We Mess Our Ness!
This spring, we reviewed the Arlen Ness K12 Kangaroo racing suit and declared it perfect. An entire summer of riding in one did nothing to change our opinion. This garment is incredibly comfortable, flows a ton of air at speed and allows you maximum movement while aboard your machine. The true proof of any suit's value though, comes when it hits the asphalt and until that happens, our job in not compete. Honoring a long-standing tradition here at TrackdayMag.com, we've gone that extra mile for our readership and have and taken the K12 asphalt surfing.
We've had previous experience crashing Arlen Ness products. Editor Steve Pallela crash tested an Arlen Ness M3 Magnesium Cowhide suit in the Fall of 2012, walking away from a vicious highside without so much as a scratch. After minor repair, that still-strong but cosmetically challenged set of leathers continues to serve when Steve is practicing or racing in the rain. This summer, he crashed it again at Nelson Ledges Road Course, in Warren, Ohio. As before, Pallela escaped injury while his Arlen Ness suit sacrificed a bit more of its cowhide and magnesium to save his flesh and bones. With the added advantages of kangaroo leather and a built-in flack jacket, we expected that if crashed, the K12 suit would protect at least as well. We were not disappointed.
This time, our crash test dummy was Senior Editor K3. He tucked the front tire of his Suzuki at Putnam Park, in Greencastle, Indiana. In what he described as a "Featherbed crash," K3 landed on his hip, elbow and shoulder at approximately 90mph and slid perhaps 30 yards before leaving the pavement and tumbling to a stop in the grass. We've noticed a trend here. Every time one of our staffers hits the ground in a Ness suit, they describe the experience as a "soft" impact. We're thinking that this has a lot to do with the extra padding found in one of these garments. In addition to the expected CE armor found at the knees, elbows and shoulders, Ness has also blessed the K12 with chest and rib protection, as well as collar bone and hip padding. The final touch is their special liner. While it's designed to allow air to circulate between your skin and the suit, we'd suspect that its "egg crate" foam construction also offers a very minor protection advantage as well. Hey, every bit counts!
So how did the outer shell of the suit survive? If you don't want the road rash to show, you're always in better shape when you fall in a black suit. Structurally, we couldn't believe how little damage the leather material took. Kangaroo is a superior product to cowhide and doesn't wear out as quickly in a slide. This was evident after our fall, as these leathers hardly look crashed at all. Aside from destroying the purely cosmetic Arlen Ness callout on the right thigh, the only other damage was a seam failure on the side of the knee where two panels join. The material here survived quite nicely but the threads ground through, allowing the suit to come open slightly. This will be a simple fix for the shop that maintains our leathers, after which this Ness will be straight back to business. It's worth noting that although they appear to have been spared any damage more significant that light scratches, our fallen editor was also wearing a set of the company's A-Spec gloves in this crash. When it comes time to purchase riding gear, you want to know that you're buying proven protection. For our money, experience has us beginning to believe that Arlen Ness products are near to bulletproof.