Date reviewed: April 2022 | Tested by: BikeSocial member Simon Morgan | RRP: £2,549.99 | www.bksleather.co.uk
When Brian Keith Sansom started the original BKS back in 1986, the brand had an enviable reputation for some of the toughest motorcycle leathers on the market. Now, Brian is still in charge of BKS (Made to Measure) Ltd, and along with EU and UKCA-compliant hand-made one and two-piece leathers, he and his small team in Devon also make bespoke textile suits for men and women that meet the truly toughest EN 13595 Level 2 certification for safety.
Worn by emergency services around the UK, buyers have the options of including the AlpineStars Tech Air airbag system in this entirely made-to-measure, fully waterproof, laminated kit. BKS also has the full pressure testing kit that allows the team to recharge the AlpineStars airbag for up to three deployments with a fresh cannister.
Keep in mind that the £2,549.99 that it can cost for a full BKS textile suit pays for a complete made-to-measure service, where pretty much anything a customer wants can be catered for. Remember that these textiles truly are as safe as leathers, which is proven using the Cambridge machine in independent testing at SATRA. BKS is fully transparent with its certification, which can be seen here.
Lead times are about ten weeks for new suits, with alterations taking around four to six weeks. Brian also tells us that any adjustments are possible, should owners gain or lose weight.
We asked BikeSocial member Simon Morgan, who’s been riding since 1989, about the set of BKS textiles he bought. He wears them with a Shoei X-Spirit 3 helmet, Daytona boots, Held winter gloves and Klim summer gloves (though he’s recently converted to BKS winter and summer gloves)…
What bike do you currently own?
“A KTM Super Duke 1290R and Triumph Bobber Factory Custom”
What did your BKS textiles cost?
“The overall cost was about £4,000, though I did go for all of the options, including the integrated Alpinestars Tech Air airbag.” The Tech-Air airbag costs £999.99, plus £169.99 for fitting (zips, Velcro fasteners, LEDs, cable holders etc). Simon also added 10 vents at £25 each.
Why did you choose the BKS textiles?
“For safety and peace of mind; I reasoned that as this was being made for me, it made sense to take advantage of all the available features. It was less about designing a ‘pretty’ suit (though it looks great), and more about designing a suit that afforded me maximum protection from the elements and hazards.”
What kind of riding do you use them for?
“Club riding, domestic and international touring, occasional commuting, Blood Bike sorties.”
Did you consider anything else first?
“No. I had already bought a set of BKS made-to-measure leathers – also with integrated airbag – and was smitten.”
How comfortable are they? How easily can you move around on and off the bike?
“The suit fits like a glove – it’s very comfortable and feels like it’s part of me. BKS’ measurements and adjustments have been spot-on, so the biggest risk to a poor fit is putting on weight! Spending that amount of money on a bespoke suit is a large incentive not to get fat (again)!”
What was the measuring up process like?
“Measuring took about an hour and a half to two hours; it was very thorough. Brian has extensive experience from making suits for the Police, so he was able to accurately make adjustments from base measurements for things like arm length, leg length, chest etc.
One session was all that was needed. When I came back to pick the suit up, it fit as expected with no need for fine-tuning.”
How important was the protection level when you were buying?
“This was my primary consideration.”
Are you happy with the pockets?
“The pockets are great. They’re more than deep enough and I like their location inside the suit. They work for me, but I prefer internal pockets to external as they keep my wallet dry in even the heaviest rain. Also, I don't overfill them, preferring a tank bag.” The jacket has two external pockets on the front as standard, but being bespoke, the customer can chose whatever they want.
What is the ventilation like in warmer weather?
“I’ve not tested the ventilation in warm weather on the synthetics yet, but I have tested it with the BKS leathers that I own and it is VERY efficient and very comfortable, even in the height of summer. As the system is the same, I would expect the same result.”
How warm are the BKS made-to-measure textiles in winter?
“I’ve worn these textiles down to 3°C. I have the thermal liner and wear Pro Skin underwear – a light merino layer with a further GoreTex/wind cheating layer underneath – so nothing thick and bulky. I was fine for about five hours. Towards the end of my ride, I got a little cold but nothing to complain about, and solved that by cranking up the heated grips to maximum.”
How waterproof are they, and how hard have you tested them?
“I did an IAM Masters session in lashing rain that was an all-day ride; my Daytona boots were the disappointment, not the suit. I got a bit wet around the gloves, but that was it, with no seepage around the zips, pockets or seams.
“It’s water-tight, unlike with my Stadler off-the-peg suit (which I like, but a very distant second). There was no damp in the crotch area.”
Would you recommend these and why?
“I thoroughly recommend them for total comfort and peace of mind. Also, I like to support British technology and craftsmanship, and BKS made to measure is to bikers what a Saville Row suit is to businessmen. Unless my dimensions change and the suit no longer fits, I’m expecting 10-15 years out of this. But who knows, maybe it’ll outlast me. I hope not.”
