Aerostich Darien Jacket Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
The Aerostich Darien is a nicely made jacket.
It can be hot in the summer.
The armor feels loose inside; the jacket does not have cinch straps on the arms.
The collar pulls at my skin and the jacket isn't as waterproof as I thought it would be.
It's also relatively expensive.
Stop by any BMW motorcycle dealer and chances are you'll see a few customers wearing Aerostich gear.
The Darien jacket is to BMW owners like black leather vests are to Harley riders -- it's a tribal identification thing.
A Darien jacket is oftentimes the first serious article of riding apparel that a motorcyclist will purchase.
It's quite an investment at nearly $500.00, but most riders justify the expense because the jacket will probably last a lifetime.
And unlike most of the imported brands, Aerostich products can be sent back to the factory for repairs, upgrades, or even laundering and waterproofing.
The Darien jacket certainly wasn't the first 3/4-length "Enduro" style jacket, but surely it's done more to popularize the type than anything since Belstaff's waxed cotton jacket, which has been around since even I started riding.
Unfortunately, the Aerostich styling has basically stayed the same while the rest of the world evolved, and (although I'm sure many will disagree with me) in my opinion, that's it's biggest drawback.
Sure, it's as purposeful as they come; there's not a pocket or stitch on it that isn't there for a reason. But can't we have just a little touch of verve here or there? Although some owners revel in the idea that onlookers will think they're wearing gear from the local Fire Department, the vast majority of motorcycle owners want something that pokes you in the eye when you see it.
Just take a look at any collection of motorcycle apparel and you'll see some pretty wild colors, cuts and patterns that appeal to the young at heart. Tell me when was the last time you saw a 20-year-old riding a sportbike in a Hi-Viz Darien?
Most Darien owners are fanatical about their jacket and the Aerostich brand. Some ride all the way up to the Minnesota wilds where the products are made just to tour the factory and get the on-site discount.
But my honest opinion is that although the Darien is well made and it probably will last a long time, there are many other jackets out there at half the price that could probably do just as good of a job at protecting your hide, with more and better features and styling that looks like it was laid down at least after 1950.
I purchased this Darien a couple of years ago, and for a while I wore it on almost every ride, winter and summer. But I became somewhat embarrassed by the questions and looks I'd get in the local eateries, and when cooler-looking (and cooler wearing) products came along, I all but abandoned the Darien for sexier styles.
I've come to realize that I'm probably not going to wear this jacket any more because I own others that are better suited for niche weather riding, and I figured I'd better relate my experiences with the Darien while my memory is still fresh.
One of the reasons many owners buy the Darien is because they think that it will be suitable for year 'round riding. I thought the same thing when I purchased mine, but I've long ago realized that there is not, and probably never will be, a single set of clothing that will work for riding a motorcycles 365 days of the year.
Unless you're willing to compromise way more than I, if you're serious about motorcycling, you're going to need several sets of clothes that are specifically designed for cold weather, hot weather and rainy day riding. In my younger days, a surplus leather jacket, jeans, work boots and leather farm gloves served the purpose most of the time.
But it's no longer 1968, and both motorcycles and motorcycle clothing are light years ahead of anything imaginable back then. We're in an age where technology can give us precisely what we want for almost every imaginable circumstance, and as one who embraces change, I say we might as well take advantage of it.
This isn't to say that the Darien isn't useful for a majority of the time. I'd say it's a 3-season jacket. Worn with some good quality thermal underwear, a sweater and a polar fleece lined nylon jacket, the Darien works well for cool and cold weather riding.
The Aerostich signature design is their development of some of the best venting you'll find anywhere on this type of jacket, with a unique pair of zippered underarm vents and full-length flap across the back that covers a zipper to allow air to exit out the back.
I'm not sure if they have a patent on this design or not, but I'm still amazed that no other motorcycle jacket manufacturers have copied this very successful layout.
The openings can be adjusted to suit the circumstances, and I almost always have the back open, even in the coldest weather, to vent any moisture and keep a little bit of air in circulation around the inside to prevent moisture from building up.
