In our first leathers article, we looked at what goes into manufacturing a quality leather suit at a fairly high level, as well as exposing some of the misleading ways manufacturers can label them as ‘CE Approved’ when they may not actually have been tested as such. In this next part, we focus on the individual brands we spoke with, sharing in detail what we learned about their products to help make selecting your next suit an easier process.
There will always be die-hard fans of a particular manufacturer and it wouldn’t matter what we said, they’d always buy that brand. And that’s fine, we’re not looking to sway those people. All we really want to do is to share the information we’ve gathered so people can make a more informed decision.
Something to bear in mind…
While reading this article, please bear in mind that Superbike Freaks is not an externally funded project so we have limited time and resources to devote to this. Everything on here has been done in our own time and out of our own pockets and we aren’t charging for our content even though about 60 hours’ work has gone into this article.
SBF is neither sponsored nor rammed full of branded adverts, unlike most other popular sources of bike media. This means you can trust that everything on this site is a completely impartial and unbiased view because we’re not relying on funding from a manufacturer which would no doubt dry up if we highlighted that one of their products was complete shite.
We haven’t been able to approach every single gear manufacturer in the world so we view this as a work in progress and we will happily continue to approach other manufacturers and report on their products in the future.
Cooperation from the brands (or lack thereof)
Something we found very interesting while undertaking this project was the vast differences in the levels of cooperation from the various brands we approached. Some manufacturers couldn’t have been more helpful and were eager to work with us and share details of how their suits are made. They’re obviously really proud of the quality of their products and wanted to share that information. Many of them willingly offered us their time and spent ages on the phone with us, emailing us details, talking with us at shows and even inviting us to visit them.
On the flip side, other manufacturers completely ignored our various requests for very straight-forward information around the quality of their products and didn’t want to engage with us at all.
We approached everyone with the same premise – that we’re putting together a series of articles on the quality of leathers on the market and wanted to find out their views on CE approval, how they stitch their products, the leather and armour used, and how they ensure quality.
We’re still not sure what it was we asked for that made many of the major, global brands shy away and not want to get involved…
Read into that what you will!
So who did we approach and who was happy to speak with us?
In alphabetical order:
- 4SR – no response
- Alien Moto – detailed response with an offer for us to inspect one of the first suits off the production line (not inspected yet)
- Alpinestars – no response to two separate requests
- AM Leathers – no response
- Arc-on – numerous detailed responses and valuable input around CE standards. Met at Excel bike show.
- Arlen Ness – no response
- BKS – detailed response, lengthy phone call and lots of valuable information around CE certification provided
- Cheers – no response
- Cougar – no response to two separate requests
- Dainese – detailed response
- Dannisport – detailed response
- DRC – detailed response
- Furygan – detailed responses by email and lengthy phone conversation
- Held – initial chat with the MD of Held UK and need a follow-up one for more details
- Hideout – invited SBF to visit workshop to see first-hand how they work and answer our questions
- Kushitani – detailed response and lengthy phone call. Invited SBF to forthcoming launch of UK store
- NF Moto – no response (which is weird considering the frequency with with they spam me online trying to get me to buy a suit from them)
- RST – replied to say they couldn’t speak with us as “their media campaign for 2017 is already planned” but they might be able to answer a handful of basic questions about the quality of their suits in 2018… (seriously)
- Scott – responded by email
- Spada – no response
- Spidi – no response
- Wolf – same response as RST
& here’s what they had to say…
Alien Moto is a revolutionary manufacturer which was set up by Peter Johansson after he needed serious skin grafts due to crashing at 40mph and sliding down the road in a set of Berik leathers, which completely ripped apart right across the lower back. You can see images of his injuries on their website.
What’s interesting about Alien Moto is that it’s the first manufacturer to use synthetic materials instead of leather, making them a completely ethical and vegan alternative to tradtional leathers. Alien Moto claims that their materials are waterproof and windproof as well as being washable.
Their suits are reinforced on all high impact zones with Superfabric, which is their unique material said to have 14x stronger tear resistance and be 4x more abrasion resistant than leather. The whole suit is lined with kevlar, seams are triple-stitched, and CE level 2 armour is standard in the high impact areas – back, shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and lower spine (chest protector optional).
