The world is a strange and wonderful place and new discoveries are being made every day but there will be no more remarkable leap forward in the human kind’s knowledge than this: a journalist has refused a freebie!
The situation is all the more remarkable when the freebie in question is arguably one of the best products of its kind in the world.
The story behind the Weise Avance suit is as interesting as the actual suit itself and goes to show how words like “ultimate” and “best” are not always what they seem. Ponder on this problem. You have rabbits eating your prize vegetables. Do your rid yourself of the pest with a subsonic .22 round, which is silent and effective, or an ex-miltary 20mm cannon which will, it is true, dispose of the naughty bunny – but will also leave a large crater in your lawn?
Weise make some superb motorcycling clothing. I race in Weise gloves and they are market leaders in this field. I also use a Dynastar suit as my preferred choice for cold weather riding. Weise wanted to raise the bar for professional riding suits and so, five years ago, the Avance project was launched.
The suit has a very narrow focus. It is aimed squarely at very serious, all weather touring riders and professional motorcyclists such as the police and emergency services who will ride 24/7 365 days a year night and day.
These riders need to stay warm and dry in any conditions – and I do mean weather that has the rest of us reaching for the car keys and thanking every God in the multiverse that our bike is locked safely in the garage. The same professional riders crash because of the conditions in which they ride so they need full protection in the case of an accident. Finally, they need to be comfortable on the bike – again in any conditions.
Now at this point the story becomes really interesting. This special sub-set of riders spends the vast amount of their time on their motorcycles. They don’t walk round bike shows in the summer sun. They don’t trek two miles round a race circuit trying to find the best viewing areas nor do they nip out to shopping mall just for the pure pleasure of riding a bike five miles.
What professional customers required was CE Level 2 certification – the highest standard currently available for motorcycle clothing. The snappy title for this requirement is: Protective clothing for professional motorcycle riders. EN 1621-1: 2012 Motorcyclists' Protective Clothing against mechanical impact.
Enter then another twist to the story. The CE certification deals only with the level of protection provided by the clothing. It doesn’t consider how heavy the item is or whether you will die from exhaustion if you tried to walk from one corner to the next at a summer GP. The protection is the single mantra.
The Weise Avance suit is made from the most durable fabric
commercially available, and in the heaviest weight.
The core of the Avance suit is Cordura – but even this brand name is more complicated than it seems. This is what Weise says about the Cordura it uses:
“Cordura's® abrasion resistance is three times that of regular nylon. It resists tears and punctures two to eight times better than other nylons and leather.
“The heavy duty 1000 denier Cordura® is perfect for anything where very high performance protection is required.
“Ounce for ounce, Cordura® fabric is more durable than comparable unbranded fabrics. No matter the application, Cordura® fabric offers an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making it a first choice for durable fabrics. ® Cordura® fabric offers best-in-class durability over comparable unbranded fabrics.
“Cordura® fabric is constructed with qualifying INVISTA yarns which are woven, dyed, and finished in accordance with INVISTA's certification standards for the Cordura® brand.
“The Avance suit uses the toughest Cordura® available at 1000D, in layers.”
So, the suit is made from most durable fabric commercially available and in the heaviest weight – and here is where the problems start. Pick up the Avance jeans and the experience is remarkable. When I was at school, our Scuba diving club was given the chance to try an old fashioned hard hat diving suit and the heavy canvas suit felt just like the Avance jeans. Goodness me, these are heavy!
The problem was the testing procedure. Initially, Weise reduced the numbers of layers of Cordura at the back of the knee to reduce the weight, and improve the comfort, but SATRA, who tested the jeans, failed them.
They argued that if a rider was sliding along with the back of his leg flat against the road he needed the same protection as if his knee were on the ground. This is simply stupid from a practical point of view, since by the time the rear of your knee is flat on the ground you have a whole lot of problems greater than tear resistance!
The Cordura fabric is sewn with special Barbour Campbell M-20 Ticket sewing thread. This is a twisted yarn which is normally used on luggage and sporting goods and if a small section is abraded the seam will not unravel.
The protection continues inside. The lining of the suit is made from Polyester 300D fabric and is claimed to be at least four times stronger than the nylon mesh found in most motorcycling suits.
Every impact point carries the world leading Knox body armor which is used on many race suits. If you do slide off in this suit then your chances of walking unharmed will be at the highest level.
Clearly, because this suit is intended to be used at night and in foul conditions, there are genuine Scotchlite reflective strips all over the place.
At $799.99 for the jacket and $739.99 for the jeans the price of the Avance suit is eye watering but there is even an interesting side to the ticket price. Weise insiders tell me that the company actually loses money on every suit it sells.
Not only do all the high tech, branded materials used in the suit cost a fortune but the manufacturing process is extremely complicated and labor intensive. It takes a skilled worker a whole day to manufacture just one Avance suit compared with the eight Dynastar suits – itself a premium product – which the same person can make in a day.
A ten station production line, even with the best operatives, can only produce ten Avance suits a day which is a medieval speed for a modern factory.
Weise tell me that the Avance is vastly the most complicated product it has ever produced but the company wanted a seat at the top table in the motorcycle clothing market and this is why it persevered with the project.
As an example of technical excellence, I think that Weise really have hit the jackpot. If someone were to ask to me to ride the 900 miles from our house in England to Geneva in a day now, when it is snowing in the Alps and blowing a gale in the rest of Europe, I would choose the Avance suit. There’s nothing better on the market.
But to wear the suit in summer, for recreational motorcycling – not for me. I would rather take the chance of being injured and yet be able to walk around comfortably when I’m not on the bike, than I would have the ultimate protection and yet be restricted to do nothing but ride. And, incredibly, this is why I have boxed up the suit and returned it to Weise. As I said, a journo refusing a freebie: there are still wonders still to be discovered in the universe.
The Weise Avance suit is available from Weise American distributors at www.fowlersdistribution.com