The problem arises when the weather turns warm. Let's face it -- probably something like 90% of all motorcycle riding is done in the summer, and my feeling is that summertime is when the Darien just doesn't work, especially since the evolution of mesh fabrics for motorcycle clothing.
Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we seem to go from winter to hot and sticky summer in an eye blink, and the Darien never ceases to make me feel like I'm riding in a steam bath.
I think part of the problem is the Gore-Tex liner; I'm not a big fan of Gore-Tex, because I've owned many products that use it and it never seems to breathe as well as the claims made for it.
The Gore-Tex liner is fused to the inside of the Darien, and when the weather gets even a little warm I can feel the sweat and moisture building up inside, even with all the vents wide open.
Other concerns of mine relate to the Darien's baggy shape. The hard TF2 armor that comes with the jacket seems reasonable enough, but if armor doesn't stay in place during a fall it can't do much protecting.
The combination of the baggy shape and the lack of a provision for tightening the sleeves to keep the armor in place give me a constant worry that the jacket won't protect me as well as it could.
I've found that the baggy sleeves also act as big wings that flop around in the breeze when I'm riding and actually feel like someone's beating on my arms. At certain speeds and especially with a cross-wind, the movement is not only tiring, it can actually move my arms so much that it feeds involuntary inputs to the handlebars.
This was a big enough problem on my old BMW K75 with it's turbulence-inducing windscreen that I sold the bike. The first time I put on a different style jacket that let me snug up the arms I was really amazed -- it felt like I had suddenly become a super aerodynamic wind foil and I swear it improved my riding.
I never found the Darien to be anywhere near as waterproof as claimed. When the jacket was nearly new, I got caught out in a summer rainstorm and I was shocked to find that the rain almost immediately seeped through and got me wet. A failure of the Gore-Tex? Who knows, but I never trusted it again in the rain.
I also found that Aerostich's sizing didn't quite work for me. I take about a size 43 men's street jacket, which admittedly puts me between the size L and XL on the Aerostich sizing chart.
But the large Darien was too tight when worn with their zip-in polar fleece liner, so I sent it back for an XL, which works with the liner but is too big otherwise. If you're planning on ordering one, my advice is to decide whether you're going to use it more in the winter or summer and size it accordingly.
Speaking of which, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't order the Aerostich polar fleece windbreaker liner. This option adds $130.00 to the price, and my feeling is that you'd be just as well off buying a polar fleece lined windbreaker from someplace like L.L. Bean or Land's End for probably half the price of the Aerostich brand.
Sure, an L.L. Bean "Warm-up Jacket" won't zip in to the Darien, but so what? Zipping in the liner is kind of a pain anyway, and when it's attached it doesn't seem to offer any extra insulation.
And the Aerostich liner comes in black only, while the other retailers have a variety of colors that also mean you can wear the liner alone without looking dorky.
One last thing - I found the collar of the Darien to be one of the worst I've ever experienced. There's something about the fabric that my skin just doesn't like.
I find that unless I'm perfectly clean shaven, which doesn't happen very often on the weekends, the collar catches the hairs on my neck and it really hurts. I have to wear some type of bandanna when I ride or I'll end up with a rash.
I guess it seems like I'm coming down pretty hard on the Darien, and I'm sure I'll take a bunch of flak from the jacket's devotees, but I still say that there are many other jackets out there that are more comfortable, with a snugger fit for the armor, and with much better styling for lots less money.
If you've got a comment, whether you agree or not, let me know and if it's not a rant, I'll append it to the bottom of this article.
|wBW Review: Aerostich Darien Motorcycle Jacket|
|Manufacturer: Aerostich||List Price (2004): $497.00 with liner|
|Colors: Red, Black, Grey, Blue, High-Visibility Yellow||Made In: U.S.A. and imported.|
|Sizing: S, M, L, XL, XXL, some customization.||Review Date: 2004?|
|More: Motorcycle Clothing Page | Comments from Darien owners (below)|
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From "B.K." (October 2012): "Just figured Iíd add a few comments of my own after a couple of years of wearing this jacket.