We have requested data from their tests to prove the strength claims they make on their website and will publish these once received.
Prices are €995 for off-the-peg and €1,295 for custom-made suits (excluding tax).
It’s brilliant to have a brand which has developed new materials to challenge the status quo and we’re really keen to see evidence of their abrasion and tear claims. We haven’t seen one in the flesh yet but will update this once we do. Although we think the suit looks and sounds very impressive, the proof of the pudding is in the eating so we’d want to see some test data and evidence of how it holds up in a crash before fully endorsing it.
Arc-on is a UK company owned and run by passionate bikers which produces its leathers overseas to help keep the costs down while still keeping quality levels high. We’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Ian at Arc-on who has been extremely helpful with information for this project.
Arc-on offers a range of suits in different materials in off-the-peg and custom-made options. Their Evo II race suit won Fast Bikes’ best buy and was chosen by Al Fagan as his race suit for the Ducati Tri-Options Cup series. He also used it for thousands of road miles all over Europe and he couldn’t fault its performance after coming through multiple crashes unscathed.
Arc-on uses cowhide and kangaroo leather for their suits but the construction methods for both are the same. All seams are triple stitched, even when they don’t need to be (the zip for example), using bonded nylon thread. Some of the more vulnerable areas are glued, folded, and then stitched through the fold. They also use hidden seams throughout so the outer seam of the garment isn’t the only sea; that way, even if it abraids in a crash, the structure of the garment remains intact.
Arc-on also uses some stingray hide in the Evo II suit at the outer thigh which is much more abrasion resistant than both cow and kangaroo leather. If you raise it above the leather it takes the worst of the abrasion in a low-side and protects that area of the suit. Double-layer leather is present at the backside, hips, back, forearms and thighs.
Their suits are made in Asia and SBF was keen to understand how they’re able to maintain quality with a factory that is abroad.
Arc-on’s response: “We have maintained quality by spending a lot of money and time finding the right factories. We also informed the factories (when we were sampling) we were going to SATRA-test the suits for seam burst strength and abrasion resistance. Once we’d started working with a particular factory, they understood what we were trying to achieve, what our standards are and they know what we won’t accept.
We pay on a 60-day invoice so if anything has come in wrong, we don’t pay for that item until it is re-made. Having said that, we’ve never done that with any quality control issues, only with something being slightly the wrong colour, or the fit not being correct.
Our factory is not just a manufacturer, they are a tannery too, so they are in charge of the raw materials from preparation, through dyeing, to construction. They are in control of the production process from start to finish so we are fully in control of our product.
We don’t retail one-piece suits to any dealers/wholesalers – we only sell direct, so we know that we’re in personal contact with all of our customers. We know we sell to trackday riders, club racers and BSB guys; the essence of our business is racing and race products, so that’s our focus. Other brands might sell a race suit but have emphasis also textiles/waterproofs whatever, so they might not be as focussed
Because of the people we sell to and because of social media we’d be very unlikely to be able to maintain our reputation if we had failed suits out there, as everyone in the trackday/racing community is so inter-connected.”
11 injury-free years in BSB
A great fact about Arc-on is that they have had no failures or injuries in BSB since they launched in 2009. Not one to reinvent the wheel, they use Forcefield armour in their products. They were the first manufacturer to use it in a pair of gloves – the Apex – which was awarded the RiDE magazine Best Buy in their 2013 test.
Unlike many larger manufacturers, the Arc-on gear that is available to the public is exactly the same as the gear they manufacture for BSB racers so you can be confident about the quality of the suit you get.
Arc-on suits start at £899 for an off-the-peg Evo II and go up to £1,300 for the Apex race suit or a custom one.
Arc-on suits are highly respected throughout the BSB paddock where racers have regular, high-speed crashes. Many BSB racers choose Arc-on over larger brands due to increased levels of protection. SBF has seen a number of their suits in the flesh, including one crashed in by Gary Mason at ridiculous speed and it barely looked damaged.
Arc-on suits are not currently CE-approved although Ian is confident that they exceed the standards. The reason they haven’t been through the certification process yet is purely down to cost – Arc-on is a relatively small business and the cost of submitting one model for certification is around £10,000.
Despite this, we would highly recommend Arc-on suits for offering a fantastic level of protection at a reasonable cost.
