Aerostich’s story is one of the people. The people in Duluth handcrafting Aerostich products, and the people around the world who’ve turned the Roadcrafter one-piece suit into a cult icon. It’s about people like Andy Goldfine who staunchly believe motorcycling is inherently good for the human race, “a social good,” he says.
In 1983, as the industrial sewing industry was leaving America and equipment was being auctioned at paltry prices, Andy purchased 16 industrial sewing machines without knowing what he was going to do with them. He was at a point in his life where it was now or never, something had to give. It didn’t take long though for an idea to be born of necessity, as they often are, but it needed a name. Looking for something as generic as possible, he chose to combine aero and stitch.
“Look mom, I’ve got a business card,” said a young, entrepreneurial Andy Goldfine as he handed a freshly printed card to his mother, a stack of matching letterhead tucked under his arm, “Oh, honey,” she said sympathetically, “You misspelled stitch.” Admittedly never all that great at spelling, Andy replied sheepishly, “Thanks, mom.” At the local library later that week Andy found the word stich did in fact exist and was a literary term for a line in a verse. “That’s okay,” he thought and decided to stick with it. Furthermore, he wouldn’t have to pay the $34 dollars or so that it would cost him to reprint new materials. Looking back, he’s happy with the unique spelling.
Goldfine’s idea was that if he could create a product to help folks more easily and safely ride motorcycles, he could, in essence, make the world a better place. For nearly 40 years, in a 100-year old former candy factory on the bay of Lake Superior, Andy Goldfine and the Aerostich team have worked toward doing just that. The first Roadcrafter one-piece suit was built in 1983 with that idea in mind. When people realized they could don the Roadcrafter and easily and safely experience the benefits of motorcycling, they’d eventually ditch their cars and ride as many of the 365 days a year that was possible. That was Goldfine’s hope, a subversive approach to the automakers, road builders, and oil companies who surely don’t want motorcycles to take over.
Well, we still have fewer folks in the US using motorcycles for utilitarian purposes than most other places around the world, but more than a few people “got it.” At peak production, Aerostich employed nearly 100 people and has sold thousands of Roadcrafters over the years, and that doesn’t include any of the other dozens of products Aerostich has in its line up or the well-curated catalog of other bits and bobs that the company resells. Perhaps it’s not the cultural revolution Goldfine had hoped for, but it’s evidence of a positive impact that has been made in the community for both employees and the riders who have continuously used and/or been protected by Aerostich products.
When I was touring the workshop, Andy explained why they have tags in the garments with the names of the employees who worked on each component. Sure, they could be more efficient with an assembly line procedure but when a person is able to work on an entire aspect of a garment there’s more ownership and pride that goes into it. The employee isn’t doing the exact same task hour by hour, day by day watching the clock waiting for the end of their shift. The immense pride and gratitude that Andy Goldfine has for his co-workers is a feeling he wants them to be able to embrace as well – and many have.
There are multiple stories of employees working for years then leaving only to come back later in life. Stories of watching employee’s lives unfold through generations. Love and passion have been found inside the brick walls of that old candy factory. I met a woman who’s been at the company for nearly ten years who didn’t have much interest in riding when she started, now she’s the proud owner of a Honda Rebel 250 and has since got her husband into riding. I met the motorcyclist who started the first e-commerce website in Duluth. He’s been an integral part of Aerostich for more than 30 years.
If you’re not proud enough after buying a product handmade in the USA from Aerostich that prioritizes functionality over fashion, one trip to the shop in Duluth should do it for you. Meeting like-minded people during a Ride to Work Day gathering should do it for you. The Aerostich community is unlike any other. Pirates, hooligans, and pragmatic types abound. Motorcyclists are inherently unusual folks, particularly here in the US. We’re not normal, perhaps that’s why we can mostly get along pretty well despite our backgrounds – we all dig straddling motors and riding them down the road, track, or trail.
Aerostich’s Bread and Butter:
Aerostich R-3 One-Piece Suit
The Aerostich R-3 is the third generation one-piece suit that has made the company so well known. It features an American-made mil-spec 500D Cordura Gore-Tex fabric throughout the chassis and is bolstered in high-impact areas with 1000D fabric. Aerostich’s TF armor covers the shoulders, elbows, and knees, and can be purchased separately for the hips and back. The TF viscoelastic foam material is unique partly because the faster and harder it is struck, the more it resists impact. Customers have the choice of over 60 stock sizes with dozens of color combinations and custom adjustments to ensure the perfect fit for the application.
The suit uses two zippers, one up the right leg to the inner thigh and one that goes from the left ankle to the collar, that allow quick and easy entry/exit of the suit. By design the R-3 is made to go over your normal clothes or base- and mid-layers. Built as the ultimate commuting suit, riders have not only used the Roadcrafter to make commuting more exciting but also for touring around the world.
The Aerostich R-3 suit also has thoughtful pockets throughout to ensure you can keep the necessities close and also offers the option of attaching accessories with hook and loop fasteners. And of course, the suits are made in America.
Darien Jacket and Pants
The Darien jacket and pants were some of the first technical textile armored garments to hit the market. Designed as high-tech shells, the Darien allows users plenty of adjustability to fit the garments with or without extra layers. Similar to the R-3, the Darien jacket and pants are made from 500D Cordura Gore-Tex and feature TF3 or TF6 armor options.
Also similar to the Roadcrafter suits, the Darien jacket and pants come in a plethora of sizing and color options as well as the opportunity to add accessories to fit your use.
All sorts of useful kit
Not only does Aerostich offer products hand-made in Duluth, developed and designed in house, but they have also curated an expansive catalog of goods to help the discerning motorcyclist to enjoy his or her time on the road, whether that be commuting to the office, traveling to some far off land, or weekend rides.
The small compressor pictured above has saved my butt so many times that it has paid for itself over and over again. It easily connects to a battery lead, SAE connector, or 12V plug and has the power to get your tires back to the appropriate pressure in no time – much faster than a bicycle pump. That is just one of hundreds of other useful items found on www.aerostich.com.
3,000 miles in 3 days with the Aerostich R-3
In a way, I feel I’m not yet qualified to type this review. Sure, I spent 3,000 miles spanning the country in the third-generation Aerostich Roadcrafter immediately after picking it up in Duluth – mostly over the span of three days – but these suits of armor can withstand many years of riding and many thousands of miles of use. So, I guess, at least you know where I’m coming from. I’ve also never had the opportunity to slip into a Roadcrafter of any sort before. This was my virgin run.
Read More:Aerostich: Engineered for Social Good