Gear: Icon ARC Mesh jacket

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Riding in the heat sucks. Showing up drenched in sweat is always a bad look, but cruising around in a t-shirt results in sunburn, windburn and sometimes serious, life threatening injuries. What if you could buy a jacket built out of a strong, abrasion-resistant material that also has lots of holes for airflow? Well, you can. It’s called a mesh jacket and it’s the next best thing to having A/C on your bike.

Icon makes the ARC Mesh jacket for hot weather. Construction and materials are shockingly good for a $230 jacket. The torso and insides of the arms are made of magical air-flowing nylon mesh which feels very crash worthy, especially by mesh jacket standards. Shoulders and the outsides of the arms are covered in 1.2-1.4mm thick leather that is soft, yet strong. The seams are solidly constructed and all seven (really, seven?) exterior logos are thoughtfully integrated. An added benefit of its mesh construction is that it weighs next to nothing.

This all-black jacket is part of Icon’s “Stealth” range of colorways. It’s great to see a mainstream gear maker offering a significant portion of its products in all-black with blacked-out logos.

The best part? Wearing this jacket actually keeps you cooler than a t-shirt with no jacket at all. How? First, it keeps the sun off your arms and back. Second, when it’s unbearably hot, the slower and controlled airflow through the mesh works to pull heat away from your body much more effectively. If you’re wearing a t-shirt, 80mph hot wind blasts blow the sweat right off of you before it has a chance to work. Water pulls heat from you as it evaporates and the ARC mesh slows the wind blasts down to a slow breeze that actually allows that process to work.

Would it survive a 35mph slide? Almost certainly, those leather impact areas are key. Would it save you in a freeway speed slide? It’d probably help. There are CE-certified protectors in the shoulders and elbows, but the fit (more on this later) makes the placement of the armor questionably safe. The back pad it comes with doesn’t meet CE standards, but it’s better than nothing and it’s easy to swap out for Icon’s CE approved Stryker back protector. A safety concern with this jacket is that the provided belt snaps aren’t big enough or located in a proper position to make them useful. Check out the photo below, that’s a standard-sized belt and there’s no way those snaps are going to fit over it. Because the jacket is so short and loose, without securing it to pants it’s a road rash disaster waiting to happen, there’s just nothing stopping it from riding up as you slide down the road.

Which brings us to the fit. Icon got a lot of things right with this jacket but one important thing really wrong. Even after trying a myriad of sizes the fit of the jacket just simply doesn’t work. I don’t think it’s just me either. I’m a fairly average 6 feet tall, 155 pounds and am probably an off-the-peg 38 regular if I was the kind of guy that bought sport coats. In other words, I’m used to being able to buy clothes that fit.


In the off chance that you’re extremely fat, there are side expansion gussets

In a size small, this jacket is so short that it’s actually unwearable. It gets worse too: The arms are freakishly long and loose (try fitting all that material inside gloves that cover your wrist). In medium, it’s still too short and all the other problems are worse. The arms are so long they cover your entire hand and the armor doesn’t come close to sitting at the shoulder or elbow or covering the fragile pointy bones. How about an extra small? Arms are the correct length, armor is in all the right spots and fit through the torso is good all the way down to my belly button where the jacket just abruptly ends a good four to five inches before it should.

Sean’s going to kill me, but I’m including this rather embarrassing photo of him to illustrate just how odd the fit is. This is an extra small, which fits his shoulders, arms and chest perfectly, but he’s got a lot of work to do in the gym if he really wants to rock that fashionable belly shirt look. To see a picture of Sean which isn’t so embarrassing, go here. — Ed.

The ARC Mesh jacket is tagged as a Sport fit which places it in the middle of Icon’s range. In other jacket styles, they also offer Relaxed (which is baggier) and Attack (which is more fitted).

We’re not just being style-conscious in our complaint here. The big concern here is safety. If you crash in an ill fitting jacket it’s unlikely the armor will stay in place and, depending on which way you slide, some or most of your torso may be exposed, defeating the purpose of wearing a jacket in the first place. Comfort is also a concern, an excess of material will flap around at highway speeds, at best acting as a distraction, at worst making the jacket unbearably uncomfortable.

While it’s not our style here at Hell For Leather, clothes can be baggy and still fit well. Look at a pair of Levi’s Relaxed Fit jeans. They’re baggy, but they still match the human body and hit all the basic structure points. They’re also not too short. Despite targeting a specific market who might want their riding gear to be a bit looser (and thereby unfortunately less functional for the reasons mentioned above), Icon would do well to solve this problem and rescue an otherwise great product. This is an affordable, high-quality, nice-looking jacket that would be a bargain at $230, if it fit.