Brian from BKS was incredibly helpful and free with his time. We spent a good hour on the phone discussing all aspects of the production of a BKS suit.
(Note: this is the custom-made part of BKS based in Exmouth and not the off-the-peg side of the business which was sold off to Frank Thomas years ago.)
BKS is one of the most established leathers manufacturers in the UK, having been started by Brian in 1986 and being the first company to achieve CE approval when the standard was launched in 1994. Crowtree (which is sadly no longer in business) was CE approved the day after and Hideout’s approval came a little later.
CE approval is achieved in levels:
- Level 1 is approved to provide protection (abrasion and seam burst strength) at speeds not higher than 30mph
- Level 2 is tested a higher speeds (up to around 70mph)
- Level 3 is basically off the scale of CE approval and isn’t part of the EN13595 but does form part of the Cambridge Standard which the CE rating was bourne out of.
BKS suits have level 3 approval throughout, i.e. not just the armour they insert but the entire garment.
What goes into a BKS suit?
An entire 50 sq ft hide and around 80 hours goes into creating a BKS suit from scratch. This is a huge investment of time and more than triple the duration that goes into many other brands’ suits.
This is comprised of:
- 6-8 hours consultation, design & measurements
- 18 hours of pattern making
- 16 hours of drawing and cutting
- 20 hours of stitching (all done by the same operator)
- 10 hours of laser etching
BKS suits are usually made from either 1.1mm kangaroo leather or 1.4mm cowhide. You can use thinner kangaroo leather as it’s denser due to a tigher fibre structure. This is because kangaroos only sweat through their tails so the rest of their hide doesn’t have sweat glands and therefore isn’t as porous as other animals’. Consequently, 1mm kangaroo leather has a higher tear strength than 1.5mm cowhide.
The thickest thread available is used, ticket 20 (which is 1/20″ thick).
Chosen by police
Since a ruling a few years ago dictating the emergency services personnel are required to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), BKS has a contract to provide the majority of police forces with their bike leathers, with Hideout supplying most of the rest of the forces.
BKS suits are chosen by a number of top-level racers too. James Toseland once had a 120mph highside in Sepang in 2009 wearing his BKS suit which resulted in him flying through the air about 15ft up. None of the seams on his suit burst and the leather didn’t wear through at all. This was a 0.9mm kangaroo leather suit (as James used to request thinner leather as he liked more flexibility) and the suits worn by racers are exactly the same as the ones made for the public.
Other notable racers in BKS include Tommy Hill, Stuart Easton, Steve Brogan, Carl Fogarty, Michael Rutter, Danny Webb, Danny Kent, Steve Hislop and Phil McCallan. It’s also the leathers of choice for Prince William.
Some custom BKS suits have taken up to 120 hours to complete and the labour is by far the biggest investment in a suit like this. Prices typically range from around £1,600 to £2,800 and can cost up to £4,000 for a heavily bespoke suit. At the higher end, this is, of course, a huge investment, probably more than a large percentage of bikers paid for their bike, but what you get for that is arguably the strongest and safest suit available in the world.
They do have some suits available at reduced rates which have been made in typical sizes to the same standards as a made-to-measure suit that can be picked up for under £900.
BKS suits are no doubt amongst the strongest and most protective leathers you can get. The trade-off for this is that they can be heavy and more expensive than most so it’s really a personal decision about priorities.
Is safety your number one concern? If so, this is the suit for you. Do you want something for trackdays and racing? You may want something a little lighter and more flexible.
We had a few emails in response from Dainese who were keen to let us know about their range and the upgrades they’ve made for 2017. Historically, Dainese hasn’t really been one for CE-certifying its suits but perhaps in light of the law changing for 2018 (dictating that all motorcycle gear needs to be protective), they have decided to get ahead of the curve by certifying their range sooner rather than later.
What we didn’t get was a detailed description of how they manufacture their suits and the process involved, but what they sent us is below.
- All Dainese suits for 2017 are CE approved to level 2
- Other than the armour, their CE approval covers the zips which are now all covered with leather to avoid contact with the ground
- Additionally, Dainese suits are now triple-stitched at the joints as specified by the CE standards
This is all great and encouraging that Dainese have put in place more stringent standards for their suits from this year. However, what’s clear is that Dainese products prior to 2017 have not been triple-stitched in high impact areas or built to conform to the CE standards, which is concerning for one of the largest global suppliers of motorcycle clothing.
