A Buyers Guide to Mesh Riding Jackets

The Business Of Breezes

They may have started out as novelty items a decade ago, but mesh jackets have definitely gone mainstream. They’re a godsend if you like to ride in hot weather but still want some level of safety. Of course, you’ll find varying levels of functionality and quality available on the market.

For this guide, we assembled the latest styles from major manufacturers, though we made sure to choose only those examples with armor, adjustability and reflectivity. The ‘heavyweight’ designation refers to both the garment’s weight as well as functionality.

We took each for a whirl through the Oregon countryside to see if their vaunted ventilation really worked, and found many viable options, in varying levels of protection and comfort. (All jackets are waist-length unless specified otherwise.)

Tourmaster Sonora Jacket $210

If it’s one of the heaviest and priciest jackets here, that’s because the Sonora rocks a full menu of features. To start, a 3⁄4 length jacket is a rarity in the mesh world, as is the zip-out, double-inner liner that’s insulated, windproof...and waterproof. But the two-liner concept isn’t without its pitfalls; we stopped counting the zippers after awhile (though there is a handy two-way exterior zipper as the main jacket closure). We like the Velcro cuffs, which offer more adjustability than zippers (though they’re bulky), and the Sonora’s reflective rear triangle. The Sonora also sports two adjustment straps for each arm and one for the waist. The jacket’s open weave 680 denier Carbolex mesh lets plenty of air through, so there’s ventilation at any speed, and there’s storage galore on the Sonora, including two chest map pockets. Some may find this to be more jacket than they need for occasional warm-weather forays, but if you’re a serious rider who doesn’t want to rely on the forecast, the Sonora will be a boon. (Also in women’s sizes.)

**What's nifty
: Stout backpad; super versatility
What's not: Jacket length a compromise.

ICON Hooligan 2 Mil-Spec $195

The Hooligan2 Mil-Spec jacket builds on the standard Hooligan2, with a mesh chassis that’s smooth and tightly woven. The tighter weave made it tougher for small gusts to sneak through under 20 mph, but over 25, airflow was plentiful. This is serious riding gear in its own right, with added ballistic elbow overlays, flex panels, and stout CE elbow and shoulder armor that’s securely positioned. The Mil-Spec treatment includes a bright, color-blocked exterior and reflective paneling, which meets US Military base guidelines for motorcycle upper body garments. The Hooligan 2 has a relaxed fit (and says so on the tag), which meant our size Medium ran a bit large; with the liner out, it was that much roomier. There’s also a stout, removable dual-density foam back pad, and an internal zippered pocket for small items. The removable insulated wind-resistant liner is quilted and way warm (though not waterproof), but it’s also a bear to remove from the jacket. You can get the Hooligan2 in a women’s version as well.

**What's nifty
: Can't miss, eyeball-searing color; good reflectivity; solid armor
What's not: Baggy fit; non-adjustable cuffs; no arm/waist adjustment

Scorpion Ven-Tech Jacket $170 - $195

Scorpion’s Ven-Tech jacket brings stout construction in the form of poly mesh with ballistic nylon panels, and a similarly tight weave to the Icon. The removable liner is wind-resistant and not what we’d call robust, but the CE-approved armor at the shoulder and elbow has the bonus of being ventilated, and there are ballistic fabric reinforcements over the elbows. Side adjustment tabs tailor the fit, and two hand-warmer pockets are positioned down low, with an internal pocket for trinkets. Like everyone else in this bunch, the Ven-Tech has reflective material on the arms and back, and a handy PE foam backpad. Velcro adjustment tabs help cinch both sleeves down, as well as on the hip. There’s fairly good air flow through the medium weave mesh, with a decent amount even at speeds below 25mph. Scorpion also offers the similarly configured Jewel and Nip Tuck jackets for women.

**What's nifty
: Nice fit, adjustability, decent airflow
What's not: Itchy neck; nonadjustable cuffs; bare-bones liner; skimpy backpad

Joe Rocket Phoenix 5.0 $170

Since it started the trend nearly 10 years ago, Joe Rocket’s Phoenix mesh jacket has pretty much stayed in the game, and the next-generation Phoenix 5.0 continues that tradition. The Phoenix brings a combination of a high-flow mesh outer and abrasion-resistant poly panels at key impact points (shoulders and elbows). It’s a fairly open-weave mesh, so incoming breezes passed through easily and at pretty much all speeds above 20 mph. Naturally, there are also removable CE-rated protectors in the shoulders and elbows, as well as a removable spine pad. Once you put it on, any perceived heft in the Phoenix disappears, and it fits comfortably, with the help of elastic sleeve adjusters and an adjustable waist band. The cuffs offer only zipper closures, but there is a removable waterproof liner, as well as reflective piping and a padded collar. A drop down lower back is padded too. A plethora of pockets can be found inside and out, with several dedicated pouches for things like your keys and sunglasses.

