Motoport Kevlar first impressions (long, many pics...)
Several months ago I began shopping for a replacment for my 10-year old Aerostitch 1-pc suit; I wanted something as easy to live with as the 'stitch, but more versatile, and I especially wanted something that would be more comfortable than that sauna-suit in hot weather. My wife had a pair of Motoport kevlar mesh pants which we'd gotten mostly for the custom fit that seemed so elusive in most other brands, but I liked the concept of all-kevlar and more breatheable, so began to pursue it further. Unfortunately, I found getting information about the Motoport gear frustrating - their gear seemed to have a somewhat limited but rather enthusiastic following, but their web site was aggravating - information is scattered among several different pages, you never get a complete, objective listing of attributes and details on any one page, and the photos just suck - for example, photos of black pants show no detail at all, they're over-saturated. I called there a few times, and talked to the owner, Wayne, who was very persuasive and enthusiastic - obviously a good salesman - but being a scientist by trade, I craved alot more objective information, which was scarce. I posted here several times trying to get information from owners, and wound up in a thread of mostly prospective owners like me, and it became something of a support group for the exceedingly long wait times once an order has been placed. But between my phone calls and that thread I got enough information to bite the bullet and finally placed my order. 11 weeks later, my suit finally arrived and this is my 'first impressions' review. This is gonna be long-winded, but I'm hoping the information included might help someone else get off the fence I was stuck on for so long.
I decided to go with the Ultra II stretch Kevlar jacket and pants; Wayne persuaded me this was the most appropriate for my New England climate, he thought the mesh kevlar would be too well ventilated for cooler riding. He also said the stretch kevlar holds up much better in a crash than the mesh - he says the mesh weave tends to get messed up and suits typically require repairs after one crash, while some folks race his stretch kevlar suits for a season and go down a number of times, and just wash the dirt off and send it in for repairs only at the end of the season. This sounded impressive, but I wanted to 'feel' the fabric before committing, so I asked twice over 3-4 weeks and finally got some fabric swatches sent to me in the mail - it's neat stuff, kind of like terrycloth on the back side, and the outer face is like an old pair of stretch ski pants. The colors are, well, vibrant - especially their version of hi-viz yellow. I called back to ask about custom sizing, custom colors, etc. I was told that custom sizing costs nothing if done in the normal manufacturing process, however if modifications are requested after the garment is produced, there is a rather hefty fee. This is what we went through with my wife's pants; first we sent the measurements, they sent us these huge pants, then we paid them to alter them and sent them back along with a pair of favorite jeans to copy. This they did brilliantly, and she has a great-fitting pair of overpants for her 26" inseam (if only they built motorcycles!). My second objection was the appearance - I didn't really like the look of their suits, bold colors with black accents,
so I photoshopped some images from their web site and made up my own color scheme from the fabric swatches, and they cheerfully accepted my .gif images of my personal color scheme.
I also felt I could not live without an aerostitch-style right sleeve pocket for my key, earplugs, and toll money, and requested this, which was also met with a 'no problem, and no extra charge' cheerful attitude. So I gave them my credit card info, and shipped a package containing the prints of my color scheme, closeup photos and measurements of my 'stitch's sleeve pocket for them to copy, and a favorite pair of jeans I wanted them to match. I also sent along a letter describing my concerns for fit - extra big thighs, not too tight to wear some winter layers underneath, etc. I'm sure I appeared pretty fussy, but hey, for nearly $1,000 and having lived with a too-tight stitch for so long, I wanted to 'have it my way'. They told me to expect an 8-week wait.
Fast-forward 10 weeks, riding weather has been here awhile, my tranny is on the way home from a circlip implant, and still no suit, so I called - they said my suit had been done for a couple weeks, but they were waiting for a shipment of armor to put in a number of suits that were waiting to be sent out. A week later, it finally arrived.
