BMW Rallye 3 Suit - Jacket
BMW Rallye 3 Jacket
The cost of the BMW Rallye 3 suit is a definite factor, but the quality, the features, the comfort and the versatility could mean that the Rallye 3 jacket will be worn more often and could outlast several lesser quality jackets, which may actually save money over the long term.
Update: See my 120-day update below.
In the 1990's, high-tech breathable fabrics, CE-approved armor and even mesh jackets were, for the most part, yet to be incorporated into motorcycle clothing. Experienced riders looking for something beyond the basics were limited to a small handful of brands, including a company called Aerostitch...and BMW.
Motorcycle riders who are without a local a BMW dealer may not realize that the company has been designing and manufacturing an extensive line of stylish motorcycle gear for many years.
Of course, the clothing is a perfect match for their equally extensive line of motorcycles. But clothing and accessories have been an integral part of the BMW experience, just as it has for Harley-Davidson, Triumph and others. In fact, a solid clothing and accessories lineup has saved one of those brands from bankruptcy on at least one occasion...
I distinctly remember one of the BMW displays, with samples of the leather and textile jacket materials that had undergone wear testing and were being compared to the materials developed or chosen by BMW for their own gear. It was impressive and so was the styling of the BMW clothing -- as was the price.
I'll address this aspect of the BMW Rallye Suit first, because there's no sense hiding it. The fact is that the Rallye Suit is expensive, compared to many other choices. The Rallye 3 jacket has a list price of $799.00 in the U.S. and the Rallye 3 pants list for $549.00.
That's a lot of money in anyone's book, and it's up to the individual to determine whether the cost is justified or not. I can't make that decision for you...but obviously many happy owners have, or this wouldn't be Version 3 of a suit that has been in production for a decade.
All I can say is that after wearing the clothing, comparing it to others and considering the target market -- hard-core, experienced adventure touring riders who really do ride off-road and demand the best equipment money can buy -- an argument could be made that, all things considered, it does pay to buy the best gear available and wear the heck out of it.
I've gone through too many cheap helmets, jackets, gloves and pants, which has taught me to stop being "penny wise and pound foolish", as the saying goes, when it comes to dependable gear. Others may have a different strategy, and I'm hoping we'll hear from BMW Rallye Suit 1, 2 and 3 owners who can comment on how they came to their own personal cost/value decisions.
One thing I can tell you is that the BMW Rallye Suit is by no means the most expensive off-road jacket and pants outfit available. There is indeed a market for even higher-priced gear; Rukka and Klim to name names. For example, try the Rukka Armax jacket at $1,295.00. Or how about the Rukka Edison at $1,995.00? Those brands make the Klim Adventure Rally jacket and pants at $2,149.98 seem like a bargain.
I'm not saying all of this gear is equivalent; in the absence of any independent laboratory testing, that no one really knows the answer to that. But there is definitely a market for higher quality gear that fits right and performs well.
Fit and styling is also key; after all, no matter how wonderful the jacket might be, if it doesn't fit comfortably or doesn't look good, a jacket will hang in the closet, quickly reversing that cost/value equation. The same can be said for helmets, gloves, boots...and motorcycles. And this is why I think the BMW Rallye Suit is worth the cost.
BMW Rallye 3 Jacket -
This spawned the adventure touring clothing style, with the original BMW Rallye jacket which looked much different than just about anything else on the racks back about 10 years ago. My memory of that original BMW Rallye jacket is a bit dim, but I do remember that the styling seemed a bit odd at the time compared to other motorcycle clothing styles of the day.
The second-generation Rallye 2 jacket styling was tamer, and now the Rallye 3 suit, released only recently in the Spring of 2010, seems nearly mainstream in its appearance. That's because the last 10 years have seen tremendous growth in the adventure touring segment and everyone is familiar with the look. Jackets, boots and even helmets specifically designed for on- and off-road plonking are now readily available and commonplace.
The BMW Rallye suit styling cues have remained consistent; indeed, BMW has kept a consistent styling theme for their motorcycles and their clothing. This may be desirable or not, depending upon individual taste, but one thing hasn't changed: everyone knows a BMW Rallye jacket when they see it coming, and we think that's just fine.
The Rallye 3 jacket comes in your choice of black with gray and yellow accents or gray with blue and red accents (illustrated in the extended Flash slide show below).
