So where does one begin when they need a set of racing leathers?
What needs are specific to you and your style of riding?
Let’s talk reality here. Most guy’s(and gal’s) getting into motorcycle road racing are shocked when they find out how much the sport is going to cost them. Everyone knows the bikes are gonna be a pretty penny but when they start adding up the dollars they will need for tires, tools and spare parts it’s a real eye opener. The cost of racing is not the most evident items that are easily identified but the small stuff you need by the droves. You do everything you can do keep cost down and the thrifty is always looking for a deal on the things needed for racing.
But of all the things that are must have items the number one thing you can’t cheap out on is your protection equipment. Your boots and gloves are going to be some of your best friends when you go down … and you are going to go down. But it’s going to be your helmet and leathers that will save your ass in a crash. You can definitely spend a chunk of change on a race quality helmet but thankfully helmets that are race worthy can be found at various sources for very affordable prices. I recently bought a new Scorpion EXO500
I paid under $200 and though it’s not as nice as an ARAI or some of the other top end lids it has everything a racer needs and they are crash proven helmets. There also is a plethora of excellent boots and gloves out there as well for the racer that won’t break the bank. A little shopping around and you will find some real deals out there.
Leathers for the most part are another story. For the racer on an extreme budget finding reasonably priced leathers can be a real pain. A racer who is fortunate enough be well funded will still suffer from sticker shock when looking for a set of leathers. There is a lot of junk out there and the better known brands are not cheap. Many new racers just can’t afford the newest or the best. So many, myself included choose to buy a used set and hope they fit well. If you are a regular sized fella than the chances of finding a good fitting used suit at a great price are pretty good. But if you are like a lot of guys… you might have a body that off the rack suits just don’t fit. For some…like me, a custom made and sized suit is the only option…and it can be a real budget breaker!
So the following story is not for those individuals who are able to afford right out of the gate a nice set of Vanson or other high quality custom made suits. God bless those who can. It’s what keeps the sport moving forward.. But for me it was tough. I could just not afford a new $3000 custom suit and I had a heck of a time finding a good used suit that would fit me. I did buy a used set of Dianese. They were nice and in good shape but even after mush trying to squeeze into them they were way too small to be usable. So I sold them and found another used set.. a Frank Thomas suit that was never going to be a keeper as it was well used and has other issues. But was suitable for the meantime. That suit was too long in the legs and baggy as heck in the butt and arms. I have a very short build at only 5’4″ but my upper body is comparable to someone much taller so the chest was OK but my build being somewhat broad shouldered it was tight across the back making wearing my back protector difficult. All in all another fail – fail suit for me. But it was what I could afford at the time. I called around and priced having the suit altered to my fit. But even that was kind of expensive and I figured that by time I paid for the alterations and added what I paid for the suit I could have way more into a used suit than it was worth.
So here I was faced with a tight budget, a body build that obviously demanded custom tailored leathers and very little room in the market to serve my needs. A well known supplier was going to charge over $3-2000 for a full on custom suit and I had way less than a $1000 budget. So I started searching and making calls. At first I tried to see if one of the big outfits would sponsor me but as a novice amateur with very little experience and very little notoriety I was of course finding nothing but slammed doors. I did not expect much in that tactic but thought I would try anyways.
I turned to the internet offerings and among the dozens of listings I found one company I had not heard about before. Comet Leathers
I did some background on them and at first brush they seemed to be just another retailer of Pakistani made suits. The internet is flush with those outfits… most are just individuals working out of their basements with a computer posting ads on Ebay and don’t offer very much in the way of customer service. So I was skeptical of Comet when I looked them over but the fact that they offered custom suits had me looking closer. The first thing I found was that they had a web site that was very appealing…I’m not a web nuby and I don’t fall for the flash but they had a very nice layout and some very interesting pages. Three positive things from the site struck me right away.
First was the very good video showing how to measure yourself for sizing. The procedure was backed up with a clear, step by step method to measure all the right places for a custom suit to be tailored. This was not the foreign made video that I expected but a nicely constructed piece that was easy to follow along with.
Secondly they had a very large product line that was clearly spelled out with accompanying photos of the different models and the features each came with. The various suit models ranged from entry level to professional racing models and the prices were very reasonable. At least if the quality was as good as the suits looked the prices were reasonable.
Third, I found that unlike some of the other suppliers, Comet actually offered detailed descriptions and close-up photos of the products. There was nothing hidden or left to guessing about what was being offered. I liked that!
So initially as I was somewhat impressed with the outfit, their products and prices I decided to see if the people behind the curtain were for real. The website talked up quite a bit about being about customer service and racing. “Partnering” they called it. I went on a search for more in the way of unconnected personal reviews and info. At first I did not find a lot but the few I did read were all favorable. I could not(believe it or not) find one negative comment about Come Leathers or the folks behind the company…. what I did find was references to solid delivery, good communication and people seemed to be happy with the products. Most of the comments were on motorcycle forum sites and they gave me the sense that something good was going on with this company.
So I decided to see what they could do for me. I sent an email to the company explaining about my situation. I let them know I was going to need a good suit that fit me and that I had a pretty tight budget to work with. . Lo and behold instead of a getting a generic return advertising email I get a call from the owner of the company! Amazing…!
Karl was his name and I can tell you we had a great conversation. He explained to me that he was interested in my racing and that he was looking to get the word out on the Comet Leathers line of products by, as he says ” Partnering” with racers in different parts of the country. Karl seemed like a no nonsense kind of guy and was very friendly. He was upfront about the fact that the leather suits and other products he was offering were indeed made overseas. But he assured me that he only dealt with producers he had personal experience with for years and that Comet was in control of the manufacturingprocess from start to finish. He told me that he would personally guarantee every item’s fit and finish and directed me to view it “in writing” on a page at his site.