My first impression was that it was huge - and stiff - and clunky. The knee armor felt like it was hanging down around my shins, and the jacket felt like it had been made for Jabba. I was kind of frustrated after waiting so long, but I went ahead and started fiddling with the gore-tex liners and such, trying on different combinations, and when I did, I found that the suit actually was just right - it all came together perfectly, I was just used to an aerostitch I'd 'outgrown' some time ago and that was always a bit short anyway; I was not accustomed to the freedome of movement of a pants/jacket combo, and had never worn stiff pads like this either. I put on all the layers - the gore-tex zip-in pantliners, zip-in jacket liner with its own zipped-in thermal liner, and went out for a ride with temps in the mid 40's, and was amazed at how warm this thing was, for a breatheable garment. I stopped for a break at the local airfield to watch the sunday activities and took out the thermal jacket, and the goretex pant liners, rode home that way and was still warmer than I expected to be, dressing as I normally would under the 'stitch. When I pulled back in the driveway I was feeling alot better about things, and then my wife came out and told me I really looked great on the bike, which came at just the right moment. As I've worn it more, the pads have all conformed and it doesn't feel as clunky or oversized anymore. All my ideas of sending it back for alterations have gradually evaporated and I'm actually quite happy with it. So here are some photos, and a few critiques:
Pants: the pants are basically very similar to Aerostitch roadcrafter 2pc pants, but the zipper is reversed (at least from my 1-pc) - the 'closed' leg is the left leg, the right leg zips waist to foot. There is a wide elastic waistband that feels very secure, and then there is a fastex belt that you close over the zipper; this is all then covered by a nylon flap with two snaps. When it's all together, it feels very nice and actually provides a bit of lower back support, sort of like a kidney belt.
There is full-length velcro on the flap of the lower legs, and patches of velcro on the upper right leg, and it's all quite easy to get in and out of. The pants are roomy enough for my big legs, but the stretch kevlar keeps everything in place nicely and is very comfortable on the bike - I don't think I'll be getting the kind of knee pressure and hot knees my stitch used to cause, and in winter I can fit some fleece pants in there if needed. The cargo pockets were something I almost asked them to leave off, but they are quite secure - I've had a bunch of change in my left one since day one, and none has fallen out yet, and the right one is a great place for my garage door remote.
(the right leg is open, and the right foot is off to the left in this photo; the thigh pad is still deceptively curled in the wrong axis when the pants are not on)
There are two pads in each leg - an articulated knee/shin pad, and a thigh pad which happens to fall pretty much right under the cargo pocket; I imagine it's there so you can't hurt yourself too badly if you do something stupid and leave a tool in there and wind up sliding on it. A final nice touch: there is a patch of gore-tex in the seat, visible in the photo as a red area. This, I assume, is so if you swing a leg over a dew-soaked saddle in the morning, it won't soak through to your jeans.
(example of pads - this one is the R chest pad, the cutout goes under the R armpit)
I also think these thigh pads will help make my dreaded winter thigh-freeze much less of a problem - on the aerostitch this limited my winter riding more than any other single thing, and the legs on that suit did not permit me to add anything - too tight. I do wonder why there is no hip pad with these pants - might end up getting some velcroed-in aerostitch hip pads, as if my ass didn't look fat enough already. A downside to the pants and the jacket is that the thin mesh liner they use to make it very breatheable, is a velcro magnet - but this means the aerostitch pads should stick nicely in place if I decide to get them.
Jacket: the jacket has alot of structure to it, with back, shoulder, elbow, and chest pads - again, I think the chest pads may be as useful for windproofing/thermal insulation as for protection. That's a sunglass case in there to hold the collar flap open. It has 4 big external pockets, with a zippered pocket beneath the right chest pocket.
There are also two internal pockets, one is in the left chest, for a wallet, etc. and the other is in the back, under the mesh liner (that long vertical zipper on the right side of the back pad), and is billed as a handy stash spot for the rain liners, though I haven't tried it yet and imagine it will be quite bulky if I do. There are 4 vents, one on the front of each upper arm, and a diagonal 'slash' vent beneath each shoulderblade.
I can't quite reach these to open them with the jacket on, but then I could never fully operate my 'stitch back vent either. That's what pillions are for...
My concerns with the jacket were for the various closures, and I was not pleased at first with this aspect. The waist belt seemed too loose with no thermal/rain layers inside, but sitting on the bike, it's just right; and it expands to accomodate. When standing it feels high, when seated it falls right over the waistbelt of the pants.
The cuffs are similar to my 'stitch - but the fabric is alot more bulky, or just not broken in yet, so they are a bit lumpier than I'd like. I prefer to wear gauntleted gloves over my jacket cuffs, but this is a PITA, and besides, the lightweight stretch kevlar 'fold-over' fabric in the cuffs lumps up in a way that it becomes a small wind scoop in cool air. This could be nice in summer, but in cooler temps I've taken to wearing my gloves inside my jacket - problem solved. Note the aerostitch-inspired wrist pocket I asked for - they did a nice job, but it does stiffen up the fabric for that foldover wrist closure even more.
The neck closure is another issue, and when I was shopping for jackets last fall it was a make-or-break point on most - I never found the perfect neck closure, I just knew what I did not like about my 'stitch - in summer, that tab of sticky velcro grabbing at my neck, and in winter, not being able to close the thing with any kind of thermal layer underneath it.