First off, I live in Minnesota, so I donít have as much hot weather riding experience as some. However, I have ridden with the jacket on in 95+ degree days on my ST1300, and remained comfortable. Iím not a fan of Gore-Tex either -- as stated in the review, it just never lives up to expectations and gets sticky in humid conditions, cold or hot. (Editor's Note: Gore-Tex has evolved quite a bit since this review was originally published and the latest versions are excellent.)
That being said, this jacket is quite comfortable at higher temps with some sort of slippery wicking material worn underneath.
I picked up some cheap workout shirts and pants from the local red circle in white circle label store, put these on under the Darien and my non-Gore-Tex-but-super-waterproof Joe Rocket (gear), went for a 500 miler on the ST and at 95+ degrees with all vents open and the cuff Velcro undone to ram air up the arms, stayed quite comfortable.
The slippery inner liner stops the jacket from sticking to your skin, makes a huge difference in the perceived and real comfort level of the jacket. In fact a few weeks later I rode with the jacket and a T-shirt in milder weather and was much less comfortable than on the hot day.
Today, started at 29 F, no electrics, just a non-branded fleece liner, comfortable enough for a half hour ride to work at freeway speeds. Anything longer or colder and Iíd be looking for an electric vest, but for this ride the jacket rocks.
The real downside to the jacket for me is the fact that the torso sizing only comes in short/reg/tall (along with the chest size). Iíve got long arms, short upper body, so needed a Long jacket to fit the sleeves. The problem is that the jacket body is now too long for my torso; I either sit on the back of it, pulling the neck down uncomfortably, or have the back protector hit the seat behind me and shove the back of the neck up into the helmet (Iíve already cut 2 inches off of the protector).
Or, I have to open the front zipper from the bottom so that the jacket flares over my legs and the seat back and then have the unzipped bottom jacket corners flap in the breeze. Fine in summer if you want to cool off, not great in cooler weather.
It would be nice if Aerostich had the same sizing options for the Darien as they have with the Roadcrafter and allow different sized torso/sleeve configuration.
Collar has never been an issue, seems theyíve upgraded that. As far as the arm straps go, I wonder if they donít leave those off intentionally to allow air flow up the sleeves in summer. I had the stretchy sleeve clips on another jacket and they were almost more annoying than useful. Too tight when clipped on, flapped around too much when not. A couple of small elastic webbing straps with clips would solve that issue; they should just throw in a couple of those into one of the pockets for this purpose. Oh well, next edition."
From "F.Z." (July 2012): "I just read your review of the Darien jacket and thought I would share a few comments with you.
First off, several of your criticisms have been addressed in the later models. I have a 2012 Darien Light and as in the last few years,, they now come in numerical sizes. While I wore a size Large in a regular Darien years ago, I now find that a size 42 fits me perfectly. They also have two cinch straps per arm.
The newest collar not only has ultrasuede lining, but has snaps in the rear so that you can fold it down in warmer weather and it will stay in place. In cooler weather or wet weather, simply unsnap them and it becomes a taller collar. The neatest trick is that they have two rare earth magnets in small Velcro pockets on each side of the collar so that you can keep it open or close securely.
I had a regular Darien in the mid 1990ísand it was fine, but this new Darien Light is wonderful in my opinion. I just returned from a 4500 mile trip on my Super Tenere and it worked great in temperatures from 39 to 110.
After trying unsuccessfully to find a suitable "modern" jacket that would be waterproof without having to stop and insert and additional liner and yet still vented well in warm weather, I found that the new Darien Light is the perfect jacket for me. You might take another look at one of their recent products.
I should mention that in that heat, ( 4 consecutive days at over 100 degrees) I found that being able to open up the cuffs and leaving the arm cinch straps in their loosest setting worked best. I opened the under arm vents and the back vent and air would flow up the sleeves well.
