The editor goes for big air...
There used to be only two choices in protective motorcycle jackets -- leather or textile. And if you wanted a full-coverage jackett that didn't stick to your skin while motorcycling in the sweltering summer heat, you were pretty much out of luck. Even perforated a leather jacket is hot and heavy unless you're speeding along on your motorcycle.
That was back in the 20th century, though -- before the advent of the mesh motorcycle jacket. The concept is simple -- thicker fibers on the exterior fabric utilize a more open weave so that air flows directly onto the rider.
Ventilation is an attractive idea, but there's the perception that these lightweight jackets protect you like normal street jackets. That's usually not the case, however, so we were careful to select examples featuring armor for this guide.
These examples range in complexity from a few threads with Styrofoam to ballistic nylon with hard armor. We took each for a whirl through the California countryside to see which offered the best convection, and which were so much fancy fish netting. There are many options and variations here, but we did find a favorite.
These jackets are apparently quite popular, and after riding in them summer, we can see why. They do offer cooling of the sort that even well vented jackets can not. Other companies are jumping into the flow-through field to meet the demand. As this article was being sent to press, we received an Alpinestars T-Venom mesh jacket ($220), which features a heavy mesh and polyester outer housing hard CE-certified protectors in the shoulder and elbow areas, with an extra layer of padding to reinforce impact zones. A foam backpad offers posterior protection, and a removable wind-resistant liner provides warmth for when the sun goes down. The jacket sports a tailored fit with a zip front and snap closures at the waist, collar and cuffs. It comes in men's sizes XS to XXXL, in black/gray, black/red and black/blue; matching Air-Flo pants are available for $140, in black only.
AGV SPORT AEROMESH JACKET
AGV dives into the mesh wars with its lightweight AeroMesh, featuring polyester mesh textile on the outside with removable CE-approved armor units embedded in the shoulders, elbows and back. A layer of high-density exterior padding on the shoulder, elbow and back impact zones adds extra protection. The AeroMesh sacrifices the comfort of a softer interior liner for an open-weave netting that is rougher to the touch but allows more direct airflow; a waterproof zip-out liner comes standard, but unfortunately it isn't breathable. Two compression straps per arm let you tailor the fit, although the snap closures limit adjustability. The cuffs also feature rubber-coated snap closures, and a steel zipper snugs up the middle (though not as smoothly as we'd like). A waistband with straps on each side adjusts easily, and two exterior zip pockets provide storage, with an inner pouch for small items. Reflective labels galore offer conspicuity, and a connecting zip inside allows the attachment of pants.
The AeroMesh comes in men's sizes S through XXL, in two-tone yellow/black, red/black, black/black and black/blue. Matching Aeromesh pants are available separately in black only.
What we liked: CE armor/external padding combination; lightweight; good airflow.
What we didn't: zipper connection; snap closures; neck not padded.
FIELDSHEER MACH 1 JACKET
Fieldsheer's Mach 1 jacket may be low in price, but it has a wealth of attractive features. The Mach 1 is fairly lightweight, thanks in part to a thin polyester mesh outer material (which initially made us slightly nervous). The mesh ushers in cooling breezes effectively while the jacket's removable CE armor in the elbows, shoulders and back (with additional foam sandwiched between armor and shell) eases vulnerability concerns.
A soft mandarin collar padded with fleece and neoprene keeps rashes at bay and closes with a rubberized tab. A single "volume" adjuster on each arm tailors fit and the waist adjusts with two hook-and-loop side straps. Gusseted wrist cuffs also secure with hook-and-loop (although we'd like zips too), and two exterior slash pockets and a single pouch inside give you space to stash your goodies. A soft poly-mesh inner liner feels comfy if you're going commando, and a zip-out, insulated liner serves as backup for chillier moments.
The Mach 1 can be had in black/gun/silver, blue/white, yellow/gun, red/white, green/gun or all black, in men's sizes XS to XXXL and ladies' sizes XS-XXXL. Matching Titanium Air pants can be had for $99.
What we liked: Good value; well-padded lower back; stout armor; neck comfort; airflow.
What we didn't: Minimal reflectivity; hook-and-loop-only cuff closures.
FIRSTGEAR MESHTEX JACKET
Intersport Fashion West's MeshTex entry is perfect for those long summer nights when you're out cruising the boulevard and don't want to stew in your own juice. It has a tighter weave both in the outer shell and the liner for a softer feel, and since the MeshTex is substantially light, it has the weight of a shirt-jacket when worn. The mesh nylon shell allows breezes in more subtly than the more open-weaved jackets, but you certainly feel the airflow. Perforated EVA shoulder and elbow armor resides under the shell, with a foam pad shoring up your back. All armor is removable, but it's so lightweight and unobtrusive we can't imagine why you'd want to do so. Adjustable sleeve cuffs (hook-and-loop, but gusseted) and hook-and-loop waist tabs ensure a comfortable fit, while a soft, perforated nylon lining gives you airflow with comfort. Two zippered pockets reside above the waist and an inside wallet pocket provides additional storage.
