The Spartan Leathers "Charge" suit is available as a one- or two-piece versions.
The leather is as supple as I've ever felt and the suit feels perfectly broken in from day one.
High quality stitching and construction compliment the soft leather.
The pants have large sections of elastic material in just the right places, adding to the comfort factor.
The Charge 2.0 suit is available in off-the-rack sizes at a significant discount. Custom suits are also available. Many options can be added at no additional cost and the prices include free shipping in the U.S. or low cost international shipping.
Someday, perhaps, the motorcycle industry will develop clothing standards and fund an independent testing lab to evaluate protective gear.
Until that day arrives -- and I'm not holding my breath -- you can't go wrong by ticking the "leather" box on the order form.
Motorcyclists have been using the stuff for years...decades...more than a century actually, and for good reason. It works.
Pick a racer -- any racer -- and take a good look. They're not wearing Cordura or Hypertex or Kevlar or any of the other dozen or so brand names familiar to motorcyclists. They're wearing good ol' fashioned leather, brothers and sisters; hides from once-live cows and goats and kangaroos.
Not a pretty picture, but as long as we're going to eat 'em, we may as well benefit by wearing their skin. Uck!
In any event, as I've said quite often, "If it's good enough for (fill in the name of your favorite racer), then it's good enough for me".
All I know is that if I ever fall off a motorcycle, which, by the way, can happen even when sitting at a stop light -- then I hope I'm fully outfitted in leather. That contains an ample dose of CE-approved armor, if you please.
That's the theory, anyway. The reality is that leather has does have a few drawbacks. It's generally hot, heavy and it doesn't like getting wet.
Yes, I know there are some interesting new leather treatment technologies that help waterproof your choice of hide and there's even a new type of treatment that claims to act as a shield against the sun's rays to keep black leather cool. Or cooler. But generally speaking, textiles are generally lighter, cooler and perhaps even more stylish. And less expensive.
And wearing textile means you aren't also carrying the karmic weight of ol' cud-chewing Daisy on your back.
When MotoGP racers start wearing Cordura, I'll be singing a different tune. But until then, I try to wear leather whenever I can. And since we were so impressed with the Spartan SL-1 leather gloves (review), I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at their Charge 2.0 outfit as a follow-up.
Spartan Leathers offers a variety of one- and two-piece leather race suits and styles for men and they have a women's version and even a leather suit designed for youth. The company specializes in custom-fitted suits and both the one- and two-piece Charge 2.0 suits can be custom ordered to fit.
The Charge 2.0 is a bit special also, because Spartan also makes both versions available in off-the-rack sizes, at a considerable discount from the custom versions of the Charge 2.0 suits. The colors and options are limited on the off-the-rack versions to save costs and another benefit of ordering off-the-rack is that the suits are (usually) readily available in standard sizes.
I went back and forth trying to decide whether to have a custom suit made but fate intervened in the form of an off-the-rack, two-piece Charge 2.0 suit that became available in my size, so I grabbed it. Apparently, these are pretty popular so when Spartan gets a suit in your size in stock, grab it fast!
I could have ordered a one-piece suit but changed my mind. One-piece leather suits are rarely seen on street riders in the U.S. and a good two-piece, with full-length attachment zippers between the jacket and pants is a good solution. Actually, a two-piece suit is probably the more reasonable choice for street riding because it has a hidden bonus -- the jacket or the pants can be mixed and matched with other gear.
In fact, that's the secret trick for getting the most out of your leather motorcycle clothing and for extending the riding seasons. Try wearing the leather pants with an insulated textile jacket in winter, or wear the leather jacket with textile pants in the spring. You may just find a combination that works very nicely for your particular environment.
The first thing I noticed about the Charge 2.0 suit when it arrived is also what I would say is its most defining characteristic -- the feel of the leather. This stuff is pretty incredible, and unlike any other leather I've ever felt on a motorcycle outfit.
I have no idea how they do it, but the leather used in this suit is about as supple as you can get. The feel is different and difficult to describe; it's sort of like a cross between leather, chamois (which is a type of leather) and soft rubber, and in a good way. The surface of the leather feels silky and not at all like rough cow hide and this is quite different from other similarly-priced off-the-rack suits I've tried from the big brand names.
