Friday, December 18, 2015

Rukka Cosmic review after almost two years and 60,000 km of hard use

I've written on these pages what we think of the Rukka Cosmic suits, and that was before we knew they can handle riding in 48°C (118°F) as well... Some of you replied that you would be interested to see if they'd last, which is not only understandable but also a question we wondered ourselves. So we wrote this, to share our experiences. What we've done is probably the most extreme test ever and a test you will not find in any magazine: two years in the same suit, wearing it every day and all day long, some days for 12 hours on end and in temperatures ranging from -15° to +48°C (5° to 118°F). The conditions have been brutal, they have been soaked in mud, covered in layers of sandy dust, fine white gravel and at the end of each day were simply put in the tent (as we had nowhere else to put them). They have not been cleaned as we don't carry a washing machine and have suffered far more than under normal use and normal conditions. And when it was really cold... we even slept in them! To us it's the ultimate test, to Rukka it isn't as two years isn't even the halfway mark of their warranty period...!

Before I continue, I'd like to point out that we are not being paid in any way by anyone to write these reports on the gear we use. No-one has asked us to do so either. The sole reason why we are dotting down our findings is because we've had the same problem as you have when selecting our bike gear. You never know how good it really is until after you bought it. We've had gear in the past which promises the world but delivers poorly. We've had gear which leaked, which fell apart quickly and was uncomfortable on hot or cold conditions. What we needed was one suit which could handle all, survive everything and be comfortable too. So our expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically high, when we got the Rukka Cosmics. They have been with us now through Europe, from the most northern tip of Norway to Spain, then through Switzerland, Italy and Austria in the snow, through the Balkan, Romania, Bulgaria and into the first heat test in Greece. Where we found 38°C (100°F) temperatures and still rode in our Cosmic gear! You can all see what they went through in Turkey, Georgia and Russia... Next was Kazakhstan, with its relentless deserts, where the jackets were covered in dust, plastered with fine sand which found its way into everything and stuck to our sweat. After just the first day in Kazakhstan, the jackets looked like shit. There is no other word for it (and we looked the same ourselves by the way...). The zippers were full of dust, as was every vent. They really had a hard time, these are not specialised off-road jackets after all. I honestly thought I had lost the front zipper on mine when I could not close it anymore because of the sand stuck in it, caused by us riding with the front zipper open in the 48°C temperatures, only using the belt to keep it closed. Cleaning the zipper with a toothbrush made it all good again though.

Did we have any problems? Yes we did! During a torrential downpour in India, going up to the Rohtang pass, they started to leak, badly. The pants were the worst and really soaked on the inside. Although this was the worst downpour I have ever been in in over 30 years of motorcycling and it went on for hours, I was still surprised. Any other jacket I've had in the past would have leaked more but the Rukka had never leaked a drop, not even in a 400 km long soaking wet ride we'd had earlier in northern Spain, yet now it was suddenly leaking all over the place. An e-mail to Rukka asking if I should perhaps re-proof them or something, resulted in an astonishing reply: 'Let us know where you are and we'll send you replacement gear as Rukka should not leak'. Wow, ok so the 5 year warranty is honoured world wide! As the jackets and pants didn't look worn I wondered what was causing the leaks though. Searching the net, initially without much success, I stumbled upon a site for bush walkers which referred to the same sort of problem. One of the links on that page took me to a document form GoreTex, which at first seemed to have nothing to do with what I was looking for but then my eye caught one single line: We advise to wash the material frequently to ensure GoreTex Pro's breathability...  Hmmm. Now what if the jackets and pants are so full of sweat on the inside and dirt on the outside that they form a 'bridge' through the pores of the material? So we went looking for a washing machine, chucked them in and washed them according to the instructions on the label. Of course we had no more rain for weeks... but then hit a day of miserable cold, mist and rain. Perfect! I had water standing on my pants as the Bonneville seat is on the low side, while Mike was sitting in a puddle of water (handy seat design). Yet the Rukka stayed perfectly dry, like they had always been. Morale of the story I guess is to wash GoreTex pro frequently. The jackets look much better now as well!