BMW originally intended to send us a Rallye 3 suit, consisting of the jacket and pants, but when the very large box arrived, it contained two jackets. We took the opportunity to take some quick photos of the black/gray/yellow version but had to send it back in exchange for the pants, which are covered in Part 2 of this review. Once we got the pants sizing figured out, the matching gray/blue/red suit was a real hit and everyone agrees it looks great.
Adjustable neck on the BMW Rallye 3 jacket.
Rear cape on the BMW Rallye 3 jacket covers a large area of mesh for ventilation.
BMW Rallye 3 Jacket - Overall
However, the BMW Rallye 3 jacket is an exception to the rule. There's something about the material that the jacket shell is made from that gives this jacket a different persona. BMW says it's genuine DuPont Cordura, and not the faux stuff used in cheaper jackets, and it is specially developed and specified by BMW.
The material just feels stronger, sturdier and more protective but at the same time it has a softer hand than most of the other jackets we've reviewed. I'm sure BMW has all sorts of logical explanations about their choice of textile for the jacket shell, but to us it's one of those subjective things that just makes the jacket feel different.
BMW Rallye 3 jacket upper chest with one open and one closed vent.
The Rallye 3 jacket isn't a showplace for over-the-top and untested features and it doesn't overload the owner with its Transformers-like ability to convert pockets, vents and sleeves (although the sleeves are removable, a feature we have never taken advantage of in any jacket where it is available).
BMW specifically states that the Rallye 3 suit is designed for off-road riding and for the most part, the jacket sticks to the basics but does them very well. We can only assume this is based on feedback and experience gleaned from 3 generations of Rallye jackets over the last decade. The stitching is all absolutely perfect, with double rows where needed, single rows where it isn't and a few blind seams thrown in for good measure.
The jacket is highly functional, with a heavier-feeling Cordura all the way up the outside of the arm, continuing at the shoulder up to the neck. The elbows do not have separate external abrasion protection add-ons, but it must be kept in mind that the Rallye jacket is focused on off-road use. The "specially developed for off-road use" label means that a few of the features in this jacket are indeed different than some of the 3/4-length pure street jackets you may be familiar with.
The very soft water-resistant (actually we can say this one is fully waterproof, based on our evaluations) liner deserves its own description, because it's a very high-tech piece quite unlike any other liner we've seen. It removes easily from the Rallye 3 jacket shell, and the shell itself then becomes a highly functional all-around jacket that will serve in a wide range of conditions and temperatures other than perhaps extreme heat or extreme cold, when other options might be a better solution.
Zippers, Attachments and Closures
It's a two-way zipper and the interesting feature involves the runners, which have a locking mechanism inside, so the zipper will only open when the pull is pulled in the correct direction. If the zipper is opened half-way, for example, the runners will lock in place, preventing the zipper from opening any further.
These are the type of small details that are expected but still surprising with the higher-quality jackets. Locking YKK zippers are also used nearly everywhere else on the Rallye 3 jacket, including the sleeve cuffs and the vents.
The only hesitation one might have is with a fairly extensive reliance on hook-and-loop closures used in several locations on the jacket. This includes the upper vents, as a backup for the main placket (which otherwise closes with pairs of Prym snaps), pockets and sleeve cuffs. It remains to be seen how well this material will hold up over time, although one thing to note is that all the hook-and-loop strips are both sewn and sealed to the jacket shell, so they should at least remain in position.
Hook-and-loop fasteners are used elsewhere on the jacket, including the collar (which gives it about 60 mm of adjustment), the pockets, the sleeve cuffs and the front and rear vents. Nothing wrong with hook-and-loop actually, the "lightweight miracle fastener", but it can get dirty and eventually lose its gripping power. On the plus side, it can be fairly easily replaced.
Sleeve Removal and Waist Adjusters
Curiously, the zippers for the removable arms start in the rear and end in the front; we wonder if reversing them would have allowed the shoulders to be peeled down and perhaps secured on the side of the shoulder with the Prym snap to allow more air flow.
Each arm has dual adjusters, one at the bend of the elbow on the inside to keep the elbow armor secure and one at the forearm. The waist includes sewn-in elastic but no adjustment, and another curiosity is a zippered vent that opens right across the elastic, effectively splitting any effect that the one-piece elastic section might have in gathering the waist. Fortunately, the jacket is cut on a taper so not much waist adjustment (in or out) has been needed.