**What's nifty
: Assortment of pockets, padded collar and tail
What's not: Cuff closures; one-way liner

Alpinestars Verona Airflo $160

Not surprisingly, Alpinestars’ new Verona jacket marches to its own beat in several ways. Italian styling means it’s tightly tailored, which is one of those love-it or hate-it propositions. Alpinestars calls it mid-length, but what that translated into for us was a slightly-longer-than waist-length jacket. Although the Verona fit perfectly everywhere else, the body of the jacket felt long (your results may vary). The uniqueness continues with the 450 denier polyester shell construction; it’s such a tight weave, we’d be hard-pressed to call it mesh—though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it also happens to be water-resistant. The air flow is definitely there (though not as obvious) and the Verona sports removable CE elbow and shoulder armor that also happens to be incredibly slim and lightweight. To be fair, Alpinestars calls the Verona a “warm weather commuting jacket”, so clearly it’s urban wear for short trips in the city. In that sense, it’s a lightweight and good-looking solution to your workaday jaunts to the office.

**What's nifty
: Light weight, good looks
What's not: No back protector, no liner; only waist adjusters

Firstgear Mesh Tex Jacket $150

The Mesh-Tex nearly matches the Sonora in the fat-feature department, but takes it down a few notches. The tighter-weave 250-denier mesh nylon shell allows breezes in more subtly than the more open-weave jackets, but you can certainly feel the airflow, and the inner liner is a bit more comfy. The Mesh Tex is substantially lighter, perhaps because there’s only one zip-out, fully sleeved wind liner—that’s just water-resistant. CE-approved shoulder and elbow armor resides under the shell, with extra fabric reinforcing the shoulders and elbows, and an EVA foam pad shoring up your back. Inside the jacket is a left side Napoleon pocket with red slider, and in the liner you’ll find a phone pouch and two additional pockets, with two exterior hand warmer wpockets at the waist. Snap sleeve cuffs (non-adjustable) and snap waist tabs allow some fit tailoring, and there’s reflective piping on the back for visibility. The Mesh Tex is also available in women’s sizes (and in ultra-bright Day Glo colors), and carries a two-year warranty.

**What's nifty
: Clean styling; lightweight; actual padding on neck.
What's not: No arm straps; non-adjustable cuffs

Power Trip Mojave $150

Power Trip (a sub-brand of the Joe Rocket empire) delivers solid warm-weather wear that ticks all the right boxes. The Mojave jacket sports an open-weave, free-flowing mesh material in the torso and arms, a removable, waterproof liner, CE-approved shoulder and elbow armor, and a removable spine pad. Handy details include arm volume adjustment snaps, velcro waist tabs, and a unique, drop down tail area with padding (similar to the Solare). Reflecting piping is minimal, as it’s only one row at the chest and one at the back. The cuffs however, offer surprisingly adjustable closures: a combo snap/zipper and Velcro tab. Very nice. We found the Mojave’s open weave design flowed air like gangbusters, and the overall fit and adjustability pretty comfortable. There were a few nits: the waterproof liner will bake you in warm weather, the collar’s not padded and some of the zippers and stitching are less than perfect. All in all, however, we’d have to say the Mojave’s not a bad value for the money.

**What's nifty
: Nicely adjustable cuffs
What's not: Minimal reflectivity: rough collar

AGV Sport Solare Jacket $99

If you want basic, lightweight yet protective gear for those unbearable slogs through triple digit heat, the Solare fits the bill. Unfussy yet well-made, this polyester textile and mesh jacket sports a comfy mesh lining, sturdy CE-approved shoulder and elbow protectors, and a memory foam back pad. The airflow, which is almost nonstop, comes from full mesh construction in the torso and arm areas; we had ventilation at pretty much any speed. Sleeve-gathering straps on each arm and adjustable Velcro waist tabs allowed us to adjust fit on the fly, and two interior pockets offered up good storage options (two exterior hand warmer pockets are at the waist). The cuffs close with snaps, but at least there are two position options. The Solare’s collar is one of the few here that’s actually padded, and it adds moisture-wicking material for even more comfort. Workmanship is stout; we found heavy-duty seam construction throughout, with YKK zippers sporting long, easy-access pulls, and subtle reflective piping on the front and rear of the jacket. The Solare is also available in wicked-bright yellow.

