Sunday, November 24, 2013

Playin' in the Mud

The past few weekends Polarbear and I have been going out and playing in the mud. The first time I rode my bike out to his place and we loaded the XT250 onto his trailer with his CR250 and took off to scout Huckleberry Flats OHV area.

We took it fairly easy as it was my first time on a dirt bike in nearly 30 years. However, it wasn't long before I found myself laughing maniacally in my helmet, racing around the warm up track, catching air and nearly missing turns with Andy right behind me. It was a good thing it was getting late as common sense and self preservation were not prevailing. We had a such a great time that Andy wanted to take his Polar cub out the next weekend to teach him how to use the clutch and gears, who was I to turn down an opportunity to play in the mud?

This time Andy picked me up and loaded the bike next to theirs and we were off to Huckleberry again. We took it much slower this time having the cub with us but that just meant finding more puddles and even more rounds riding through them.

I managed to snap some photos of Andy while he was making laps around the warm up track.

My favorite, reminds me of "On Any Sunday"

We loaded the bikes onto the trailer and took a detour up to a fire lookout tower, although the gate was closed a couple miles short of the tower we did find a beautiful sunset above the foggy valley below.

Needless to say with the sun shining, puddles to splash around and Rogey's song playing in my head.....

 I was hooked.


Of course after playing in the mud one must wash the bike. I learned real quick that this is not like washing a street bike, it's going to need much, much more than just a bucket and sponge. 


dirty, dirty

So on Friday I brought out the big gun, pressure washed it and I was race ready to tear it up again. 

All clean!

Andy rolled up Saturday morning, we loaded the trailer and stopped in at Saturday coffee before heading up to Upper Nestucca OHV for the day.

Of course it didn't take long before we found a puddle to play in.

Such an innocent looking puddle...

I was trying to avoid young cub coming the other way and detoured through the puddle. It was much deeper than I had anticipated, I stalled the bike and quickly filled my right boot with water. Oops! Fortunately I was able to stab the starter button, fire the bike back up and walk it out. I pulled up beside Andy, got off the bike, removed my boot and wrung out my sock. By the way, waterproof boots do work both ways.

For some unknown reason, this wasn't good enough for Andy and he had to see for himself, but it did make for a great photo opportunity.

I told you it was deep.

Andy's bike doesn't have a magic starter button and he wasn't able to kickstart it, so we had to drag it out. 

Keep kicking...

Polar cub rode around while I snapped photos and talked to the Yamhill County Sheriff who stopped by to make sure we were alright.

Me and Polar cub, who says I don't like kids?

Happy Polarbear

He eventually got it started and we made our way back to the trailhead and the truck.

We hope to get a few more rides in before the rains come and makes things too sloppy, but it seems that fear and common sense hasn't stopped us yet.  


 I'm playing in the mud, just playing in the mud.... 
having so much fun

♫  I'm playing in the mud, just playing in the mud.... 
don't tell my mum

Monday, November 11, 2013

AeroStich Roadcrafter Review

A recent visit from a friend and fellow blogger had me extolling the many virtues and nitpicking pans of both my AeroStich suits. I suppose I should offer a review and blog post.

During the Spring of this year, a Team Oregon colleague generously lent me his faded red Roadcrafter suit to test. I wore it back and forth to work for just a wee bit longer than I should have since he had to ask for it back, sorry Pat... but thank you. 

The convenience of the step in, full length zippered, one piece suit had me hooked, I had to have one. No more hopping around on one leg while struggling to get my boot through the other pant leg, all while desperately doing my very best not to fall flat on my ass or go skipping forward for a 10 point, triple salchow into a face plant. No more zipping up my pant fly, or rather forgetting to zip up my pant fly. No longer having to cinch up my belt to keep my pants up, making sure everything is tucked in proper and no more juggling two or more articles of riding gear, unknowingly dragging a sleeve or collar of my jacket through puddles across the parking lot making sure not to drop my helmet and have it bounce and roll down the pavement under foot. 

