Although perhaps not as familiar as the established brand names to the retail consumer, Pilot has been manufacturing motorcycle apparel for many of the OEM labels since 1995. The company is now branching out into the retail side of the riding-gear business, with one of the latest additions being a new leather one-piece racing suit. Pilot outfits the Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki team in the SunTrust Moto-ST endurance racing series, so we've had a chance to try out the company's wares first-hand. And unfortunately both SR's El Jefe and guest rider Scott Russell had the opportunity to test the crashworthiness of the Pilot product at Daytona in separate races seven months apart.
The Pilot suit utilizes lightweight, 1.3-1.5mm, milled premium cowhide for its overall construction, with perforations running over the front portion of the suit plus plastic air scoops atop each shoulder for increased airflow in hotter climes. The leather panels are stitched to each other using Pilot's PASS (Pilot Advanced Seam System), claimed to ensure extreme resistance to tearing or bursting at the attachment points. The usual CE-approved hard armor is present in the shoulders, elbows/forearms and knees for impact protection, plus additional foam padding in the hips and tailbone area. Kevlar stretch fabric is used on the inner arms/thighs and the rear of the knees/calf area, along with leather accordion-style stretch panels in the knees and lower back for better comfort and fit. A mandarin-style collar with a cloth fabric rear portion and cloth fabric at the wrist cuffs prevent chafing in those areas for even more comfort.
The Pilot suit is pretty light for being made from cowhide, with our suit scaling in 11.4 pounds. The leather is fairly supple out of the box, making for excellent comfort throughout, and the fabric on the wrist cuffs kept our wrists from getting chafed during our long stints at Daytona. Both races were run in warm, humid conditions, putting a premium on suit ventilation; neither Russell nor El Jefe had any complaints.
SR's esteemed editor-in-chief had the distinction of being the first to test the Pilot suit's crashworthiness at the opening '07 Moto-ST event at Daytona in March last year ("Racing With Legends," Jul. '07). While carrying a 26-second lead in the class at the race's midpoint, El Jefe decided to make an unplanned close-up pavement inspection of turn 1 at about 60 mph. It was a basic low-side fall, so there was no major impact, but there was a lot of sliding due to the extended asphalt run-off in that area. The suit held up very well to the abrasion with only light scuff marks, and El Jefe was able to get back in the race.
Russell was riding with Kunitsugu in the 8 Hours At Daytona Moto-ST event the following October ("Racing With Legends, Part 3," June '08) when the Kawasaki Versys-based racebike the team was racing decided to spit off Mr. Daytona in a nasty highside crash in the newly reworked International Horseshoe turn. Due to the nature of the crash, Russell's fall was a major test of the suit's impact protection qualities, as he was flipped into the air and landed on his back first, then tumbled to a stop. As you can see in the photos, the only measurable damage to the suit was some tearing of the cloth fabric at the back of the collar, with minor scuffmarks on the shoulders and backside. And thankfully Russell escaped virtually unscathed from the vicious crash, with no broken bones or other major injuries sustained.
The Pilot suit is available in custom sizing only at this point and can be made with numerous color combinations (including chrome- and carbon-look leather) and features. Prices vary from $700 to $1000 depending on the customization, with delivery in 4-6 weeks.