We did ask Dainese to explain to us how the suits they supply to customers differ from the ones they make for Rossi and other top racers but we didn’t receive this information. We also requested information on their D-air suits which was also not sent.
It’s too early to tell how significant the changes they have made for their 2017 range are and, whereas some manufacturers have always triple-stitched every seam (not just the most vulnerable ones), you have to wonder whether Dainese would be making these improvements to their range if it wasn’t for the imminent changes to the law.
If you are specifically in the market for a Dainese suit, we would recommend making sure you get a 2017 suit as dealers are still going to be full of gear from 2016 and even earlier which they will be trying to clear.
Andy is the main man and founder of Dannisport which has been around since the mid 90s. We approached Andy fairly late in the process and he was only too happy to send us all the information we asked for within a day.
Andy started the business in 1996 after racing from 1982 to 1987 on bikes such as Yamaha TZs and Suzuki RG500s doing British Nationals and the Manx GP. By his own admission, Andy spent more time tasting tarmac than podium glory, hence the testing of leathers. He visited a motorcycle trade show in Cologne back in 1995 and met some factories that were producing racing leathers, road leathers and gloves and thought he could do something to improve what was available at the time. Dannisport started out with a small range of road leathers and then moved into racing suits.
In the first year of making their own suits, they produced two designs and started to give away a few suits to up-and-coming riders such as Glen Richards, Alan Moreton, and Andi Notman. The riders would return the suits after crashes to be inspected and had always held up exceptionally well, as Andy had insisted on more layers of double leather and extensive triple- and even quad-stitching.
From 1998 until 2004, Dannisport sponsored many up-and-coming top riders including Cal Crutchlow, Tom Sykes, Matt Llwellyn, Karl Harris, Ben Wilson, and Jason Davis. In 2001, they produced the first off-the-peg, CE-approved race suit. At the time, it was the first in the UK and was pretty much indestructible in a crash but unfortunately, due to the stringent CE regulations at the time, it was quite restrictive, meaning some people got on with it and some didn’t.
Dannisport then reverted to making race suits with the benefit of having many riders giving them feedback on crash-tested suits and, as far as Andy knows, not one of their suits has ever given way at a seam or burst open. Most of the time, a Dannisport suit is crashed in a number of times before needing to be returned for repair.
Last year, Ben Wilson (pictured) crashed very badly at the Northwest 200 and he was uninjured apart from a very badly broken leg from the impact (which a suit isn’t going to prevent).
How are they made?
Dannisport suits are now made in a chain system rather than one man, one suit, as they believe this allows for better skills in each section of the suit and consistency in manufacturing.
Leather comes from a variety of countries depending on the application. The better quality leather usually comes from Brazil and Argentina but there is also good leather from Russia and Afghanistan. A lot of the time, the leather comes in a ‘wet blue’ state to be tanned locally at the factory and finished to the required spec and colour. Dannisport can colour leather to almost any pantone colour on request.
All leather is hand-selected and a local quality control manager is onsite during the major suit manufacturing process. Then it’s is passed for the chemical treatments using non-harmful non-carcinogenic PCPs in the tanning process.
Suits are made from premium, full-grain cowhide (which is the best and most abrasion-resistant part of the cowhide) and at a thickness of 1.2 to 1.3mm in impact areas. They use 0.7mm Kangaroo in the palms of gloves as it’s soft and thin but very tear resistant.
Double leather layers are used in likely impact areas, especially around the hips and backside where they use an inner wrap system. Double layers are also present at the knees, shoulders and elbows in addition to hard TPU or non-spark alloy protectors.
All suits are triple-stitched to CE standard and in some areas have four seams with bonded Kevlar and bonded nylon thread #40. As well as the major impact areas, Dannisport suits are extensively stitched in the not-so-vulnerable areas.
CE -approved armour is used in all areas apart from the back protector as most riders wear a specific spine protector of their choice.
