Updated: Sep 22
Sorry for the click-bait title, but if you’re looking at the most-expensive riding gear on the planet, it’s a genuine concern. When a suit costs more than £2000 it had better be good. In fact, when the jacket and trousers together are more expensive than a second-hand car, they had better be perfect.
After years of blagging kit for free when I worked on motorcycle magazines, this all became very real for me when I needed to buy a new year-round riding suit at the start of 2023. With kit that costs more than I take home in a month, I couldn’t afford to waste my money, so I focused on how to make the best choice. Here's what all those years of testing the best stuff taught me about picking the right suit.
Why you need a top-end suit
If you’ve never ridden in this kind of gear you may wonder why anyone would spend so much money on it. And let’s be clear: if you’re a sunny-day-only kind of rider who does 2000-3000 miles a year, frankly it’s not worth it; you’ll never get the use out of it to justify the expense. But if you’re a high-mile rider, out there in all weathers, all year round, you will get the benefit.
It’s fair to say that I’m something of a posh-suit veteran. When I was on RiDE, averaging 30-35,000 miles a year, all year round, I put a lot of miles on a lot of top-end suits. The first was the much-loved Hein Gericke Master V suit (which I actually got when I was on Bike), but I’ve also had two BMW StreetGuard suits; three Rukka suits (Arma S, Armaxis, Nivala), two Held laminate suits (Atacama, Carese), one Alpinestars suit (Tech ST) and one from Halvarssons (Amazonas).
What you’re paying for
As with all products, there’s a hint of paying-for-a-name… but those names only have power if they deliver performance. What these big-budget suits should offer are build-quality (and thus longevity), a superior specification, comfort and, especially, reliable waterproofing.
Generally these suits are made of Gore-Tex Pro. This is a three-layer laminate material, with a waterproof substance bonded both to the outer material and an inner lining. A few manufacturers make their own laminates, but the Gore-Tex brand is trusted. The benefit of a laminate is that water runs off the exterior surface: it won’t soak into the material, making it cold and heavy – which is what happens with two- or three-layer suits that use a waterproof dropliner. This also means that, once you’re out of the rain, the laminate suit will dry quickly.
Being waterproof is only part of the battle, though. We’ve all experienced the boil-in-the-bag sensation of non-breathable waterproof gear on a hot day. Laminates are far more breathable than most dry materials so when it’s not raining, a top-end suit shouldn’t be like wearable sauna.
Vents make a big difference – but present a challenge, as any hole in the waterproof membrane for a vent is a hole that could let water in. So high-end suits place the vents carefully and use very expensive waterproof zips to seal them. Open everything up, though, and they should be pleasant to wear even in summer.
So the big-budget suit should be warm and dry in winter, well-vented and comfortable in summer, well-made enough to last for years of high-mile riding and packed with all the features that you want.
Features on suits
This is where you really start to split the difference between the suits. First there are styles and colours: something pale and adventure-bike-ish; or something dark and road-bike-ish (maybe with a flash of fluoro yellow).
Pick a style and move beyond it to check the details: is all the armour CE Level 2 (the top grade), including the back protector in the jacket and hip armour in the trousers? Are there enough pockets – and are they in the right places? Are you happy with the number of vents? Do you like the fit of the collar and its fastening mechanism (popper, Velcro, magnet)? Do the cuffs work with your gloves? Do the trousers have braces or even a bib-and-braces setup? Obviously, any suit needs to come in the correct size – and top-end suits are generally more likely to offer short or tall fittings – but are there sufficient adjusters to really get a good fit?
Trying them on
It is possible to browse and even buy all this kit online, but when a jacket is more than £1000 are you really going to take a punt on it? I'd say use the web to draw up a short-list, but then find a physical shop where you can go and try it on.
A side note: though you may see cheap prices online offered by retailers in the EU, remember not only that you’ll have to pay duty when importing it but also that your contract of sale is with the retailer, not the manufacturer. If there’s a problem that might be a warranty repair (broken zip, leaking, whatever) you can’t take it to a local shop that sells the same brand: you’ll have to pay to ship it back to the EU, to the people you bought it from, then pay the duty again when it’s returned… Better to support your local shop.
Trying suits on shouldn’t be a casual thing. Not a quick baggy-versus-tightness check. Take the time to wear it properly. Adjust every adjuster and try to get a perfect fit. Move around a lot and get a feel for it: sit on your bike; crouch down; stretch; put on a rucksack… If you feel any restrictions in your range of movement, that’s a problem. If the armour is pressing on knees or elbows when you’re sitting on the bike, that’s a real problem as it will become painful over the course of a long ride. Armour positions are usually adjustable in top-end suits, so move it to see if you can get a properly comfortable fit.
I approached this knowing what I wanted: a Gore-Tex Pro suit with good venting; CE Level 2 armour throughout; long-fit trousers; good pockets; and a storm collar (not everyone gets on with them, but for me that’s what keeps you dry as it stops rain soaking into your neck tube and wicking its way into the suit, making you wet).
I whittled it down to a shortlist of two suits: the RevIt Defender 3 GTX; and the Klim Kodiak. So I went to the Adventure Bike Shop in Sudbury, which had both suits in stock in my size. They were great at talking me through all the features and giving me plenty of time to try the kit on.
