Bikes are brilliant. I appreciate that I'm probably preaching to the choir when I say that - why else would you be here if you weren't already a bike fan? But there are some things that, even after forty-odd years of riding, still cause me an occasional grumble. Chief among these things, actually, is clothing. If you're put for a ride it's easy - you put on a set of leathers or whatever your style is and that's it. No, it's more when you need to combine riding a motorbike with day to day stuff like going to work. That's when it all becomes a bit of a pain unless you're either able to spend the work day in your bike gear (and if you're wearing armoured jeans for instance then that's perfectly feasible) or you can be bothered with the faff of having to get changed. That's fine in your own office, not so much if you're visiting a client site and maybe even need to be in a suit that doesn't look as though you slept in it. Not saying it can't be done - I've done it plenty of times and you get remembered at least - but it's a high-risk strategy which sometimes doesn't pay off. Again, you get remembered when you give a presentation in a suit that's either wet or unbelievably rumpled, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
Now if you're familiar with this site then you'll know that somewhere there are reviews of two products which might ostensibly solve this problem. Both the Aerostich Roadcrafter and the Spada Stelvio claim to be The Solution. Both are one piece suits which are work over regular clothes, both are armoured and both are waterproof. Actually that's not true. Aerostich don't claim to be waterproof entirely, the design of the suit precludes that, and if it rains a lot you will find yourself doing that presentation looking as though you knelt in a puddle. And then wet yourself. Because the suit leaks at the knees and crotch. The Spada did better for a while, not leaking at all for the first few months, but then the waterproofing seemed to go wrong. In fairness to Spada they replaced the suit without hesitation, but the second one was actually worse, and I genuinely arrived at a client site with the only parts of my normal clothes still dry was my elbows and upper arms. It was, frankly, like wearing a tea-bag. But the client remembered me...
Late last year I got the chance to try the KLIM Hardanger suit, and keen not to make recommendations without a thorough test it's so far had about ten months and several thousand miles in all conditions. So...
Like you, I suspect, until I tried this I'd never heard of KLIM. They're not exactly big in the UK. Yet. KLIM (pronounced "Climb") are based in Idaho, and have their roots in the outdoor industry serving people earning their living in the outdoors. In 1994, Justin Summers started Teton Outfitters to focus on ski patrol and search and rescue personnel facing adverse conditions every day. His passion for the outdoors came from growing up near the Idaho mountains, and spending time overseas gave him valuable respect for manufacturing. These two skills merged when working with outdoor professionals to address pain points of extended time in extreme conditions. This was the beginning of gear engineered specifically for heavy use. He soon realised that snowmobiling was changing and there was no gear available to address the specific functional requirements of snowmobiling. By making highly durable gear for outdoor professionals, Justin saw a need in the snowmobile market for clothing that was higher quality and better performing than what was available.
OK, that makes sense to branch into motorbikes - our needs aren't always that different. Snowmobiles are quite fast and get ridden in all sorts of terrains. Obviously it's cold and wet, and falling off iss likely to have the same challenges to the human body as off-road motorcycling. Now it's a part of the US that I have yet to visit, but I'm informed that the Idaho mountains provide some of the best riding in the country, and the KLIM team tended to go out and take advntage of that. That's when they realised that they could improve on what the market was offering in terms of high-quality gear, and Autumn 2004 brought the initial off-road gear offering. KLIM were on the way to having a reputation for durable, ventilated off-road clothing to keep the rider comfortable in extreme conditions.
Released in 2011, the bold Adventure Rally Jacket and Trousers shocked the market into realizing the technology that could be available to motorcyclists. This was gear engineered specifically for extended wear with a focus on user-friendliness and functionality. The adventure motorcycle gear line expanded and KLIM has further developed and refined the many offerings for dual-sport, off-road and adventure riders. Knowing the value of extended comfort and performance, KLIM began serving the long-distance touring and casual commuter markets as well, because there is always room for quality equipment. Which is, broadly, where the Hardanger comes in.