Over the years, Dannisport has won various motorcycle press awards including MCN Best Buy for gloves back in 1999, MCN Good Buy 3 times, RiDE magazine Recommended for 1pc suits in 2002 against a made-to-measure brand and typically scores above many of the major brands for seam strength and abrasion resistance.
Dannisport’s views on cheap replica suits
“There are a lot of suits out there, especially on eBay, replica suits & kids mini bike specials that are made from very soft but very weak buffalo and goatskin. These may look good but are stitched with weak thread and the stitching method used is cosmetic, meaning that in any sort of impact crash they are likely to burst open or, at best, wear through quickly. They use these hides as they are comfortable from brand new, whereas a genuine cowhide suit will not be immediately comfortable and should be bought slightly tight to allow for the seams and hide to give by as much as 10%.”
So, cheap replica suits on eBay should be avoided at all costs. Unless you like being in hospital and having skin cut off your arse and stuck to your back.
Andy has made a conscious decision to now only produce made-to-measure custom race suits due to the massive influx of off-the-peg suits flooding the market.
Dannisport suits start from £395 for kids and from £595 for adults, depending on the spec required.
All suits come complete with CE armour, hard-compound knee-sliders, and removable airtex type linings to make them easy to wash.
Although we haven’t been able to inspect one ourselves, we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Dannisport suits. They are chosen by many road racers, which is always a good indicator of quality, and the suits they make for their racers are the same as the ones they’d make for anyone else.
Considering the prices for custom suits start from just £600, the obvious care taken in their construction, the use of CE-approved armour, double layers of leather and extensive triple- and quad-stitching, these sound like an absolute bargain.
Jay from DRC is trying to disrupt the big players by offering a completely custom-made suit for really competitive prices.
Around £450 gets you a fully designed and made-to-measure suit and the specification list is impressive:
- 1.3mm drum dyed & milled cowhide or 0.8mm kangaroo hide (limited colours available in kangaroo)
- triple-stitched seams (using Coats Epic Corespun ticket 30)
- double-layered leather at bum & elbows
- kevlar stretch panels
- removable lining
- YKK heavy duty zippers
- titanium external armour cups over top of leather on vulnerable areas (knees, elbows & shoulders)
- CE EN1621-1 level 1 armour at knees, shoulders, elbows, hips & back protector
- optional upgrade to Forcefield armour (level 1 or level 2)
- neoprene at rear of collar & wrist cuffs for comfort
SBF asked about the thread choice as most other places use bonded nylon and this is what DRC said:
“Coats Epic Corespun thread has virtually the same tensile strength as bonded nylon thread but it is more UV resistant so we choose to use this instead.”
“Fitting is one of the most important things I try to stress to customers as, without a proper fit, the garment can’t fully protect you. This is why we use 26 individual body measurements to ensure a perfect fit. This also ensures all the armour is in the correct place and fitted snugly to the body so it can’t rotate in a crash. With our multiple leather elasticated panels (9 in total), we ensure full ease of movement & mobility whilst riding. We also offer 3 types of cut – road race, supermoto and sidecar.”
SBF asked DRC how they were able to keep their costs low whilst maintaining quality and this is what they had to say:
“We are a very small, self-run company so have minimal overheads compared to most larger well-known current brands. I wanted to keep our suits at an affordable price range for the everyday rider which I believe to be sub-£500.
I ride regularly and have raced all aspects of motorcycles from motorcross and supercross to supermoto and short circuit, so I appreciate what needs to be involved in a protective garment for it to do its job as intended. My son rides/races and is ongoing development for our children’s leathers.
Our garments are continually improving and evolving through both my own personal input and customer feedback, which is very important to me. Each set is hand-checked before it leaves us – all seams, zips, linings, armour, and pockets.
With regards to our complete suits being CE certified: it’s quite a costly process to go through this but it is something that I have already set in motion & will be getting done as soon as we have the resources.”
So who rides wearing DRC?
“We don’t have any big name riders using our products because, at this stage, we don’t want to be paying people to wear DRC. However, we do have riders scattered through a multitude of categories across the UK & international classes such as Lewis Cornish (multiple British, Australian & Asian supermoto champion who races in the AMA American Supermoto Championship) and Gary Horspole & James Connell (multiple British sidecar wins & championships including the TT).