My previous jacket, a Tourmaster Transition 2 (review) on the other hand, has sleeves that fit so snugly that air cannot flow up them.
I also found that there is a big difference in heat effect at 100 degrees and 110 degrees. At 100 I could open my helmet visor slightly for some cooling ventilation, but at 110 I had to keep it closed. Also my vented gloves were best kept behind my hand guards, as the hot wind would burn at those temps.
My son had a mesh jacket and had to put a light windbreaker on over it, as the higher temps were just too hot for that type of jacket. The Darien Light protected me from the hot wind blast, yet allowed some cooling air flow."
From "G.G.": "First off, I want to thank you for a great website. The reviews and articles you have online put forth the image of just an ordinary motorcycling enthusiast, hell-bent on enjoying a ride and sharing a story, instead of an overly edited magazine writer with advertisers to placate. Great reading!
I am, as you say, one of the Darienís ďdevoteesĒ. I must admit, I agree with much you have to say about this jacket. Your statements concerning the *awful* collar, the wide (but still limited) temperature range, the overly utilitarian styling, and the unnecessary liner are pretty much spot-on.
However, I do want to add on some comments and say that there is definitely a place in a riderís closet for this garment, provided his needs are compatible with the Darienís features.
Before I start, a little background. Iíve owned the gray-colored Darien jacket without the optional liner (with the standard black Darien pants) for three years, through all kinds of weather. I bought it during the special anniversary promotion, so I got the back pad for free (which should be included in the cost regardless -- I would not have purchased this jacket otherwise, quite frankly). Iím 21 and ride a 2002 Suzuki GS500. So I donít quite match the description of the hypothetical young whippersnapper in your article, but thatís neither here nor there.
Anyway, down to business. Letís start from the top. The collar. Yes, I find the collar to be quite horrific, and why Aerostich has not employed an ultra-suede collar in the Darien, when they use a very good one in their own Roadcrafter, is as beyond me as the deepest mysteries of the universe.
However, I have improvised two solutions to this problem; I either layer underneath with a high-collared fleece jacket or neck band, or I crease the collar down, shirt style. Anyone who orders this jacket should immediately clothespin a crease on the collar to eliminate the chafing that will develop otherwise.
Next comes the waterproof Gore-Tex inner laminate. I donít know what problems your particular jacket had, but my Darien is the most waterproof garment I own, next to my PVC rain suit. Iíve ridden in day-long drizzles and hour-long thunderous cloudbursts with nary a drop of water on my torso and arms when Iíve had this jacket on.
In extended rain, Iíve had some clamminess build up inside, but thatís about the worst it ever got for me. The Darien is designed to be waterproof (as opposed to the Roadcrafter whose zipper, as Aerostich claims, compromises waterproofing for convenience).
Anyone who gets a Darien that leaks should send it back immediately; this jacket costs quite a bit and customers should get their moneyís worth. (My previous transactions with the manufacturer strongly suggest that they would be more than happy to do this.)
The styling probably should get a mention, as it is pretty ho-hum. Most people who comment on this jacket wonder if Iím about to go skiing somewhere. Probably no motorcycling jacket in production gives off less of a ďbiker dudeĒ aura than the Aerostich Darien.
It doesnít really bother me much personally, but anyone who strongly wants a colorful, sleek-looking jacket should look elsewhere (even the Roadcrafter is downright svelte compared to the baggy Darien).
Iíll mention the pockets in passing, because they are just so cool. No other jacket Iíve tried can fit a magazine, a bandanna, a wallet, a map, four candy bars, a small, soft, water bottle, and a six pairs of earplugs with such ease. If it werenít for my camera, cell phone, multi-tool, rock collection, etc., Iíd never use my tank bag.
Moving on, we come to the jacketís bulkiness -- even if you buy the ďcorrectĒ size sans liner, youíd be surprised at how much extra ďflapĒ the jacket has. This is probably the biggest issue of the Darien--why all the room? Well, it is both a strength and a weakness, in my book.
