Proving ground: Klim Badlands jacket & pants, Forma Adventure boots
While preparing for a recent Russia adventure, I learnt early on that choosing the right riding suit would be exceptionally important. Comfortable, protective, warm and weatherproof, it has to be all this and more when you’re talking about riding all day, every day for thousands of miles in all extremities.
My current gear was getting long in the tooth so I researched online and read books by people who’d done long adventure rides. The most interesting thing, besides taking too much gear, was that most riders wished they’d bought better-quality kit.
I initially intended to go for a BMW Rallye adventure suit like Charley and Ewan, but I couldn’t work out why the jacket’s waterproof layer is on the inside. Also I balked at the price (jacket: $1100, pants $900), but soon realised if I wanted quality then I’d have to pay for it.
I met the owner of Adventure Moto and Australian distributor of Klim riding gear who happened to be wearing a Klim Badlands suit when we met. Naturally, his recommendations confirmed the positive feedback I’d read online so I decided it would be the suit for me. Problem was, they’re similarly priced to the BMW kit at $1179.95 for the jacket and $779.95 for the pants. We couldn’t find a better deal online so we bought direct from Adventure Moto.
So why buy a Klim suit when there were many good alternatives including affordable offerings such as DriRider, Rjays as well as BMW and Touratech gear at the top end of the range? Much of it comes down to the construction type. Here’s a rundown:
• Three-layer construction: The outer layer is usually made from a Cordura-type fabric, treated with water repellent and good abrasion resistance. The middle layer is some form of waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex, to prevent water penetration. Finally, the inner layer is a removable thermal layer. The flaw with these jacket types is that once the outer layer is breached and becomes soaked it gets very heavy. The water also finds its way past the waterproof membrane, especially around the cuffs, neck and hem and it doesn’t take long to spread. Jacket example: BMW Rallye 3.
• Fixed waterproof membrane: The next best construction is where the waterproof membrane is fixed to the outer layer to prevent water penetration. There is a possibility, however, that water pools between the outer layer and the membrane and eventually seeps through. It also has a removable liner. For local conditions, the venting systems are fairly ineffective due to a windstopper membrane behind, which blocks almost all ventilation. Jacket example: Triumph Navigator.
• Laminated outers: The outer Cordura and the ‘Tex’ inner are laminated, or bonded together. This means that if water penetrates the outer it has no place to go as the membrane forms a backing and blocks it from going anywhere but back out again. The added bonus is that laminated fabric is quicker to dry but the down side is that it’s a significantly dearer production process to laminate the two fabrics, hence more expensive to buy. Jacket example: Klim Badlands.
The best thing I bought was the Klim gear. I covered almost 32,000km and the suit kept me dry even during five days of torrential rain in Siberia and sleety snow in northern Italy. Ventilation is excellent, too, especially when pressing on through 40-degree-plus heat in the Iranian desert.
The fit is a not body hugging as it’s intended to be worn over layers for added warmth, so there’s plenty of adjustability. I wore Icebreaker merino wool thermals from New Zealand, which are available in different thicknesses for effective layering. They’re made from superfine wool and are less restrictive. There’s also a new merino wool undergarment brand called Wollerama, based in Forbes, NSW, which are of excellent quality. As a woolgrower, I had to try the product it gets my tick of approval. They are fast-drying when you wash them and don’t stink.
The Klim jacket and pants use the latest ‘d3o’ molecular armour, which is extremely flexible and comfortable. It also has high shock absorption as Ben discovered twice when he came off at more than 70km/h on bitumen. He walked away with just a few bruises and the suit had very little damage. Armour in the usual areas (back, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees) is easily removable for washing, too. One of the great advantages was being able to put the gear into a washing machine and have it dry quickly.
The jacket has large, effective vents front and rear that also don’t leak. There are also plenty of pockets inside and out to stash quickly accessible stuff and important documents.
The Klim Badlands suit is the most comfortable gear I’ve ever ridden in and I’m now using it on my road bike, too. The system of layering underneath the jacket in particular, makes it extremely versatile, while means you only need to carry little spare clothing.
When it came to keeping our mitts happy, we wore motocross gloves in hot conditions and road bike gloves in the cold. We also used Andy Strapz’s waterproof overgloves, which I’d previously used on trip through Europe and was very impressed with them. On that trip I also wore full leathers, which were no way near as comfortable as the Klim gear.
For footwear I opted for a pair of Forma adventure boots from Andy Strapz. I initially thought about using my motocross boots or go for a pair of locally made Rossi road bike items but I cancelled out the Rossis because they aren’t intended for the rough stuff (such as that experienced in Mongolia) and, of course, motocross moon boots aren’t exactly easy to walk in. The Formas are the best of both worlds offering plenty of protection on the bike and comfort off it. I’ve covered more than 50,000km in these boots, subjecting them to all sorts of bush-bashing torture and yet they’re still in great condition.
I’ve spent more on good riding gear than Spannerman has spent on his bikes. This is an important investment for serious adventure riding if you want to stay dry, warm and have a great trip, which we all did.
Jacket: 4 ½ / 5
Pants: 4 ½ / 5
Boots: 4 ½ / 5
MOTORCYCLE TRADER’S RATING SYSTEM (out of 5):
First Class: *****
Damned good: ****
Worth a look: ***
Keep looking: **
Give it a miss: *