The AGV Sport Willow leather suit is the "sleeper" of the AGV Sport 2011 lineup.
It has nearly all of the features of higher-end one-piece leather suits at half the price and it makes an excellent rack day or sport riding outfit.
The design of the Willow suit has been smartly executed, with expansion panels located in just the right places making it about as comfortable as you'll find in a one-piece leather suit with this level of protection.
It also features high-quality construction techniques, thick leather and CE-approved armor in all the right places.
The original plan for this review was to present a review of a reasonably-priced track day outfit, consisting of all new-for-2011 gear including the AGV Sport Willow one-piece suit, the matching AGV Sport Willow gloves (review), the new Sidi ST boots and the 2011 version of the Vemar Eclipse helmet.
Unfortunately, weather, scheduling conflicts, delivery schedule and other events conspired against a simultaneous publishing release, so rather than delay the review any further, we'll start with the Willow suit and the rest will follow in a series.
It takes a huge amount of time to create a single webBikeWorld review, and publishing two, three or more simultaneously is very difficult...which is one of the reasons we don't have many comparisons.
It would be relatively easy to simply list the specs for each product, pick a winner and call it a comparison, but that is definitely not the webBikeWorld way.
So here forthwith is our review of the AGV Sport Willow one-piece leather suit, with the rest to follow.
It's been a while since we reviewed a one-piece leather motorcycle race suit. The GiMoto suit review detailed the pros and cons of ordering a custom-fitted suit, while the Lookwell Leathers "Viper" (review) off-the-rack suit is (was) a close competitor of the AGV Sport Willow.
Lookwell USA is apparently still in business, but their list of dealers is outdated, with broken links and retailers that don't actually carry the products, so it's not clear if that product is even available. The only reason I bring it up is because it's the only other leather one-piece suit reviewed on webBikeWorld that can be compared to the AGV Sport Willow.
No matter, because the 2011 AGV Sport Willow suit can be found at a street price that is less than the cost of a Lookwell Viper suit from 6 years ago...and the Willow is an altogether better suit in just about every way.
In fact, at its current street price of $540.00 (the list price is $599.00), the Willow is a certified bargain. Many motorcyclists will easily spend that much on a textile jacket and pants and even a few high-end helmets cost as much or more.
One- and two-piece leather suits aren't that popular with street riders in the U.S., at least in my neck of the woods. I'm not sure I can even remember the last time I saw a motorcycle rider wearing a set of one- or even two-piece leathers.
Maybe it's the perception that leathers cost too much, or the general disdain for wearing protective gear by motorcycle riders in the U.S. Or it could be the narrower comfort range provided by leather -- especially a one-piece suit.
But it's pretty hard to beat a good leather outfit for the ultimate in riding protection.
There is one place where leather is nearly a requirement though -- the track day. Which brings us to the AGV Sport Willow leather suit. It's a perfect solution for the first-time track day rider, the occasional track day goer or even an experienced rider who is beyond the need to satisfy the ego by wearing only luxe-brand logos at his or her regular track day outings.
You can easily spend $1,500.00 on a leather one-piece suit and $2,500.00 to $3,000.00 off-the-rack suits are not unusual. Does the extra money buy you all that much more?
The more expensive suits may use specially treated leather that's a bit more plush, and the cut and styling is certainly different. Added safety features and metal protective bits can also be found, along with fancy graphics and stylish touches of color.
But those obvious and sometimes non-functional differences aside, you'd have to carefully study the specs to determine what's really going to make a difference between the AGV Sport Willow suit and one costing two, three or more times as much.
Want an example? All you have to do is look at the three leather suits in the current AGV Sport lineup. I had to print out the features list of the AGV Sport Laguna ($999.00 list) and Monza ($799.00 list) to compare to the $600.00 list price Willow suit to figure out the differences.
The answer? Not much.
The size 54 Euro (44 US) Willow suit shown here is 14 lbs. of prime cowhide, 1.2 mm thick in the body and 1.4 mm thick in the impact areas. Wearing it is like climbing inside the empty skin of Ferdinand the Bull. The only thing more protective that this is a suit of knight's armor.
But with all that, it's actually pretty comfy. In fact, it's certainly the most comfortable one-piece leather suit I've worn, despite the slight race cut which feels awkward until you straddle a bike.
