I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: women don’t have a “handicap” or “special needs” astride their motorcycles. We do, however, require a suit that fits 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. And with all due respect to anyone that can pull off the bubblegum pink, craving a suit that doesn’t look like it’s been in contact with a bucket of fairy dust. I’ve been on the road to test the Rukka Flexina—riding in the deep-seated hopes that it would exceed my expectations, wants and needs as a long distance female motorcyclist.
Over an 8,000-mile assessment on and off road in Mexico, the States and Canada, the elements have had the nonstop pleasure of putting the Flexina through its paces. Testing it in myriad conditions from three days of sandblasting gusts on the Baja Peninsula, Kanab’s sleeting snow and downpours that froze on impact en route to Flagstaff, to name a few. Among temperatures comprising a nippy sub-zero to a searing 103F at Furnace Creek, the spot that holds the world’s hottest record.
With my curiosity antennae up to determine whether the three season suit could respectably hold its own while in search for whales on Baja California, before making a sweeping circuit of the southern states—spanning 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley, up to just shy of 7,000 feet in the mountainous regions of Arizona—and then as far north as Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory’s chilly springtime, concluded my 7-month examination.
Daylong rides in the saddle on the blacktop and pockets of uneven terrain have contributed to the decision if Rukka genuinely does justice in customising the suit for the female form, upholding their reputation, perhaps better known in the European adventure motorcycling arena.
Fit, cut and aesthetics
As a slim rider at 5’ 5” the Finnish-made suit is a European fit working with my contours and curves. Unlike the methods used in a handful of culprits still out there, my body can vouch that the Flexina is a world apart from donning a men’s suit where a few inches have been added or removed, here and there. A far cry from previous ones I’ve worn, the Flexina is not masculine. It’s anything but bulky, nor does it billow or look like I’ve come dressed in my partner’s riding garb. Heck, it’s stylish even and the compliments received are testament to that.
Although personal tastes for the jacket err on lighter colours such as the pale grey, as opposed to the heat-absorbing black with red panels, black with yellow applications or plain black, which of course hide the dirt far better. (The trousers only come in black.)
Prior to ascertaining the suit, I submitted 17 measurements from neck to ankle to ensure the best off-the-peg fit (see Rukka’s sizing chart). Whether I’m standing on the foot pegs or sitting, the jacket fits my body perfectly. Rukka presents the jacket as womenswear in a range of regular sizes (European sizes 34 through 46), where it factors in the gender difference in circumference of the chest and upper arm.
Although I’m not particularly long-armed, the sleeves adequately accommodate their length, which reach to my wrists when my arms are extended and slightly bent while riding. Rukka has gone to considerable lengths in the cut, fit and fastenings—as we’ve come to expect from any suit worth its salt: to eliminate flapping in the wind and ensure the armour stays in place. For instance, a body hugging fit throughout coupled with the width adjustment on the upper arm—permitting a snug fit to my pipe cleaner arms into the bargain—achieves just that. How considerate for the smaller rider.
Wonderfully, the trousers are not too wide in the leg or baggy in the backside. High waisted to prevent chilly draughts racing up and down my back, the waist closure has a double fastening (with a zip and Velcro strap)—hugging my waist while maintaining the room to feast on plenty of sustenance during the ride day. The trousers accommodate the shorter leg length (available in European 38 through 46 short), which to my mind, is congruent with the fact that women are shorter than men on average. And there’s almost as many in long as the regular versions (European 36 through 42 extra long).
Chiefly a traveller and motorcyclist second, there are times on the road when it’s impractical to abandon my motorcycle gear in order to experience something interesting off the bike on foot. Hiking a couple of miles to Delicate Arch in Utah over rocky terrain; traversing if not sliding my way through a series of slot canyons around Page, Arizona; and clambering up and down big boulders at Joshua Tree National Park, California, proved easy endeavours. The trousers are built for the long haul with an endless supply of ruggedness. The vulnerable parts of the body against the suit enjoy the shielding of high-tear, abrasion-resistant reinforcements and MC-approved Cordura Stretch 500, which is a double-duty bonus to anyone wishing to connect to nature’s elements when in or out of the saddle.
Living with the suit
For me, the finishing touches distinguish a good suit from a great one: the seams throughout are strong, the neoprene collar feels comforting around my neck and I especially appreciate the plastic zips; all of which are easy to open, placed between anti-snag fabric and quick to close. Furthermore, the connecting zipper on the trousers to the jacket is covered with a flap of fabric, so it doesn’t pose extra risk of injury in a crash.
I’ve come to rely on the adjustable fastenings on the cuffs, seamlessly preventing the draughts from charging up the sleeves on a cool day, as does the jacket’s inner red zip and removable neck gaiter (known as the storm collar), made from an elastic Gore-Tex Stretch three-layer laminate material.
