The search for the perfect adventure riding gear continues here at CMG. Unhappy with the wet-weather performance of the two-layer jackets I’d usually wear (a breezy, vented exterior with waterproof liner), I determined my next jacket-and-pants setup would be a single-layer system, preferably Gore-Tex. A phone call to Alpinestars last fall set me up with the new Revenant jacket and pants.
Both jacket and pants are made of basically the same materials, but the jacket has a unique feature that makes it worthwhile to break this review here into two parts.
Alpinestars Revenant jacket ($1,299 CAD)
This is the company’s flagship jacket, the top of the Tech Touring line. It’s super pricey, worth more than some motorcycles I’ve owned over the years. Why is it so expensive?
First off, Alpinestars would say you get the latest Euro design. There’s some truth to that: the jacket has a lot of adjustability, to improve its fit (cinch straps and/or snaps on arms and above hips). There’s proper waterproof venting and pockets all over the jacket as well, designed with functionality in mind.
Then there’s the jacket’s construction. It’s textile, with “GORE-TEX® Pro Shell three-layer construction incorporating a special high performance GORE-TEX® membrane, bonded to a strong outer material and a durable inner lining, ensuring a thin, reduced material construction with no movement between the three layers, which promotes greater durability.” In other words, it’s an up-to-date Gore-Tex design that should last a long time. I didn’t cut apart the fabric to see the construction for myself, but I presume the description is accurate, and if so, this stuff is expensive but functional.
Most of all, though, you’re paying for compatibility with Alpinestars’ Tech-Air airbag system. When airbag suits first came to market, they were designed for roadracers. Now, some manufacturers, including Alpinestars, are also manufacturing those systems for the street. The Revenant jacket will accept the Tech-Air components, which go beyond usual motorcycle jacket functions to offer further lifesaving capabilities in a crash.
I did not ask for the Tech-Air system, for two reasons. First, their availability was limited, and while Alpinestars actually offered to send me one, I received the jacket last fall, and didn’t think it made sense to have the Tech-Air bits sitting around useless all winter, when another journo could actually use them.
Second, I wanted the jacket mainly for adventure riding, and while the Tech-Air system would certainly be welcome for this, I thought it could make the jacket too heavy and hot off-road. Ideally, I would have liked to try it and test it to find out if that was true, but given the limited availability, I decided not to.
Now, with the future of the Tech-Air system somewhat in question as Dainese and Alpinestars battle in court over patents, there may be changes to the design down the road anyway. In Germany, Alpinestars was ordered to recall its Tech-Air vests this winter, as a result of a court order. Similar legal battles are pending in other countries, which means that while Alpinestars is unlikely to abandon airbag suit technology, its future may look a bit different than originally predicted.
Anyway — all said, it’s a jacket that has most of the features I want (waterproof shell, decent armour, good venting), and some bonuses that could be very attractive to riders looking for added safety.
Alpinestars Revenant Pants ($899.95)
The Revenant pants are made of the same Gore-Tex Pro Shell material as the jacket. I’m actually quite fussy about the design of my riding pants, and must say I liked how these were set up. The cargo pockets on the thighs are very accessible — you can even get into them when you’re riding, in a pinch. The same goes for the vents, mounted just above the pockets. There’s built-in adjustability at the waist, which is beneficial if you’re going up or down a few pounds. Alpinestars also ships these pants with suspenders, which I think is a must-have on riding pants: they help keep everything in place and lessen the need to zipper the back of your pants to the back of your jacket for safety in a crash.
A pair of Velcro adjusters on the lower legs keep the profile tidy, but there’s enough room in the bottom of the pants to fit a fairly massive pair of adventure riding boots underneath.
Along with the decently trim styling, there’s also a set of CE-certified knee armour, and foam in the hips (upgradeable). Alpinestars also included abrasion-resistant Armacor in the knees and lower legs of the pants; this not only gives extra protection from road rash, but helps you grip the bike better.
So how’d they work?
At $2,200 plus tax for this set of gear, you’d think it had better work very well. I’m here to report that it sort-of did, and sort-of didn’t, but the problems were mostly my fault, I think.
First off, the jacket: I had one major complaint about the jacket, and that was fit. I sent my measurements in to Alpinestars and was somewhat nonplused when a 2XL jacket showed up. A bit much, I thought, as I usually wear an L or XL jacket, but maybe I’m getting to 2XL on the Euro sizing chart?
Alas, the jacket was indeed a tad big, leaving me to wonder if it was just an issue of Alpinestars being overly cautious and not wanting to send me an XL in case it was too small, or if the measurements I sent in translated to a 2XL that I just didn’t need.
In any case, if you were trying on the jacket before purchase, this wouldn’t be an issue. And really, it was the only issue I had with the jacket, as it was definitely unpleasantly bulky once spring arrived. (The extra room was actually reasonably useful during mid-winter rides, as it allowed me to wear more layers underneath. There’s a silver lining for every cloud!)