In fact, this is why I'm calling the Willow suit the "sleeper" of the AGV Sport lineup. It's supposed to be the entry-level suit, but in reality, this makes it much more...suitable...for track day events or street/sport riding.
The reason is the addition of flex zones in the Willow suit compared to the others. I think the temptation is for many boy-racers to want the coolest, baddest, most hard-core leather suit to be found for track days. After all, you're going to the track, you need to look like Valentino Rossi, right?
But for anyone other than The Doctor -- and that means 99.99999% of the rest of us, a no-compromises race suit is probably more of a hindrance than a necessity.
I don't know about you, but I'm long past my fighting trim days. Track day riders -- even track day addicts -- live in the real world, with training regimens amounting to a few push-ups the night before the event and one less Twinkie for dessert. Which means you'll be needing that extra flexibility offered by the Willow.
Whoever designed this suit knew what they were doing, unlike some of the less expensive leather and textile motorcycle gear to be found. It's not enough to make something look like it's for riding a motorcycle; it has to function correctly, and that's usually the main difference between the products offered by companies who have been around a while and no-name mushroom brands.
The flex panels are all in the right places on the Willow suit, including a large expandable waist panel consisting of pleated leather at the lower back. This alone makes a big difference to the rest of us who aren't racers. Smaller flex panels are located just above the elbows, which also create a more realistic fit for the Willow suit.
The back of the legs, the arms and the crotch feature sections of an elastic Kevlar textile material which also adds noticeable stretch and comfort. This helps the suit fit better over "irregularly" shaped bodies of mere mortals, while keeping the fit correct for maximum protection.
This size 44 fits my 5' 10" frame nearly perfectly, which is a surprise in and of itself. In the past, I almost never fit into standard sizes; large was too small and XL was too big. Then I lost about 20 lbs. a year ago and discovered my more normal shape at around 182 lbs. was much more compatible with standard motorcycle clothing sizes -- strong motivation to stick with the low carb, low glycemic lifestyle!
So although the Willow suit is American generous and not European slim (although those distinctions are almost irrelevant in 2011), if you're too far outside the range of the size chart (i.e., a big gut), you're probably going to have a problem with fit.
Note that the Motonation (the U.S. distributor) size chart lists the suits in their U.S. sizes; they list the size 44 suit as fitting a 42-43" chest; a 36-37" waist; a 35.5" sleeve and a 32.5" inseam. Those last two numbers are the actual lengths of the suit, and the added length is needed to account for the riding position.
I have a 35" waist, 24" sleeve and about a 30.5" inseam, and the Willow suit fits. The legs are slightly long, but they can be stuffed into the (very nice) Sidi ST boots, which, by the way, are sort of a cross between the no-compromise Sidi Vortice boots (review) and the Sidi Fusion boots (review).
Just as an aside, the ST boots are much easier to live with than the Vortice boots for daily use, with an easier entry system, while still providing some of the best protection to be found in a pair of motorcycle race boots.
The torso length of the Willow suit is about an inch too short for me, although this is more noticeable when standing than when sitting on the bike. But the only fix for this would be a custom-made suit, which could hike the price significantly.
If I remove the thin foam back protector in the pocket in back of the suit, I can wear the Forcefield Pro Sub 4 (review) with the Willow suit, but I wouldn't mind an extra bit of room back there. I think the "speed hump" affects the way the leather is cut at the rear, and I'm not sure if a speed hump really does anything for the average Joe or if it's just an affectation (although AGV Sport says the hump offers added protection).
One of the reasons leather isn't as popular as textiles is the fact that leather generally has a much narrower temperature comfort range. Strap on a one-piece, non-perforated leather suit and you'll lose 3 lbs. in sweat as you're walking out to the bike. So make my leather perforated, thank you.
The Willow comes that way and that way only, so that's a plus in my book. The suit is fully lined with a permanently attached mesh fabric, but nothing blocks the air from flowing through the perforated leather that covers the chest and stomach all the way down to the crotch; the inside of the legs and the back of the arms.
Some riders have concerns about the tear strength of perforated vs. non-perforated leather, and this may be valid. The perforated sections of leather on the Willow suit do feel a little thinner than the non-perforated sections. It's possible that the perforations make the leather more pliable. The perforated sections are not covering the impact areas however, so the tradeoff for cooler riding comfort is reasonable.