Well, the neck on this jacket is ultra-simple - which really set me off at first. Then I thought about it, and it actually is a pretty decent compromise. The neck closure treatment is - well, there basically isn't any. It just closes, kind of a like a Henley shirt, and that's it. I was ready to send it back on this point alone, until I started thinking about it - I can now wear a scarf, and/or a Riderwearhouse wind triangle, or nothing at all, depending on the level of ventilation I want. It means carrying an extra piece or two around, but it ultimately gives me a more flexible, and far more comfortable, setup. Here it is with a triangle:
One last little gripe - there really isn't a hanging loop on this thing. Well, there is a loop of the thin mesh that lines the jacket, but it's already ripping. I'm gonna have to make my own of some lightweight nylon strapping I have laying around. Or leave a coathanger at the office, which isn't that big a deal...
Fit is good when on the bike:
Gore-tex liner (sorry, no pics yet): This appears to be 'real' Gore-tex, and it has a nice system of zippers and snaps; the thermal liner zips into the goretex separately, which is probably a useful way of doing it; haven't needed it much yet. The pants are rather complicated to get into when they are zipped into the overpants, so I'll probably just put the goretex pants on first, then put on the other pants over them. They do have nice fold-over rain 'gutters' that should really prevent any water from ever getting through. They can all be worn separately, but they have a few odd zippers and things dangling when you do, which is fine for shuffling around a campground or something. But the shocking part was - in the catalog they show black or dark-navy goretex, but what they sent me is RED. Red with black zippers. This upset me at first, until I tried to put everything on - and hey, with red fabric,you can actually see all the parts and tell what you're doing! If it were black, against the black inside lining, it'd be tough on my temperamental, aging eyes. So I'll look a little goofy if I ever have to run to the toilet in the rain in a campground, all dressed in red; but again, I think it shows a little thought went into this.
So, do I feel protected when wearing this gear? God yes. Amazingly so. I remember the feeling the first time I went out in my new Aerostitch, and how unusual it felt to have real gear on; well when I put this on and went for a ride, it felt that way all over again, even being used to the 'stitch all these years. Very substantial, and by at least their accounts, far more resistant to a fast slide than the cordura-goretex I'm used to. As the pads have conformed to my body, they feel more secure, and the stretchy fabric should help them stay in place (at least that is the hope). They say in their catalog that you don't need a zip-together suit with the high waist of their pants, and the jacket; but they do offer one for $25 I think, if safety is a concern or track days may be in your future.
Is it comfortable? Again, a resounding yes. I can't understand how an unlined, breatheable fabric can have such a broad temperature range at riding speeds, but it does - seems to have a far broader range than the aerostitch did; either that or it fits me better and my little insulation is not as compressed, making for cold spots like on the stitch. I haven't had it below 35F yet, nor above 65 or so, but it's been very nice in that range without really altering what I wear underneath, which astounds me. I opened the vents one time, and though they appear small, they do seem well placed and seemed to work well. And while the armor seems to be strategically placed for both impact and thermal protection, it has lots of little holes in it for ventilation. Time will tell how good a hot-weather suit this is, but I'm very optimistic. And the stretch fabric is REALLLY nice to move in.
Aesthetically I'm quite pleased - I'm happy with my custom color choice, which is good since this particular modification means they wouldn't take it back if I weren't - their return policy for stock colors is more lenient. As for quality of workmanship, on a scale of 1-10, having seen things like Rukka and others I'd now probably give Aerostitch a 7.5, in which case these guys would be a 7.0. Not the prettiest in some areas - stitches are not perfectly parallel and such, and as mentioned, some minor details like a hanging loop could be of better materials - but definitely rock solid and functional, and what little they may give up in the workmanship department, they more than make up for with fit - they really can do a truly custom-fitted suit for you and nail the fit, if you provide some clothes as a model. While I found it frustrating to try to get the information I wanted before plunking down my $900+ for a suit I expected to live with for many years, the folks there were always very cheerful and easy to deal with; and they were very generous with customizing my suit in so many ways up-front, with no extra charge for alterations made at the time of construction, which was very nice. We had a harsh winter so the exceedingly long wait didn't perturb me much, but if you place an order with them, plan ahead.
I wanted to improve on the aerstitch I've been relatively happy with all these years, and I feel I definitely succeeded - the more miles I put on this suit, the more I like it. YMMV. And I hope this long-winded core-dump is helpful to someone!
that is a long overdue awesome write up of motoport stretch kevlar. you rock! and this definitely puts them back in my "i think about it" bucket.
