Review: Dainese Made to Measure Leather Racing Suit

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Do you ride like Valentino Rossi, or maybe just want to look like him? I ask, because that’s the premise behind Dainese’s Made to Measure program. Giving everyday riders the same opportunity and attention to detail as the company’s sponsored racers, who compete at the heightest level of the sport, Dainese’s Made to Measure program allows you to order custom-fitting racing leathers, jackets, and pants from the trusted Italian brand.

If you have ever had the desire to get a custom-tailored business suit, the concept is pretty similar. Some riders want a custom fit in their leathers for its extra comfort, or the ability to add a custom design, or even to choose the materials. Meanwhile other motorcyclists look to Made to Measure because they have proportions outside of the norm, and don’t comfortably wear off-the-rack suits.

Similarly, enthusiasts who spend a lot of time in their leathers, like hardcore track riders or amateur racers, choose to go the custom route as well, in order to use team colors on their suits. I have even heard of a transgender rider who used the Dainese Made to Measure program in order to fit her unique needs and body dimensions.

To summarize what I’m trying to say here, we certainly are a diverse community in the motorcycling world, and that’s the thought behind what Dainese is doing with Made to Measure.

Getting a chance to try this service first-hand, you may have noticed recently that I was sporting some new leathers at the Energica Ego electric superbike press launch. They were the product of my participation in Dainese’s Made to Measure program last year.

The following is my experience in making a race suit with the Italian company’s custom apparel program, and since the bulk of Made to Measure orders are custom racing suits, it seems an appropriate measure for its service.

The first step in your process is to decide what suit in Dainese’s lineup you want to customize, as that will dictate the coloring options for the various panels and set the overall pricing structure. Obviously the more expensive the suit you base your design off of, the more expensive the overall cost of your custom suit will be.

For my purposes, we went with Dainese’s most popular off-the-rack suit, the Dainese Laguna Seca EVO. I fit pretty well in a size 54 of the Laguna Seca (you can see me in the off-the-rack suit in the photos from the Ducati Panigale R launch at the Circuit of the Americas), though my longer torso is a bit outside of the original design’s specs, as are the girth of my thighs.

However, I get a exceptional fit across the shoulders in the off-the-rack suit. The arm length is surprisingly good as well, and there is enough room for a back protector.

Before this process, I wouldn’t have thought to get a custom suit for my riding endeavors, since the Dainese Laguna Seca is pretty close to my body proportions, however I have longed for something with the A&R logos, for pictures certainly appealed to my marketing senses.

Intelligent Design


The next step in the process is coming up with your design: what colors you are going to use, any wording or logos that are going to be added, and what materials the suit will be made from. As you can imagine, you are mostly just limited by your imagination, and how the body panels fit together on Dainese’s template for your chosen suit.

Luckily if you don’t have a designer at your disposal, the Dainese crew can help create a concept for your more basic ideas. You might be on your own though if you want to create a more elaborate design.

For my suit, I wanted a basic color palette: black, white, and red. The bulk of the suit would remain the black and white of the off-the-rack Laguna Seca EVO suit, while the legs would be fully red from the knees down (similar to Valentino Rossi’s neon leg design, which was the inspiration). There would also be red panels along the thighs, and under the arms, which would add some color to the side and rear profiles. You can see our sketch above.

We also tried to make sure that some sort of Asphalt & Rubber branding would be visible from any vantage point while I was on the bike, so there are logos on the suit’s ankles, arms, and back. Adding more pressure to the mix was the fact that we were in the process of updating the A&R logo, and so the suit is actually the first embodiment of that effort.

Submitting the design to Dainese’s Made to Measure staff in Italy, we had to go through several revisions on the design, mostly on what color certain body panels would be, as there were some constraints with what we could do with the Dainese logos (for instance, I still wish the Dainese logo and typeface on the thighs were the same color).

We also had some issues with the artwork for the logos, and had to go through a couple confirmations of where each logo was going to be placed. On a technical point, you will need to have vector-based images for Dainese to work with, which created some confusion in our interaction as well (compatibility issues with Adobe Illustrator versions).

Finalizing and approving the design was perhaps the most time-consuming and difficult part of the process. Being in San Francisco, we had to contend with not only a nine-hour time difference, but also a language barrier. Had I not wanted the branding logos, I think things would have gone much smoother, but then again that was the bulk of my initial motivation in this process.

To be fair, Dainese has made some great lengths in streamlining this part of the Made to Measure program in the past few years, though the company still has a further way to go before it’s a dead-simple easy process.

The Silicon Valley resident in me envisions a day when you can login to a Dainese website and configure your own custom suit, similar to how you can configure your dream automobile when buying a new car; but Italy hasn’t quite caught up to America in that level of customer interaction yet.

I suppose the counter-argument to that sort of automation is that it takes away a certain level of the personal attention that comes with Made to Measure, as currently you are working directly with Dainese’s design and production team in Molvena, Italy.

Sizing Things Up


The next major step is getting measured up by Dainese’s team of tailors. Dainese has a measurer they send from Italy to the US, who travels around the US, and will measure you on certain days at certain locations. However if you’re near a D-Store, or another participating location, they can measure you up themselves as well, outside of the Made to Measure tour.

Again, if you have ever had a custom-made garment made for you, the process should seem familiar. In the case of the racing suit, the tailor makes several dozen measurements of me, from head to toe. I has special allowances added so I could wear a back protector and chest protector, and you can of course ask for extra room in certain places as well. I would recommend against the latter, however.

