Wholeheartedly in agreement with the view of any well-informed rider: women don’t have a “handicap” or “special needs” astride their motorcycles. We do, however, require a suit that fits well as much as is fit for purpose. Coupled with the freedom to be fairly well catered for: where colour or cut shouldn’t be compromised for overall performance, which by the industry standard in menswear would be deemed intolerable. I’ve been on the road to test KLIM’s latest generation of the women’s Altitude suit—riding in the deep-seated hopes it will exceed my expectations, wants and needs as a long distance female biker.
With my curiosity antennae up to determine whether the suit could respectably hold its own in myriad conditions and wilderness environments, especially during a quest for grey whales in Southeast Alaska, I concluded my examination through Canada. Over a 5,000-mile assessment on and off road, the elements have had the nonstop pleasure of putting the Altitude through its paces.
Testing it through weeks of rain courtesy of Skagway, Haines and Juneau; over mountainous regions in the Yukon; in strong winds through Jasper and Banff in Alberta. And amid temperatures comprising blazing hot sunshine in Nakusp, British Columbia to a nippy 2C (36F) en route to Canmore, Alberta.
Fit, cut and aesthetics
As a slim rider at 5’ 5” the Altitude gives rise to an American fit working with, as opposed to disregarding a woman’s curves and contours. Unlike the methods used in a handful of culprits still out there, my body can vouch that the Altitude is a world apart from donning a man’s suit. Particularly where a few inches have been added or removed, here and there. No, it’s far cry from previous suits I’ve worn, the jacket and pants fit true to size.
Although personal tastes for the two-piece favor lighter colours such as the pale grey with orange accents previously offered by KLIM, which really popped and distinguished the suit. Granted, while the latest Altitude is offered in black—darker colours are superior at hiding the dirt. But whether it’s just me, I always feel hotter in black when riding in hot weather. The jacket does, however, also come in Hi-Vis with dark blue paneling.
Firstly, KLIM presents the jacket as womenswear in a range of regular sizes (Small to 2X), where it factors in the gender difference towards circumference of the chest and upper arm. Whether I’m standing on the foot pegs or sitting, the jacket hugs and works with the movement of my body. It’s anything but bulky, nor does it billow or look like I’ve come dressed in my partner’s riding garb.
Simply, KLIM has added tension adjusters on the arms to keep the jacket from looking unwieldy, which together with the external waist belt helps to show off the figure. Heck, it’s stylish even and the enquiries and compliments received about it, I think are testament to that.
The pants come in size regular (US size 4 to 10). Wonderfully, they also accommodate the shorter leg length as well as the taller pins, which to my mind, is congruent with the fact that women can be but are not always shorter than men on average. Undoubtedly, a value-added feature affording a good fit for most inseams of women.
Furthermore, the trousers are not too wide in the leg or overly baggy in the backside. Although they do have a rather pronounced bootcut, which during cooler temperatures invites draughts up the legs. The pants are low rise, which works well in conjunction with the longer jacket—connected by a zipper around the back—to prevent any chills racing up your upper torso.
Chiefly a traveller and motorcyclist second, there are times on the road when it’s impractical to abandon the motorcycle gear in order to experience something interesting off the bike on foot. Hiking a couple of miles clambering over and sliding down rocky terrain, with some scree thrown in for good measure, proved an easy endeavour in various mountainous regions of Alaska and Canada. Primarily because the suit’s construction of seams and materials are strong throughout.
Indeed, the trousers and jacket are built for the long haul with an endless supply of ruggedness. Indeed, the vulnerable parts of the body benefit from the shielding of high-tear, wearing-resistant reinforcements. Specifically, 840D Cordura overlays in high abrasion zones (elbow, shoulder, lower rear, knees and lower inside leg), as well as 500D Cordura cuffs and adjustment straps.
Furthermore, heavy-duty leather inner thigh panels work wonders in achieving noticeable bike grip and further protection—not commonly found on other textile pants in today’s market. To my mind, clever construction represents a bonus to anyone wishing to connect to nature’s elements when in or out of the saddle. Such features elongate the longevity of, as well as justify the investment in premium priced riding apparel; you get what you pay for here.
Living with the suit
For me, the finishing touches distinguish a great riding ensemble from a fairly good one. The jacket is equipped with a micro-fleece lined collar, which feels comforting around my neck and I especially appreciate the off centre collar cinch. This eliminates any flapping in the wind when riding in warmer weather.
Held in equally high regard is the presence of the YKK zippers throughout; all of which are easy to open, placed between anti-snag fabric making them quick to open and close, and are housed beneath flaps that cover them. Hence, none pose any risk of leakage seeping in. I’ve also come to rely on the adjustable fastenings on the cuffs, seamlessly preventing any rude rushes of air from charging up the sleeves on a cool day. Perhaps the only thing missing from the jacket is a storm collar although a Buff or equivalent neck gaiter would take care of that.
