Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Olympia Phantom review

I recently bought an Olympia Phantom from my friend Nathan at MotoLiberty San Antonio (TX). It might seem strange that a guy from Seattle would buy from a store in San Antonio, but service is important to me. MotoLiberty has always delivered at both the Dallas and SA locations. They know their stuff and they're easy to work with.

This past Sunday I took the Phantom on a shakedown ride eastbound from Seattle on I-90 then east on I-82 into Yakima. Temperatures over Snoqualmie Pass were in the 37F range with persistent rain. Temps east of the mountains were about 54F with winds in the 40+ mph range. It was a near perfect day for a test.

The suit consists of a Dupont Cordura outer shell and a removable jump suit liner. I wore a t-shirt, Warmnsafe electric jacket liner, bluejeans and touring boots underneath the lined suit. Without connecting my heated jacket liner, I was perfectly warm even at 37F in the rain..... but I should mention that I was on the FJR with V-Strom hand guards and the windshield all the way up. I guess what I'm saying is that the bike protected the suit and the suit protected me. Dispite riding in the cold rain for at least 2 hours, I never got wet and the only parts of me that started feeling cold were the tips of my thumbs.

There are other reviews of the product out there, but here are my opinions of the design and execution:

1) The suit is promoted as a pull-over that can be donned over your street clothes. This is probably practical if you're not using the liner, but if you use the whole suit, it's a PITA to do.

2) The suit seems very effective as a "put it on in the morning and ride all day" suit.

3) It's a painfully long process to get the suit on and off. The outer shell has a whopping 124 inches (Yes, TEN+ FEET) of 1" wide velcro that has to be seperated (and realigned) before you can get the suit on or off. Mind you, there's 10 feet of zipper underneath the 10 feet of velcro. Oh, and another ten feet of zipper on the liner (but no velcro). So if we do the math, we have ten feet of velcro and twenty feet of zipper. No, I'm not kidding.

4) Olympia made no provision for making electrical connections thru the suit. There is no prescribed way to connect your heated clothes. There are no openings in the liner or outer shell.

5) Unless you peel the top part of the suit down, you can't get anything out of your pants pockets if you need to. I left my wallet in my jeans and had to do some Cirque de Soleil moves to extract it later. Even something as simple as getting two Tums out of my left front pocket required the skills of a specially trained Chinese girl. There is NO access from the outside to the inside of the suit.

So how do I view the suit in the marketplace? I think it's preferable to a set of leathers for LD riding, but I'll keep my cowskins for the crazy stuff. It's more comfy and warmer than my Joe Rocket two piece suit. It supports a wider range of temps than anything else I own. The removable liner and the zippered venting should easily support temps from freezing to 100F without much trouble.

Does it work? Yes, if you accept it for what it is. Is it convenient for short trips? Not even a little bit. Is it a good touring suit for a 700 mile day? At its price point, yes. Street pricing is around $450.