The MeshTex jacket comes in sizes for everyone; men's sizes run from S all the way to XXXXL, plus men's tall LT through XXLT, and women's S to XXL in gray/black, red/black and blue/black. Matching pants are available for $140.
What we liked: Clean styling; comfort; padded neck.
What we didn't: lightness of armor; no compression straps.
JOE ROCKET PHOENIX 2.0 JACKET
Since it started the trend a few years ago, Joe Rocket's Phoenix mesh jacket has become a top seller, and the next-generation Phoenix 2.0 continues that tradition. It's a very lightweight, handsome jacket with a stylish two-tone color scheme and rubberized, reflective logo patches. Outer material is a polyester mesh shell covering removable dual density armor (there's separate internal and external padding) in the shoulders, elbows and back. Because of the double armor and thin mesh, you feel more padding than jacket, but we would have liked extra nylon reinforcements on the shell's impact zones, too. A drop-down lower back section is nicely padded, however.
The Phoenix's inner liner has a large weave for direct airflow -- it's effective for cooling, but slightly rough as a lining. A heavy-duty zipper closes up the middle, an inner zipper accommodates an optional vest or liner (sold separately) and an additional eight-inch zipper allows for pant connection. Cuffs utilize a hook-and-loop closure, and two compression straps per arm secure with snaps (which isn't always a perfect fit). The low collar is unpadded, and two outside zip pockets and an inner pouch hold your cargo. An adjustable waistband cinches with two hook-and-loop straps.
The Phoenix comes in all the colors of the rainbow; black/black, blue/black, green/black, red/black, grey/black and yellow/black, in men's sizes XS up to XXXL. Matching mesh pants are available in black only for $140.
What we liked: Stylish; good reflectivity; external padding.
What we didn't: Non-CE armor is lightweight and shifts easily, unpadded neck, no liner.
OLYMPIA SPORTS AIRGLIDE MESH TECH JACKET
As we were going to press, we heard of a new company making mesh garments. Luckily we were able to sample the brand-new Airglide Mesh Tech Jacket from Olympia Moto Sports -- a garment with all the requisite features and then some.
Like the Vanson and Triumph jackets, the Airglide is more of a middleweight, weighing in with solid 500-denier Cordura nylon panels strategically placed amid medium-weave mesh fibers. A cool mesh lining provides interior comfort and two waist tabs adjust fit with hook-and-loop fasteners. The neoprene neck insert keeps you chafe-free, and a front collar tab closes with hook-and-loop fasteners, as does the single sleeve adjuster on each arm. Two zippered chest and torso pockets provide gobs of storage, and an interior zip pocket takes care of smaller concerns (though we felt the front jacket zip was a bit rough). An eight-inch connecting zipper for pants is sewn into the liner.
The removable CE-approved, injection-molded armor in the elbows and shoulders feels stout, and an articulated back protector brings up the rear (though we wish it were deeper). Reflective, colored piping and trim along the chest, arms and back provide unique nighttime conspicuity, and the Airglide's zip-out military-style insulated liner scores points for style and versatility. The jacket comes in yellow/black, grey/black, blue/black and red/black in men's sizes S through XXL.
What we liked: Groovy two-in-one liner (can be worn alone); lotsa storage; tough armor.
What we didn't: Rough external zipper connections; lightweight outer mesh.
REX MARSEE FULL FLOW MESH JACKET
$ 160 (middleweight)
The Full Flow jacket got to us just before press time, so we didn't get a chance to wear it a lot -- although it made a tasty impression on us the short time we did.
The Full Flow features durable medium-weave mesh on the outside, bolstered by heavy-duty 1050-denier Cordura in the high-impact and high-wear areas -- the shoulder, elbows and waist.
That same Cordura is impregnated with reflective dots, giving the shell a shimmery sheen for great conspicuity after dark -- we felt like spacemen. CE-approved, removable body armor secured in the liner pockets (in the shoulder, elbow and spinal area) feels substantial, with a lower back/tailbone pad for extra protection. The compression straps (two per arm) can easily be tightened to reduce wind flap, and the cuffs boast combination zipper-and-velcro closures for a true fit. You have a choice of four pockets -- three on the outside, one inside, and a soft perforated mesh lining.
The Full Flow jacket comes in men's sizes XS to XXXL; call for colors. Optional Full Flow pants are available for $145.
What we liked: Reinforced impact zones; CE armor; tailbone protection; closures; airflow.
What we didn't: Unpadded collar; lightweight mesh; no zip-out liner.
TEKNIC SUPERVENT JACKET
Teknic's new Supervent jacket sports narrow-gauge nylon, a reinforced mesh outer shell and a soft, perforated mesh lining fitted with CE-approved Teknic/Knox armor in the shoulders, elbows and back, bolstered with heavy-duty 500-denier patches in high-impact areas. Two compression straps per arm are cinched down with snaps, and the arms are precurved for comfort -- but you never feel any material thick enough to rub you the wrong way in this lightweight jacket. Two waist straps on the side connect to a padded kidney pad and adjust the jacket to your body. The collar and cuffs have stretchy neoprene inserts for better comfort (though no padding), and the cuffs have a secure zip closure for a snug fit. The Supervent zips down the middle and carries two outer zip pockets and an inner wallet pouch. A single reflective stripe runs across the upper back. While the jacket is comfortable and the armor sufficiently stout, its light weight (like the MeshTex) felt more like a heavy shirt.
