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Cruising in Comfort

By Shadow

H-D Outlast Performance Thermal Underwear and Socks

Harley-Davidson

Shirt: $35.95 Pant: $35.95 Boot Socks: $12.95–$18.95
www.harleydavidson.com

Most of you probably don’t get too excited about socks and long johns (unless you have some sort of underwear fetish, but that’s a topic for another article). If you live in the northern part of the continent, however, chances are that the weather is more often chilly than hot. And sometimes there’s quite a bit of temperature fluctuation from day to night, so dressing appropriately for your ride might cause you to consider your choice of undergarments.

Have you ever worn thermal un­derwear under your clothes on those chilly riding days? And once you’ve stopped inside a restaurant for a bite to eat, have you nearly passed out from being overheated? That’s happened to me enough times that, until recently, I’ve been shying away from long johns; instead, depending on layering shirts and jeans and wearing heavy leathers. And I won’t even mention how many pairs of socks I try to stuff into my boots so my feet don’t freeze.

What changed my mind about the way I dress for riding was the introduction of Harley-Davidson Performance Thermal Underwear and Boot Socks. These garments are made by Smart Sportswear, a Harley-licensed manufacturer. They contain Outlast Adaptive Comfort fiber, a breakthrough temperature-regulating technology. This relatively new technology causes the Smart Sportswear underwear and socks to interact with your skin temperature and the outside climate to buffer changes in temperature and humidity. Rather than trapping heat like conventional thermal clothing, Outlast-infused garments uniformly absorb, store, and distribute excess body heat to be used when you need it.

The underwear is available in men’s and women’s sizes, and Harley’s website provides assistance in selecting the correct sizes. I was informed by a Smart Sportswear representative that both shirt and pants are meant to fit somewhat loosely, as this enhances Outlast’s temperature-regulating function. When I tried the Performance Thermal Underwear on, I noticed that it was soft and comfortable against my skin, unlike most of the thermal underwear I’d been used to. I also learned that Outlast isn’t a coating; rather, it’s built into the fiber, making it a permanent part of these undergarments. The lining is made with 80 percent Outlast acrylic and 20 percent micro-acrylic, and the outer fabric is 100 percent polyester. Men’s sizes are available from small to 4X, and women’s sizes come in sizes small to extra-large.

The shirt comes in black, sports a Harley logo over the left breast, and has banded cuffs that won’t ride up or stretch out. The pants come in black, also, and the Harley logo is imprinted on the bottom front of the left leg. The banded leg cuffs are the same as those on the shirt and provide the same functions. The material isn’t overly heavy so that both pieces fit nicely under jeans and an outer shirt. My only complaint is that the 1″ wide pants waistband is fairly thick because of the way it’s been stitched, and doesn’t fit under the waistband of my jeans quite as smoothly as I’d like. However, the waistband stitching causing the bulkiness assures that the elastic won’t stretch out of shape, so I’m completely willing to live with this trade-off.

The boot socks come in black and white in sizes small through extra-large, and three styles are offered to accommodate a variety of riding boots. The Low Boot crew sock has a fully cushioned foot made with 76 percent Outlast technology. It’s intended to be worn with lower boot styles or sneakers. The Mid Boot and Full Boot socks both have a fully cushioned foot and ankle and are made with 81 percent Out­last technology. The Mid Boot’s soft stretch cuff doesn’t cut circulation, and it’s made for regular styles of riding boots. The Full Boot is de­signed for tall riding boots. I decided to try all three styles, and quickly determined that the Low Boot crew sock would be perfect with sneakers or shoes, but not the 9″-or-higher riding boots I prefer to wear. The Mid Boot and Full Boots are great for midcalf and full-length riding boots. The socks are quite soft and comfortable, and the padding does help prevent foot calluses and sore spots. All sock styles are midweight—thick and strong enough that the toe and heel areas won’t wear out anytime soon, but not so bulky that they don’t fit inside your boots. My only problem with the socks is that the size ranges seem to be oriented toward men’s feet. My size 7-1/2 feet seem to fall between sizes small and medium—the smalls are a bit snug and the mediums are a bit long.

Even with these small complaints, both the underwear and socks perform superbly in all sorts of weather. They certainly keep me warm, and just as important, I don’t feel like I’m in a sauna when the temperature rises. My skin stays a lot drier and I’m much more comfortable even when the thermometer climbs above 100 degrees. I sweat less, and this allows the underwear and socks to keep me dry and comfortable. And when the temperature drops, I don’t have to worry about getting chilled because the Outlast technology prevents the socks and underwear from getting damp from perspiration. One side benefit is that when I’m camping and there are no shower facilities, I can wear my socks a second day. My tootsies stay dry and comfortable so there are no stinky surprises when I finally take my boots off.

Outlast was originally designed to protect astronauts from extreme fluctuations of temperatures in space. In 2005, Outlast technology was even inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame for successfully using technology developed for space exploration in products that help improve the quality of everyday life. This technology is now used in numerous products like clothing, boots, bedding, sleeping bags, and even specialty items like bulletproof vests. It’s extremely durable and can hold up to multiple washings or dry cleaning sessions. I’ve machine-washed and dried the thermal underwear and socks many times, and they show no signs of deterioration or shrinkage.

Now I can ride in all sorts of weather without having to worry about whether I’ll be underdressed or overdressed. I can leave on a road trip at 7:00 a.m. and stay warm when it’s 50 degrees outside, continue my ride without overheating even if the thermostat hits 100 by midday, and still be comfortable when the sun goes down that night. What more can a rider ask for?

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