If This Suit Could Talk It would probably scream or take me to court. Thankfully, most of the genuinely actionable escapades implicating my Aerostich Roadcrafter are either circumstantial or beyond the statute of limitations.Consider that 97 percent of the 3200 or so miles I cover every month are inside motorcycle haberdashery’s answer to Karl Elsener’s original Swiss Army knife, the suits accumulate stories quicker than L.A. freeway grunge. Mine started 24 years ago in the CSUC library with a tiny black and white ad in the back of Cycle Magazine. “Beyond Leathers,” it said, above a drawing that looked like something Boba Fett might slip on for a quick scrape around The Great Pit of Carkoon. I wasn’t the only one having a hard time figuring out what to make of this getup. In the beginning, Andy Goldfine just wanted something he could commute in. “I wanted something I could wear over my regular work clothes, something like James Bond peeling off his wetsuit on the beach in Dr. No and walking away in a tuxedo, but for my banal life. It had to be waterproof, but I didn’t want to show up all sweaty on hot summer days,” he says. “It had to be lightweight enough to wear every day, with a zipper that made getting in and out easy. And it had to be able to tough enough to survive a slide down the road without getting torn up.” “I thought if we could sell 100 suits a year at $300 apiece I’d make a living at this. The worst case scenario,” Goldfine recalls, “I’d end up in a basement somewhere with three other people making suits for the eleven riders in America who wanted one. The best-case scenario was suddenly there would be a practical way to go back and forth to work on your motorcycle. People would look at the Ford in their garage and say ‘what do I need this for? I’m riding’. I would be hailed as the next Henry Ford for putting everyone back on two wheels.” Reality, as usual, was somewhere in between. Cordura nylon, Gore Tex and Kevlar hadn’t been around all that long. No one had combined them quite this way before, so even magazine editors were a bit perplexed in the beginning. Because the original Roadcrafter was such a radical departure from normal early 80s gear, Goldfine dealt directly with potential customers to explain the suit. “I had to tell people what it was and how it worked.” The next step was a ride from Duluth to L.A. to pitch the magazines. The Roadcrafter isn’t perfect. You get cold with two few layers underneath, and too hot with too many. Heavy rain can infiltrate the crotch, suggesting some sort of bladder control problem to the suggestible half of a blind date who isn’t actually blind. Innocents in grocery stores or hotel elevators may assume the bilious Hi-Viz yellow model means you work for the fire department. In this case, engaging coeds on spring break are preferable to the cantankerous pensioner who’s tool shed went up in last week’s controlled burn. One supermarket box boy was ready to dial 911 before he deduced I was stuffing groceries into a <suit> spread-eagled in the parking lot, not mugging some unconscious form crumpled next to his motorcycle. More than anything else, the Roadcrafter is a tool for collecting the sort of experiences only motorcycles create and filtering out most of the static: hypothermia, heat stroke, road rash and bug guts just to name a few. There are other defensive perimeters for flesh and bone in an increasingly unfriendly world, but none proven as many times in as many places over as many miles as the suit that lets me zip up and roll out of here 30 seconds after typing that last word. Like the guy who came up with the idea in the first place, it’s become my friend.
Homage to the Aerostitch
If This Suit Could Talk
Written by: Tim Carrithers on January 15 2009 12:27 PM
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