by Gerde Applethwaite
Shorter: I think the Tourmaster Centurion riding suit is a good deal for the price. The weather has turned seriously cold in many parts of the country and its time to take yet another look at a riding suit that won’t break your wallet.
There was a time in ancient history when I used to ride in a beat up ‘Wild One’ style leather jacket, 501′s and a pair of Chucks. On my head I sported a bruised silver Bell Custom 500 helmet when I wore a helmet at all. That was it, that was my total commitment to gear for many years – oh yeah and Serengeti Driver sunglasses. Ever have a bee smash itself into that space between your nose and the nose bridge on your glasses at 60 MPH? Very disconcerting. Riding gear has improved since then and my inclination has improved as well. I am, as you likely know by now, all about the ATGATT and the hi-viz. In my slowly expanding collection of riding gear there is a pile of Tourmaster/Cortech textile kit. I am not a big spender on gear: I just don’t have a Klim type budget. I have found over the years that I really get major bang for my buck with Tourmaster gear. I am often amazed at what they are able to crank out for their price point. My #2 go-to is Firstgear with Scorpion coming on strong.
The Tourmaster Centurion suit has been around for a while and I see it often on touring riders. It comes in just below $400.00 and for that price you get whizzbangs not seen in many of the pricier suits. The suit that I have been riding around in is the Joe Rocket Survivor suit. It is slightly less expensive than the Tourmaster and its a good suit. When I was shopping it out I thought about getting the Centurion suit but decided almost immediately against it because they do not have a hi-viz model. When Joe Rocket presented its semi-hi-viz version I jumped on it. If you are looking into suits and are not interested in hi-viz riding gear then the Centurion should be an option for you.
The shoulder, knee, and elbow armor is puck style with a cushioning layer on the wet-ware side and Tourmaster says it is CE rated. They say no more than that so it is safe to assume that this means it is Level 1 CE armor. It appears that the back armor is some version of the standard place-holder foam. The hip pads are also place-holder foam. Were I to buy this suit I would have to replace all of the armor with CE level 2 armor. That’s why its irrelevant to me whether or not the back armor is just a place-holder pad – it would have to go anyway. The armor in the newly released 2014 Firstgear TPG Expedition suit is CE Level 2 except for the back armor which is (disappointingly) Level 1. The Firstgear suit is also ALL molecular D30. You pay extra for that but I think this is the direction that all quality makers will be heading toward in the not too far distant future. The armor in the Centurion resides in Velcro’d pockets in the mesh breather layer. The mesh layer is gauzy consequently the armor has the tendency to float around. This is not good. Floating armor means you are playing roulette with fate and your bone surgeon while you are in mid-flight: maybe you’ll land on the armor … then again.
The Centurion has a thermal liner. This is as it should be. I think all suits should have a zip-out thermal liner. Some do not: The Expedition does not, in spite of the fact that it is over $150.00 costier. The Tourmaster offering also has a few other nifty features that please me. They have incorporated a rain hood under the collar (the Expedition has one too), it zips down into place once you curl it back up. I love the rain hood idea. If you have ever ridden in the rain and had the cold wetness slither down the back of your neck you will truly appreciate the foldup-rain-hood-in-the-collar. They have also designed a truly nifty (removable) rain and wind gator that comes across the neck. I haven’t seen this elsewhere as standard on factory gear. This is a great feature and it is so simple. Clearly aspects of this suit were designed by riders or by people who actually listened to riders. Go to any rally and talk to the gathered over the course of a weekend and you will get enough information to design the perfect riding suit. Some features of this suit seem to have been designed by riders – others not so much. Tourmaster has also incorporated a small zippered pocket on the left forearm sleeve. Inside is a key hook on a bit of elastic string. This is a great pocket for a small wad of bridge toll cash or change for parking meters, for my eye drops and even a key or two. If you attach a small day-glo disc to the key ring and leave it outside of the zippered closed pocket it will serve as a visual reminder not to leave your keys in the ignition when you go to the coffee shop. If you see the disc when you are off the bike then your keys are not back in the forearm pocket – where are my keys? It might also be possible to fit a moderately sized Li-on battery pack in there for a heated glove.
The zippers are sturdy YKK and the exposed areas are rubberized. The Captain Kangaroo pockets are fold over style with Velcro but are not zippered. They have an angled, zippered foldover pocket on the chest. That zipper is not rubberized. Pockets abound for those who are into that sort of thing. If you need to carry a tuna sandwich in one pocket and a set of 3/8′s drive metric sockets in another then you will have no trouble here. The main zipper runs from neck to the top of the right thigh. The leg zippers run from ankle to the top of the hip. I like this because its a nice long run and the suit is easy in and easy out but it does cause some bunching when you’re seated on the bike (combine this with the floating armor and you are fidgeting for just a bit to get yourself situated before you set off.) The big zippers have rain/wind flaps secured with Velcro to keep out the weather. The crotch area has a big rain gator and I cannot testify to its efficiency at keeping you and the rain from commingling. I don’t get to ride the review suits in the wet.
