Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cruise wear - Product review: Motorcycle House Angel Fire motorcycle jacket

Right off the bat I have to apologize to the women out there who were attracted to this post by the promising title.

It's quite alright to beat a hasty retreat and abandon this page, you've been lured here under false pretenses.  As a way of making amends, here are some handy  links to Pinterest, Simply dresses, and Venus.com. There's nothing to see here...

Unless you own a cruiser, that is.

Here is the long-awaited review of jacket number two, the Viking Cycle Angel Fire leather jacket from Motorcycle House.  Jacket number one was reviewed a little while back here.
Motorcycle House - Angel Fire men's jacket
It can't be said that it's the iconic biker jacket, but if you Google "Images of classic motorcycle jackets" you will see a very large number of precisely this type of jacket. Once you're on Google, click on the images link.  You see what I mean?

When Motorcycle House initially approached me, and asked me to pick any product I wanted to review, this was the item I picked. I've always secretly wanted a jacket like this.  To me it's the most quintessential among motorcycle jackets.

Oh, and ladies, if you've stuck around in spite of the slightly misleading headline, this riding jacket is available for you as well. Judging from the times I've seen this style of jacket in high-end fashion boutiques lately, it's not only an iconic choice for riding, but a contemporary fashion statement too. To my eye, it's also drop-dead sexy.
Motorcycle House - Women's jacket
Though I love the look of the classic jacket, I know myself, I won't wear something that's out of character for me.  I didn't know whether I could pull the look off on my Vespa, to be honest. But maybe, just maybe, it could work.  My Vespa is black, after all... but it's a stretch to be sure.

Before I move on to the review, I need to explore something that has been making me just a tiny bit twitchy lately.

On the spectrum of religious people, I am far off to the left of the scale.  To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I don't care to belong to any religion that will have me as a member.

Susan and I were musing just last weekend, oddly, that we might start a new non-religion.  The place of worship would be round, with lots of comfortable seating, and our preachers would offer Jerry Seinfeld-esque or George Carlin-esque twenty or thirty minute musings about life in general.  It would, like the Seinfeld TV show, really be about nothing. There'd be no ritual standing or kneeling, no prayers to memorize. The only expectation of the congregation would be to offer up the word 'exactly' whenever they felt that the officiant had said something that struck them as particularly pithy, witty, or wry.  That's it.

Why this segue to religion? Because there's something quite strange at work here that's actually affecting my life.  It's some form of sociophylic resonance.  That's the best way I can peg it.

It goes something like this.

I was drawn to motor scooters right from the start, not motorcycles.  A year or two ago, if someone had asked, I would have answered quite confidently that I would never own a motorcycle.  It's not that I have anything against motorcycles.  In fact I would have had to admit that I was intrigued, that I would have one day liked to learn to ride a motorcycle.  But on the whole, unlike motor scooters, there was nothing sufficiently compelling that would have justified the ownership quest.  Besides, more than 90% of my riding is urban commuting and that's the sweet spot for motor scooters not motorcycles.  The likelihood of ever owning a motorcycle seemed really quite remote.

Then Motorcycle House approached me.  Sometime late last summer if I recall. I saw that jacket.  Did I dare reach for it?  So desirable, but kind of out of character?

Yet the allure of the jacket was too much.  Besides, the threshold was very, very low.  All I needed to do was express an interest, and like magic, the jacket might land on my doorstep.  It's a little like those Faustian stories, where the prince of darkness approaches, all good-looking, suave, and debonair, like a soap opera actor, a nice guy really, and offers to make some far-fetched dream or fantasy a reality.  I felt a little guilty, in the way one might feel if placed in that position.  But what the heck, 'live a little' the figurative devil perched on my right shoulder whispered in my ear.

This is not the first time the little shoulder devil won me over, in fact, you wouldn't be reading this if the posse of shoulder angels had won that first tussle.   That's a whole other story.  I have Gary France to thank for coaxing that anecdote out of me a couple of years back.

In the meantime, the giant hidden gears of the universe continued to turn slowly, unseen and obscure, not making a sound, beyond my capacity to know or understand.  Then Sonja posed an innocent question, Michael offered to join me for a ride, one shoe dropped, after another, and very soon now, there will be a mean old black cruiser sharing the garage with my Vespa.

Now someone, please explain that to me.  What the heck does all this mean? Simple coincidences?  There are too many at play, it seems to me.  Could there be something deeper working its way out? Should those flames on Black Betty be a source of greater concern?  I mean really, can you tell me that this isn't the least bit peculiar, or the slightest bit strange?

What the devil does it all mean?
It only occurred to me once I was writing all this stuff down, that when I negotiated the price and signed the purchase agreement with the seller, it was in a downstairs den, heavily curtained against daylight, there was a fire flickering in a potbelly stove where the seller sat, the scent of smoke hung in the air, and the circumstances forced other thoughts to swirl in my brain that I can't bring myself to express here.  I had to double-check the address just now as I wrote this... thank heavens, no sixes.

With that minor but hopefully entertaining digression complete, as it happens, I now feel quite comfortable and entirely legitimate offering up my thoughts on the Viking Cycle Angel Fire jacket. It's no longer a stretch for me by any means.

First off, let me say this. I love the quality of this jacket.

How about fit and finish?

The jacket Motorcycle House sent me is a large. It fits me very well. It's snug and it just feels good. The jacket if fully lined with black quilted fabric which is not removable. The sleeves have zippered gussets that do a nice job of making the jacket easier to put on, and then zip closed to make the sleeves nice and snug and unlikely to ride up in a slide. This style of jacket is necessarily waist length. That's a safety consideration that I'll get to shortly.  All the zippers are YKK metal zippers that should keep things together and last a good long time.