Far too often I see riders getting fitted for leathers, or worse already wearing leathers, that they think fit properly, when in fact they don’t. A good set of leathers should not let you stand up straight (at least not without significant resistance) — this ensures a tight fit when sitting on a motorcycle, especially while in a full tuck.

Loose legs and arms flap in the wind, loose collars allow the suit to move around the shoulders, loose cuffs pinch inside boots and gloves. Unless you have very specific reasons, I implore you to trust the wisdom of your tailors — they have fitted many more suits to people than you have. I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Moving along, I was luck in my process, as right after I was measured by the Made to Measure crew, I was off to Italy for a work trip. Planning to stay over and make some side excursions, I could easily add Dainese’s factory in Molvena to my list of places to see, which is where all the custom leather suits are made by hand.

Meet Your Maker


I will save a full description of Dainese’s facility for another article, as there is far too much to say, which isn’t exactly relevant here. The short version to that story is that each suit is truly handmade, with a seamstress responsible for each suit that gets ordered.

Each piece of the suit is made with the selected leather (cow or kangaroo hide), and cut to the lengths from the tailor’s measurements. With each piece you can see the design template of what the final product will look like, and it was interesting to see the different options that people around the world had selected.

Once completed, the suit goes out for shipment to where the customer ordered their suit, which for me meant a weeks’ journey from Molvena to San Francisco. From measurement to delivery it took about six months for my suit to arrive, though nearly two months of that time period is due to finalizing the design and logos.

The initial fitting was fairly good. I had a lot more room for my torso, and my thighs were spot on. The length on my arms however was several inches too long, which was interesting since the off-the-rack fit in this area was pretty good. Thankfully, shortening the arms is a relatively easy fix for Dainese’s suit-makers, the downside being of course that they are all the way over in Italy.

Losing time in the mail from the USA to Italy and back again, it was another month before the suit came back for a second fitting. Finding the cuffs to be spot-on when it did arrive though, I was ready for the track.

The Tale of the Tape


Aside from the Energica Ego launch, I’ve had a few opportunities to ride with my custom-made Dainese Laguna Seca EVO suit, and I can say that I’m quite pleased. As in my previous life, I found that the hours/days/weeks spent in a suit meant that the value of having one custom-made was quite high for me.

Making my living now by riding motorcycles, as well as my leisure, I can easily justify the expense even more so, though it wasn’t perhaps immediately apparent to me in the process — a suit is a suit, right?

Dainese is literally a company that I trust with my life, so I am very pleased to see the company offering a custom service to its customers; and because of that offering, you don’t have to feel like you are making a tradeoff between comfort and safety, or quality and aesthetic, which I think is tremendously important.

The fit-and-finish is what you would expect from the Italian brand, of course made exactly for my body shape. Even with the leather still in its break-in process, I can feel the better fit of the custom-made suit to my off-the-shelf one, which surprised me initially.

I thought the off-the-rack suit was a pretty good fit for me, but a back and forth comparison shows the greater fit and range of motion provided by the custom suit.

The suit was definitely worth the wait, now that I’ve had some time with it. Still, I wish Dainese would massage out the remaining bugs in their order-making process. It’s easy to forgive the need for minor alterations that came from the initial fitting, as I’ve had the same experience with fine Italian wool and business suits before.

However, the design and approval process needs some work to be truly efficient and scale further. As much as the bespoke Italian process might be an integral part of the Dainese’s brand heritage, it doesn’t play as well in the consumer-focused markets of North America, where online and convenience-oriented services are ruling the roost.

I think knowing ahead of time that the Dainese Made to Measure customization service is a bit more hands-on than just ordering a suit from the company’s website helps in managing the expectations of people like myself, who are used to an easy ordering process and immediate results.

Whether or not the cost is worth the benefit to you, is going to have to be a personal assessment. Journalists being the spoiled children of the industry, I did not have to fork over the cash for my custom leathers, which of course makes me a bit bias.

As I said before, I probably would not have opted for a custom suit initially, though now looking at what you get for the cost, and how much use I will get out of a set of leathers, the trade-off seems like a no-brainer. We invest so much money into our motorcycles (especially our track bikes), which can be largely transient. However, a good set of leathers can last several seasons, depending how often you let the laws of physics get the best of you.

For those who are a bit more price-sensitive, a basic custom-fit version of the Laguna Seca EVO suit will cost you $1,900 — a $700 premium over the off-the-rack price. The level of customization in my suit, with amount of graphics added and colors changed, increases that price to $3,500.

If you have the means, you can also switch to kangaroo hide and titanium metal pieces — doing so would have brought my suit to $4,600 in total. That’s not a cheap price to pay, but then again at that $4,600 price-point, you are basically getting the same product that goes to Valentino Rossi (sans airbag), and that’s again sort of the point here.

If you are so inclined to get a custom suit (or jacket and pants, for that matter), Dainese’s next Made to Measure tour starts again this October, with locations on the East and West coasts, as well as some in the Mid-West.

For hardcore track-riding enthusiasts, it’s not a bad investment in your comfort, style, and safety. For our non-Italian shaped readers, this also might be the answer you were looking for in a proper-fitting track suit. If you already have a custom Dainese suit, post it up in the comments. We’d love to see what you came up with for your design.

Photos: © 2013 Shelli Bohrer – All Rights Reserved, © 2014 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved, & © 2013 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0