**What's nifty
: Nice adjustability; drop-down tail; excellent value
What's not: No added liner; snap cuffs

River Road Sedona $99

Good function at a nice price is what the Sedona brings to the table. If you’re looking for a simple, one-function jacket, the Sedona isn’t a bad way to go. The abrasion-resistant open weave mesh design flows big air and is comfortable to the touch, but that softness may bring up concerns of snagging, too. There is an included, insulated full-sleeve liner that zips out, and it’s surprisingly stout—if you get caught out when the temperatures drop, it’ll come in handy. You’ll also find fairly generic, removable EVA foam armor used in the back, elbows and shoulders, but you do have the option to upgrade it (and the back protector itself feels pretty stout). Comfortable padding at the neck further increases the Sedona’s comfort quotient, as do two adjustable waist side tabs. The usual assortment of pockets inhabit the Sedona as well—two inner and two outer pouches to accommodate storage needs. Alas, the only reflective stripe we found was at the back of the neck —but that’s not a complete deal-breaker.

**What's nifty
: Nice price, padded collar; warm liner
What's not: No arm adjusters; little reflectivity

Other Notables

There’s such a wide variety of warm weather gear available now that we couldn’t possibly include it all, so here is the bonus sidebar.

A few of the following examples qualify more as super-versatile, three-season jackets than straight-up heat-busters. The other two mesh units were released too late to make our deadline.

Rev’ IT! Tornado Jacket $299

Looks like Rev’IT’s Tornado jacket could be a worthy tool in your hot-weather gear arsenal too. With an outer shell composed of 600-denier polyester mesh panels and inserts of neoprene and leather, the Tornado covers most ventilation issues. Add its CE approved Knox protectors, and a detachable, 2-in-1 thermal liner with a waterproof/breathable membrane, and this can easily qualify as a three-season jacket. Of course, there are reflective inserts, inner and outer pockets, a nifty collar hook for air flow to your neck, a back protector, and plenty of adjustment straps.

Harley-Davidson Cosmic Mesh Jacket $150

Harley-Davidson ‘s brand-new Cosmic Mesh jacket is made up of 100 percent polyester allover-mesh, with distinctive, sublimated printing on the exterior, and a design targeted specifically for female riders. Dedicated, onboard pockets accept accessory hydration packs (which, when soaked with water, provide extra cooling). Pockets at the elbows and shoulders accept accessory body armor, while zippered cuffs and adjustable waist tabs tailor the fit (no sign of any reflective parts, however). Part of Harley’s MotorClothes® line, the Cosmic slots in at a reasonable $150 MSRP.

Olympia Motosports Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Jacket $270

Olympia’s third-generation Airglide 3 Mesh Tech Jacket continues to be at the vanguard of versatile gear. Don’t mistake this for just a warm-weather jacket, either: the Airglide sports stout Cordura construction enhanced with ballistic nylon mesh panels for serious airflow, and great abrasion resistance. CE armor at the elbows and shoulders, as well as an articulated back protector mean real-world impact coverage. There are also double rows of Scotchlite® piping at the chest, back and sleeves for nighttime visibility. Inside, there’s a two-stage, wind and waterproof insulated liner jacket, and five pockets. We still have our Gen One Airglide which we’ve worn all over the world in various conditions. It hasn’t failed us yet.

AXO Air Mesh jacket $158

AXO released this item as we went to press, and because it meets our base requirements we’re including it here. The new Airflow Mesh Jacket offers a high tenacity polyamide fabric outer shell, with perforated areas occupying the chest, sleeves and back. There’s also CE-approved shoulder and elbow armor (though we didn’t see any mention of a back protector). Elastic inserts on the armpits accommodate on-bike movement, while neck, waist, sleeve and cuff adjustments help tailor the fit. Reflective prints on the chest, sleeves and back fill out the list of prerequisites.