Suit With the Dragon Tattoo

Arlen Ness's Lady Mag: the Suit with the Dragon Tattoo.

Crash-worthy and comfortable.  Stylish but serious.  Quality you’d expect in a suit with double the price tag.  Something didn’t add up.  I first heard about Arlen Ness’s Lady Mag Suit on a women-riders forum last year, but I’d never actually seen one until I met a few guys from Arlen Ness at Infineon this year.  By all outward appearances, it did seem like a perfectly nice piece of gear, part of an exclusive line of racewear from a well-respected American company…known for it’s custom cruiser parts.  Now, if you wanted to define the spectrum of motorcycle aficionados, you’d put the custom-cruiser crowd on one end and the sportbike racing freaks on the other.  I may gravitate toward one end of this spectrum more than the other, but anyone who knows anything about two wheels and an engine knows the name Arlen Ness and the quality associated with it.  Could it be that a company like this could pay equal homage to to such extremes? Satisfy the yin and the yang of the biker universe?  I was about to find out.

Following a hunch. Could it be true?

The Mag suit. Mag?  As in, short for Maggie?  Try short for ‘magnesium’.  As in external magnesium armor at the shoulders, elbows, and knees (yes, a woman’s suit).  Girls, I know what you’re thinking:  anything strong enough to stop pre-term labor ought to be strong enough to keep your connective tissue connected, right?  Well, it’s different stuff, but yeah, hella-tough. Know what else this suit has that other women’s suits don’t?  A speed hump.  A serious one.  This is a feature you want in a track suit. Designed for serious neck protection, the appropriately designed speed hump protects your cervical spine from hyper-extension injuries that can paralyze you and less-serious but seriously painful spinous process fractures (the part of the bone you can feel when you look down at your feet and reach back there with your hand).  Why this safety feature is so frequently omitted from other brands’ female-specific suits is not so much of a mystery as it is a frank slap in the face to women riders.  Ok, Arlen…you’ve got my attention.

Magnesium plates at external shoulders, elbows, and knees.

Serious safety.

On closer inspection, the suit continues to impress.  Stitching and craftsmanship is really nice, even in areas of mixed media.  The leather is cowhide, but feels more like the super-soft leather from that marsupial down-under.  It’s interconnected with lighter, stretchier panels of Neoprene and stretch-Kevlar in less abrasion-prone areas, resulting in a surprisingly comfortable fit over curves where other suits tend to (um) man-ify a woman’s figure. That’s right ladies; be your curvy self and be able to zip the dang thing up.  Zippers and pulls are solid (YKK), as is the stitching in these areas (a common weak spot for any garment).  Flexible knee “sockets” are further reinforced with rigid, ventilated outer armor which, ok, looks really cool.

A mixed-media work of art (Neoprene inner leg stitched to zipper, perforated leather, and leather logo).

The inside of the suit is at least as impressive as the outside.  The entirely removable full inner liner is made of florescent yellow, open-cell foam that is downright space-age: doesn’t get sticky when you sweat.  You’ll have to insert your own spine protector (no, the hump doesn’t trump), but CE-certified armor lines the inner shoulders, knees, and elbows as you would expect.  Knee pucks affix to a double layer of velcro, so when you wear these out (and you will, of course), just rip off the outer layer of velcro and slap on a new puck.  That’s right; twice as long ’till your first visit to the leather shop.

The knee socket: see the metal-mesh protector (inside left)? Cool!

High-tech inner liner.

With all this leather and armor and metal, it’s no surprise that this thing is heavy!  I couldn’t find a stock weight, and don’t own a scale (you should throw yours away, too), but I was a bit taken aback when I picked it up.  ”Oh jeeze…cumbersome!”, I thought.  No way.  It blew my mind when I put it on.  Somehow, I felt lighter on my bike. I’m guessing it’s like when Olympic swimmers put on those full-body Lycra suits…you just feel fast in this thing.  No pinching, even in an aggressive riding position; felt more like I was ready for the surf than my cycle!

The guys from Arlen Ness advised that the suits run on the large side, so if you’re between sizes, chose the smaller one (thank you).  I found this to be sound advice.  Although my size SMALL was still big in the torso, it fit so perfectly everywhere else that I wouldn’t dare risk a re-size (besides, you guys know I’m a shrimp).  Arlen Ness seems to have not only conquered custom cruiser craftsmanship, but professional quality race wear, even for women.  Sadly, the Lady Mag Suit is the only female-specific product in the catalog right now, which is a real bummer; you should see the racing boot!  The only thing I’m left wondering is, what’s the story behind that b.a.dragon logo?

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