At the start of the season I was faced with a couple facts that required intervention to deal with sooner rather than later:
1 - My first leather suit was made in 2005, and was literally the cheapest one piece suit a shop could buy in. 'Good Enough' to start mini racing in, there was no expectation of it lasting beyond it's first season, and it was cheap enough that if it didn't it wasn't a big loss. 12 years later I've spent three times it's initial cost in repairs after repeatedly beating the stuffing out of it. It lives on, but there isn't much to it any more, the leather is approaching paper thin.
2 - My second suit was made in 2008, purchased off the rack in 2009. I was slightly smaller then, and had only worn the suit for a couple partial seasons. It is far better protection than my first suit, but that comes at a cost of being heavy and still not really broken in. I had actually stopped wearing it a couple years ago due to it being so dang stiff. Add in the impact of age on myself and while I can pull the suit on still, I can't move in it. Getting into a crouch and bringing my arms forward to the controls takes noticeable effort. This is a 9 year old suit now too.
Fortunately, I know a man who can take care of these problems, Todd at Heroic Racing Apparel. I could have him tear down the better of my two suits and adjust it to fit my current proportions and continue to rock it for a few more years. Or, now that I'm an expert and my program is finally starting to get serious, I could justify having a suit made, and Todd stepped up to the plate.
The first part of the process is coming up with a design, and this is where I likely caused Todd to lose some hair, I don't think about design. My bikes speak to this, simple, no paint (other than my R6 'cause it came to me in those colors) and no attempt at dressing them up. I like the clean, built for a purpose look that comes from an assembly with no extra flash or design features that don't have a functional purpose. In the pitbike scene such looks would be tagged 'sano'. Sano is a look that other gear heads compliment when looking at another's bike in a garage, but it's invisible on track. I've been joking for awhile now that I'm invisible to photographers at LRRS events, the reality is compared to many riders I really do tend to not catch the camera's eye.
So this was the hardest part of the process, I knew I wanted to look professional, I'm a console and computer gamer at heart with a stable of early 90s Yamahas but as to translating that into a look I'm clueless. I had joked with my wife that I was going to look like the blue Power Ranger so a horrible draft of that idea is what started the process after a long delay on my part. Clearly, that wasn't going to clear Todd's high bar for design, but that and some conversations about my life and goals were enough to get his gears turning. We ended up going over three or four major design ideas he came up with, each iteration dialed in based on my feedback. All were good, but when he showed me the final it all clicked and there was no question, that is what I wanted and just never realized it. The guy has the patience of a saint for dealing with me in this process.
Yeah, that is HIDEOUS, and that's what I gave Todd to start with!
Final design by Todd with my input, much better!
Design locked in, my lovely wife followed Heroic's measuring guide and supplied the numbers upon which my suit was built. After that is the waiting game while Todd assembles the suit.
Timing worked out that my suit would be ready for LRRS round 5, and would arrive the day after I was leaving home to head for the track for extra early practice. Not a problem, Todd had dealt with this before and just had the suit sent to the track. This was the start of an epic weekend. Read the report, first expert win, first win ever in ULGP, within a tenth of my fastest lap ever, Facade competed for it's first time, and now that the pics have been posted I can also report that yeah, the cameras took notice.
The suit itself is Heroic's Stage 2 suit, nicknamed the Loudon suit because it's a mixture of lighter weight kangaroo for weight and flexibility with heavier cowhide in the impact and abrasion areas for extra resilience at a track known for rough get offs. The fit is damn near spot on, it is advised that you get measured wearing what you intend to wear under the suit and Todd isn't kidding when he says that. I normally wear a kidney belt and sliding shorts, which I didn't bother with when I first put the suit on. As a result I had classic 'diaper butt' with a bit of extra room in the posterior. Put on my normal kit and now it all fits as it should. My 2005 suit is fairly loose, baggy in places, my 2008 is tight to the point of almost being constrictive, the Heroic is snug, light compression so that you know it's on but not pressing anywhere. The collar is less intrusive, a bit lower than my other suits, and the aero hump that I assumed would be the most noticeable difference from my prior suits is invisible unless I try to sit in a chair with a back rest.
When I put my 2005 suit on it feels like a heavy rain coat that doesn't restrict me, but also doesn't move 100% with me, there is always a bit of sliding inside. My 2008 just makes me tired to wear, too tight and too hard to move. Putting on the Heroic it's that donning a suit of armor feel, pull the zipper up and you can feel the armor and leather lock into place and start moving with you. That extra armor combined with leather that hasn't been beaten so thin that you can breathe through it means that it doesn't move as freely as my antique, but unlike my antique it's invisible to me on the bike. No extra fatigue from fighting the suit like I do with my 2008, and no noticing it shifting on me as I move, or put a knee down, etc as happens with my 2005. Transparent, but confidence inspiring from the slight padded 'hug' it provides.
Photo by a good friend.
I'm a bit of an oddity in that I don't jump in and out of my suit all day like most riders. It goes on in the morning for practice, and doesn't come off until my racing is done. Once it comes off, that flips a switch in my brain that lets me relax and spool down. As a result, if a suit isn't comfy, or has problem spots where it's too tight, a seam in the wrong spot, etc I'm going to notice. Three days on track, wearing the suit for 8 to 9 hours a day, no issues.
M&D Racing, I think my father likes playing with the throttle on A-ko. Photo by a good friend.
Hows the protection? Dunno, never crashed in it, don't plan to find out if I can avoid it. It's far better armored than my prior suits, Todd has refined the design over the years based on the repairs he's had to make so I have all confidence that it's up for whatever I decide to challenge it with.
Compare this to the drawings, Todd isn't kidding when he says FULL CUSTOM graphics. Photo by a good friend.
Lastly, there's the look. Look over the photos in this review, tell me I don't look like a Moto America, World Superbike or MotoGP competitor, other than my goofy grin. Todd's attention to detail here is amazing, the barcode in the OutOfSpec.COM logo reads out as '771', there isn't an angle where you can't identify who I am or what my number is. He went all in with the early 90s retro nerd look, improving on my own site logos. Logos for the two series I compete in and love flank each other under the color. The colors fit the theme perfectly, again drawing on early 90s Yamaha themes with the light blue and red highlights, but staying relevant to modern sensibilities with the darker blues and blacks. Rockstar and sano, flash and professional, I can't help but have delusions of grandeur wearing it. As if my ego needs any more boosting, all weekend I had people wander up just to compliment me on the suit, got to put faces to a whole bunch of names I only knew from grid sheets before.
Completely unplanned and the color schemes match! Photo by Martin Hanlon.
This may be Halloween for an adult in my case, I'm not a national level competitor, but that doesn't diminish the awesome feeling of being treated as if I am by Heroic in the process of making my bespoke suit. Todd is interested in more than just my measurements and color prefs, I've talked 'shop' with him quite a bit over the years and he is genuinely interested in seeing everyone do more than succeed, he wants us all to excel. Suggestions on dealing with potential sponsors, how to keep and improve existing sponsor relationships, or leaving the track talk aside and having a good life in general are all in his wheelhouse. I'm not dealing with sales dept droid #4862 of Giganto-corp, I'm dealing with Todd, who I'd have no problem hanging out with at a hole in the wall BBQ joint in the middle of nowhere, it's nice when someone randomly checks in on you out of the blue not to see if there is a potential sale about to happen but to see how you're doing in general.
Amazing photo by Martin Hanlon.