Sometimes finding the right leather race suit can be harder than saving a high-side. So we decided to put almost 80 suits to the test with six different riders from all shapes and sizes to determine what actually matters when sizing for a one-piece suit.
JC walks you through the step by step process of measuring yourself for the right fit, talks about body types, comfort, armor and then he discusses some of the differences in fit between some of the top brands.
Chest: Grab your tailor’s tape and wrap it around your chest. You will want to come just under the arm pit at the widest point. Key here is to take a slow breath, not puff out your chest, and stand natural.
Sleeve Length: Start at the point of your shoulder and measure down to your wrist. Note: some brands use a slightly different sleeve length. If you notice on the size chart, sleeve length is abnormally long, you’ll want to use an alternative means of measuring. For this you will measure from the mid-point of the neck, down the top of the shoulder, and down to your wrist.
Hips: Find the widest part of your hips. This is generally where your pants sit, or just below. Pull the tape across your butt and around the hip sockets.
Waist: The easiest way to get this measurement is by finding the soft area between the bottom of your rib cage and above the top of your hip bone. Measure around your body which should be close to your bellybutton.
Thigh Width: Not to be confused with thigh length, thigh width is measured at the widest point on the leg, typically where the leg meets the body
Inseam: The trick is to not be shy, hike up the tape as high as possible, touching your pubic bone. Standing up nice and tall, you will measure along the inside of your leg down to the floor. This is where some help goes a long way; have them pull the tape taught to where it meets the floor. This should be done without shoes.
Out Seam: Same process as the inseam, however you will start at the hip line (as we mentioned earlier) and pull down the outside of the leg to where the tape meets the floor. No shoes.
The first step is to understand exactly what you’re dealing with when talking about sizes. Some suits are labeled Small/Medium/Large/etc. However, most are labeled with a two-digit number, and this will be expressed as European size or an American/US size. The Euro sizes are exactly 10 higher than US sizes, but they should fit essentially the same. For example, a Euro 54 is the same as a US 44. Also, changes in size are done in increments of two in both Euro and US. If a US 44 is too large, drop one size to a 42. If it is too tight, go up to a 46. This is common with many motorcycle jackets as well.
Now that we’ve gone over body types, the next step is determining between comfort fit and race fit.
Race Fit- These suits should fit snug against the body, but should also not restrict your movements or breathing. There should be minimal excess material and the built-in armor should not be able to rotate. Undoubtedly this will be the best option for serious track riders or racers where the speeds are high.
Comfort Fit- If you are a casual track day attendee and like to tear up the canyons or back roads but want that next-level protection, the comfort fit will most likely be the optimal choice. This fit is more relaxed and certainly less invasive, giving you a little more room for comfort, making it by far the most popular choice. While slightly baggier, the protective pieces on the knees, shoulders and elbows should not be able to rotate much. This will still allow the suit to maintain the coverage you need if you do indeed take a trip on the asphalt.
Sizing for Race Fit vs. Comfort Fit- Once you’ve found your race fit through size charts and identifying personal needs, finding the proper comfort fit is easy; just go the next size up. Keep in mind, suit sizes in increments of two, so if you are a 44 race fit, your comfort fit size is a 46.
Base Layers- Getting into your leathers is tough enough, but once you start sweating in them, getting the suit off is a major pain. We recommend some sort of riding underwear that is form-fitting and moisture wicking. Not only will these perform much better than a regular cotton T-shirt and undies, you won’t experience bunching or any moisture related discomfort. A long-sleeve shirt is better than a short-sleeve. We encourage a slightly taller collar to help keep the suit collar, usually stiff leather, from chaffing your neck. Just an inch or two is fine, doesn’t have to be a full-blown turtleneck. Thumbholes on the cuffs can be a nice addition as well, but are less important. For the legs, definitely use long underwear instead of shorts. There are also one-piece suits available that are designed specifically as race suit underwear. Products from Under Armour/Nike/Adidas/etc. are sufficient and easily acquired, but there are products built by motorcycle companies that are probably more deserving of your funds. Support the sport, folks.
Armor and Additional Protection- Suits will have different levels of armor built in. Some are stitched in place and others are removable from the liner system. Often, the suit has inserts built in to accept even more armor which is purchased separately. Most brands that produce race suits, such as Alpinestars, Rev’IT and Spidi make additional internal armor if you desire more protection. There is also armor from other brands such as Knox and Forcefield which are more universal and can be paired with virtually any brand of suit. One of the drawbacks of adding additional armor is adding bulk, which may require a larger size. We find that if you want to add armor, your best option is to go with the comfort fit, as explained above. This will give you the necessary room for armor, but still deliver performance and protection you need.
Note- It’s a good idea to decide whether or not you want additional armor now or in the future, so you don’t have to purchase larger suit down the road.