Sergeant Keith Parkinson of Devon & Cornwall police is one of the officers wearing BKS made-to-measure textiles
“I’ve been wearing the full textile motorcycle suit developed by BKS Made to Measure since October 2021
“I’d never personally ridden in or owned a textile suit, always going for two-piece leathers until this time. The textile fabric used by BKS is cool enough for me to wear thin layers underneath to aid wicking from my body heat, yet it provides wind and rain resistance. I’ve found it to be a good balance that allows me to layer underneath the jacket according to cooler weather conditions.
“Rain doesn’t soak into textile fabrics the way it does into leather, and it saves me stopping to add waterproofs or to have that uncertainty of what to wear on days when our weather is more unpredictable.
“The jacket has really good ventilation options and the trousers have an added vent that can be opened if required. The attention to detail shown in creating the vented mesh inserts inside the vents with the heavyweight zips, concealed zip heads & taped seams with triple stitching makes for a comfortable suit even when worn for long periods.
“I have noticed the difference in weight versus a leather jacket of the same construction; the textile jacket does reduce the effects of tiredness and therefor concentration loss due to its lighter construction. I feel it will become more comfortable the more often I wear it.
“Despite the bonus of it being less fatiguing, the level of protection achieved by this textile suit outperforms all others, and the manufacturing quality along with the attention to individual sizing / preferences cannot be underestimated.
“The personal service offered by Brian and his team is fantastic; he has worked with me to adapt the suit to be the most comfortable & effective it could possibly be.”
“I’ve been a Police motorcyclist since 2001, during which time I’ve seen many improvements to the equipment I’ve been issued.
“Over the last several months I’ve been trialling the new BKS Textile suit that’s designed to work with or without a separate air-bag system.
“The suit’s considerably lighter than its leather equivalent and also has an amount of stretch and flex. The fit feels very similar to the leather suit I’m used to, both of which are made to measure.
“What is noticeable compared to my personally-owned textile suit is how secure the armour is; it doesn’t move from its position at all, staying exactly where it’s needed.
“The trousers fit well over the boots with a snug fit and as such do not ride up at all during riding. The Jacket connects with a substantial zip to the trousers and is the same as on our BKS police leather suit, so both units are compatible with each other. The Jacket’s cut and fit are very similar to the leather jacket, but the reduced weight and inbuilt flex greatly enhance the comfort.
“I’ve worn the suit in foul weather and can say without doubt that it is waterproof. There are sufficient vents over the jacket and trousers for me to believe there will be good ventilation in the summer months, however I have only worn them during the winter.
“My overall impressions of the BKS textile suit are extremely positive.”
This textile BKS suit was being worn by a police officer who was involved in a 60mph crash on a dual carriageway while escorting Prince William back to his helicopter
“I have recently received my third motorcycle suit from BKS (Made to Measure) Ltd and I can say without exception that it’s another quality garment that allows me to do my job in the safest possible way.
“Over the years I have had the leather suits, which have the traditional look and feel of a Police motorcyclist. On this occasion I have transitioned over to the new BKS textile suit and have used it in all weathers, and I can say genuinely that I am extremely pleased and impressed with its performance.
“The added benefits of a waterproof suit make riding more comfortable with a lot less fuss in not having to wear overgarments to keep dry. This latest suit feels extremely flexible and user friendly, with cleverly designed air vents and pockets. The fit is second to none and now that I’ve worn it for several weeks and it’s adjusted to my body shape, I am extremely pleased with the result.
“A vitally important aspect of this suit in its design is that it exceeds the highest safety standards within the industry and is on par with my previous leather suit. This gives me the reassurance and confidence that, should the unspeakable happen, my clothing will do its best to reduce the injury that I may have sustained if I had been in a sub-standard suit.
“On every visit to BKS they have spent so much of their time ensuring the suit fits like a glove but this attention to detail is also backed up with the knowledge and understanding of the motorcycle clothing safety standards industry that is delivered in an open and transparent way.
“I would certainly recommend the BKS textile suit for its usability and comfort, safe in the knowledge that it comes as standard with the full UKCA and CE approval.”
Dr Ian Mew is an intensive care consultant, and rides in BKS made-to-measure textiles
Dr Ian Mew is an air ambulance, intensive care consultant who rides an emergency-spec motorcycle for the DocBike charity. “Wearing a fully protective, yet heavy motorcycle outfit of the highest spec for long periods was hard going, which was why I was keen to invest in a lighter textile outfit from BKS. Being an air ambulance critical care doctor but responding on a motorcycle requires a huge degree of flexibility to both ride safely and comfortably yet deal with any eventuality when I arrive at the incident. I haven’t had my suit for very long, but I’m really impressed so far. I also really appreciate how receptive Brian and his team is to feedback from owners, be they civilians or police and emergency riders, which means the suits are constantly evolving and improving.”
As well as being there to pick up the pieces, DocBike uses research and hard evidence to help motorcyclists become better riders who are less likely to crash. Engagement with other motorcyclists depends on the doctors and paramedics being seen to be credible motorcyclists and wearing the best kit helps them to do this. You can support Doc Bike here.