The Supervent comes in U.S. men's sizes 40-56 (roughly M to XXL) in black, black/red, black/blue and black/yellow. Teknic also offers matching Supervent gloves and pants.
What we liked: Strong Knox armor; extra fabric reinforcement; clean design What we didn't: Lightweight feel and outer material; few reflective surfaces
TOUR MASTER CORTECH GS AIR JACKET
Tour Master's excellent Cortech line of riding apparel gains a stablemate with the new GX Air jacket and pants, styled specifically for warm-weather riding.
This mesh jacket felt like an old shirt the minute we put it on -- which wasn't appealing, initially. The jacket's shell construction utilizes a narrow-gauge abrasion-resistant mesh, which provided excellent ventilation, but felt somewhat flimsy. However, we were quickly reassured by the rugged 1680-denier nylon patches swaddling the arms and shoulders. Removable armor in the elbows, shoulders and back, along with padding on the collarbone and lower back also helped quiet our paranoia. The GX Air has precurved sleeves, with a single adjustable forearm strap on each arm and effective zipper-and-hook-and-loop cuff closures to give you a snug fit. The interior is lined with a soft nylon/polyester mesh, with a pant connection zipper inside. An optional, insulated zip-out liner is sold separately.
The elastic-panel waist adjusts with two hook-and-loop belts, and two large storage pockets, an upper back reflective panel and stylish rubber-molded logos round out the details. A simple tab closes over the neck. The Cortech GX Air jacket comes in men's sizes XS-XXXL and women's XS-L, in black/dark silver, red/silver, blue/silver, yellow/silver, silver/dark silver and striking white/silver. Matching GX Air pants are available for $199.
What we liked: Comfortable fit; Cordura reinforcements; excellent finish; cuff closures.
What we didn't: Flimsy feel; lightweight armor; not many reflective surfaces.
TRIUMPH RAPTOR VENTED JACKET
Triumph's entry in this group seems...well, refined, especially when you consider that most OEM outerwear is a bit chintzy. The bloody Brits have somehow imbued this silly mesh concept with a sense of dignity, and it works. Shimmery, two-tone perforated nylon mesh pairs with solid, heavy-duty Cordura panels to cover removable Knox CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows and a heavy foam insert in the back. The sleeves have roper "width adjusters" -- with two snaps per arm, chap. There are four outer storage pockets, with two additional pouches inside the jacket. A soft perforated nylon inner lining provides some comfort, and an elastic waist panel adjusts with a single strap. Very civilized, that. Of course, we're Yanks, so we weren't completely content -- the cuff zippers didn't close tightly enough, and the snaps didn't snug all the extra material at the wrist or neck together. I say, some hook-and-loop would have helped, wot? Reflectivity was also minimal. Airflow, however, was topnotch. Triumph also offers matching Raptor jeans that can be connected to an inner zipper.
The Raptor, alas, comes in two colors only -- black or grey, in men's sizes 38-56 (M-XXXL).
What we liked: CE armor; reinforced shoulders/arms; plenty o' pockets.
What we didn't: Snap closures; unpadded neck; minimal retro-reflectivity
MOTORCYCLE CRUISER PICK:
VANSON VENT JACKET $199 (middleweight)
It may tie for the most expensive jacket in the lot, but you can instantly see why. Vanson Leathers' mesh Vent jacket sports a 1000-denier Cordura nylon panel shell that's doubly reinforced with leather in the shoulder and elbow impact zones. Under that abrasion-resistant combo is Vanson's exclusive armor (it exceeds 2005 CE standards) sequestered in the shoulder and elbow area, along with a long, removable spine protector out back that's covered with additional padding. The heft of the armor is apparent when you pick up the jacket.
In addition, the Vent jacket boasts a free-flowing open-mesh weave; it's lined with soft polyester for comfort and to diffuse the windblasts that come through. Precurved sleeves and a single adjustable forearm strap on each arm offer you a tailored fit, with an adjustable waistband strap on each side to snug material close. A racing-style leather roll collar dips low off your neck, and the wrist cuffs zip closed; two zippered outer and two inner pockets provide plenty of storage. The two reflective shoulder logos, however, don't do much for visibility (there's nothing reflective on the back).
Vanson's Vent jacket is available in black/red, black/blue, black/grey, black/yellow and black/black in men's sizes XS through XXXXL. At presstime, we were told the $199 promotional price would be going up soon. (It is now $249.)
What we liked: superior armor; sturdiness; tough reinforcements; comfortable cut.
What we didn't: collar too low; no included liner; not enough reflectivity.
For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.