If a mesh jacket for warm weather sounds like a good idea, you might also want to check out the Vanson Super Vent, Alpinestars T-RC-1 and Dainese Air-2 Tex.

  • Sean Smith

    I’d like to point out that I’ve hit the gym and even trimmed up that happy trail a bit.

    • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

      I’m not rocked to sleep by any of this knowledge, but thanks for the update.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate
  • 80-wattHamster

    6′/155# is average? I have you beat by zero inches and a mere five pounds. In America, I (we) be skinny. So my question to Sean is, as someone who’s a rough size match, where are you getting stuff off the rack that fits? I can’t seem to reconcile chest diameter vs. torso length vs. arm length short of visiting a tailor, particularly in motorcycle jackets. So your trouble with the sizing on this model was interesting to me, since the trouble I always run into is the exact opposite: short arms if the torso fits, too much around the middle if the arms are the proper length. Managed to try on one Icon that fit, but it was either a sport or attack cut, and liked to dig into the back of your neck if you’re riding upright. On a Versys, say.

    • Sean Smith

      Dainese, Vanson and Alpinestars do alright. Vanson seems to err on the loose side and Alpinestars has quite a few different fit options. Dainese is spot on.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        Sean – I’m about the same size you are. Most jackets, I wear a M. Had to go for a Small Vanson Vent Max to get a good fit. Though my model is a few years old with almost no adjustment options and I believe the newer models have a bit more tweaks.

      • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

        there is no way you’re 6ft/155lbs.

        • Sean Smith

          You’re right. As of this morning, it’s 150.5

          • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

            Must have been that happy trail trimming. Quite the jungle you had.

          • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

            i’ll give you 5’9″…..maaaaaybe 5’10″

            • Sean Smith

              I think you’re probably taller than you think you are. Ashlee says you’re annoying her, so she decided to measure. 6’1/4″ with shoes, 5’11″ on the dot with shoes off.

              Don’t you have kids to teach?

      • Roman

        I would think that most European market brands would be good fits. I’m legitimately averaged American build (5’10″/170) and most of the nice Italian gear either fits too tight in the chest or the arms are too long. Which sucks because American stuff (with a few exceptions) is not my bag. Wish Heine Gericke would come back to the market, their stuff was spot on.

  • jeremy

    Check out the dainese link for the complete and utter fagginess of their sassy models.

    • Sean Smith

      I love how euro they are.

  • Will Y

    The ARC Mesh in XL with me at 5’9 and as round as they come fits pretty well. Might need to put on a hoodie underneath when Canadian winter rolls around though.

  • aristurtle

    Most mesh jackets have sleeves that are supposed to go over a (small, crappy) pair of gloves, not get tucked into gauntlets. No idea why.

    I bought an Alpinestars AirFlo jacket and pants for this summer. They fit is good and the mesh seems high quality (though I haven’t crashed in them yet) but there’s a few decisions they made that just make you say “WTF?!”

    The inside of the collar is lined with some kind of really scratchy, abrasive material. As with this one, the sleeves don’t tuck into the gauntlets. Also, I get that the industry standard is to make the included back pad out of Bullshit Foam, so that people will buy your real back protector separately at an 800% markup. Alpinestars, however, is leading the pack in making the knee pads out of Bullshit Foam as well. And would a zipper to connect the pants and jacket really have broken the budget?

    Most of this stuff is fixable, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

    I’ll keep my Vanson Vent Max. Hugely recommended by riders here in Texas and for good reason: it’s unparalleled in airflow. My only concern with it is one you’ve mentioned here – the inability to attach it to pants. That’s resolved with the Ventilator, at the expense of venting.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    I bought a Alpinestars T-Stunt Air last year, and it worked well from October thru June. Wearing it now, it is just brutally hot in the afternoon. I was hoping this Arc would be a good brutal-summer alternative, but I doubt it would fit well. My T-Stunt fits splendidly, and I would rather sweat it out and be safer than the alternative.

    • Roman

      I’m a fan of my Rev’IT Air jacket. The cut is euro-slim, but doable. Love how their armor fits though, just right.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        I couldn’t trust Rev’IT mesh products after my Ignition jacket. It’s a leather/mesh hybrid, similar to what’s on display in this article, but that damn mesh isn’t very effective at all. I’m sure it’s wonderfully protective, but it’s just not adequate for moderately high temps.

        • Roman

          Strange, Air vents just fine. Wonder if they’re using a different type of mesh material. Anyway, coming from a Fieldsheer mesh jacket to Rev’IT really opened my eyes (and my damn wallet) to the difference that nice gear can make.

          • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

            To be fair, my Ignition jacket was one of their early mesh products. It’s about 6+ years old at this point. Great quality, though, I totally agree.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

    how bad does it inflate at speed? our dainese jacket (which i believe you stole and haven’t returned yet) is terrible at anything near freeway speeds because you feel like you’re wearing a balloon that God keeps inflating and then letting all of the air out of.

    • Sean Smith

      Inflation at speed is a non-issue here. The bagginess solves that problem. That Dainese jacket doesn’t inflate for me either though.

      • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub the (unfortunate) roomate

        awesome. i agree that these mesh jackets are cooler than wearing just a t shirt, but the inflation effect was obnoxious

        • BMW11GS

          don’t you guys work together? These comments make it sound like sean the roomate is resentful of sean the writer? what’s the deal?

          • Sean Smith

            Our comments should be taken pretty lightly.

            • BMW11GS

              haha okay that’s what I thought, didn’t know if there was a lurid back story.

  • Adrian

    Sean should kill you for posting the picture. (I’m going to have nightmares, now.) However, it was in a good cause, so all is forgiven. :-)

    It is a clear illustration of how widely the sizes can vary. Getting anything to fit my 6′-3″ long armed, long legged frame is a bitch, to put it mildly. My Firstgear winter wear is a bit baggy, because I had to choose between girth and length — I had to choose the length to keep essential body parts from freezing.
    Then the Texas summer is a real challenge. I wear my Vanson Mark II vented leather, which is OK, but you still sweat like some sort of overworked farm animal. But Vanson fits!
    The rest of the gear that has been bought and tried is still hanging in a closet somewhere. With the lack of places to go and actually try stuff on, it’s a mail order crapshoot.

    I like these reviews. Keep up the good work.

  • Trev

    Did Icon ever offer a light colored jacket with 1 very small logo?

    Not ripping on them (or any other gear maker), but the big logos and dark color jackets are really getting old for even a younger person like myself.

  • http://www.rideicon.com iconmotosports

    Sean, thanks for the unabashed review. All of our jacket chassis have somewhat different fit characteristics – we can’t explain all of them by “attack” or “sport.” We’ve been talking about ways to better communicate this type of info to the customer…especially with the prevalence of buying online without a test fit. We think you’re wrong using words like ‘correct’ or ‘how it should be’ to describe the fit of a jacket- fit is personal, and we’re all shaped differently. There are thousands of happy customers riding in Arc jackets. You should try a Contra, it has a longer torso and some strategic mesh. The Hooligan (full mesh) has been thoroughly crash tested on the supermoto track, and it’s crashworthy. Have you tried an Overlord Leather? Why don’t you stop up and we’ll find something in our closet that fits you, then show you some Oregon roads.

    Oh, and the “belt snaps” are really an attachment for the Arc Pants – not your belt.

    • Sean Smith

      When I went down to Del Amo Motorsports to try and figure out fit, I tried on every Icon jacket in sight. The Overlord had the best fit; arms and torso were the right length, it was just a little loose everywhere.

      I’ll be up in Oregon in October to see Journey. What say we head out on highway 30, drop by the Dirty 30 and see what kind of trouble we can get into on the gravel part of Pittsburg rd?

      • http://www.rideicon.com iconmotosports

        Yes, stop in – we’ll buy you a cheeseburger, see if we can get your body into the “right” shape!

        • Sean Smith

          After Risky Business I’m kind of expecting to run into you guys at the show.

    • T Diver

      This is why this site is cool. Thanks. Sean needs to go to a tailor and get measured. I am about 5’7″ and I wear 38 (small) A* gear. I find it hard to believe that he should be wearing a small. (at 6 feet or whatever he is claiming.) I figure if it’s a good fit, you should not even notice you are wearing it. And no, I don’t wear baggy clothes on a bike. Or when walking about. I’m 36 and bald. I would look stupid.

  • Johndo

    Problem with many mesh jackets is that at high speed crashes they melt on your skin. Some companies make kevlar mesh. Expensive but you’re sure you won’t end up in the hospital having someone remove the melted nylon from your skin if you do run out of luck and crash…

    • Sean Smith

      It’s true that Motoport will sell you a Kevlar mesh jacket that’s made to measure, with plenty of custom options as well, but at $449 before options, why not just buy a perforated leather jacket?

      • Johndo

        Because perforated leather can never let in as much air as kevlar mesh can(or any mesh for that matter). I just wish the Motoport line looked better, then 449$ would be totally worth it for me (full protection, and perfect for those very hot summer days).

        But they focus so much on reducing number of seems for protection that its impossible to make them fit like a glove like a Rukka for example that has tons of pieces and stitches (that might blow appart in a crash though..). Love my Rukka, but wish I could find a product in between…that let in more air, without compromising too much on safety, and oh…please make it look good.