Right let's have a look at the suit. It's obviously sturdy and well made, straight out of the packet. It has that feeling you get with a really heavy duty pair of boots - wear them for a while and they'll break your feet in so they fit. Put the Hardanger on and you get the same feeling. It's comfortable enough but...resistant. It sounds as though you're wearing a suit made of heavy duty brown paper as every movement crackles and protests. But actually it is really comfortable. And although it's unlined, trying it on indoors soon shows that it's quite warm, too. The armour is nicely positioned (though you can move it if you need to) and is nice and flexible. It doesn't dig in. So far, so good, then. There are a lot of pockets. I mean a lot. There's also one inside, which is useful. And there are alot of closeable vents. I'll come back to them, too.
Now this suit is black. There are other colours available, including a rather nice grey and hi-vis, and I've included a picture of it above. Apart from anything else, it's easier to see details I mention on a lighter suit. The black suit has some grey accents and some reflective beading. It's not pretty but it's not meant to be. Once you're wearing it it fits nicely enough - not quite as tailored looking as the Spada but probably slightly better than the Aerostitch. There is little real adjustment available so check your sizing carefully. They do seem to err on the leggy side, just so you know. This is not a problem, it's just something you need to take care with.
OK, so on to the technicalities - how you actually use the thing. The objectives behind the suit were comfort, convenience and protection. Makes sense, because if something is a pain to use, literally or metaphorically, you won't use it so it'll not give you any protection. The Hardanger suot has one full length, two way, zip which runs up the front from the left ankle to the collar and one which runs from the right ankle to the crotch. In both cases the zips are lined up with the inseam - where you'd measure your inside leg. To put the suit on you make sure the right zip is undone and the left is fully released. You want the zipper part of the main zip to be at the top. Now with your normal clothes on, including your bike boots, step into the right side of the suit. Now put your arms in the sleeves. Put the zip together under your chin and slide the glider down to your left ankle, and then do the same with the glider on the right. Bingo - you're now wearing the suit. There are adjusters on the sleeves and waist to minimise material flapping around, so this may be a good time to check them. Don't go too tight as you need space to put stuff on underneath. If you're a reasonably normal size and shape you will probably find that the armour sits just about exactly where you want it to be from the outset, but if you need to move it make a note now. It's on velcro so easy to shift, just not while you're wearing the suit.
There are fourteen vents on the suit. There are a few of them visible on the light coloured one on the left. You might think that's overkill, especially as it isn't lined, but that's not right. Think about it - it's really very easy to add layers if you're cold. In fact that's the best way to address it. But how do you take layers off when you're too hot? You probably can't - that's why you need lots of vents in your bike suit. I also mentioned that there were lots of pockets. There are, and most of them are really easy to get to, though if I had to grumble I'd say a couple of them could be a bit bigger as getting a mobile phone into the breast pocket, for example, is a bit of a faff.
Now let's have a look at the real reasons for a suit like this. Now I need to caveat by saying that I haven't been down the road on my bum while wearing this suit. That suggests a level of dedication to which even I don't aspire. But I have ridden around 7,000 miles in all weathers and on a wide variety of different bikes since last November, so I reckon I'm qualified to give a fair opnion of the suit in use. And that's what you came here to read anyway.
It's comfortable. Genuinely comfortable, whether commuting through town or hacking around on the open road. The vents work magnificently, giving a wonderful throughput of air, even at low speeds, and somehow (possibly coincidentally, I don't know) stopping water from coming through them, even when open. As all there is behind the vent is a wide mesh that loos as though it's intended to stop squirrels and large insects getting in, I'm not sure how it works. I just know that i got home from a horrible wet ride with one thigh very cold and convinced that the suit had leaked where it was being sprayed with water off the back wheel, but then found that the vent was open but my clothes were dry. It also has enough room and flex to allow you tomove around on the bike without getitng in the way, and it doesn't create folds or wrinkles that become uncomfortable to sit on.
