Not long ago, I gushed over a certain riding suit that opened my eyes to the joys of riding in textile style. My (Brand X) riding pants were a pleasure to wear for their first five outings. Then the integrated belt frayed and the pants became a static display before their first scuff. Let that be a lesson to me: The Chinese are carefully polite, but they want us dead.
BMW doesn't believe in Chinese imports (certain engine cases excepted). My ComfortShell suit's tag proudly states its provenance as "Tillverkat i Serbien." Like most BMW street gear, the Comfort-Shell packs fitted armor over elbows, knees, hips, shoulders and spine, with abrasion- and water-resistant panels covering wear points. Articulation points are pre-curved, and a double-zipped gusset shields your belly from the bluster.
Less typically, the shell is a stretchy, triple-laminate fabric called Dynatec that's engineered to be staunchly resistant to abrasion and dihydrous oxide. The armor pads are bright-orange "New Protectors," for which BMW claims superior shock-damping qualities. Thankfully, I'm still taking their word for it.
The magic lies beneath the shell, where a membranous fabric called C-Change (short for "climate change") has been employed to regulate body temperature. Based on the mechanics of fir tree cones, C-Change pores fan open on hot days to let heat and moisture escape, then slam tight in the cold to husband your precious bodily heat.
Riding in the ComfortShell is revelatory. Running an hour or two in chilly rain requires only thermal underwear and a light wool sweater, while 90-plus-degree days are pleasant so long as you open the jacket vents on chest and back, and keep the bike moving. Nearly as cool as a mesh jacket, it feels orders of magnitude more protective.
Hot days or cold, not a drop of precipitation penetrates the suit. There's something spooky in the way you feel every drop and zephyr touch the soft fabric, yet stay impermeably warm and dry. Zipped tight, you could comfortably hose bugs off the ComfortShell while wearing it. There are limits to this magic, and I found them after riding three consecutive days in 116-degree heat. Even after two inside-out washings, the suit still offended my olfactory senses.
The ComfortShell is a serious suit for dedicated riding days. This is no baggy one-piece, designed to shrug over your business suit. The ComfortShell fits like Star Trek utilities, and it's virtually impossible to zip jacket to pants once they're on, so plan ahead or task a friend.
Niggles are vanishingly few. Fussily small zippers are impossible to operate with gloves on, and the retro-reflective shoulder blazes (there are more on the pants) grant you field-grade rank in the Power Rangers. For truly arctic explorations, you'll want a suit with a thermal liner; this is not that suit.
ComfortShell jackets are available in a lurid crimson, chipper turquoise or black if you're a motorcyclist. Pants are black with retro-reflective accents. What price this Swiss-engineered, Serbian-stitched, Munich-mongered quality?
If you have to ask, finance the suit as an accessory to your new German bike.
It's worth it. But get the black.
BMW Comfort Shell
Jacket & Pants
$749 jacket, $519 pants
BMW Motorrad USA
4.5 stars out of 5
The most comfortable way yet to spend a few days on a bike, in any of three seasons.