Way back in January of 2007, I bought a brand new, custom-fitted Aerostich Darien suit as part of my prep for an Alaska trip the coming spring. Looking back at the review I wrote in 2008 for that suit, I’m slightly ashamed (only slightly) of my cowardly description of breaking in the suit, “After wearing the Darien suit almost every day for two months, it became much more flexible.” Yeah, that’s not how I broke in my Darien. If you have never owned a new Aerostich suit, you might not believe me when I say their “abrasion-resistant Mil-spec 500 Denier Cordura®" is "stiff as a board," but it pretty much is. I have no idea how they fold those suits into a neat package because that stuff folds about as easily as a refrigerator box.
I had owned a very old Aerostich Roadcrafter before the Darien and I pretty much knew what I was getting into, even if that memory was more than 20 years old. I did ride to work a few times that winter and everything helps, but I’m going to admit to you in this rant how I really broke in my Darien during the winter of 2007. My grandson was about 11 at the time and he spent a lot of his weekends with us at our Little Canada house. Our backyard had a fairly two-tier steep cliff drop-off into Savage Lake and we sledded that hill often, even had large sledding parties when the snow was good enough and the lake was frozen solid. Most of the weekends between January and March that year, my grandson, my wife Elvy, and friends and family would bomb down that hill on sleds, snowboards, cardboard sheets,inner tubes, and I was right there with them in my Aerostich. Just me and that 500 Cordura and the Darien’s armor and the hill. I’d toss myself over the edge and slide on my back, belly and/or sides out on to the ice until that suit was as soft and pliable as it was ever going to be. I did not “wear the Darien” to break it in, I pounded the snot out of it. Not me, the suit. That tough material and terrific back, hip, shoulder, knee, and elbow padding and my helmet, gloves, and boots more than served the purpose of a sled and I got the suit broken in and ready to ride 13,000 miles that spring while having a terrific time being a maniac with my grandson.
In 2012, Icon gave me a really good deal on a pair of their Patrol Boots, which I reviewed for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly in 2013. I liked the boots quite a bit and wore them often for 2-3 years, but I never really liked either the hassle of latching up the dual adjustable stabilizer straps or getting my bunged up “Haglund’s deformity” heel past the section between the uppers and the inside of the boot. I’m old, I’ve never been particularly flexible, and the weird twisted position I have to get into to latch up the boots is a hassle. So, the boots have mostly sat in my closet ignored and unused for most of the 9 years I’ve owned them. I tried to give them away, but nobody wanted them. This year, my very old, very used Merrell winter boots rotted to pieces. I started looking for replacements, but a good winter boot is easily in the $100 territory and I’m unlikely to live long enough or walk far enough to justify a $100 boot. So, I drug out the Icons and, damn they are excellent winter boots: warm, water resistant, tough, and super comfortable; just not quite broken-in.
Remember the Darien break-in tactic? I’m going to abuse the snot out of these boots stomping around in the snow all winter. Next spring, if I survive (something a lot of us are saying in this COVID world), I hope to have them and me broken in enough that I use them on the motorcycle a lot.