I took a week-long ride across the rugged interior of Idaho and logged 1200 miles on dirt and pavement. Temperatures ranged from the mid-70s to the low-30s and I spent equal time on a KTM 690 Enduro R and BMW F800GS. During the trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about this gear. Unfortunately, one of the things we’ve noticed about testing riding gear over the years is that the better it is, the less you have to think about it. Let’s start with the jacket, mostly because it’s the only part that has redeeming qualities.
First off, the whole suit is built with a laundry list of Gore-Tex products and other high-tech fabrics – Gore-Tex Talisman 3L, Gore-Tex Armacor 3L, Gore-Tex SPL600 3L, Invista Cordura, Kevlar and polyester mesh lining. It’s astoundingly waterproof and also cuts wind, but it’s not exactly warm and there are no options for zip-in liners. Gore-Tex is awesome at keeping water out, but my problem was keeping sweat in. The moisture-wicking liner might wick, but because of the ranging temperatures, I was wearing one or more underlayers at all times, and those heavy garments were the problem. As a result the moisture could not escape even with open vents. The vents aren’t particularly large and the zipper system is hard to operate with one hand, meaning the only way to adjust while riding was to open the main YKK zipper down the front.
Fortunately, the jacket’s front zipper is high quality and the storm flaps keep out wind and water extremely well. Gotta love Gore-Tex. Klim designed the Rally jacket to accommodate a neck brace, but I did not wear one during the ride. A removable gaiter is amazing at keeping out the elements, and taking it off increases ventilation immensely. The main problem is that it does not have a soft liner where it contacts the throat, particularly against the Adam’s apple. It’s very uncomfortable.
The Rally jacket is designed for Dakar-style riding, where fanny packs and backpacks are prohibited for safety. This leads to one of the more impressive features of the jacket – the inner support system, which I’ll talk about momentarily – but it also creates problems. First off, I like to wear a fanny pack which I use for tools, spares, maps, etc. The reason I like to wear it is because I can get to my stuff easily without having to remove the entire jacket.
I tried the jacket with and without a waist pack. As you can see, the integrated kidney belt does not allow for it to be worn underneath, and cinching it down on top of the jacket prohibits access to the pockets.
I also like wearing a hydration backpack – again, easy-access storage that doesn’t require shedding my main outerwear. Plus, both types of packs can be strapped to the bike itself if needed. Also, hydration packs have padding between the bladder and the rider, which helps insulate both. With the Rally jacket, the bladder is right up against the rider’s back and absorbs body heat, keeping the water warm, but that’s my only complaint here. Overall I liked the hydration system. A full bladder is a tight fit into the rear pouch, but that’s a good thing because it doesn’t flop around. The hose is super long and the bite valve works very well at stopping the flow.
Pockets on the front of the jacket are great. The Velcro flaps on the lower pair are easy to get in and out of with gloves and I stored all kinds of stuff inside. The uppers were good as well, though I never fully trusted the Lock-Out closures – more on that when we get to the pants. Storage on the rear was usable, but overall there wasn’t enough, especially when it’s supposed to carry the contents of a waist pack. Also, there are no straps to hold heavy tools from bouncing around. I wound up wearing my pack for the last couple days just to try it, and it was not a good setup, but at least I had my tools.
Inside the jacket is some of the more impressive engineering. Padded shoulder straps and an adjustable kidney belt do a fantastic job of distributing weight. With all the pockets loaded, every time I picked the jacket up to get dressed I was amazed at how heavy it was, but not once did I notice it while riding – a major testament to how well it is suspended. The shoulder straps are adjustable and a sternum strap with pivoting buckle secures things even further. I never wear a kidney belt on my own, so I was leery of this feature to begin with, but it keeps the jacket snug against the rider’s body more than support the back. As a result, the jacket doesn’t flap in the wind and bounces less, which saves energy over the course of a long day. The fully-integrated harness system is easy to get in and out of.
I would continue to wear the jacket, but overall it doesn’t seem like a finished product. Things like the gaiter without fleece, pockets without tool straps and vents without easy access really make it less than it should be. And $1300? Come on…
Now for the pants…
If you look hard enough there’s always something to dislike about a product, especially something that is supposed to fit a wide variety of body types. Usually I’m able to find a few gripes hidden among beneficial features, but in this case I was looking for something that didn’t irritate me. The pants were a complete letdown – 100% disappointing. Here’s why.
This was simply climbing up a snow bank, but you can see that the thigh vents are clearly wide open. I wasn’t smiling when the rain started.
The Gore-Tex Lock-Out closure zippers are glorified Ziplocs – overbuilt to the point that they do not function properly. The heavy-duty rubber is too bulky, and when forces press on it (like the bending/twisting of fabric during body movement) the seal is broken. Each leg has a large vent on the top of the thigh and within 15 minutes of putting on the pants, both Lock-Out zippers broke open and never closed for the rest of the week. All the whiz-bang Gore-Tex in the world doesn’t do any good when there are gaping holes that allow water straight onto your legs. When the weather turned sour, I froze.
One of the reasons the vents were constantly forced open is that there are no stretch panels in the pants. That would compromise the water resistance, but Gore-Tex is not flexible – quite the conundrum. Mobility is very limited. I rode one day with my knee brace and could barely get on and off the bike. Even sitting in the saddle with my foot on the peg was restrictive. Also, the d30 armor inserts pressed so hard against my kneecaps that they hurt. I had to take them out to make room. I spent the rest of the week without my brace – something I never would have done if I had other pants to wear. Once the brace was off and the pads were removed I could at least move around, of course, I was completely without protection.
Although the zippered fly is a normal YKK unit rather than the stupid Lock-Out, it too jammed. A pair of thigh pockets offers little for storage and the overall tight cut of the pants makes adding any extra bulk to the upper leg a definite no-no. Below the knee, things were better. The full-length leather patches are soft against the bike and heat resistant. The adjustable cuffs use heavy-duty Velcro and work well, never catching on a footpeg.
Why am I so hard on the Adventure Rally suit? It costs over 2000 bucks! Frankly, I’d be pissed if I paid $50 for the pants, much less $850. And the jacket is worth maybe half of its MSRP. I can only wonder if anyone at Klim actually wore this during the testing process. As best I can figure, this gear is targeted at riders who love the idea of having the best-of-the-best, hard-core, high-dollar gear. It’s probably the same people who only use their Megatron adventure motorcycles for commuting to work.
Riders who like the idea of adventure rather than actually getting dirt on their motorcycle will be fine. All others should focus on the rest of Klim’s riding gear, which is much more impressive.
On the surface, the Klim Adventure Rally gear seems ridiculously awesome, a guaranteed winner. It has top-shelf materials, innovative design and enough technical jargon to arouse a computer programmer. Plus, it looks like you’re ready to circumnavigate on the roughest terrain. Unfortunately, what promises to be a concept-shattering suit breaks nothing more than the bank.
For as terrible as it sounds, I do believe this is a fluke on Klim’s part. Like I said, everything else I’ve worn from them has been wonderful, and if you’re in the market for gear, they have some new stuff coming called the Traverse. One of the Klim test riders joined me and was actually wearing the new gear during the Idaho trip. I was able to see firsthand that it is going to be a much better product and it will be at a much lower price point than the overpriced, underperforming Adventure Rally Suit.