We’ve been on a bit of a roll testing Alpinestars’ latest and greatest products aimed at the adventure rider, and that now includes a review of their top tier suit, the Durban Gore-Tex. Updated this spring, they made a number of adjustments to what many people think was already one of the best suits on the market. So how does it stack up?
I’ve learned over the last few years that the best way to evaluate a motorcycle suit is to put it within a certain context. Mesh suits need to be compared with other mesh suits, full Gore-Tex layers with the same. The Durban needs to be set within the range of multi-layered pieces that utilize an inner waterproof and insulated layer for weatherproofing. On that level playing field, it really is an exceptionally good combo.
The end goal for any suit is to provide the user with maximum protection in the event of a get-off as well as respite from foul weather. Lastly, an adventure suit is a travel tool and needs to have useful features, namely convenient storage solutions for items big and small. The Durban ticks those boxes one by one, and quite well.
Protective features abound. The polymide outer fabric has been layered with ceramic-coated Superfabric at the key impact points. The ceramic that is bonded to that fabric is designed to greatly increase sliding efficiency which ideally decreases risk of injury. Those protective layers are placed at the shoulders, elbows, and on the knees, places that are also fitted with CE certified body armor. Pockets at the chest allow for additional protective pads and while I think it might be a misstep to not include it, the back pocket is designed to accept the CE certified Nucleon back protector. Additional safety features include reflective accents on all sides of the suit.
Ventilation and weatherproofing have been carefully addressed through dozens of thoughtful features. There are a total of 7 vents on the jacket. There are zippered slit vents on the upper and lower arms, chest and the main vertical storm flap on the primary zipper can be folded back to expose one large mesh panel that runs the full length of the jacket. I have used other suits with that configuration and while it looks a little clunky, I have to admit it is very effective and easy to open and close with the left hand.
If I have one hesitation, it is with the waterproofing layer. Although I’m a big fan of Gore-Tex, and have used it to save me from horrible weather the world over, Alpinestars decided to line their waterproof inner jacket with micro-fleece. In the warmer months when rain hits, that liner is going to be rather toasty. It’s not a deal breaker, but it might reduce the comfort level during the hottest travel months.
Walking through the many useful features, the Durban sets itself apart from many other jackets. The rear external cargo pocket is not only cavernous, it can be removed and used as a shoulder bag. Anyone who has traveled extensively can see the benefit of such an option. The upper back section includes a hydration reservoir pouch. You can file this under extreme quibbling, but that pocket is covered in black fabric. On one recent ride, I noticed my refreshing supply of water was rather warm by the middle of my ride.
Because the Durban has been around for a while, Alpinestars has had ample time to make a few minor tweaks to make it better for 2016. I like the placement of the arm vents, sleeve adjustments, and the new shape of the collar is not only more comfortable, it includes soft-touch fabrics for a smooth interface.
It’s also easy to overlook the things that aren’t often listed with bullet points on a spec sheet. Not every manufacturer has nailed the anatomical shape of their jackets and pants. Alpinestars’ use of articulated panels gives the Durban a very natural body shape that eliminates the severity of creases in the fabric and even reduces flapping, or flagging at high speed. Movements in the jacket and pants also feel more fluid and unencumbered.
One final word on the jacket––it looks killer. I love the color blocking and the natural shades of the fabric retain the adventure suit aesthetic without looking overtly technical and loud.
On the lower half, Alpinestars didn’t make too many changes this year. The Durban Gore-Tex pant is still elegantly clean and simple. With an adjustable waist, large cargo pockets, thigh vents and Superfabric applied to impact points, they are not overly complicated. The fleece-lined Gore-Tex liner of the pants still gives me pause in warmer weather rainstorms, but I imagine it will be a nice addition as fall turns to early winter.
A removable bib, suspenders, and a 360º waist zipper keep the pants from sagging and connected to the jacket, and the knee armor sits in adjustable pockets to ensure they stay in place. Leather panels in the inner legs reduce engine heat transfer and give a durable and secure interface with the motorcycle. Alpinestars didn’t miss a trick.
There’s very little to not like about the Durban Gore-Tex combo. Aesthetically, it is one of the nicer suits on the market if you like the traditional color-blocking common to the genre. My favorite feature is the removable rear cargo pocket and while it may look odd, the front mesh panel at the primary jacket zipper, does work very well.
I may be unfair with my assessment of the liners, and perhaps biased by my location in the warmer Southwestern US, but I would have liked the Gore-Tex liner to be made of something lighter, and certainly not fleece-lined. I have insulation layers out the wazoo. In fact, many of them are base and mid layers made by Alpinestars which I think are absolutely awesome.
For $800 the jacket is a big spend for most riders, but given the quality of materials, level of comfort and protection it affords, I think it is a reasonable ask. Keep in mind, a good Gore-Tex rain jacket from a reputable outdoor manufacture will command half that price. I’m actually amazed motorcycle jackets don’t cost far more than they do. The pants clock in at $600, which again, is a competitive price.
Judged with the same criteria I apply to all multi-layered riding systems, I’d say the Durban Gore-Tex ranks up there with the very top. Maybe even the tippy-top.