Arlen Ness Sentinel race suit
“The bleeding edge in Harley-Davidson customising for years.” “An American entrepreneur and motorcyclist, who is best known for his customised choppers and hot rods.” This is how Google – and the motorcycle community for that matter – defines Arlen Ness, the man and his namesake company. Things are changing.
Ten years ago the California-based brand began its transformation from a V-twin parts and accessories maker to a global motorcycle equipment company when it launched its line of race gear. It’s chosen to position itself at the upper end of the spectrum and simply doesn’t compromise with entry-level stuff.
Since then, Arlen Ness claims its kit has been “proven on racetracks around the world by such names as Bayliss, Nakano, Toseland, De Puniet, Xuas and Sofuolgu.”
Perhaps the company line should just grab us by the golos and say, “Sure, our roots lie in cruisers, choppers and hot rods – and will unashamedly continue to do so – but we’re out to take on the big players and the stereotypes and you’re all in for a surprise if you underestimate us. We got no love for those who got no love for us.” Haters be haters.
This brings us to Arlen Ness’s Sentinel race suit. It mightn’t protect you from fleas, heartworm and intestinal worms like the monthly canine chew of the same name, but the range-topping onesie certainly has you well protected when you’re riding like a dog with a bone.
Its list of protective features has more pages than Berlusconi’s little black book, headlined by double-layer leather in high-abrasion areas between 1.1 and 1.3mm thick.
The Sentinel matches many of its high-price rivals with magnesium sliders on the shoulders to serve as external armour but then adds the rock-hard stuff on the knees and elbows to better absorb and disperse impact. That’s on top of the regular CE-certified internal protectors on the elbows, knees and shoulders for a double-defence system. Keep in mind, though, that the magnesium isn’t there for Marquez-style elbow dragging. It still has that MotoGP race look with a speed hump, however.
The torso is protected by an internal chest shield that comes with side extensions to help protect your ribcage. There’s similar stuff in the hip areas, too, while a layer of memory foam shields the collarbone. Clever touches like this aren’t necessarily standard practice.
The quality of materials and construction is top-notch and wherever you look you’ll find a host of smart, track-going features that could only come from experienced racers. One example is the ‘Super-Grip’ lamination along the inner thighs and knees to help grip the tank for extra security and control that’s appreciated with keen cornering.
Despite the level of armoury and initial weight impression, comfort on and off the bike is top-notch and it takes little time for the suit to ‘break in’. There’s room for a back protector, too. It’s easy enough to slip on without breaking a sweat or begging a stranger for help – thank the accordion-stretch panels and Neoprene at cuff, hem and collar to reduce thickness. It means you can comfortably run to the dunny to extinguish those last-minute nerves and the smooth-running, YKK main zipper retracts far enough to avoid hunching over, getting yourself caught – Something about Mary-style – or risk copping a golden shower. No camel toe effect, either. First-world problems. Solved.
Airflow is another strong suit, and when you or the weather gods turn up the heat you’ll keep cool and calm. The torso and upper-arm areas feature laser-perforated leather which, unlike the usual larger, punched holes, features a heap of tiny pinholes. The benefits of this are said to offer better cooling, greater material strength and increased elasticity.
The removable inner liner works a treat to regulate body temperature, even during sunnier days. It does this by allowing a layer of airflow between your skin and the suit’s leather shell (similar to water in a wetsuit) while ventilation on the knee and shoulder armour draw air into the moist areas.
Other features? There’s an internal pocket for race documents and a phone should you need to call your crew from the far side of the track; the collar is soft; it comes with an identity plaque with emergency details and blood type; the obligatory knee sliders feature appreciatively strong Velcro and it’s a damn good cut to boot.
At $1300, the Sentinel isn’t the cheapest offering but, unlike some of its rivals, you’re paying for what you get – high-quality kit. That’s cheap insurance. Available in black/grey, black/red and black/white colour combinations.
AVAILABILITY: All good motorcycles stores