I now understand why AeroStich commands such a premium. Unfortunately, when I turned my piggy bank upside down and gave it a shake, it was empty...  I'd have to wait.

This past summer we drove up to Portland to visit with Chris from Everyday Riding whom personally recommended the Roadcrafter Light. It's practically waterproof and much lighter than the Roadcrafter. 

Great! Now I was torn between the two, which one did I want? 

I saved my pennies and I eventually went with Chris' recommendation of the more Oregon rain and weather resistant Roadcrafter LightThe 'Light' fit great, felt comfortable and even vented well on warm summer days (as long as I was moving). But I wondered if it would be warm enough come winter, so I turned to ebay and found a slightly used, hi-vis yellow Roadcrafter and bought it just to be sure. 

Now I am able to compare both suits back to back.

Roadcrafter Light
Back to Back

Please note that the used Roadcrafter is a few years old so it may not have the same options available on the newer suits, therefore, I'll start with the Roadcrafter. I do appreciate the heft, it feels well built, durable, safe. The ballistics in the shoulders, elbows and knees are made of a heavy material and I believe would stand up to years of road grime and general abuse.
The Roadcrafter is lined so it can be warm in the summer sun, however the heavier fabric does create a loose weave which may be the reason for the liner, whether for wind protection or rain resistance. The loose weave does seem cooler during my early morning, low temperature, fall commute. The liner holds the armor pockets which does make the suit easier to slip on and off than the Light, however the bulk of the fabric does make the Roadcrafter fit a bit more snug for layering.
The zippers are big and operate easily, I understand that there was a zipper upgrade in 2011 to a more waterproof version so this particular suit does not have that upgrade. Regardless, with a Nik-Wax Tech-Wash and waterproofing I haven't had any issues with water penetrating the zippers on my short 22 mile commute, but an all day ride in the rain may prove otherwise.

The Roadcrafter is a great suit, I do really like it and highly recommend it, but more often than not, the suit I reach for every morning is the "Light".

The Light is, in a word, light. The fabric isn't as heavy but that is not to say I don't feel as safe, I am confident wearing the Light for commuting, freeway riding and bopping along the backroads. If I were to go for a more spirited or aggressive ride in the twisties, or a multiday offroad adventure ride I might opt for the added protection of Roadcrafter instead, but I rarely ride those extremes.

The Light has a tighter weave, heat taped seams and lacks the bulkiness of a liner. The suit itself is waterproof and doesn't require a liner. I have personally tested it in a thunderstorm and torrential downpour on our little Yamaha XT250 (without a windscreen) and Chris was right, not a drop got in. And the Light just seems to fit better, allowing me to layer underneath as much or as little as I like.

The unlined Light

However, without the liner the armor is exposed which does make entry to the suit a bit more difficult as it requires a bit of a 'jump' to get the left shoulder armor to sit atop my shoulder. It isn't much of a problem in the summer when I am not layering but to get it over a sweater and/or jacket takes some finesse. Maybe that is why they're called jumpsuits.

Here you can see how the shoulder armor hinders entry, I may need to add some additional Velcro.
A bit of a struggle, but not too bad.

The Light vents very well, the rear vent and armpit vents open fully without the mesh insert and liner of the Roadcrafter. I do mean fully open, you can pass your hand through the vents.

Another feature I like on the Light is the magnetic collar, AeroStich placed two rare earth magnets in the collar tabs and two more above the breast pockets. This allows the rider to have the collar open for further venting in the summer and keeps the collar at bay and out of your face while riding or off the bike and standing around chatting. However, if you're going to be off the the bike longer than ten minutes or so it is easy to slip out of the suit and drape it over a chair, your bike or wad it up in a corner somewhere.

Magnet in the collar

Magnets...  magnetting.
The only other concern I have with both suits is the zippers run down the inside of both legs where they meet a snap at the bottom.

Snap at the inner leg cuff.

These snaps have a tendency to rub on bike parts, which is fine on an 8 year old,  50K mile Tiger....

Paint rub on cover plate.