The sleeve cuffs do not have a zipper but a pie slice shaped expansion insert that cinches over with Velcro. Some folks like the velcro cuff closure better because they ride with their gloves tucked under the the sleeve and the zipper cuffs make that harder. I have gauntlet gloves and it only makes sense to me, aerodynamically, to ride with them out over the cuff. I like the zipper style better because it makes it easier to reach in and grab your sweatshirt to pull it down. That’s just me. The legs do not have an inner gator panel to protect against water infiltration. It is expected that a good tug on the Velcro cinch will be sufficient to keep the wind and rain from crawling up your boots.
The collar has the traditional soft flannel type lining – no complaints there. Tourmaster has also included a Velcro tab to allow you to secure the top front of the collar on one side to the shoulder when you are riding on a warm day with the zipper partially open. This suit comes in both black with black on black and the suit that I received which is grey with black on grey with a silvery material across the shoulders. The shoulder vents are nice when you are leaning forward on the bike and in combination with the rear shoulder vent you get plenty of airflow. Tourmaster has added a snap in the middle of the front shoulder vents to keep the vents pooched open on warm days. This is easily a 3 season suit but stretching it into a full time four season might not work. in really warm summer weather you might cook too much – especially in the black on black version. My Joe Rocket suit is black with black and some hi-viz panels and in warm weather with a t-shirt and jeans on underneath it gets a bit toasty out in the valley on those long, endless freeway stretches. The tarmac can be a cruel mistress in the summer. Underneath the waffle weave silvery stuff on the shoulders are some foam pads that may or may not help you in a get-off but at a minimum help to give you something of that je ne sais quoi Transformer elegance. The material is 600 denier throughout and as a bonus a doubled layer of 1680 denier material at the main potential impact points. They have done a very nice job with this: the knees are covered in this extra layer and the pattern is a sort of overlapping chevron. The silvery stuff on the shoulder is an additional impact layer too. From the elbows to the wrist on the outside is more of this extra layer. Kudos. The lower back has accordion “Carboflex” material to help with the stretch over to the handlebars. They have also put accordion material at the elbow and knee joints. I read online somewhere that one rider complained that the accordion pleated material was the source of leakage into the suit on a rainy day but I have seen no such complaints elsewhere. I cannot testify one way or the other. I don’t get a chance to torture test these review suits – only the gear I ultimately buy for myself. Tourmaster has included a long thin strip of heat resistant material on the right inner calf (some suits do not have any) but if your exhaust pipes and hot bits happen to be on the left, well … there you are. Finally, bringing up the rear is a layer of black durable material on the butt side to reduce wear through. You know some suits do not have an extra layer here – how is that possible? Do they talk to anyone who rides? These suits are being bought by people who commute to work every day or by folks who are long distance riders. Why wouldn’t you reinforce the sitzplatz area? Again Tourmaster has clearly paid attention to some of the practical details.
They have included the typical waist cinching Velcro to snug the suit into fit. There are also snap closures on the arms for adjustment. Oh, and they include a little bag of extra snaps for repairs down the road. That’s a thoughtful touch.
There is reflective material on this suit and in any of the suits I have reviewed no maker seems to offer enough of it to satisfy my standards. This is easy – the closer you get to a standard construction worker’s hi-viz vest reflective scheme the better. The Expedition suit and the Tourmaster suit seem to be fond of the blackout type of reflective material. Its a fashion choice and not a full tilt safety choice. Did they do a survey and find that touring riders blanched when seeing 2” wide stripes of highly reflective silver safety tape sewn into their clothing? I doubt it, so where does this come from? I think the fashion drones back in the main office have decided that lots of reflective material are not syley style. They take the subway to work or they park their cage in the company lot. They are clearly not riding around on motorcycles at night. The black reflective material is not as reflectively effective as the silvery stuff. Scorpion’s Passport suit uses silver type reflective stuff (not enough by any means) but it is sprayed (or silk-screened) on and I worry about its longevity – even though I must say this sprayed on stuff from them really catches the light. Joe Rocket’s Survivor suit utilizes a combination of sprayed on and sewn on reflective materials. They went with the silvery stuff and although there is far too little of it the stuff they used is highly reflective as well. Firstgear has an unyielding affection for the lesser reflective black material.
Remember this is a $400.00 suit. I have quibbles with every suit I review, some more than others, but I always try to balance price against features. Of the 4 suits available to me I have chosen the least expensive one among them as my preferred choice. Price should not be the main deciding factor when you shop for any gear. Really take a close look at features and the quality of construction and then look at price. Tourmaster and Cortech seem to consistently do a good job at this balancing act. This suit may seem a bit dated in terms of its armor, its leg and sleeve closures and the way in which the thermal liner is secured to the suit with Velcro on the legs but all in all I am impressed. Were it offered in a hi-viz version I might have jumped on it for my personal ride. I am eager to see what lessons Tourmaster takes from this suit and from the advancements in armor in recent years for the design of their next iteration Centurion suit. In the meantime If you are looking for a touring/commute suit at a reasonable price I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one