Ah, the travails of finding decent bike touring equipment. Long distance cyclists usually come off more about asteroid miners, while monitor day junkies manage to look like badass leatherbound ninjas in the future. There is something intrinsically unsexy about jumpsuit-style ballistic nylon.
To fill this troublesome void, Palmer West and Jonah Smith moved from producing indie flicks like Requiem for a Dream to forming Aether Apparel, a Melrose Boulevard-based outerwear firm that works to strike a sweet place between strict function and sleek form. Aether’s Split motorcycle coat ($995) and Split bicycle pants ($695) would be the newest latest salvo at the predominantly dull bicycle traveling, so that I spent several hundred kilometers road-testing the armored set to determine if they are worth the steep price of entry.
That sense of cool that is intrinsic places them a few steps ahead of competitors whose bicycle equipment looks more like motorcycle equipment than minimalist outerwear.
Who It’s For: Style-conscious long distance bicycle riders that don’t mind paying a premium to get a functional jacket/pant combo equipped with abrasion resistance and proper, CE-certified armor.
Watch Out For: I’m 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, and I usually fit squarely into medium-sized moto gear. Aether’s website describes the Divide jacket and pants as fitting”true to size,” so I was amazed to discover the mediums longer and baggier than expected, especially thinking about the new modern ethos. A friendly salesperson at Aether’s LA flagship swapped those bits to get a little — among the first times I have found myself scaling down for a proper match. (At least the customer service has been exceptional.)
Alternatives: Aether’s most direct competitor is Dainese, the Italian brand that also occupies the rarified, expensive space where functionality does not kill fashion; their Gran Turismo jacket ($1,100) and trousers ($700) have a more colorful, technical appearance than the Aether Divide, but in addition provides a little more climatological versatility because of the bigger vented zippers. Klim’s Adventure Rally coat ($1,700–$1,800) and Badlands Professional trousers ($700–$720) demand a much higher cost of entrance, but are substantially more complicated, using a three-layer shell and built-in hydration system which make them worthy of round-the-world rides; afterward they look the part too. Alpinestars’ Revenant coat ($950) and trousers ($650) take the off-road motif seriously, offering an available Tech-Air airbag system for an added $1,150; their own Gordon Drystar Overcoat ($400) is much more philosophically similar to Aether, though not quite as stylish.
Review: Motorcycle travel gear is best evaluated under stressful circumstances, hell-or-high-water extremes that make for stories you’ll tell your grandkids. The twisting backroads between Los Angeles and Solvang are not exactly the things of Camel Trophy lore, but a rookie mistake did make for some remarkably challenging (and embarrassing) test terms: compelling my borrowed Honda Africa Twin uphill for half a mile and waiting two hours for a roadside services to deliver a splash of fuel.