Perhaps the finale feature for me is the breathable, waterproof Z-liner, a Gore-Tex membrane fixed in each garment. At all times the suits stays free of taking on moisture while I remain dry without having to stop riding, which when it’s particularly hot or cold, is beyond convenient. It’s heaven sent. Where other suits dictate stopping to don an outer shell to waterproof the armoured jacket, or undressing on the roadside to incorporate the weatherproof liners when it’s bucketing down with rain, the Flexina requires neither. Permanently rainproof and windproof makes it supremely versatile.
Openings on the thighs and a long two-way zipper on each of the jacket sides afford the suit a degree of ventilation in warm weather. As suits go, this one is geared slightly more for spring, autumn and winter riding. Comfort levels were challenged in temperatures around 100F in Death Valley where a lighter coloured mesh suit / moto-cross exoskeletal system would have better suited such extreme conditions. Granted, it’s nigh on impossible to achieve a suit akin to a one-stop shop for all environments.
Contentment however is always reached in cooler conditions, where the suit comes with detachable quilted liners for the jacket and trousers, comprising 60 grams of plush insulation and Outlast® for temperature regulation. The Flexina came into its own during cold temperatures with the wind chill on top, particularly during long, unforgiving days in the saddle through Canada’s springtime.
Aided by the Rukka AirCushion on the inside of the trousers performing as a climate buffer, and Antiglide trim system of Keprotec on the outside seating area—facilitating a comfy ride and secure hold in the saddle respectively, certainly during the 1,500 mile stint through BC and the Yukon in six days.
As someone that enjoys having on-my-person easy reach to a supply of tissues, lip salve, helmet lock, lint cloth, loose change, my papers and mobile phone, the two non-waterproof exterior pockets on the jacket and trousers, as well as two discreet waterproof pockets inside the jacket, accommodate all such items. There’s one pocket in the detachable insulating liner and the neck gaiter can be accessed or neatly stowed where the back plate is situated. Conveniently, the openings to the armour in the lower leg and back are zipped on the outside without compromising the suit’s weatherproofness. All thoughtful details that add on-the-road value and versatility.
Safety is paramount above all other features in a motorcycle suit for me. The Flexina is loaded with securely fastened, D30 Air back and limb protectors: derived from a protective material that essentially produces high performance shock absorption and impact protection.
The material exceeds basic CE protection for impact and 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 Air does not go hard when hit, the molecules lock together to absorb and spread the force, significantly reducing the effect of impact.” The resultant outcome is it keeps my back, shoulders, elbows, arms, hips, knees and shins armed against any potential ‘offies’ or incidents, while ensuring flexibility without restricting comfort or movement.
Coupled with the integrated armour, the laminated reflective detailing on the front, back, upper arms and trousers all project excellent visibility at night in the oncoming headlights, further adding to its protection from danger, risk or injury.
Constructed from a combination of leather and Cordura, the Vilma gloves offer all the desired detail-oriented and high quality features: knuckle protection made of carbon, as well as scaphoid protection with a moulded PVC/carbon mix. They are fully waterproof, windproof and breathable giving ample comfort in temperatures ranging 60F upwards, have top touch sensitivity for control with Gore-Tex X-Trafit technology and a convenient visor wiper built in the left hand. As non-winter riding gloves go, they do the job amply.
Rukka has made strong headway in recognition of making apparel for ladies astride their two-wheel steeds, the more apparent we become. Maximum protection, functionality and optimal comfort are paramount within the Flexina without compromising on fit, which makes it a joy to ride and manoeuvre in. Fully featured with a close fit, anyone with a lick of consciousness will find that it’s a solid suit, no matter what your riding style.
In a nutshell, it’s a suit that articulates well on the bike and for me constitutes the perfect travelling companion. Without a moment’s notice, it steps up when the weather changes: keeping me cool and fairly well ventilated in warm conditions—the cooling capacity being the only minor reservation I have in searing temperatures. Or, come inclement conditions as frequently encountered, keeping me consistently wind-proofed, toasty and dry.
The jacket and trousers reach impressive heights of workmanship, where the specialty features really showcase the engineering and experience that have gone into it. Indeed, Rukka’s designers have ensured the armour gives an assurance-to-your-family level of safety without compromising movement, staying functional at all times. Having lived in the suit for some time now, the Flexina doesn’t just protect the body; it offers daylong comfort for three-season riding and I happily admit, brings a refreshing style into the adventure motorcycling realm.
As a nomadic traveller currently riding towards Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the Flexina represents as sound of an investment as one can make. Whatever your must haves, whether craving decent protection, absolute weatherproofing, a double dose of long-distance comfort and, or a great looking, body hugging suit, the Flexina—filled with all those features—is my preferred choice and doubtless will be for many years to come.
- 100 per cent weather sealed—shedding the need for waterproof liners or over-suits.
- A figure-flattering European fit accommodates the contours of the female form.
- High performance shock absorption from D30 armour.
- Rugged materials throughout.
- Good flexibility.
- Limited ventilation in hot temperatures.
- Limited options for plus-size riders.