However, one must be diligent when borrowing someone else's bike not to scratch the bodywork.

Overall, both suits are very well built. The Roadcrafter is made at the AeroStich factory in Minnesota and can be custom altered to suit your build, size and fulfill all of your desires, as well it can be ordered in an array of colors including contrasting color thread. Whereas the Light is made in Vietnam, limited to standard sizes, colors and cannot be custom altered.

A one piece suit offers the convenience and practicality of quick on and off over your street clothes, but unlike a two piece you do have to hang it, store it or wad it up in a corner as you cannot drape it over the back of a chair in the coffee shop.

I've considered selling the Roadcrafter, but just like I was in acquiring both suits, now I'm torn with letting one go. I think I need to do some more testing, riding, testing and riding. This may take awhile.


Bottom line: If you ride in the rain and want a cooler suit in the summer heat, go toward the Light. Otherwise, if you want the added protection of a heavier fabric or require a custom fit and alteration and prefer made in the USA, the Roadcrafter is the way to go.

Either way, you're not going to go wrong with an Aerostich.

UPDATE 3/20/2015:  
(BTW, I sold the used Roadcrafter)

I can't say enough good things about AeroStich the company, their product and now their exceptional customer service. I was experiencing a stitching issue on my Roadcrafter Light, the seams on the back of the suit where the retroreflective strip meet at the shoulder were coming apart, so I emailed them hoping the suit was still under warranty. I asked if I needed an RA number and what I needed to do to have it repaired.

Sarah at AeroStich emailed me back right away, asking that I complete the repair/alteration form and gave me a case number, she also let me know that warranty repairs were expected to take 3-4 weeks.

Fantastic! I have a case number to track my repair, I know in advance of the expected repair time, and her email included an online link where they keep a record of all correspondence that I can view anytime. WOW!

I replied once more to Sarah sending her these photos, to let her know that I was washing the garment prior to shipping, to say thanks for her quick response and wish her a great day. 

Sarah replied once more simply to acknowledge that she received my email and to let her know if I had any other questions. Thanks Sarah! 

I boxed up my suit and sent it off to AeroStich the next day. 

Yesterday, (within a week of them receiving my suit) I received an email from Lydia stating that my suit has been processed for repairs under warranty and they are replacing the full length zipper with a new waterproof one at no charge! WOW!!

"The cost of the repair and shipping will be covered under warranty by AeroStich. Also, there is a new waterproof zipper that we will put on under warranty as well. 
Our turn around time is about 3-4 weeks currently from the date it was received." 

Needless to say that I am ecstatic, the repair and return shipping is covered under warranty, they're updating the zipper and again confirmed an estimated turnaround time. Thank you!

The communication and customer service from both Sarah and Lydia is what makes AeroStich. You can have the best product in the world, but without customer service people like these two who care, you have nothing but a warehouse full of product you can't sell.  

I'm looking forward to getting my suit back and I will update this blog post when I do. 

In the meantime, do I dare go shopping

UPDATE 4/25/2015: 

Oh, how I missed my suit, it was exactly four weeks to the day when I got it back, just as promised. I opened the box, immediately checked the repair, then went right to work putting all the armor back in so I could try it on. Oh, how I missed my suit.

I am impressed with the attention to detail put into the repair, right down to the thread color match to the fabric. The heavier thread means the stitching is much stronger so I don't see the problem recurring. 

They replaced the old zipper with a new, waterproof one as they mentioned and although I haven't had the "opportunity to ride in the rain" yet, the new zipper operates... seamlessly. 

I even noticed when replacing the zipper that they had to replace the old scratched up snaps at the leg cuffs with new, pretty, black snaps. 

They also sent me new zipper pulls.

AeroStich kept me up to date with the repair, stayed on time and emailed me the return shipment tracking number. Although a minor detail to some, the much appreciated correspondence is often overlooked by too many companies today.  

Thank you Sarah, Lydia, and Kyle! And a special thank you to the people behind the scenes as well.

Keep up the great work!

UPDATE 8/27/2015: New Aerostich R3 Light review.