First impressions were that the RevIt fitted me better; it was quite a slim cut and felt flattering for a tall bloke like me. But this is why taking all the kit is important as I found the cuffs on the jacket were too tight: they would barely do up over my chunky autumn gloves and there was no way they would fasten over my bulkier heated gloves. It’s a small but crucial detail. It was enough to make me buy the Klim.
Product review: Klim Kodiak suit
Jacket: £1500 • Trousers: £820 (£840 long fitting)
Used for: seven months, ±8000 miles
So, having taken the plunge, what did I think of the Klim? Naturally I loved it straight away. More than anything, the jacket is what sold me on the suit. It’s a solidly made thing: a Gore-Tex outer material reinforced with lots of leather on shoulders and elbows; CE Level 2 D3O armour in back, elbows and shoulders, plus foam pads on the chest (they could be replaced with chest protectors but I’m not that paranoid). Even so, it’s only A-rated for protection – I’d have expected it to be AAA.
I particularly like the Velcro-fastened waistband for the back protector, ensuring it sits firmly in place. It has the all-important (for me) detachable storm collar. It’s slightly puffy – which is good in the cold – though I’d have preferred a longer fastening zip. When it’s removed, for hot days, the actual collar is low and comfortable, sealing sensibly with Velcro.
There are plenty of pockets: two waist pockets; two inside pockets; two external chest pockets, one of which has a small Velcro sealed extra pocket on it; plus a credit-card-sized pocket on the left sleeve (invaluable on toll motorways where you can pay with a contactless tap). There’s also a hidden passport pocket, but I’ve honestly not found it yet. I don’t tend to use the inside pockets at all: the external chest pockets are waterproof, so my wallet lives in one and I don’t have to unzip the jacket to pay for petrol on wet days. My phone – which is waterproof anyway – goes in the small Velcro-sealed pocket and has always emerged dry.
For cold weather, there’s a warm but lightweight down puffer jacket as a liner. Obviously, that can be worn off the bike with the discrete Klim logo lending it a bit of snob value for those who know. For hot weather, there are loads of vents: vertical ones on the front and back of the torso, plus vents on the arms and at the cuff.
There are sliding-belt-type adjusters at the waist and on the arms, plus a Velcro flap to tighten the cuffs for a good seal. For me, the one feature missing from the jacket is a double cuff: an inner layer to go inside the glove, then the outer fastens around it. It’s a pity not to have it on such an expensive jacket.
The spec and build of the trousers is equally impressive: Gore-Tex outer with leather reinforcement patches on knees and CE Level 2 D3O armour at hips and knees. They come with braces that clip on – which is okay, but I’d have preferred them to button on or fix with a more-secure Velcro loop. There’s a long zip at the boot cuff, which fastens/adjusts with a two-position popper.
There are Velcro pull-tabs to adjust the waist and a sliding-belt-type adjuster just below the knee to gather in excess material, though for me a second one on the thigh would be good as I don’t have ham-hocks for legs. To be fair, even in the tall fitting, I had to go a size up to get the length for my 36in inside leg, so the trousers are slightly large for me. That means I can wear jeans under them in winter, which is good as they’re unlined and there’s no puffer-trouser liner (as comes with the Rukka Nivala suit).
There are two large vents on the front of the thighs, with secondary ones on the back. The two pockets are also on the thighs and frankly are a bit weird. They’re a good size but they’re just in the wrong place. The zips run up and down the leg – it kind of makes sense when your foot’s on a footpeg but it’s a pain when you’re standing up. I don’t really use them. Two normally positioned waist pockets would be better.
I’ve used the suit in everything from blinding monsoon-type rain and snow (yes – dropped the bike at 4mph, suit wasn’t marked) to 30°C heat on the fleeting hot days of summer. In a nutshell, it’s been brilliant. Obviously, it’s a big, heavy suit so excels in the cooler weather – right down to freezing temperatures.
The waterproofing is simply excellent. No leaks from any zips or into any pockets. I have found that on long rides in extended downpours, water can soak into cloth-backed gloves (I’m looking at you, Held Air n Dry) which then wicks into the liner of the sleeve and gradually works its way up to the elbow. A double cuff would have stopped that… but I’ve since confirmed that wearing leather waterproof gloves stops it too.
Other niggles? Well, it’s an American-made suit so for me the chunky main zip fastens on the wrong side and the connecting zip to attach the jacket to the trousers is also back-to-front… I’ve spent 30-odd years zipping garments up from the left and I’m still finding it fiddly to do it from the right.
The vents do work on hot days – when you’re moving. But when you’re stationary or, especially, walking around off the bike, you’re in a heavy black suit that absorbs the heat… so for really hot weather I’m still wearing Kevlar jeans and a mesh jacket.
For everything else, though, I’m wearing this suit. Especially as after something like 8000 miles, it’s still looking like new. The Klim Kodiak is a very expensive suit – but it’s a very good one, certainly the best I’ve used. It’s a double-cuff and sensible trouser pockets short of perfect – and I can live with that. And expect to for several years.