One of the hallmarks for me is the breathable GORE-TEX Three-Layer and Two-Layer performance shell of the pants and jacket, respectively. The difference between the cake tiers is this: on the Three-Layer, the Gore membrane is bonded to both the outer fabric and an inner lining. This stops friction and movement, and consequently excess wear and tear across all layers of the laminate. Whereas a Two-Layer is simply two laminate components: an outer fabric and a GORE-TEX membrane. This provides high wearing comfort and maneuverability because the total thickness is generally lighter.
Namely it weather-seals each garment with the promise of “Guaranteed to keep you dry.” Between the zippers and GORE-TEX, rain, damp and moisture are all a non-issue. Gloriously, the suit stays free of taking on water while I remain dry without having to stop riding. Where other two-pieces dictate stopping to don an outer shell to weatherproof the riding gear, or undressing on the roadside to incorporate the waterproof liners when it’s bucketing down with rain, the Altitude requires neither. Permanently rainproof and windproof makes it supremely versatile, which is beyond favourable. It’s heaven sent.
For sure, decent vents go the extra mile when in hot and, or humid weather. The Altitude enjoys a wealth of openings to keep us sane in searing temperatures. There are two significantly sized openings on the front of the pants and likewise, a matching pair on the back of the thighs. As well as two respectable chest vents, two bicep arm intake vents and two vertical back exhaust vents on the jacket; all of which afford the suit with an unparalleled degree of ventilation. As suits go, this one is fantastic in warm environments.
As there are no thermal liners with the suit, comfort levels were challenged slightly in Alberta’s 5C (41F) enduring the wind chill on top, where a straight leg over a flared bootcut would have better suited such conditions. That said, the pants come into their own during sizzling temperatures, given the gusseted boot access zipper on top.
As someone that’s fond of having on-my-person access to: a supply of tissues, SPF lip balm, helmet lock, cash and credit card, paperwork and phone, the pockets on the jacket make fine provision for all such items. In addition to two hand pockets, there are five internal pockets: two zippered, two mesh stash and one hidden passport.
There’s even a small pocket on the left forearm, against which you’ll find an international emergency symbol. Inside the pocket, there’s information to register your jacket and details online. You’ll receive an ID card to stow in the forearm pocket, which can be swiped in any hospital around the globe, upon which they can access all your medical information, contacts and so forth. For sure, a unique selling point that will appeal to many solo women riders.
Although personally I like to stow my keys in my pants, the jacket’s storage compensates for the lack of any on the former. Conveniently, the openings to the armour in the suit are easily accessible too, housed in pockets that lock them in place. All thoughtful details that add on-the-road value and versatility.
Safety is paramount above all other features in a riding suit for me. Mindfully, the Altitude is loaded with the latest technology. The D30 Evo protection appears on the back, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees (the latter of which are adjustable); derived from a lightweight and protective material that according to D30 contains: “intelligent molecules that flow freely when moving but on shock lock together to absorb impact energy, instantly returning to their flexible state. D3O does not go hard when hit, the molecules lock together to absorb and spread the force, significantly reducing the effect of impact.” Whoa!
The resultant outcome is it keeps the major and most vulnerable parts of the body armed against any potential “offies,” spills or incidents, without compromising on comfort or movement. Coupled with the armour, which is removable for washing the suit, the 3M Scotchlite Reflective material detailing on the front and back of the suit all project excellent visibility at night—further adding to its protection from danger, risk or injury.
KLIM has made strong headway in streamlining the fit and finish of riding apparel for ladies astride their motorcycles. It’s a two-piece that articulates well on the bike. Fully featured, anyone with a lick of sense will find that it’s a solid suit, no matter what your biking style, riding discipline or environment. Without a moment’s notice, it steps up when the weather changes: keeping me cool and aerated in warm conditions or wind-proofed and dry come inclement weather.
What’s more, the jacket and pants reach impressive heights of workmanship, where mindful components of each really showcase the engineering and experience that have gone into it. KLIM designers have ensured the armour gives an assurance-to-your-family level of safety without restricting movement, staying functional at all times. Having lived in the suit for some time now, the Altitude also offers daylong comfort for all weather riding and without question, brings a refreshing style into the motorcycling realm.
As a nomadic traveller currently riding up and down the Americas, the suit represents as sound of an investment as one can make. Whatever your must haves: whether craving decent protection, good weatherproofing, a double dose of long-distance comfort or a great looking suit, the Altitude—utilizing them all—has become my preferred choice and doubtless will be for many years to come.
- Weather sealed—shedding the need for waterproof liners / over-suits.
- A comfortable American fit that accommodates the contours of the female form.
- Well ventilated.
- High performance shock absorption from D30 Evo armour.
- Rugged materials and construction throughout.
- Good flexibility.
- Wide bootcut invites draughts in cooler temperatures.
- Lack of storage on the pants.
KLIM sourced at Adventure-Spec (NB: International shipping available.)
Feedback from Klim USA:
In response to my consulting on a prototype women’s motorcycle suit: “Thank you for your feedback, always appreciated.” Technical Designer, Motorcycle Category KLIM Technical Riding Gear.