But aside from that, I found this jacket excellent at the one thing I needed it to do really well: repel bad weather. On my recent trip around the Cabot Trail, I spent a whole day riding in the rain, and the jacket didn’t leak anywhere, including the usual problem spots of zippers and neck openings. Nowhere. Not even my trusty Olympia AST was this leak-proof. Miraculously, I survived this tour without so much as a soggy receipt in the pockets.
When the weather warmed up, the jacket nicely transformed into a fairly breezy outfit, thanks to all the vents. However, due to its one-layer construction with the Gore-Tex built in, it’s still a heavy jacket, and during more strenuous off-road riding (read: pulling my Yamaha WR250R out of a mudhole, then bashing through single-track on a sunny day), I definitely overheated.
But that’s not what this jacket is for. It says Tech Touring right on the sleeve, and that’s what it’s for: touring, whether on the street or down fairly easy gravel roads on your BMW GS. Alpinestars has other equipment for you if you want to live out your hardcore dualsport dreams.
Although the jacket was fairly stiff when I got it, it soon broke in, and I actually found the gusseting behind the shoulders made for a very comfortable fit during all-day rides, despite the weight of the fabric.
Aside from the fitment issue, which is easily avoided by trying on before you buy, the only other complaint I had was the cuffs. Alpinestars has a two-part Velcro strap closure on the cuffs, and it just seemed a minor hassle to get set up, with the fabric tending to bunch up in ways I didn’t like. However, other riders with larger wrists or more patience might not find this such an annoyance.
On to the pants: Let me first say that I love almost everything about these pants. They fit very, very well. It just feels good to wear them, almost like a comfortable pair of jeans. The air vents are small, but they do the job (although I haven’t tried them on a blazing hot July day yet). The pockets are highly functional. The straps keep everything in place. All in all, these are some of my favourite moto pants.
Yet, there’s one detail I find extremely frustrating. Alpinestars uses a sort of hook closure on the front, on top of a zipper, and these are fairly straightforward. I got a pair of XL pants, and they more or less seemed to fit just how I liked.
That zipper and hook closure is backed up by a secondary snap, and that snap was the bane of my existence. Every time I fastened it, it would pop open shortly after, if I bent over and put pressure on the waistband of the pants.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Go on a diet, dummy, and it won’t be an issue.” [Yes, exactly – Ed.] But I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the problem is that Alpinestars designed these pants with a higher waistline than normal. Think of the difference between your average pair of men’s jeans, and a pair of “mom jeans.” Men’s jeans fit low, just over the hips, and mom jeans sit a lot higher and closer to your belly button.
That’s where the Revenant pants fit, and I dare say that most North American men would find they’d be putting pressure on the waistband when they leaned over, unless they’re super-skinny, or are wearing their pants on the baggy side.
Thankfully, the pants are going to stay up because the hook fastener and zipper stay closed, and the suspenders keep them in place as well. Still, it’s annoying, and surely Alpinestars could have come up with a better solution.
I do think Alpinestars designed the pants with a high waistline to make them more weatherproof, and I think this is commendable, generally speaking. If I wasn’t wearing the suspenders, the pants might naturally sit a bit farther down, which might solve the problem, but then you can potentially have rain working its way through the front of the jacket and down over your pants’ waistband.
I did have a leak in the pants’ crotch during my ride to Cape Breton, and I was unable to determine if it was the result of poor fitment, or if the pants themselves actually leaked. Only extensive riding in the rain will answer this, and I do plan on trying more rain rides over the coming days to pin down the exact cause. [This is why we pay Zac the big bucks. Ed.]
Would I recommend the Alpinestars Revenant gear? I think the jacket is worth considering if 1), you want or require its safety features and 2), you have a lot of money. Like, A Lot Of Money. If this jacket was one size smaller, it’d be my go-to choice for any ride where a one-piece suit was unsuitable. Although it’s hugely expensive, you get the ability to have single-layer waterproofing backed by Gore-Tex’s guarantee and also integrate an airbag safety system. For those who are very serious about their long-distance comfort, this is the sort of gear you need to aspire to.
If I was going to do the Iron Butt, I’d have a hard time choosing between this and an Aerostich.
However, the reality is that not everyone is that interested in single-layer waterproofing or airbag compatibility, and most riders don’t have $1,300 to spend on a jacket. If that’s you, then don’t worry: Alpinestars and other manufacturers have plenty of other options that will work just as well for you, at much lower prices. This is aspirational gear, but not necessary.
What about the pants? I really think you’d want to try them on before buying. Put ’em on, walk around for a few minutes, get down on your knees like you’re oiling your bike chain, generally move about. Are they comfortable, or are the closures popping? If so, think carefully.
The leak I encountered might scare off some buyers, but remember that Gore-Tex backs its products with a lifetime guarantee. If your pants do leak, you can send them in for replacement.
With that in mind, I’d say the Revenant pants are nice if you want pants that match the jacket, but Alpinestars and other companies offer single-layer waterproofing on other models of riding pants at lower cost. This is one case where, despite all the good things about the product, the pricing would make me urge you to shop around first before spending $900 on motorcycle pants.