:thumb :thumb :thumb
[ by the way ... we definitely want an update of this report when you get a chance to do some HOT WEATHER testing !!! ]
Thanks for the review. With the Gore-Tex liner in the pants are you wearing something under them? It would seem to be really bulky, with jeans, Gore-Tex and then outer pants. What's the swap in/out like when it's cold/warm - gotta take it all off to remove and put in the liners, right? I have my doubts about wanting to do that if I'm caught in the rain.
Ultra Ii Mesh
I got an all black ULTRA II mesh suit. My problem was I ordered it when I weighed in at circa 200Lbs and then suddenly swelled to 300Lbs. Now I'm down to 270 and shrinking so the comfort level is returning (it will streatch a long way but 100Lbs is pushing the limit!). If ya gotta a BEER BELLY make sure you give them a belly measurement so they can accomodate you. Also decide if you are gonna want shorty pants if you tend to tuck them INSIDE your boot because full legths take up so much space in a boot its a bit of work to get them in there.
I feel invincible when I'm wearing it!
Nice review man! :1drink
That gear is the only thing that'll get me to sell my 'stich. It really looks to offer the most protection. I'm very interested in the Kevlar mesh stuff. :wink:
The gore-tex jacket liner is easy to deal with, except maybe for putting gloves inside - that gets a bit clumsy. Even the thermal liner is easy to zip into the already zipped-in goretex. The whole jacket with liners holds together nicely and can be slipped on in one motion.
The pant liner is another thing altogether - it zips in across the top, most of the way around, and has snaps/loops at two points at the bottom of the legs to hold the legs to the pants; the zippers are identical to the overpant, just no buckle and flap to cover the top. But since I'm not even adept at putting the overpants on by themselves yet, being used to a 1-pc that holds itself up on my shoulders once I slip a leg in, putting on the pants with goretex liners attached is very clumsy -too much stuff to hang onto while you're trying to finesse the multiple zippers together and getting the gutter-flaps right (these are double foldover gutters that should channel water away from the zipper, not just windflaps - I'll try to get some pics up to help explain this, it's a good design similar to things Patagonia does with their outerwear). So though I haven't used 'em much yet, I suspect my technique will be to put on the goretex pants all the way first, then put on the outer pants completely separately - I've rehearsed this a few times and it seems much more practical. This was a tradeoff I thought about alot before going with anything with a removable waterproof liner - but after sweltering through too many summer rides, it occurred to me that for normal daily riding, if it's raining I'll either not ride, or throw on the stitch that still hangs in the garage; on a trip I'll be dressing for the day as often as not, so the extra minute it takes me to zip in all these parts won't be such a frequent hassle.
Can you wear jeans under the Gore or just skivvies and/or shorts?
I'm thinking of using them -the UKIIs as commuter pants and wonder if work pants will fit and what they'll look like by the time I get to work?
Thanks for the review. I was thinking about getting a suit, but I am always worried about buying things sight unseen. Please keep us advised about how the suit feels after a few more miles on it. :thumb
as for all those layers fitting - no problem. I've got monster thighs from years of bicycling, now I'm into speed skating, so I sent 'em some jeans to use as a pattern. I asked them specifically to be sure I'd have room for an extra thermal layer under these jeans for winter riding. They really did an excellent job of sizing the pants. I got exactly the sizing compromises I asked for.
One other issue I wanted to mention is dehydration rates on hot days - with all that air blowing through the suit, I'm gonna pay extra attention to hydration, and am curious to see how that changes from the 'stitch.
This stuff looks great
I've been in the market for some pants and have spoken to the folks at motoport a few times, and they're very helpful and friendly. I used to think the armor was excessive until my friend hit a cadillac head on and proceeded to smack almost every surface on that car before hitting the ground. He then got up, walked over to the people dialing 911, and told them no need... he was okay.
I keep hearing about folks getting all cut to bits from contact in a crash. This Kevlar stuff appears to be the best at keeping the body from harm. The info. on the website talks about it better than leather for protection.
This is good. :D
I can't wait for a hot weather report! Trying to converge on the one all purpose (dual sport/street/hot/cold) suit like you did.
I had a new off the rack GP-2 kevlar suit (basically same deal in slim race suit style) in 1996 that I took on one 800 mile trip from SoCal to Laguna and back...and promptly returned (which they did): elastic falling apart, armor that was so uncomfortable in the knees I had to remove it for the ride home, and a few minor issues. Obviously, they've gotten better!
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