The upper chest vents could also be used as pockets unless the vent cover is folded back and snapped to the jacket for full air flow. Both the left and right placket have a vertical zipper-covered pocket, and these are lined with mesh to allow full air flow on to the chest.
The rear of the jacket has a large pocket across the back; actually, it's two pockets, one in back that is accessed through a locking zipper on either side and one that is accessed via the flap across the back that has the "BMW Motorrad" embroidered logo.
The Rallye 3 jacket also has a pocket for a hydration bladder on the back. It can be accessed underneath the vent flap across the upper back.
Finally, the jacket has a non-removable pocket on the lower left sleeve. This pocket has a clear cover and is accessed with a large zipper pull on the side towards the rider.
BMW Rallye 3 jacket reflective stripes and open front vent.
The arms have vents that open with two-way locking zippers. The upper zipper pull can be lowered to allow air to pass into the jacket through the mesh lining and the lower zipper pull can be raised to meet the upper pull also. However, the systems seems to work best when a few inches of zipper remain closed at the cuff and the upper zipper is lowered to let in air.
Each side of the jacket has a vertical vent that opens with a locking zipper pull. These vents are about 20 cm long and run nearly up to the underarm area. The zippers open from the top to the bottom, so they can be lowered about half-way and stay in place due to the locking mechanism on the pull.
The rear of the jacket features a horizontal flap across the upper back. It seals with two large patches of hook-and-loop located at the top of the hydration bladder pocket. The flap covers the upper back and it's open and loose around the jacket collar and underneath is lined with mesh. This provides a good exhaust for air, but we think BMW could have done a bit more to take advantage of the design, perhaps by allowing the rear flap to be folded back to completely uncover the mesh lining.
As mentioned, the sleeves can be removed from the jacket, something we've never found necessary on any of the jackets having this feature. Each sleeve has a zipper that starts up in back of the neck, underneath the rear vent flap, then unzips under the arm and up around the front.
We also think that more advantage could have been taken of this feature; for example, if the zippers started in the front, perhaps the sleeves could be unzipped down to the underarm, allowing air to flow in when the bike was in motion. As it is, the removable arm feature isn't really useful when riding.
But overall, the ventilation is very good for this type of 3/4-length jacket. It follows a pattern set by other adventure touring type jackets, such as the British Motorcycle Gear Discovery jacket (review). These jackets are not fully comparable with "normal" street/sport 3/4-length jackets such as the Firstgear Rainier jacket (review), as an example, because they are designed for different types of riding.
The adventure touring style jackets have much more of an off-road influence with features and styling that are compatible with the street but aimed at the true off-road adventurer.
This is somewhat comparable to the difference between an adventure touring bike like the BMW R 1200 GS and the G 450 X. The R 1200 GS is perhaps a 70/30 street/off-road bike where the G 450 X is just the opposite. In this case, a jacket like a Firstgear Teton may be something like 70/30 street/adventure where the Rallye 3 jacket is 70/30 adventure/street. Or something like that...
The model shown in the photographs is wearing the size 56 and he usually wears size XL. You can see it fits him pretty well.
BMW Rallye 3 jacket reflectivity.
Safety and Protection
The back pad (photo in the slide show) is much larger and sturdier than most of the padding found in motorcycle jackets. It's easily removed through the zipper at the bottom and it feels very similar to the controlled density SAS-Tech padding that can be purchased as an accessory for clothing.
The elbow padding also feels like the SAS-Tech product, so we wouldn't be surprised to learn that it is made specifically for BMW. Both the back pad and elbow padding will compress when slowly squeezed, but firm up if squeezed or pounded quickly, which is the way the material helps dissipate energy in a crash.
The adjusters on the outside of the arm act to secure the padding in place, which is important for efficient protection.
The reflective material is well placed for visibility at the upper arms and the stripes also function as a styling cue.
Rallye 3 jacket liner and inner section of jacket shell.
Three-Zone Liner and Water Resistance
BMW wouldn't be BMW unless they did things there own way, and this is a good example. BMW likes to say that the liner is one of the most technological aspects of the Rallye 3 jacket. They say that the zones are designed to match the body's needs in certain areas by combining different types of membranes into the liner fabric. In reality, it apparently means that the liner is breathable where it needs to be, water-resistant where necessary and the additional kicker is some softer material used to help keep the skin warm.
