I am riding along the spine of the Middle Atlas mountains when the electrical storm hits. Hail pelts my helmet and bolts of lightening streak horizontally across the snow-dusted road ahead of me. There’s no shelter where I can pull over to bundle up under my gear, but thankfully I’d zipped the waterproof liner in before I’d headed uphill. As the bolts of lightening strike closer I was thinking that choosing the lightest, airiest textile suit for this trip was maybe not the most idiotic thing I’d done so far. When I’d planned Morocco I’d planned Sahara Desert, not Swiss Alps. But suddenly I descend to sun and sand again. Whew! OK now. For springtime in the dunes, the Olympia Moto Sports Ladies Airglide jacket and pants are perfection.
This jacket and pants are built for the hottest of hot weather, which is great when I'm riding at 100 degrees plus. They're made of 500 dernier Dupont Cordura, a fabric I've worn before, having toured Europe a few summers ago in the heavier (and now-discontinued) Olympia Moto Sports Mustang jacket and pants.
If I had realized -- duh -- that I’d be exposed to snow in Morocco I would have chosen one of Olympia Moto Sport’s all weather, multi season riding systems, or packed my
FirstGear outfit, which I love for San Francisco Bay Area’s fickle microclimates. But that’s another story.
When you're riding through a landscape like this you come to appreciate details like ballistic airflow mesh panels that let in lots and lots of very welcome breeze, and hi-tech fabric around the collar and sleeves that wick away the rivulets of sweat trickling down your neck and arms.
An all-too-common feature on motorcycle jackets is prickly, sticky collars but this one is very comfortable; it’s edged with cushy neoprene -- yeah, the stuff wetsuits are made of. Brilliant. I also appreciate the included CE-approved motion-flex articulated armor, except of course these are the only points where the air doesn’t flow -- a necessary evil. The removable armor for shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees all sit in exactly the right places. The back pads are not removable or I would have tossed them. (Maybe the designers are just watching out for me.)
Olympia Moto Sports has a lot of experience fitting women and its line is made to accommodate women's varying curves. This suit will fit a woman much curvier than I am by adjusting the Velcro along the waist and arms. There's also a zipper at the hips so you can wear it tight or flared.
I don’t use the jacket’s hidden vertical pockets because I constantly forget to zip them up and they’re shallow and my stuff falls out onto the road. Besides, I leave the jacket locked to the bike when I’m strolling around. The cheap phone I bought at the ferry landing in Tangiers goes in the jacket’s inner cell phone pocket so I can feel it vibrating when I get a call. That’s it for pockets, probably because the pocket fabric blocks air flow.
Normally I leave all the venting zippers and Velcro cinches wide open -- except when I’m in the Atlas Mountains -- a series of three ranges that rival the European Alps. I mean, there are ski lodges up here! That’s when I don my tights and fleece sweater, zip in the waterproof liners, then cinch and zip and Velcro myself in. It’s not what this gear is all about but under the circumstances it performs admirably and at least I stay dry. Though I do look a little like a Weeble.
But mostly, I want to talk about the pants, which are the most comfortable I’ve worn, ever. We all know that the comfort-level of pants can really make or break your day, so let’s look at what makes them so good.
Notice that I can cross my legs in them. I did not make advance preparations for this pose -- no pulling, wiggling, yanking, shimmying or twisting. They even look fairly respectable -- enough so that I'm presentable in most of Morocco, like during this roll and stroll through the Todra Gorge. The two rear pockets each close with a single snap. I never use either of them and I'm glad the designers had the sense to leave out any decorative stitching and anything else that might rub or poke. There are two secret pockets behind, inside the pants, made of mesh, that are big enough to hold a passport and some cash.
Check out how the legs unzip all the way up to the waist in the photo above. I love it. It makes it very easy to slip into and out of them quickly, which is important for a woman solo traveler in places where a bare leg might cause maybe just a little too much excitement. Because they’re technically “overpants,” they’re made roomy enough to wear a light pair of slacks underneath.
This wide, scrunchy elastic band is the secret to their comfort. It runs vertically down each hip and thigh. You might notice that the stitching on mine got a couple of picks but they didn't unravel very far, even when I stupidly pulled on them. And that seam you see between the pocket and the elastic -- that's the leg zipper. The two sturdy snaps at the waistband are easily undone by pulling on the large glove-friendly rubber tab. (There's one on the jacket collar, too.) Note that there's plenty of mesh at the bend of hip and thigh -- a high sweat area. I use the two zippered front pockets for keys and small change, and they're deep enough that even if I forget to zip them up my stuff stays put.
When I wear the pants just over my underwear (microfiber and wicking silk for this trip), the inner perforated nylon liner feels silky and comfortable against my skin (except where that pesky armor sits). On my old Mustang pants the Cordura fabric felt stiff and crunchy, the legs making a swishy sound, but the Airglide is much more flexible. Certainly the mesh makes them lighter all around. I was surprised to find that it was so water resistant that I didn’t need the waterproof liners when riding through light rain.
This is also a high-visibility outfit. It comes in many colors and I chose silver/pewter to reflect the heat and because I don’t look good in yellow. I didn’t realize until I saw a flash photo that its Scotchlite coating makes it positively glitter. Decorative piping is also highly reflective, so that drivers can see you better.
The guys I met who rode down from Europe to Morocco in heavy gear were envious. "Blimey! Do they make that kind of kit for blokes?" they ask when they see the Airglide. Yes, boys, they do!
Olympia Moto Sports did a great job designing these two pieces and over the years I’ve seen each model improve. In fact, they’ve already got an improved Airglide 3. The line is incredibly durable -- I know, because I do tend to put them through the test, especially this trip with sand, sun, mud, hail, and snow, and days and days on dirty, dusty, unpaved roads.
If this review sounds too glowing, well, remember that the days of women’s riding clothes being inferior are way over. It’s hard to find much to complain about on products made by any of the higher-end gear companies whose charter it is to keep abreast on the latest high-tech fabrics and patterns and improve features to constantly move toward that perfect combination of durability, weight, weatherproofing, visibility, and comfort. So if you’re riding in hot conditions, and this outfit fits your body, buy it. Wear it. Be happy. You’re worth it. Now, if only they could tinker with the weather...
The new Ladies Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Jacket is $249.99 and the Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Overpant is $199.99. They both come with zip-in wind and waterproof/breathable Thermolite insulated liners that can be worn on their own. Sizes XS to 3XL fit women from 4 feet 5 inches and 90 pounds to 6 feet and 195 pounds. Visit OlympiaMotoSports.com for more information.
About the Author
Carla King is a long-distance touring motorcyclist who travels to exotic places and writes about it. Her Motorcycle Misadventures series includes stories about trips in America, China, India, Europe and Africa. You can buy her book reviewed on WRN read her dispatches on the Web at CarlaKing.com for more information.