I’ve never been one to don a lot of protection gear for a motorcycle ride. Helmet, jeans, a ratty leather jacket, and sneakers have always been my wardrobe of choice – with the admitted occasional dalliance to a T-shirt and shorts for quick errands – and I’ve always relied on the tried-and-true safety method of “Just don’t crash.” You don’t need a full turtle suit if you’re not going down, so just don’t go down… In other words, I dress for the ride, not for the crash. Mind you, I take different safety precautions – I slow down for intersections and desperately look for left turners, I never touch the LA freeways, and I ride smaller vintage bikes that are neither quick nor fast. But everything I’ve just written above has gone in the trash now that I’m embroiled in The Bet.
Offroading and adventure riding is different beast. Sure, you’re only going 30mph down that dirt road, but you’re falling often and when you do you’re regularly greeted by sharp rocks and happy little trees that make you not so happy. When I first got my dualsport bike for training I immediately donned some old combat boots and a no-name discount armored jacked who’s zipper didn’t even last the 6mos I was training with that bike. Once I upgraded to the “big” BMW adventure bike it was time to get serious about donning real protection for my squishy bits.
Luckily, true adventure wear is a small world and Klim was the natural choice. They have the most experience with this type of gear, they’ve outfitted plenty of well-publicized expeditions, and their staff has been crazy friendly with helping us get just what we need for our planned adventures. I picked up a full Badlands suit for both myself and my competitor/nemesis (we’re twinners!) and I gotta say: I get it now. I get why people wear this stuff. Where before I cast a sideways glance at getting all suited up for a ride, once it’s on you it becomes clear that ultra-modern moto wear is much better than leather and denim for staying cool and comfortable while in the saddle for hours. The Klim Badlands just works. It’s got strategic vents to keep you cool, zippers and straps to keep you dry when it rains, and is full of fun little features like medical info pockets and zippers built to be used with chunky gloves on.
I spent a 9 hour trip through 90-100 degree heat in my Badlands and never really worked up a sweat. With all the vents open, and at speed, I was totally comfortable. The lightweight materials also make moving around in the suit easy and immediate. You don’t realize how much leather and thick denim slow you down and mute your senses until you try something different. Did it get hot when I was standing in traffic getting to gas stations? Yes. Show me any kind of real moto wear that doesn’t do that. The Badlands suit is full of armored sections with the coolest kinetic material you’ve ever seen. Normally it’s pliant and flexible, but once it encounters a sufficiently hard impact it stiffens up 100-fold to protect you. This means you can easily move around in Klim’s suits, but they still protect you in a crash.
Crashes is something I’ve had plenty of in my Badlands. Offroad training on my BMW has not been kind to any of my equipment, but I’ve yet to do anything to my suit other than make it dirty. No rips, tears, burns, or even scuffs have materialized on my kit – and not for lack of trying. Probably my favorite feature is the built in pocket for a drinking bladder right on your back panel. This means not external Kamelback to make your back sweat, and one less piece of equipment to keep track of.
I can’t believe they’ve converted me to a full on motorcycle suit guy, but Klim has done it. I still wouldn’t don it to commute to work or run to the shops, but if I’m touching freeways to go camping or go on a long tour, I’ll be sporting my Klim Badlands and I’ll be quite happy about it. Plus, it looks pro as hell!