desperate. Besides, the name brand suits cost MUCH more than 480 smackers. Granted, you can't tell for sure if this company knows their stuff about racing (most importantly, crashing)...more than once the thought crossed my mind, "What if the first impact makes all the seams blow apart like the skin of an over-ripe tomato?" I gave it a shot anyway, expecting to be disappointed the whole time.

While it took longer than promised (5 weeks instead of the 2-3), I had been receiving prompt responses to my emails and when I was given a tracking number, found that the suit was already in New York, on its way from, get this...Pakistan by way of Dubai. I guess I support sweatshop work however I can. When it finally arrived, I opened the box outside, in case of scorpions. Come on, it came from a freaking desert!

Pro's: It fits like a glove. The leather seems thick and the seams sturdy. It came with armored shoulders, elbows, knees, knee pucks and thick pads on the hips and back. I got to choose the pattern and colors. They say it's buffalo leather...for all I know it's made from cats, but I'll go with it.

Cons: It's hot as hell...they didn't use perforated leather anywhere or fabric stretch panels, so if it's at all muggy or hot out, I parboil inside. But, I'm also taking into consideration the fact that I've been riding in less-protective gear that is more breathable. I acknowledge the trade-off for safety. Another con: there's too much leather behind my knees and in front of the suit on the gut area. It's entirely possible that's my fault with those two areas. I had the seamstress here in Eau Claire measure me standing up instead of on the bike. I've started researching local tailors to find one who specializes in leather racing suits to see if I can get those fit issues remedied. One more con...any physical anomalies in your stature become glaringly obvious when you're wearing a second skin. Yeeeeeesh.

Overall, I think it was a good purchase, and I'm hoping with more wearing, it will be worth the current discomfort during break-in.

The company looks like they have a lot of great looking apparel for regular use as well. You can see more at LividLeather.

1 comment:

  1. You look awesome! If you look that good in a photo, especially and unretouched self-photo, wow! Must be all that yoga and pilates. And they are making you, already strong, even stronger. You go, Grasshopper!