The suit can make me feel pretty warm when I'm standing around in the sun, but as soon as the bike gains some momentum, the cooling effect feels great (especially as the sweat evaporates!).
I definitely recommend that you forget about wearing cotton underwear with leather, as it will get soaking wet in no time and it feels awful. Invest in a set of moisture-wicking undies (reviews) as a base layer and forget the Fruit of the Loom stuff and you'll feel much better.
An air scoop is located at the top of each shoulder, and lo and behold, they actually work! I can feel the air flowing in, even at not-too-fast speeds. This helps to keep the back of the suit cool, although the effect is somewhat mitigated when wearing a back protector.
So overall, the Willow suit has excellent ventilation -- especially for a one-piece leather suit. It's enough to make me almost too cool in sub-70-degree weather. That's an easy problem to resolve though -- just wear a wind-blocking vest.
A leather suit is all about protection, and the Willow has it. Besides the thick cowhide described above, the stitching is mostly doubled or more, with rolled edges and very nicely done seams. In fact, the overall construction and stitching is way better than you'd expect for the price and it's certainly much better than any of the no-name suits I've seen.
The Willow suit has CE-approved, full-sized armor in the knees/shins, elbows and shoulders. It feels thicker and more protective than most of the half-pint stuff used in touring gear, yet the nice thing about the tailoring is that the leather is cut to accommodate the race-style armor.
One other difference between the less-expensive Willow suit and its AGV Sport companion suits is in the amount of additional padding and its placement.
The Willow suit has a few padded leather sections, including over the tailbone and at the upper part of the chest. The more expensive suits have metal protectors on the shoulders and some different styling features that look good but I'm not sure how much added functionality they offer.
It would be nice if AGV Sport partnered with Forcefield or Bohn or Knox or someone to offer an optional back protector made to fit the suit, because that's really the only thing missing. But there are plenty of options available and you can learn about them in our motorcycle back protector reviews.
Another nice touch is the big YKK two-way zipper used in the Willow suit. This is unusual in any suit, and especially welcome in this price range. The zipper has big pull tabs and the bottom tab can be pulled up to allow for bathroom breaks, although the ease with which this can be executed will depend on the fit and shape of the rider.
The bottom of the zipper run has a leather cover to hide the large zipper pull and prevent it from getting in the way or scratching the paint on the fuel tank.
Single YKK zippers open the inside of the sleeves and the cuffs are secured with a narrow strip of hook-and-loop. Another strip secures the zipper at the neck.
The AGV Sport logos are reflective, and the suit has some reflective piping around the speed hump in the back, also a nice touch. The suit comes with big replaceable knee sliders.
The zippers at the lower legs are located on the inside. The collar is lined with neoprene, which adds comfort.
The AGV Sport Willow suit is a high-quality protective garment that looks good and feels comfortable. In this price range, I'm not sure you can beat it for off-the-rack features and fit.
I honestly don't feel that I'm losing much in protection and, in fact, it's difficult to see what the extra money buys. I own three one-piece leather suits and the Willow definitely has the best cost/value ratio of the bunch. I have also compared it directly to the Teknic Chicane suit, which can be found for about $100.00 less, but my feeling is that the Chicane doesn't have the protection or the quality offered by the Willow suit and it's well worth the extra money.
In all honesty, you can spend a lot more and I'm not sure if you'd end up with more protection than you'll find in the Willow suit. The leather feels thick, sturdy and protective but the quality of the leather is much better than expected at this price range and the design and tailoring looks good and is highly functional.
Match it up with a pair of the AGV Sport Willow gloves, which are also very comfortable and another certified bargain (review coming soon) and a pair of the Sidi ST boots and you'll be all set for extreme riding and track days. But don't forget the street -- just because no one else is wearing a one-piece leather suit doesn't mean you can't. Start a new trend and before you know it, maybe we'll be on to something!
|wBW Review: AGV Sport Willow One-Piece Leather Suit|
From: AGV Sport USA
Distributed in the U.S.A. by Motonation
|Suggested Retail Price: $599.00|
|Colors: Black with Red, Blue or Black accents.||Made in: Pakistan|
|Review Date: April 2011|
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