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.