The typical leather suits in this price range use a stiffer leather with a texture that can sometimes feel artificial and may take years to break in. For example, my Joe Rocket Speedmaster jacket (review) and the Joe Rocket Blaster perforated jacket (review) still feel stiff even after several years of regular riding. The difference between the leather in those jackets and the leather used in the Spartan Charge 2.0 is quite dramatic.
The Joe Rocket leather may protect just as well, but there's a noticeable difference in comfort. The leather in the Spartan Charge 2.0 suit makes a difference and the suit feels completely broken in right out of the box and this really improves comfort.
Spartan is proud of the stitching on the Charge 2.0 suit and rightly so. The stitches are of outstanding quality and most of the seams use multiple lines of stitching in what Spartan calls their "advanced safety seam construction". They said that they use Coats brand "high strength bonded nylon thread" for all the stitches also.
There are no loose threads to be found anywhere on this outfit and everything is perfectly lined up and very nicely done; much better than expected on a suit in this price range. The edges on most of the leather are rolled prior to stitching, which gives the outfit a premium look besides helping to make the seams less likely to tear.
We noted the very high quality of construction in the Spartan SL-1 gloves (review), and part of the reasoning in trying a Spartan suit was to see if the same level of quality was apparent in their suits. The answer is yes.
The Charge 2.0 jacket is perforated in front along the stomach and in a large area in the rear, although those perforations are over the back pad. Each arm includes a small vents covered with a zipper, located on the upper arms.
The pants are perforated along the top of the waist and down into the thigh. Both the jacket and pants include a full-length internal perforated lining, made from the taffeta-like material found in most motorcycle jackets.
The difference here is that the lining in both the jacket and pants are attached with zippers, so they are removable for access to the armor pockets. I have never seen this before and although I'm not sure how often one would need to completely remove the lining, the feature is welcome nonetheless.
The jacket does include a full length, removable insulating liner which I have not tried in our recent 100-degree heat. That will have to wait for winter, but I'd guess it adds about 1/2 size to the overall fit. To be honest, I'd just as soon buy the jacket without the liner, especially since the off-the-rack version of the Charge 2.0 jacket is perforated.
The jacket and the pants also include sections of flexible or elastic material that isn't perforated but is highly breathable for ventilation.
Spartan says the stretchy material is Schoeller Keprotec in the form of a Kevlar weave. The panels are highly elastic and they are located along the inside of the arms of the jacket and in the back of the legs (knees) and up into the crotch of the pants.
The elastic helps ensure the jacket the pants remain more closely fitted to the body and it also helps reduce the bulky feeling you'd get from all leather.
The pleated leather along the front of the jacket is also highly flexible. It continues up above the elastic under the arms, which adds both a stylistic touch (as you can see in the next photo) and a stretch panel for shoulder motion.
The other defining feature of the Spartan Charge 2.0 outfit is the armor that is included. It is industrial strength heavy-duty stuff and it's (claimed) CE-approved and the pieces are about as big and extensive as you'll find. Spartan calls it "race" style protection and I believe it.
The jacket includes large shoulder armor sections and hefty elbow and forearm armor located under a special leather section tailored into the sleeve. The elbow and forearm armor is extensive and although I haven't measured it to compare to other jackets, it seems like it provides more coverage than anything else I can recall.
The jacket also has a large back pad that is thicker than most but it's not a true back protector, although Spartan has Forcefield Pro and other back protectors to fit the pocket in the back of the jacket.
The knee and shin armor in the pants is another massive piece and the pants include some mid-weight padding on the hips and a small tailbone pad in the rear.
One of the benefits of getting a suit custom-fitted is that it will be a perfect match for the owner's shape. While an obvious comfort factor, correct fit is also be a safety factor because a snug fit will keep the armor in place so it doesn't move around when it is needed most.
However, ordering a custom-fitted suit may not be quite as easy as it sounds, as I discovered when I placed a custom order for the GiMoto suit review.
Measuring oneself for a suit is not really a job for an amateur. Think about it -- a tailor measures people for a living, but how much experience does your spouse or friend have with this type of measurement? We studied the detailed guide and thought we followed all the instructions to a "T", but the result didn't quite meet my expectations, so I was hesitant to go through the custom route again.
I'm not saying it can't be or shouldn't be done, but next time, I'll either visit the manufacturer or pay a local tailor to help me do it right. In fact, one way to help ensure a correct custom fit is to use an off-the-rack suit as a guideline to let the manufacturer know what part fits and what doesn't
In some cases, a custom fit is the only way to go, due to an unusual body shape or if you're between sizes. Remember that each manufacturer has a different set of instructions and measurements. Some advise you to get measured wearing underwear, while others recommend various layers of clothing.