It's warm enough. For the UK, at least. One thermal jumper over my normal clothes was all I needed to keep me comfortably warm through the winter, and while I appreciate that this isn't the Arctic (or indeed the Idaho mountains) it does get, frankly, bloody cold. There were plenty of times when I was out in significantly below zero temperatures and, while my nose felt like it was going to drop off the rest of me was just about right. Two things to be grateful for - heated grips and the KLIM Hardanger. And a decent fleece underneath it. If it gets really, seriously cold KLIM have included a magic waterproof cable port so you can plug in your heated gloves, vest, socks... You can see it in the bottom picture.
Similarly, while the UK isn't tropical it does get pretty warm in the summer. Humid, too. Opening the suit vents meant that as long as I was moving then I didn't overheat at all. And if I got stuck at a red light then I could survive until it changed without boiling my brain. Most importantly in this instance, you don't need to compromise your safety by leaving it unzipped to stay cool and therefore allowing the armour to shift just when you need it not to.
But you can stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer easily in a variety of arguably better looking and certainly less expensive outfits. What brings you, me or just about anyone else to a suit like this is its ability to keep you dry. Let's look at the good bits first. The cut of the suit means it will go over the cuffs of your gloves. That's really important - if you wear your gloves outside your suit then when it rains and you brake the water runs down your arms and into your gloves. Gloves inside = drier (and therefore warmer) hands. The seams are all reassuringly sturdy looking and are neatly sealed inside. Talking of inside, there's a label there, and it says Gore-Tex. Now that alone means you've got a pretty good chance of a waterproof suit, because if W. L. Gore and Associates (yes, really) aren't happy with you, your company and your products they simply won't allow you to use their material. And KLIM make a bold statement.
"Guaranteed to keep you dry."
You know what? They should be confident to stand by that. In the last ten months or so I've ridden in a lot of rain. This is the UK, after all, and some stereotypes are justified. One particularly memorable trip had me on the other side of the country on someone else's bike and an aggressive timetable meaning that I needed to just hunker down and use the fastest available route - motorways. It was raining so hard that I was getting hit by drops travelling upward as well as downward - it was literally bouncing off the ground. Patches of standing water made the roads treacherous and although it was notionally early summer it was cold. Overtaking lorries was an exercise in faith as there was a period of several seconds where the spray was so bad that I was completely unsighted. After a three and a half hour ride I poured myself into my garage. My head was wet from water coming through my helmet vents - they had to be open to stop the visor from steam ing up. My hands were wet because my gloves weren't waterproof, but they had done pretty well and lasted at least half the journey before giving up.
And that was it. My feet were dry, thanks to my all weather boots, and the rest of me was also completely dry. It's weird because I was sure that the suit had leaked as I had cold patches. It would seem that this was just where water was either managing to pool or, perhaps, was being driven off fast by the wind and dropping the temperature. So no leaks. Not around the crotch, not around the knees, both of which would be perfectly reasonable (if a little disappointing) given the sheer convenience of the suit. The papers in my pocket had stayed dry, too, as had my mobile.
So it's time for a conclusion. Nearly. I just need to tell you where you can get one.
You can get a KLIM hardanger suit direct from the KLIM website, or you can track down a local supplier. There are a decent number in the UK, but I don't know whether they carry stock or order it in. If you use the website it's probably easiest to also use the search function to find the Hardanger as it's a bit tricky to find. I'm assuming that your local supplier will charge you the same as buying direct, seeing as the website price includes shipping and estimated customs charges. Which is pretty good to know.
This is a very well made suit, using top quality materials. It will save your skin in the event of a spill, it will keep you warm and dry through the worst the weather can throw at you and it'll keep you cool and dry through the best the weather can throw at you. In short it will do everything you can reasonably ask. Oh, and because it's not lined and bulky you can roll it up and stuff it in a bag along with your boots and gloves when you get to your destination, which is more useful than you might expect.
This general wonderfulness doesn't come cheap. Including shipping and taxes a normal sized Hardanger will cost you as near as makes no difference £1500. That's a lot of money. But if you use it for everything apart from knee-down nonsense, as I do, then it's worth every penny. I'm confident that this suit will still be keeping me warm and dry when I'm not able to ride any more...