Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit
The Aerostich factory on 18th Avenue West was originally a candy factory.Today the sweet stuff is created solely for motorcyclists.

To tell the story of the legendary Aerostich riding suit is to tell a story about America. The dream of it, but also the tenacity required to navigate its possibilities. Because running a successful small business in America these days demands more than a clear vision and hard work. It requires staying power.

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Native Duluthian Andy Goldfine was committed to the dream of creating a small business long before he knew what product or service he might offer. Separately, the concept of a lightweight, armored, easy-to-use coverall to wear over clothes as one commuted to and from their job was born from a personal wish to own such an item. These two ambitions merged when Goldfine conjured the first Roadcrafter one-piece riding suit back in 1983.

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Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit
Andy Goldfine’s intention to supply motorcyclists with high-quality, handcrafted apparel and useful kit has never wavered.

What Schott is to leather and Belstaff is to waxed cotton, Aerostich is to synthetic-fiber textiles used to create durable, high-performance motorcycle gear. The world is overflowing with it now, but back in the early ’80s, people weren’t talking about things like breathability or tensile strength or viscoelastic foam armor. Cordura and Gore-Tex were still exotic. And so, without any kind of roadmap, Goldfine created a totally new type of riding gear, and boy, did that suit show us what our leather gear was missing.

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit
The Aerostich building in Duluth is no factory, instead feeling more like an artist’s enclave where the skilled craftspeople combine forces to create exceptionally high-quality riding gear. It’s cool to see, and all visitors who happen by are welcome to a tour. For me, it made my connection to my latest Roadcrafter suit so much more significant, having watched in person the craftspeople who handwrite their signatures inside each suit.

I (literally) stepped into my first Roadcrafter back in 1986 when Goldfine was visiting the Rider offices in California, and I have been living in these suits ever since. Like so many motojournalists of that era, I found the Roadcrafter wasn’t just the gold standard for commuting, it was also magic for sportbike riding and touring. Newer designs (R-3 Darien and AD1) from the Aerostich factory in Duluth might be just as popular these days, but when I last visited the shop I was hunting for a new Roadcrafter Classic two-piece to fit my now middle-aged bod.

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit
The original Roadcrafter Classic, handcrafted in Duluth, has been refined over the years, yet remains totally recognizable.

It was my first time in Goldfine’s very Minnesotan three-story brick building – a former candy factory – and it was obvious right away this is a cool place for bikers to chill. After I was fitted for my new suit, I got a tour of the different floors and stations where skilled craftsmen and craftswomen, a fair number of riders among them, cut and assemble the various fabric into “kits,” which are then handed over to expert sewers and finally seam-taping machine operators before each garment is inspected and prepared to meet its new owner.

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The handcrafting of the suits is enjoyable to watch, especially since everyone working here – some who have been with Goldfine for decades – seems to enjoy their craft.

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit

But one of the things I leave most impressed by is how fiercely this operation works to remain “Made in the USA.” For example, Goldfine explains that, due to current trade policies, the tariff on bringing in fabric from Asia is about twice as high as the tariff for bringing in completed riding gear. “It’s as if the USA doesn’t want commercial/industrial sewing activity done in this country,” he told me.

Supply chain issues caused by Covid have only deepened the challenge. Yet Goldfine remains true to his standards, a rare example of an apparel manufacturer uneasy with the lure of inexpensive offshore production, even as many consumers take the bait, sometimes unwittingly trading quality for low prices on everyday goods.

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit

While the riding suits remain the pillar of Aerostich offerings, Goldfine has created and collected a dangerously desirable array of complementary apparel items, accessories, and equipment to make riding “easier, safer, and more comfortable.” It might be a heated mid-layer, a unique tool, perfect-fitting earplugs, stink-resistant socks, or a new tent you didn’t know you needed until you saw it on the website or in that cherished catalog that occasionally shows up in the mail.

Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit

And while he finds satisfaction in his artful curation of products and the affirmation of Aerostich loyalists, Goldfine’s core intention isn’t driven by being fashionable or even making money. His deeper motivation is about promoting the physical, psychological, and societal benefits of riding motorcycles every day. It’s why he created Ride to Work Day, to remind us of the Rx effect of being on the motorcycle, even for a short “useful” ride each day. He believes riding makes us “better-functioning, calmer, clearer” people and also brings economic, environmental, and congestion-lessening benefits to our communities.

It’s with these big thoughts in mind that I step into my fresh Roadcrafter a week later. How the heck can a riding suit feel like home? This one does. No matter what newfangled riding apparel comes into my life to be tested, it’s the all-American Aerostich that endures.

For more information, visit aerostich.com.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The big boys in the market better be looking behind their back. Microsoft and Apple did as well as the big three in Detroit. Even the aircraft manufacturers are slugging it out with efficient jets and we’re supplying the Ukrainians with defense weapons. I think our economy will grow soon.

  2. I’ve had 2 Aerostich suits and did like and used them extensively and would probably still be using one if they had updated their designs (more vents/mesh/removable liners). What they had was the best when nobody else was doing textile riding gear. But since then, every company has started producing textile suits with far more options. Sure, Andy’s design is still the quickest to put on and take off but IMHO that’s about their only advantage at this point.

  3. I’m lucky enough to have a one-piece Roadcrafter, a two-piece Roadcrafter and a Darien outfit. If there are other companies producing suits with more features, I’m not interested enough to research them or go to shops and try them on. I’m delighted with my Aerostich suits. No matter the season or the destination, I have the right thing to wear. Thanks, Andy!

  4. My wife and i love our suits. I have a R3 Light one piece and a Darien Jacket (pants I’ll order soon) and my wife has a 2 piece Roadcrafter Light. We live in Texas so the light versions are almost obligatory. LOL. Using layers keeps us plenty warm. Most importantly they keep us DRY. The craftsmanship is absolutely first rate.

  5. I have a Roadcrafter R3 and have put several thousand miles on it in six years. The great: easy to slip on and off, so perfect for commuting. The bad: vents about as well as 55-gallon drum. I tried the R3 on day trips and weekend jaunts, but it failed miserably. My Klim Badlands jacket and pants go on all my trips while the R3 hangs in the garage. The annoying: zipper pulls have broken and main zipper and leg zippers had to be replaced.

    Verdict: fantastic commuting suit, but meh overall. For touring, there are better options.

  6. Just flew from Tampa, FL up to Duluth on Friday, got a fitting with Angie on Saturday and flew back right afterwards. Using the long weekend to consider options between RC3 and Classic 2 piece…and of course what colors…

  7. The R3 is a total dad suit as in sufficiently dorky to appeal to the rider not worried about being appealing anymore. There is a certain cache in wearing US-made rider gear designed by the type of rider that I am. It is a je ne sais quois that makes me feel good putting it on. It’s not perfect, wet crotch in bad downpours and a bit stuffy when the temperature rises above 85*F and humid, but for the majority of my riding it’s great. Perhaps the biggest benefit I’ve found is being able to don it over whatever it is I am wearing without fuss, like a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Heading to work in the morning I can easily wear it over dress slacks and an oxford with tie and quickly shed it to leave on my bike in the garage. The right amount of storage means I can keep my earplugs, garage opener, work badge etc. all stowed and ready to go when I need to leave. I had thought the famous suits were perhaps a bit gimmicky but after owning one I can say I’m sold and hope they keep making them for many decades to come.

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