Tested: BMW Motorrad AirVantage Vest

We all love traveling across mountain passes, right? They're visually rewarding, physically demanding and mentally cleansing--but they also pose a dilemma when it comes to choosing attire. While the warm air in the valley stays heated by the sun, the temperature at the peak may be below freezing. What do you wear without changing clothes? BMW proposes that you wear your own air.

BMW's latest innovation, the AirVantage vest, derives its insulation from air chambers in the torso. When I first witnessed this decidedly low-tech idea in action, I have to admit I laughed out loud. The wearer blew into a Gore-Tex nozzle attached to the chest lining, which inflated the inner chambers--and also cracked up our group of observers. I must have heard at least a dozen "you're full of hot air" jokes circulating around the room.

The joke was on me, though, as I found out on a crisp fall ride through New York state. Though the elevations we ascended were minimal, the AirVantage nevertheless allowed me to control the amount of insulation I required from stop to stop. And when we rode the ferry over to Long Island, I inflated the multiple air chambers and went out on the deck to see if I could feel the difference. By adding or letting out air, I could vary the amount of body heat being lost, thus adjusting the temperature of the vest. The thick air cushion worked against cold temperatures because air is a poor conductor of heat. Also, because the vest is designed by W.L. Gore & Associates Inc., it incorporates Gore WindStopper fabric into the outer layer, which served as an added waterproof, windproof and breathable barrier against the icy blasts of the Long Island Sound.

The vest's insulation principle is effective, but the best part of the AirVantage is the convenience and versatility it offers a rider, without bulk. I was impressed, too, that this single item could be worn underneath any motorcycle jacket and for any number of outdoor activities. The BMW AirVantage Vest is available in black in unisex sizes S-XXL, but leave it to BMW to put a premium on air--it retails for a whopping $259.

What we liked:
Ease of use, versatility, stylishness
** What we DIDN'T:**
Hefty price tag

www.bmwmotorcycles.com or www.bmwridersapparel.com
(866) 426-9432