At the 2017 TT, there will be 3 or 4 top sidecar outfits running DRC leathers on the grid. We are also the leathers supplier for Cool Fab Racing which is a British Superbike support/feeder series for kids, and we have leathers commissioned for the kids by the official BSB teams.”
DRC should definitely be on your list if you’re looking for a custom suit at a very reasonable cost. SBF recently suggested that a personal friend consider them and he ended up buying a suit from them. He needed it in time for a European trackday 5 weeks down the line and Jay pulled out all the stops to get it ready in time.
Another big brand happy to spend a lot of time providing us with information was Furygan, which makes custom suits for their racers and off-the-peg suits for everyone else.
Difference between suits for racers and their off-the-peg suits
Furygan’s racing suits, like Zarco’s, are hand-made in France. Around 24 hours goes into the production of each suit which uses 150 individual pieces of leather and involves around 10 people in the process.
The suits for sale to the general populace are very similar but not made in France – they are cut and sewn by machine in Tunisia.
Other than this, the only differences are that the racers’ suits have a second layer of leather so the kevlar is sandwiched between them and there is another doubled layer at the forearm. This is to ensure that, if they crash and the bike is still rideable, they won’t be racing with a suit with a hole in it.
Development of the one-piece suits for customers comes directly from feedback from the racers throughout the season.
The Furygan process
Furygan takes great care in selecting the leather used for all their suits. Cow skin is typically around 1cm thick and Furygan only uses the top 1.4mm as the lower levels are softer (and weaker) so are sold to different industries, like furniture and footware.
Once the leather arrives at the factory, it’s fully inspected and any scars on the hide are marked in chalk to be avoided as are any texture changes so they can ensure the direction of the grain remains the same.
The leather that is to be used is then sucked onto a table using some crazy vacuum machine (like the opposite of an air hockey table) and the pieces are marked and cut out using a laser computer. Any leftover pieces are used to make the panther logo so they have minimal wastage.
The leather used is typically 1.2-1.3mm thick, depending on the part of the suit, and their top-of-the-range Apex suit uses 1.4mm leather throughout.
Safety and testing
Furygan have their own test rigs where they ensure the seam burst strength, abrasion resistance and cutting resistance meet their required standards.
Seams are double- and triple-stitched for additional strength and are folded over internally and stitched again. 1.4mm hide is really thick when folded over so the leather is typically shaved down slightly where it’s going to be stitched so that it doesn’t become too bulky.
Furygan suits are made to be sold as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and therefore the complete garment is CE Approved, not just the armour.
Furygan’s suits come with homologated D30 armour at the shoulders, elbows and knees.
Something to bear in mind…
Furygan has various models of gloves on their website, some of which have the gloves-specific CE approval number clearly quoted (EN13594) and some which state they are CE Approved but don’t have the EN number. In response to SBF querying this, Furygan replied with:
“Before the new standard was validated and published we were using a protocol validated by French government and French independent laboratory. This protocol is quite similar to the EN13594, but as a protocol it has no number attached. Now the standard officially exists we use it to approve our gloves. Little by little, they will all become EN13594.”
From the research SBF has conducted, it would appear that this protocol was, in fact, similar to the CE rating but was not the standard which is validated for protective motorcycle gear. It covers protective gear for non-high speed activities… like gardening. We would therefore recommend anyone buying Furygan gloves be sure to go for the ones approved to the EN13594 standard as this is designed for motorcycle crashes, and not for trimming your begonias.
That isn’t to say that the other standard of gloves won’t be up to the job as Furygan clearly takes a lot of pride in their products and still had their gloves rated against the standard that was available at the time.
Approved by competitors
A massive endorsement for Furygan is that Hideout (which makes some of the most protective gear we’ve seen) stocks Furygan gear in its workshop for sale and openly recommends them as one of the best manufacturers out there.
Furygan’s Dark Apex suit is online at Sportsbike Shop for £599 and te Full Apex suit is available for £649.
If you’re after an off-the-peg quality suit, Furygan is undoubtedly a great option. They are designated as protective so meet all the required CE standards for the complete garment and not just the armour. In addition, they extensively test their products internally to make sure they are up to the required standards and use D30 armour, which is incredible at absorbing and dissipating energy from impacts.