Is there anything that can be improved upon? For the jacket there isn't anything we can think of... unless they can make a self-cleaning fabric... :-) The storm collar, the brilliant magnetic closing belt and pocket flaps, the simple but very effective ventilation system and the allround comfort make this the best jacket we've ever had. Being made from the Pro version of GoreTex means they are waterproof on the outside, rather than using a separate liner on the inside. GoreTex Pro makes this jacket work so much better. This also makes a big difference when it's warm as unlike most other jackets, the Rukka ventilation is not hampered by a waterproof layer. We already loved the jackets when we had used them for a short while, and love them even more now we've used them under these conditions. The way we have used them would have brought up any niggling problem there could be. Since even after using them every day and all day long, seven days a week, still hasn't brought up anything we would like to see changed, shows how good they really are. The zippers, velcro, buttons and the like have had a hard time too. The front zipper does show some signs of wear, which is understandable as the fine sand wreaked havoc with everything.

On the pants something can be improved upon though: the ventilation. The vents in the pants could be further toward the knees, just after the kneepad and horizontal instead of vertical to let more air in. It took 48°C (118°F) for days though to come to that conclusion, up until then they had been fine! 
Apart from that, they are a breeze to use. Magnetic closing flaps work great (and have resulted in quite a few puzzled faces at border crossings where they inevitably set off the x-ray portals :-) The pockets are huge and at the end of the day we can easily flip them inside-out, without the need to take out the protectors(!), to let them air a bit.

Rukka isn't cheap. Quite a few things have been written on forums about the high price of Rukka gear. All we can say is, you get what you pay for. Having been through a succession of bike jackets that didn't cut the mustard and didn't last all that long, it would have been cheaper in the end to have bought a Rukka in the first place. What surprises me the most however is that small fortunes are being spend on non-essential accessories, while protective clothing which will not only protect you when it goes pear shape but also provides so much more comfort in adverse conditions, somehow seems to be at the bottom of the list for many. Good gear will last a long time, Rukka comes with 5 year warranty. Quite a few motorcyclists we've met in Scandinavia had 10 to 15 year old Rukka jackets that were still looking good (and loved by their owners!)

On our recent trip through China, where we joined a group to share the costs, we could compare our gear from close up. We were the only ones riding in nothing but underwear under our bike gear, from warm days in Kashgar right up to snow and hail at 4,700 m high. No need to change layers or even add winter liners. The only thing being cold at 4,700 m were our hands, as we were also the only ones without heated grips! As for durability, so far the only thing which shows signs of wear is the aforementioned waterproof front zipper, which now has a slightly ragged edged to it, by being plastered in mud and sandblasted in Kazakhstan. This is only on my jacket as I don't have a fairing, on Mike's jacket there are no sign of wear. The zipper is still waterproof though, and behind it is a second flap to keep any water out too, it just looks a bit like it has been well used (which it has). The fabric is dirty (I wonder why...) but un-torn, un-damaged and not showing any wear. All the buttons are still there too and all the other zippers look like new.

We truly love these suits. Many a motorcyclist who has been through Kazakhstan or the Australian Outback, will take an extra mesh jacket. Touratech's often mentioned alternative for overland travelling, the Companero is, in Australia at least, much more expensive than the Rukka Cosmic. The Companero is in effect two jackets and two pants, one for summer (which isn't waterproof) and one to wear over it for winter and wet weather. Apart from the questions where to put this full second suit when it's summer, it also begs the question what to do when it's a warm summer and starts to rain... For starters you'd have to stop and start looking for the rain cover, which quite likely means you're wet before you've taken it out and put it on, and then when you've put it on and thus wear two jackets over each other in warm summer weather... won't be that comfortable. The Rukka Cosmic is a true all-in-one which does work. Like I wrote earlier we were looking for the impossible and our expectations were perhaps unrealistically high. Yet Rukka delivered. We only needed one jacket to ride from Switzerland in snow to the height of summer in Kazakhstan. No need to stop when it rains, or stop again when it's dry. We don't need extra jackets or layers as the Cosmic allowed us to ride under all those conditions. For that alone we love them! I once called Rukka the Rolls Royce of motorcycle gear, but having had the Cosmic suits for nearly two years and 60,000 km through these insane conditions, I think they are actually better than that... we cannot recommend Rukka highly enough, they really are that good!