With extra room under the jacket, it is easy to layer -- Iíve worn a thermal skiing underlayer, a long-sleeved shirt, and a thick ď200-weightĒ windblock fleece jacket underneath this garment with just enough room to allow freedom of movement -- a setup good for highway riding on an unfaired bike near the freezing point.
This cold-weather versatility, though, reduces its usefulness in the heat. Sometimes I wonder about the armorís security in a crash when Iím not stuffed with layers, and the flapping punishes me a bit when Iím going into a headwind or crosswind.
So, why buy the Darien? Itís a good jacket, but it doesnít seem so great -- especially with the high flying price tag. Knowing that, allow me to appeal to the jacketís versatility.
Iíve worn it on 1000+ mile trips, in conditions as widespread as sub-freezing mountain roads and scorching low-lying deserts within a couple of hours of each other. While optimized for cooler weather, the Darien is the jacket I rely on to get me through long trips where I can only pack one set of gear (except gloves, I always pack a million gloves).
I own mesh, I own leather, and both serve their purposes very well -- however, they arenít really worth the space when all Iíve got to work with is a tail trunk and a bungeed duffel bag for storage. For brief rides, or even day-long jaunts, I always wear the set of gear thatís best for the conditions I expect to encounter.
But for extended trips, cooler weather, or when in doubt of what the weather gods hold in store, I always wear the Aerostich, which, sans the innumerable bugs which have met their deaths on the 500-denier Cordura, still looks and feels as though I have just broken it in.
When the time comes to replace this thing, Iíll probably opt for a snugger, prettier jacket and use a heated garment for the cold, but I donít really regret buying the Darien -- itíll serve me for a good long time."
From "M.M.": "I own 2 BMW's and always wondered about the BMW/Aerostich connection. When searching for the perfect synthetic riding pants a few years ago, I settled on the Darien's for reputation, features and functionality. I'd have to say I'm very happy with them.
However, I cannot bring myself to get the matching Darien jacket. You said it best: "Unfortunately, the Aerostich styling has basically stayed the same while the rest of the world evolved, and (although I'm sure many will disagree with me) in my opinion, that's it's biggest drawback."
I just can't bring myself to plunk down top dollar for bad style."
From "R.L.": "First time I ever used webBikeWorld and I wish to congratulate you and your team; how well put together and informative. I chose a new helmet (OGK FF4) after reading your reviews and insight.
However, my comments are on another product, that being the Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants. I read your review on the Darien out of interest to see what you would have to say.
While I agree with your comments about styling lets face it, when faced with riding through a major rain event who gives a ..... what you look like. Not more than a week after I purchased my Jacket I rode through three states coming back from the Harley 100th in torrential rain and stayed completely dry (also thanks to Cruiserworks boots).
The neck fitting of the jacket was comfortable and dry, remarkably well designed. I did not suffer from any leakage, period. Bottom line was I was totally amazed by the Darien Pants and Jacket which is why I felt compelled to write.
Since then I have used the Darien on numerous occasions (although not quite as severe) with the same result every time. I live in South Florida and have found them comfortable in hot weather rain riding, the vents keep you both cool and dry. I suppose I am lucky because I do not have to where the "ugly" jacket as a permanent article of clothing in cold weather.
However, the Darien pants are so comfortable I where them all the time to go out on long hot day rides, the beauty being that when one runs in to a summer rain storm there is no scrambling to get waterproofs on, I simply pull the jacket out of my pack, slip it on and off I go again.
Actually the pants are pretty cool looking (as apposed to the jacket). The pants do tend to get hot, but you can unzip the sides to gain ventilation as long as you don't ride too fast; the flapping will whip you skin numb.
One other plus with the Areostitch is the fantastic reflective parts on both the jacket and pants. I have had other riders comment that they are blinding at night, a very good safety feature.
Anyway, just wanted to give my review of the Darien. I would highly recommend them to anyone. Aerostich seems to be a very solid company, great product range for motorcyclist, fantastic quality, great service and even a repair service should you bite the dust."