Aug 6, 2011

Product Review: Aerostich A.D.1. Pants

Early this spring, I thought my 5-year-old Darien pants had been stolen from my car. There seemed to be no other explanation, since I'd recently piled all of my gear in the car when I went to pick up my newest two-wheel acquisition. It turned out that my wife had bundled the pants up, hauled them into her sewing area for a minor repair, and forgot about them.

[Picture at left: This is what a  brand new, un-abused pair of Aerostich AD1 pants looks like when modeled by the Invisible Man. (Aerostich photo)]

After searching the usual storage places a dozen times I gave up and visited my local motorcycle accessory store to buy a cheap replacement. I usually punish myself for being stupid (losing the pants, for example) by buying a crummier version of whatever I've lost. That was my theory this time, too. I looked at First Gear, Tourmaster, Icon, Alpinestars, Joe Rocket, and the rest of the usual suspects and learned that I am spoiled. The difference between the imitations and the real thing, Aerostich, is subtle but massive. For as little as $120 I could have had more pockets, a zip-out liner, an MP3 player pocket, and probably an insulated cup-holder with any of the above brands, but the zippers were lightweight, the material is flimsy, and the construction quality and workmanship is not even in the territory. So, off to Duluth we went for a "winter vacation" and a visit to the RiderWearHouse.

Looking for a deal, I found a pair of Roadcrafter pants that fit perfectly. I bought them, took them home, and discovered they were too perfect. I have a toad-like body and the Roadcrafter's attempt to make me look streamlined resulted in a fit around my thighs and calves that could be politely described as "snug." After a few hours around the house, I began to feel like Roddy McDowell in Arnold. When we found my old Darien pants, it was obvious how uncomfortable I'd be in the Roadcrafters. Taking advantage of Aerostich's money back offer, I traded the Roadcrafters for a pair of AD1 pants. (AD1 is for "Asian Darien 1," as the AD1 pants are the first US-designed, off-shore-manufactured Aerostich product.)

Like the lower priced competition, the AD1 pants are loaded with pockets (5), including a waterproof zippered "cargo pocket" and hook-and-loop secured cover flaps on all front pockets. No more lost billfold in the campground when I hang my riding pants out to dry. Unlike the competition, the HT600 denier nylon (up from the standard Darien's 500 Denier Cordura®) is tough and the oversized and durable zippers are classic Aerostich. The AD1 pants are a closer fit than my old Dariens, but the knee and crotch gusseting makes them at least as flexible right from the start.

One of the things I have always hated about most nylon motorcycle clothing is that god-awful flimsy perforated nylon inner lining that snags on boot heels and anything else with an edge and is usually torn to shreds after a few uses. The Aerostich gear is lined with smooth and durable GORE-TEX® nylon that holds up and is easy to get in and out of, regardless of the abuse I heap on it when I'm tired, hurting, and grumpy after a day's ride or a bad night's sleep. GORE-TEX® works, by the way. I have ridden in downpours in my Darien gear and the few leaks I discovered in my old Dariens are plugged in the AD1s; the gusset behind the fly being the best idea since the pocket knife.

The single most valuable improvement I can suggest for the AD1's would be double-height hook pads for the knee pad mounting. The current pad position works for some people and, according to the company's reviews page, works badly for a few of us. I realize that my troll-dimensioned body represents a one-man counterargument for Intelligent Design, but there appear to be a few of us out there based on the company's website reviews. I'm cautious about the supplied money belt, too. I've had an Eagle Creek (from REI) money belt that uses the same nylon buckle and it has been fragile, to put it mildly. The Darien belt's side-release buckle has been bulletproof for 60k miles and if it ain't broke, I say "keep it."

Many things farmed to Asia are well-designed but suffer workmanship flaws. My AD1 pants were no exception. The fly zipper began to disintegrate at the bottom because the stitch missed the zipper tape. Not something that would pass any part of the Made in USA Aerostich process, but something Aerostich will have to inspect for with the Asian product. Aerostich repaired the broken zipper for free and got the pants back to me in record time.

After three months of cold weather riding, a long hot summer, and two options for riding pants, I found myself almost always opting for the AD1's. The pocket security is a big deal; having lost keys, a billfold, earplugs, a retirement plan worth of spare change, receipts, and a sense of personal security to the slippery front and rear pockets of my old Darien pants. The crotch and knee gusseting makes the stretch on to my bikes easier. I haven't used the extra pockets much, but it's nice to have them. The AD1's are somehow more comfortable than my well-broken-in Darien pants that were specially tailored to my troll dimensions. It could be that familiarity is simply breeding contempt, but I'm feeling the beginning of a new long-term relationship.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that review. I've been eyeing the AD1s to replace some rapidly deteriorating cheapo pants. Maybe this is a strange question, but how grippy is the seat material? I find my current cheapo pants too slippery on the seat for my taste. I like a bit of grip in that area.

T.W. Day said...

I've seen pants with a rubbery butt pad, but the AD1's are the same material everywhere. The stuff Aerostich uses is not slippery, like the lighter nylon ICON, for example, uses. I'd put it more in the denim category, friction-wise.

Anonymous said...

Denim is about right. How are they in the heat--any ventilation? Thanks.

T.W. Day said...

They are watertight, so any ventilation changes that quality. But the side zippers go all the way to the top of the pants, so I lower mine 4-10" at the top for ventilation in really hot weather. The Goretex breathes and the pants are comfortable with just biking shorts underneath. If you're using them as overpants, whatever you're wearing underneath will probably set your ventilation baseline.