Measuring for length is usually easy; it's the circumference measurements that can be difficult. When they tell you to hold the tape measure snug around the arms, legs or chest, well, how snug is snug? In the end, it makes a big difference, as I discovered.
If it's done right, you'll end up with a beautifully tailored, form-fitting suit that holds the armor exactly in place and the suit will fit like a second skin.
But for those who fit into off-the-rack sizes, the Charge 2.0 suit is ready to go, and at a significant savings. The size 44 jacket fits exactly as expected, a bit snug with the insulating liner inserted and correct when it is removed. The pants are also labeled as a 44 and they fit well, perhaps a touch big for my 35" waist.
The extensive use of elastic in the waist and the stretch panels give a surprising amount of fit variance, so I probably could have gone with a smaller size. I'm not sure if you can mix and match jacket and pants sizes in the off-the-rack Charge 2.0 suits, but it's possible that if you are borderline (as I am apparently), then you might want to go with the smaller size.
The Charge 2.0 jacket includes a hefty metal YKK zipper in front for the main entry, with brass-colored YKK zippers at the sleeves. Each zipper has a leather pull tab. The sleeve zippers are not self-locking, but the metal teeth seem to hold the runner in place and the sleeves don't open up like they do on my Joe Rocket Blaster jacket.
The insulating liner attaches with a full-length unbranded zipper inside and hook-and-loop sections at the wrists. The taffeta lining material in both the jacket and pants is also removable and they use small gauge unbranded zippers.
The upper arm vents use YKK zippers with coil teeth and the jacket and pants zip together with a big, hefty YKK Vislon (nylon) toothed zipper.
The pants are race style so the number of pockets is limited. There is one "credit card" pocket located on the left thigh. It uses a horizontal zipper and it's probably big enough to hold...a credit card (or two). The jacket has two hand pockets on the outside with YKK zippers and a small internal patch pocket that closes with hook-and-loop.
A metal brass-colored YKK zipper is used on the fly of the pants. The waist has two large metal snaps plus a short leather attached belt that secures into a metal D-ring to keep the waist closed. The top of the waist band is a wide section of elastic, which also adds a lot of comfort and flexibility to the pants.
The jacket also has sections of accordion-pleated leather at the hem on each side, along with attached adjustment belts that feed through a metal D-ring.
The leg cuffs use metal YKK brass-colored zippers along the back for entry, and these are backed by a leather flap.
The limited color range, options and standard sizing has allowed Spartan to keep the price of the Charge 2.0 outfits to a very reasonable level.
Both the one- and two-piece off-the-rack Charge 2.0 suits carry the same price of $550.00 and that includes free shipping in the U.S.A. (and very reasonable shipping charges to anywhere else in the world). I can assure you that the free shipping is a real bonus, because postage has become very expensive recently, due to higher fuel prices.
Part of the reason the prices have been kept low is Spartan's direct relationship with the manufacturing plant in Pakistan. Pakistan has become one of the world's leading countries in the manufacture of leather goods for a variety of reasons, two of which are the availability of animals for hides and the very limited use of barbed wire, which helps ensure the hides are useful for products like motorcycle clothing.
The Spartan Leathers Charge 2.0 outfit looks, feels and performs better than any other outfit I've seen in this price range. Granted, the Spartan Leathers name may not be as well known as some of the large companies who advertise each month in the print magazines, but then again, Spartan isn't paying for that advertising each month either.
The $550.00 list price of the Charge 2.0 one-piece or two-piece suit makes it a certified bargain. Think about it: $550.00 is less than you can pay for a good helmet or even a single jacket (or pants), and you're getting very high quality, super-supple, 1.4 mm thick leather with a full armor set and free shipping. Spartan even throws in a three-year warranty on their apparel.
So if you're considering a track day suit or a good-looking two-piece sport suit, I can highly recommend the Spartan Charge 2.0 as a leading contender.
|wBW Review: Spartan Charge 2.0 Leather Suit|
|Manufacturer: Spartan Leathers||List Price:$550.00|
|Colors: Two-Piece: Black with gray accents. One-Piece: Black with white accents.||Made In: Pakistan|
|Review Date: July 2011|
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