The "Flow" zone covers the back and lower portion of the body; the "Comfort" zone is the knees (in the pants liner, obviously), shoulders and neck; and the "Comfort" zone includes the rest, in areas where the liner can be used to keep warm. The rest of the jacket is the "Shield" zone, including the front of the liner, which is supposed to be the most water-resistant part of the liner.
It may sound a little goofy, but it seems to work -- at least the waterproof/windproof part. It's too warm to tell how the jacket shell with the liner will fare in the winter, but based on all of our experience with various types of jackets over the years, I think it should do fine with the vents zipped shut and the liner installed.
Of course, in the coldest weather more insulation will be necessary, and although the liner is windproof, the shell material really isn't designed to block a lot of cold air, so you may need to turn to other BMW jackets for those conditions.
The liner attaches to the shell with zippers on either side of the placket, along with metal Prym snaps at the sleeve cuffs (two) and in back of the neck. I can't recall seeing the high-quality Prym snaps being used to attach a liner to a jacket shell, so this is an interesting use of the product.
The liner is much more comfortable than any other wind- or water-resistant liner I've tried and I'm not sure how BMW did this, but I rate the liner as outstanding in terms of performance and comfort.
Riding With the BMW Rallye 3 Jacket
It's important to remember that this is the type of jacket in which the shell provides only a minimal amount of water resistance in heavy rain while the liner is designed to keep the rider dry.
The combination of the jacket and pants liners in the BMW Rallye Suit do seem to be completely waterproof but the external material of the shell will become quite wet. Since very few jacket shells are designed to provide water resistance due to the breathability issue, it's a good idea to take along a true waterproof one- or two-piece oversuit to throw on in the worst conditions.
The front chest vents work very well, as do the arm vents. The cape-type shoulder cover in the rear with its mesh lining underneath helps to pull the air through the jacket (when the liner is removed), so overall I rate the ventilation excellent, comparatively speaking for this jacket style.
First of all, this has to be one of the most comfortable outfits ever when I'm wearing it over nothing but a T-shirt and cotton undies. That's with the waterproof liners in, of course. The liners have some type of very soft, very fine microfleece in the strategic spots, which makes it very comfy inside.
In spite of what seems like the too-long liner pant legs, in practice they function very nicely because they can be arranged over the top of my boots, which keeps out wind, water and cold air.
The neck of the waterproof jacket lineris extra comfortable too. It sticks up a bit like a mock turtleneck but it's thin enough so it adds only a minimal amount of bulk. The neck of the jacket shell also fits perfectly, so I'll have to say this is the best feeling and fitting neck on any of the 3/4-length textile jackets I've tried. I have a thick neck and can't stand anything choking me, and the Rallye 3 jacket is a dream.
I also really like the placement and the quality of the padding in both the jacket and pants. Both are loaded with high-quality armor and it's nice not to have to lay on my Bohn armored undies first, which is an extra step and hotter in the summer.
The big hefty back protector in the Rallye 3 jacket is especially nice, because I rarely strap on a back protector anyway, so now I have one without having to do anything. And I don't really notice it at all inside the jacket. The elbow armor fits and feels good and the pants have plenty of armor and padding also around the hips, all good stuff.
I've lost 20 lbs. even since I first got the outfit; the benefits of the low-glycemic diet suggested by the Doc which also dropped my cholesterol way down to where it should be. But the jacket and pants still fit me very well, although I had to chuck all my street jeans and buy a new set with a 2" smaller waist -- money I didn't mind spending!
I wouldn't mind trying the next size smaller pants now just to see, but these still fit pretty good, although there isn't quite enough adjustment in the waist, a problem with almost every pair of motorcycle pants I've tried.
A few negatives to report also: the vent zippers on the pants legs lie straight up along the top/side of my thighs when I'm sitting on the Multistrada. This allows water to drain right in. The liner catches it, but only if I'm wearing the liner. These definitely call out for waterproof zippers.
I wish the liners used zippers at the leg and arm cuffs rather than the two snaps, which are difficult to find and secure and make it somewhat of a pain to take the liners in and out. I'm also afraid that the thin loops of material attached to the inside of the legs and arms will break, leaving nothing to hold the snaps in place.
Now that the weather is becoming a bit cooler, I discovered I can ride only down to about 55 degrees F with just the T-shirt underneath the jacket and liner. At 55 degrees, I really need a thermal or windproof T-shirt. The cool air at highway speeds can be felt at my shoulders, along the top of my chest and in my thighs were the vent zippers are located.