We had a call with Guy, the MD of Held UK, which was unfortunately cut short (damn you, day job!) so we’ll be picking it up again this week.
One thing we found really interesting is that Held operates much the same way as Arai when it comes to quality – they decide what features a suit should have, make it, and then work out what it needs to cost, rather than starting out working towards a particular budget and compromising on quality to meet it.
2pc vs race suit
Held makes a 2pc suit and their opinion on its intended usage is that it’s a versatile and convenient piece predominantly designed for road-riding. This suit is priced accordingly – around £500 – and they view it as their entry-level leathers product.
Held believes that 1pc leathers are for racing and track use, so they design theirs with this purpose in mind. Consequently, these are built to a far higher specification than their 2pc leathers and so start from £800, increasing up to around £1,300. They are constantly asked by customers to build a 1pc version of the 2pc suit at a lower price point but they refuse to do it, simply because this would mean producing a suit which will be worn on track but is not built to the protective standards they insist on for race suits.
Held is undoubtedly a producer of fantastic protective gear and we haven’t heard a single bad review of them. Once we have the rest of the information from them, we’ll update this article and offer a more comprehensive verdict.
Kate, Hideout’s co-owner, invited SBF to visit their workshop near Saffron Waldon, Essex, and see how they manufacture their products first-hand, meet the team and barage them with a bunch of questions. In exchange, we took cupcakes.
We found it easier than you’d think having looked on a map as they’re in the middle of nowhere but sat nav got us there first time.
Hideout is based in a wooden workshop in the countryside and has been producing high quality protective gear for many years. Here we got to see the range of off-the-peg gear they have in the store (mainly Hideout but interestingly including some Furygan products as they think so highly of them) and a range of helmets and boots too so you could rock up in your pants and leave there fully kitted out (if you wanted).
This was where we got to see the leather strength demonstration we described in the first article, where we easily ripped apart a piece of cheap leather but were completely unable to rip kangaroo leather, even after a 3″ cut was made to start it off.
So, what goes into a Hideout suit?
Hideout is one of the manufacturers we spoke to which really cares about creating the best products they can. Their suits are built to the Cambridge Standard which precedes CE and their products exceed CE level 2 which is incredibly protective.
Hideout guarantees their stitching for life so if anything ever splits or comes apart (obviously not as the result of a 160mph slide!), they’ll repair it for free. Seams are triple-stitched using bonded nylon.
At Hideout, there are 10 people who work in the workshop producing the suits and they all have to have served a 6-year apprenticeship, regardless of their previous experience, before they’re allowed to finish a suit; until then, one of the more experienced seamstresses has to supervise and finish it off.
Hideout’s suits are so tough that they are also chosen by a number of police forces as their preferred brand.
Hideout was chosen as the leathers supplier to Mission: Impossible 5, Rogue Nation, and commissioned to produce 31 suits to be used in the film’s motorcycle chase scenes.
The quality is evident in every piece of Hideout gear we inspected. Leather is tough, seams are multi-row and incredibly strong. The people we met are all passionate about creating the best products they can.
It’s obvious that Hideout’s priority is rider safety and one of their services is leather repairs. While we were there, we saw loads of Dainese, RST, and Alpinestars suits which had been crashed in and brought to Hideout to be repaired or have whole panels replaced, which they are more than happy to work on despite being from other manufacturers.
We had a lengthy conversation with Jonny, the MD of Kushitani UK to learn about the legendary brand and its recent resurgence.
The truth is that Kushitani didn’t go anywhere; they just stopped directly supplying the UK market until recently when it was decided to relaunch with the opening of a new store in Lincolnshire.
Special leather from special cows (seriously)
The Kushitani brand really is iconic. They’ve been making leathers for 60 years in their factory in Hamamatsu, which is the home of many motorcycle brands in Japan – Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha began here and still have their headquarters here. That’s 60 years of honing their design and stitching methods, and 60 years of feedback from racers to make the suits the best way they can. There’s no escaping the fact that Kushitani is a luxury brand – their prodcts are high quality and the prices reflect this. They even use special leather from special cows!
Kushitani set the bar for leathers in a number of ways, such as being the first brand to fit knee armour, knee sliders, and elbow and shoulder armour to all its suits.
So what does it take to make a Kushitani suit?
