Helimot’s Helmut Kluckner knows riding gear, but his shop, right outside Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, is best known for outfitting club and professional roadracers. But Helmut is an enthusiastic tourer as well as aficionado of specialized riding apparel and gear, so when I stop to chat with him, I usually learn about an interesting new product. In this case, it sounded too good to be true—a cooling shirt that kept you comfortable in triple-digit temperatures that didn’t need a mesh jacket, and therefore would keep its cool longer than a wet t-shirt or traditional cooling vests.
The LDComfort mock turtleneck cooling shirt is what he told me about. He said he used it on an extended ride, in triple-digit temperatures, under an unvented jacket and was so cool he was practically shivering (or as Austrian-born Helmut would say, “chivverink.”). Really? He loaned me one to try out.
That was over a year ago, but what can I say? I don’t ride in the heat that much, and when I do, I just put up with it. But I felt guilty for not testing the thick, stretchy shirt, so I packed it in my luggage to wear while riding a Yamaha Super Tenere from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. Said ride included about 100 miles of lane-splitting So-Cal traffic in 90-100 degree temperatures, usually a reliable recipe for misery. Needless to say, I left the hard luggage at Yamaha’s warehouse so I could lane split even faster.
The usage instructions on the LDComfort website sound counter-intuitive to someone who’s used evaporative cooling for years. “Wet the LDComfort long sleeve shirt; (especially the sleeves) close all vents in the outer jacket; open the sleeves of the jacket at the cuffs; put arm out in the air stream and funnel air up the sleeve and into the jacket; fill the jacket with cold air and ride in comfort. Repeat as needed.” Wha? That sounds crazy! What about mesh? Don’t use it, LD says—it lets out the cold air.
In use, it’s impressive. Follow the instructions, and if you do you’ll be rewarded with what feels like air conditioning blasting up your arms (unzip the sleeves of your leather jacket or textile gear and wear shorty gloves with no gauntlets to facilitate airflow) as long as your LD’s sleeves are damp. It even cools (a little) with dry sleeves, and don’t ask me how that works. I didn’t feel damp or clammy under the moistened fabric, and I was impressed with how long it maintained the cooling effect. Note that we are blessed with a dry climate out west—I’m not sure this will work in humid places. My advice is to move.
The LDComfort top made a very long afternoon tolerable, well worth the $54 this shirt costs for just that ride. My only real complaint, other than it looking fuddy-duddy (who wears mock turtlenecks, anyway?) was that water wicked into my jeans and undershorts under my Aerostich, making me ride with a wet crotch after the sun went down, when it grew uncomfortably cool along the California coast.
An even more intriguing product is the Comfort Cool Sleeves ($28). They’re like the top, but you just get sleeves! The use instruction tells you to wet them while wearing them under your jacket—they’ll soak up the water, allowing you to keep your cool on the go. “Effective for temperatures up to 120 degrees” chirp the instructions. Maybe so, but I’ll be at the bar sipping a cold margarita.
I’ve only used my shirt once, but it’s a quality, made-in-USA product I’ll use again and again. It’s a good base layer in cold weather and the best solution I’ve yet found for hot-weather riding.