On the flip side, I'm surprised at how warm it can be and the Rallye 3 suite is still comfortable.
Overall, I'm really pleased with the outfit and hopefully BMW will make a few tweaks for the Rallye 4 suit.
Me? I'd rather spend more to buy gear that I'll wear for a long time while getting more satisfaction along the way. I know others may not agree, and there are the "cheaper is always better" crowd. That's fine, but BMW has been making the Rallye Suit for a long time with many happy customers, so the cost/value equation must be there.
Next - Part 2: BMW Rallye Suit 3 Pants
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From "M.W." (November 2011): "I have had the jacket and pants for 4 months riding in a variety of conditions I rode for 6 hours in heavy rain and end up very wet the suit is not 100 % waterproof."
From "F.H." (November 2011): "Nice write up on the Rallye 3 You forgot one off the best features of the suit. It reflects 80% of the sun rays so you stay cooler. The guys I ride with swear their suits are cooler and the coolest they've ever worn, here in California (Riverside). I'll be buying one soon, still saving the bucks. Do you think the Rallye 4 will be better."
From "A.I." (09/10): "I refer to ...
the comment posted by From "S.G." (7/10): "No idea what
the section of loop on the hips is for…I’d love to know
Helpfully though he contacted BMW HQ in Munich and in
short this was their reply. These small patches of
hook/eye material on the trousers are for when the BMW
armoured vest is worn. The corresponding hook/eye
material of the waist band of the vest fixes to the
trouser patches thereby reducing the tendency for the
vest to rotate or otherwise move about the body of the
From "S.K." (7/10): "I don't own the
Rallye 3 suit, but I do own a few BMW products and there
are a few little things that are to be appreciated.
The outer side of the sleeve on the Rallye 2 pro is
actually two layers of 500d Cordura. Likewise the
front panel on the Summer 2 pant from the knee down is
also a double layer. It may be worthwhile to check
for these double layers in the Rallye 3.
Extra labor goes into strengthening the seams. (Above) is a picture of an outer leg seam on the BMW Summer 2 Pants (below). The two panels are serged/overlocked, and then finished off with four additional rows of stitching. The inside leg is similar with only four total rows of stitching.
The cheapest riding gear uses no blind/hidden stitching,
or overlocking. My (not cheap) Rev'it Cayenne Pro,
a competitor to the Rallye 2 Pro, has two rows of
stitching plus overlocking at its critical seams.
On paper the two are similar in function and appearance,
with a $200 difference in price. While some of
that is for the Roundel, some of it is in the
The orange armor (BMW's NP armor) in the Rallye 3 is CE
certified, although yours may not have come out of the
mold properly. My armor shows "CE EN 1621-1".
It is larger than standard 1621-1 A and B shaped
protectors; my knee armor reaches further down, and
wraps around the outside of my calf. It should be
noted that the pads ARE prone to cracking if flexed in
cold conditions, much like SaS-Tec pads. I have
repaired cracks with contact cement with no ill effects.
From "S.G." (7/10): "Love the suit and it is completely waterproof. No idea what the section of loop on the hips is for…I’d love to know as well.
As far as cost/value goes, it is cheaper to buy the best
first instead of a few cheaper ones along the way that
end up costing as much as the best in end anyways.
I have worn mine from 0 C to 34 C and been comfy…with a
heated liner at the lower extreme. Very heavy duty
armour that completely ‘disappears’ once you are wearing
From "P.S." (7/10): "Do you think the hook and loop patches and the red “loop” on the pants might be related to the "BMW Trinkpak Hydra" accessory?
Most websites say "there is an outside back pocket"
where this thing is supposed to go but I don’t see any
such pocket on the pants or jacket in any of the
pictures in your review. It does, however, look to
me like the hook and loop patches could be attachment
points with the red loop being a guide/security device
for the siphon tube. Just a thought.
Rick's Reply: I think the BMW marketing info said the "Trinkpak" fit into the bladder pocket, check the photos above again, you can see it on the back of the jacket, the triangular shaped pocket above the "BMW Motorrad" logo on the rear, just underneath the cape vent in the back.
I'm surprised they didn't include the hydration bladder itself, now that I think about it, I should have nicked them on that!
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