- They only use Holstein leather from a breed of cow specifically bred for Kushitani in Japan to be strong and supple
- 1.5mm leather throughout and only the strongest 60% of a hide is used
- 80-90 hours labour go into the construction
- Bonded nylon thread
- Seams are triple stitched in potential impact areas and fulcrum points
- Unique armour, K-Foam, used throughout
- 19 measurements taken to get the perfect fit
Kushitani suits are treated making them water-repellent so they don’t get heavier in the wet. This means they can be wiped down with a damp cloth to keep them clean. The incredibly supple leather they use means the fit is better and they can use thicker leather for extra protection while keeping the suit comfortable.
The attention to detail and construction across all suits in the range is exactly the same. The only difference in their suits is design and leather intricacy, with the same people making the suits for their top racers in exactly the same way as they make suits for sale to the public.
This means that, although you’ll never get a Dainese suit that is anything like Rossi’s, if you buy a Kushitani suit, it will be exactly the same as Hiroshi Aoyama’s.
Expect to pay from around £1,700 for a custom race suit.
Renowned for making beautiful, high-quality suits, Kushitani is probably on everyone’s desirable list. There’s no doubt they are a more exclusive and luxury option than some of the other brands in this article but for many people, the quality and iconic status of this brand will far outweigh the cost.
We will be inspecting some Kushitani gear in person in the near future and will publish our findings once we’ve seen them for ourselves.
Jim from Scott is a man of few words and originally replied to say that, while he thought the article was a good idea, he didn’t want to “give away any trade secrets”. SBF explained that we weren’t after any secrets, just some basic facts about construction which elicited a slightly better response.
Scott’s leather has been tested for abrasion and tear strength, and the thread used has been tested to British standards.
Seams are double- or triple-stitched and the leather is double-layered in impact areas. They don’t make suits to CE level 3 as they believe this makes them far too heavy and uncomfortable but we didn’t get a response when we asked if the the garment itself was CE rated. A browse of their website shows that they produce a textile suit which is CE level 2 but we couldn’t find any conclusive information regarding the leather ones.
CE-approved armour is present in all suits though and they are lined with Keptrotec Kevlar for added protection and comfort.
Made-to-measure one-piece race suits start from around £800.
From the little we know, it’s clear that Scott suits are very tough and durable. They aren’t as fancy as some other, more fashionable brands but will definitely do a great job of saving your arse in a fast crash.
One person who contacted us explained that he’d eventually had to take his Scott suit to Hideout to have the knees moved to the correct position after Scott hadn’t got them right initially and had had two chances to sort them out. Apart from that, he reports that the suit is great and very sturdy. In fact, he recently tested it in a 90mph highside and, apart from a tiny hole in the arm, there are only a few minor scuffs on the suit.
It’s great to get a deeper understanding of how each suit is put together and the care that goes into making them but, now that we have all this information, what do we do with it?
Many people have contacted us regarding this feature and said that they’re really hoping that we will be able to say definitively which suit they should buy as a result of the research we’ve done but of course, it’s never as easy as that. There isn’t one suit which will be the best choice for everyone because there are always so many other factors which go into making a selection, primarily cost, but also availability, convenience and fit.
So what we’ve done is listed below which suits we would spend our own money on at different levels of investment, based on the research we’ve done over the last few months. It’s by no means definitive as there are undoubtedly great brands who we have yet to approach or who didn’t wish to get involved with this article for whatever reason, and of course it’s partly subjective too – we haven’t slid down the road at 140mph in all of these suits to test them out first-hand. Other than that, it’s as objective as we can be given the information we have.
Up to £500 – DRC
£500-£800 – Dannisport & Furygan
£800-£1,300 – Arc-on & Held
£1,300-£1,800 – Hideout & Kushitani
£1,800+ – BKS
This doesn’t mean that you should discount a brand in a lower price bracket than you are happy to spend – we’d recommend you consider all the brands which are available within your budget. You never know, you might prefer a lower priced one and end up with great suit and money left over for a couple of trackdays.
There are a number of manufacturers who’ve really been interested in what we’re trying to achieve here. They have given up a lot of their time to help us learn about their leathers, understand their processes, their commitment to quality, and the CE regulations, so a massive SBF thanks to all who have helped and contributed to this article!