Mesh Motorcycle Jackets are Cool Protection

By: On: June 4th, 20090 Comments »Updated: December 17, 2011

Mesh Motorcycle JacketWhen the weather heats up, it’s hard to enjoy your ride when your drenched in sweat while wearing your favorite black leather motorcycle jacket.  Heavy leather is for motorcycle riding because it blocks the wind and it helps protect your skin from of the sting of large insects, road debris or from a fall.   Also, how about large birds, like John Travolta got hit with while riding a Harley-Davidson in Wild Hogs!

When you’re stuck in traffic on a hot summer day, you won’t be thinking much about the safety benefits of leather.  You’ll be thinking about how quickly you can get that jacket off of you and how much you are sweating.

Yes, there are some warm weather motorcycle jackets that are made of perforated leather, but most of those specialty leathers are still too pricey for today’s budgets.  For this review, we only selected what we considered to be the most well designed and most versatile mesh motorcycle jackets priced below $180 US.

Some riders choose to either wear a leather jacket or just a t-shirt perhaps because they are not aware of how good modern motorcycle jackets have become over the past decade.  Materials technology has improved modern textile motorcycle jackets immensely. Getting down to basics, motorcycle jackets are split into two groups, Leather jackets and Textile jackets, though some jackets are a combination.  One reasonably priced, good looking leather and mesh jacket is the River Road Pecos, but it lacks some of the extra features we are looking for regarding rider protection and versatility.  Textile motorcycle jackets come in a huge variety of designs and materials, but for the sake of this article, we’re only focusing on mesh textile jackets.

Before I visited several motorcycle shops to try on the latest gear, I had it in my head that mesh motorcycle jackets were kind of a waste of time.  Honestly, the word mesh makes me think of very flimsy material.  I figured a mesh jacket would be limited to just the hottest of riding conditions.  I also did not believe that a mesh motorcycle jacket actually could provide any real protection and was just for looks.  I was wrong.

As I learned, and as many riders that wear these know, the main things to look for in a warm weather motorcycle jacket are materials, removable CE armor, removable liner, and the type of ventilation it has.  Materials usually vary with price, but highest price often does not equate to best material.  You will see textile material brand names like Cordura, Polytitanium, and Carbolex; and fabric terms like denier and ballistic.  All of these names and terms can be very confusing when trying to make a smart choice.

Lets talk about textile motorcycle jacket materials.  Cordura is a brand of nylon or polyester fabric. It is used where durability is key, such as in military clothing, luggage, hunting gear and of course, motorcycle gear. Carbolex is a brand of polyester fabric.   Not all Cordura, Carbolex (or whatever brand) is the same.  Fabrics, regardless of brand, are usually available in a variety of grades within the same brand name.  So, if two different jackets both are made from Cordura, which one is heavier duty?  Well, one way to know what grade you are getting is to check the denier number.  Denier is a unit of measurement regarding fabric mass. The higher the denier number, the heavier it is.  For example, denim is somewhere around 100-150 denier while ballistic fabrics are usually over 1000 denier.

Intake Air JacketSo, denier is just how heavy or dense the fabric is, not how abrasion resistant it is.  Abrasion resistance is one of the most important safety features for motorcycle apparel.  It is also important in terms of how long tour jacket will last.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find abrasion resistance numbers from manufacturers.  Think about how well the fabric might hold up while sliding on a road surface.  Leather offers good abrasion resistance.  You don’t see motorcycle racers wearing cotton or denim, but you do see them in leather.  Since we are generally not riding around at racing speeds, us mere mortals can consider alternative textile fabrics with some reinforcement and armor in the most injury-prone  areas instead of wearing racing leathers.

Most of the good mesh motorcycle jackets are using about a 600 denier for the main jacket, and 1000 or more denier at the elbows, shoulders and other areas where high levels of protection are desired.  1050 denier is said to have the best strength to weight ratio for ballistic nylon of you are interested in these sort of details.  Some motorcycle apparel brands use their own brand names for the fabrics they use.  While that gives them an exclusive name to use,  the fabric itself may not actually be exclusive.  Marketing at it’s finest I guess.

If  you have not seen CE armor for motorcycle riding gear, then welcome to the modern era of motorcycling.  CE armor is a lot like the protective padding that baseball, hockey and football players wear, but it meets the European standards for use as motorcycle rider protection.   We have found that some jackets allow the CE armor to sort of float around inside the elbows and shoulders way too much, and some hold it perfectly in place.

There are actually two standards, one for back protection and one for other body areas such as your shoulders, elbows, hipes, etc.  Many motorcycle jackets today, especially the textile jackets, come with built-in or removable CE armor.  Sometimes this armor is made of hard plastic, just soft padding, a combination of soft and hard.  Some racing gear even has titanium armor built in.  In a mesh motorcycle jacket, you’ll usually find CE armor at the elbows and shoulders, and quite often also along the back to help protect your spine.  Some jackets that I tried that have CE armor, felt like the pads were falling and sliding all around, but the next smaller size was too small.  Some  lower quality, off-brand textile or mesh jackets can feel like that, so beware.

CE armor not only absorbs some initial impact for you, but it is another very valuable barrier of abrasion-resistant material between your skin and the road.  So, for your protection, look for very high denier numbers and CE armor.  Soft padding comes in some low-price jackets instead of hard CE armor, but it is better if it comes in addition to the hard CE armor.

motorcycle jacket back protectionFor the sake of this article, we tried not to consider the style and colors of the jackets as a factor in our opinion.  We focused on the materials, the features, the versatility and what we considered to be the overall quality and value.

Our top pick is the Tour Master Intake Air 2.  The versatility of this mesh motorcycle jacket is hard to beat.  You can get 3 seasons worth of riding with this jacket, and for many people, this would be the only motorcycle jacket they need.  The removable liner also  has has a removable liner.  In other words, it has a mesh exterior, a rain blocking windbreaker liner, and then behind that is a removable insulated liner for colder weather riding.  A nice touch is that each layer has inside pockets so you can always keep your wallet and cell phone, or whatever, inside the jacket in the same location regardless which liner you happen to be using.  Simple, but very nice.  This 600 denier Carbolex mesh jacket has 1680 denier reinforced areas  at elbows and shoulders and has removable CE armor.  The Intake Air 2 also has built-in articulated back protection.  It comes in black, red, blue, yellow, white and grey.  It also has some reflective piping and a small reflective triangle on the back.  This mesh motorcycle jacket is very hard to beat for quality, features, versatility and price.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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