We talked for almost 45 minutes and the conversation was far ranging. The man wanted to know all about my position and about the racing I am involved in. He asked what it was I was looking to do in the future sport wise and how Comet could help me get there. Very sincere and personal!
Finally Karl offered me a big discount off the listed prices if I would just wear the racing leathers he would have custom made for me. He said he wanted honest reviews by the people who really would put the products through tough use…racers. It seems Comet and Karl in particular have decided that letting the people wearing their products and the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, not huge advertising firms would be the best way to get their business to the next level. I really liked that! A company that works with racers at the grassroots level!
Soonerbillz is all about grassroots racing. Both my personal racing activities and the clubs that I write about and give props for… it’s the real deal of amateur racing. Where pro racing is all about the teams and the big sponsorship’s. Club level racing is all about the privateer. Racers who work on their own bikes and they haul the bikes in the back of small trailers. Grassroot racing is a matter of running what you brung, paying as you go and sometimes you miss a weekend to save for another. Grassroots! As I talked to Karl and he told me his ideas on growing his company it seemed real to me that he got it that taking care of the customer was his real selling point and was sincere about doing just that. He made me feel like I was important to Comet and himself as a customer and “partner”.
So we made a deal He helped get me set the payments for the suit and then I went through the very thorough measuring process. I was even able to get my Soonerbillz Racing logo uploaded to them to be embroidered and attached on the suit… I was feeling pretty good about the deal. When all was said and done Karl said it would be about three weeks to get the finished suit to me. All through the process I received regular updates about the work’s progress via text messages, email’s and the occasional phone call from Karl. The communication was so complete that the pattern maker even had Karl contact me a several times to verify the sizing of critical points.
The final cuts were made sometime in late May. I was definitely getting excited to see what the end product was going to be like. Pictures are nice but having the leathers in my hands was what I wanted. I was eager to see if the quality was what was promised! For me that cash I sent was a big investment and I was hoping I had not made a big mistake taking the word of a person I never met and a company that I never heard of just a couple months earlier….. About a week ago Karl sent me another email. This time it was to tell me that the suit was finished and ready for shipping! He attached some pictures of the suit. They looked good but it only made me that much more eager to get my hands on it! I will admit that I was really nervous and full of anticipation!!
Well today is Thursday the 13th of June and I received my suit by DHS delivery yesterday. I was at work when the driver called me to set up the drop off. But because I was not able to get to the house till late that evening it wasn’t until today I had the chance to open up the package and take a look at the suit.
So……. I was very impressed with the suit’s look and feel. The leather was absolutely top grain cut. Very uniform grain and no blemishes to be seen. The dye work on the color panels was very good as I found no faded areas and the zippers are quality YKK brand. The stitching and seam construction seems very stout. The suit I selected is a road race specific suit suit and as some very nicely done features. The armor is quality stuff and removable for replacement if needed. There are some really cool ventilation scoops molded into the shoulder tops about midway between the collar and shoulders. They have little metal screens to keep bugs and trash out of the suit vents. The vents are made to put a good wind stream inside the suit at speed and you can open and close them with flaps from inside the suit. Pretty nice feature! The liner is a moisture wicking material that seems well sewn into the leather. And I really love the looks of the embroidered Soonerbillz Racing logo but of course I’m kind of partial to anything “Soonerbillz”! As for the Comet logos they are at every turn of the suit quite noticeable, but they are cool looking and don’t seem like the eyesore billboard effect I think that some other suits seem to have.
OK all that cosmetic stuff is nice but again it’s time to get real. The whole point of the suit’s purchase was to get me into a racing suit that would fit me right and protect me in a high speed crash. What I really cared about was not to be hurt while racing! The way a suit fits the rider had a lot to do about how it performs in a crash. A ill fitting suit puts the armor in the wrong spots and allows the leather to move around to much in a slide. A uncomfortable suit is a distraction a racer does not need when going 100 MPH+ into a turn. So it was time to see if the fit matched the looks.
I took a shower put on my underarmours and tried putting the suit on…. Oh my God! Was this suit tight! I had to get my wife to help me get it on at first! Getting the leggings over my big calves took some doing. Then I got first one arm then the other on. I straightened up the suit and zipped it up and finished off the arm and leg zippering(the zippers worked flawless) and put on some work boots and started walking around.
At first it was really tight. But after ten or so minuted it loosened up quite a bit. Taking racing positions and bending and stretching it started to feel pretty good. i was absolutely floored by the pattern makers work. This suit was fitting like it was made for me…wait!… it was.. it was!!! The mid section was definitely right on the money, the back has plenty of room to allow me to wear my back protector. The crotch and the legs to were spot on! The neck seems a little tight still but not to bad and the calves are a tight too. I think time will loosen those areas though!
Of course this all just the first day and I am sure after the suit gets broken in it will be even better fitting. So after the initial stretch involved in putting on the suit for the first time if I did not rip the seams out then I think maybe they are pretty well done. Same goes for the zippers. We will see how that goes. Of course putting a suit on is not the same thing as sliding along the asphalt at speed so the comparison in kind of mute.
Overall I am happy with the suit at first blush. The whole process has been as pleasurable as buying a custom suit sight unseen from a unknown supplier could be. Karl and Comet Leathers definitely made the process easy as pie and he made me pretty comfortable… a very nice guy for sure.. They do provide good customer service and so far deliver what they promise.
As I said before this is going to be a long term review. I am hoping to make the last two rounds of the CMRA series in October and do a trackday sometime between now and then. I will post another update at that time and tell you all how the suit performed in action. Hopefully it’s a fit and function review and not a crash test!!!! Till then Adios!