In terms of functionality, this jacket scores well.

Let's talk pockets.
Motorcycle House
There are six  pockets of varying sizes and configurations. Four of the pockets are what you'd expect in any jacket:
  • two zippered side pockets. The side pockets have decent depth, are well-positioned, and handy as a jaunty place to stuff your hands. In my case, based on my use of the similar pockets in my other riding jackets, I'll use these pockets to hold the leather skull cap I use very effectively to ward off helmet hair (a leftover from a Bar Mitzvah I attended), earplugs in an earplugs holder, and the bike's ignition keys.  For full disclosure on the contents of my pockets, click here.
  •  
  • two inside breast pockets. These pockets are essentially the same as those in my non-riding leather jackets, except that those jackets typically only have one breast pocket on the left inside lining. With twin pockets this jacket provides that much more functionality. The only nit I can pick is that unlike my other riding jackets, these pockets do not have closures. I suppose that in a spill, these pockets might give up their contents. That said, you'll see that there are a two other very handy pockets that I find really useful in a riding jacket.
  •  
  • one small exterior pocket located in the centre of the jacket just above the waist. This pocket can be centered because the zipper closure is off-centre to accomodate the double breasted closure. The pocket is small but perfect for a cell phone. My iPhone 5S fits perfectly in that pocket. It has a flap with a dome snap closure that will keep your phone safe, yet accessible for when you need it.
  • finally, there is a more generous diagonal slash pocket on the chest with the opening running parallel to the folded lapel. There is ample room in this pocket for a passport (handy for crossing borders on a tour), or a wallet. No reason to fear for the contents because like the side pockets, there is a nice strong YKK zipper to keep the contents safe.
Another aspect of the jacket's functionality is protection from the elements on the road.

The off-centre zippered double-breasted closure is the design feature I love about this jacket and it's what gives the jacket it's signature look. This design is also highly functional and for me that's a big plus. Form that follows function is what really appeals to me.  The jacket is designed so that it can be fully closed.  Here's what that looks like in the case of the women's model.
Once zipped all the way up, the jacket is snug to the rider's neck, and forms a formidable wind barrier.  My first real ride on my original Vespa LX back in 2010 was in late March and it was a very chilling experience.  I wore a leather jacket that normally serves me well.  In this case even at a moderate speed, the cold air penetrated all along the zipper like a knife edge.  There is no such issue with the Angel Fire jacket as a result of the double-breasted design.
The potential downside to the large double-breasted lapels is that when the jacket is worn partially open (which is hopefully the way it will most often be worn), those big lapels could flap in the wind like a Pellican's wings. The collar presents a similar risk, though to a lesser extent. Fear not, there will be no unsightly batting about of collars and lapels, because that's what the dome snaps are for. With the jacket partially open, the otherwise loose leather is snapped tight and well battened down to withstand whatever wind your adventure may bring. That`s another way that form follows function in this jacket.

The jacket has epaulettes and they also have snaps. The snaps make the epaulettes functional, though for most of us, they will serve no purpose. I suppose you could secure the shoulder strap of a camera under an epaulette to prevent it from sliding off your shoulder for when you are off the bike and wandering about snapping photos. Active military types could use the epaulettes for their intended purpose of slipping on a sleeve with rank and other insignia, or as the Antiques Road Show often says, 'militaria'. But you would still be out of uniform, wouldn't you, so what would be the point? Basically the epaulettes are just there to complete the look. It's a nice touch though that they are actually functional, and not merely vestigial.

Although the jacket fits snugly, it never binds, because there are generous expansion gussets at the shoulders that really do a nice job making the jacket comfortable.
What does this jacket lack in functionality?  The obvious answer is that there is no venting (other than riding with the jacket partially open), and the liner is not removable.  If those features are important to you (and to most if not all riders they would be important features), they are available in the Motorcycle Club ("MC") model for a step up in price.

Speaking of price, and how can one not, this jacket is reasonably priced, very reasonably priced.  Comparable jackets cost hundreds more and up to six and seven times more at the high end.  For the money, this jacket might just be impossible to beat.

The final chapter has to be safety.

In the cruiser segment, safety is sometimes not the paramount concern, nor is it intended to be.

Abrasion-wise, the Angel Fire jacket is stellar.

In terms of abrasion resistance, leather tops the materials list. Kevlar takes a back seat to leather, and so does ballistic nylon. The first thing that struck me about this jacket was the thick feel of the leather. The Angel Fire jacket is made from cowhide and it seems appreciably thicker and more robust than other leather jackets I own. But is it? I couldn't resist the temptation to put some science up against what my senses were telling me.

Out came my micrometer.

I measured the thickness on the cuff on each of the three leather non-riding jackets I own. Let's call them jacket one, jacket two, and jacket three.  Then I measured the Angel Fire jacket. Here's how they stacked up:
Leather thickness
Jacket Measurement
Jacket one 0.0835
Jacket two 0.1110
Jacket three 0.1270
Angel Fire 0.1045
I guess we can't entirely trust our senses, can we?  I was expecting the Angel Fire to come out on top by a respectable margin.  So what does this mean?

Each of these jackets is made of a different hide, and at least one of them, jacket three, the one that measures thickest, is lamb and is the oldest of the jackets.  The differences between jackets two and three and the Angel Fire jacket are not at all as significant as they seem.  The difference between jacket three and the Angel Fire is about the thickness of two sheets of paper.  Given the remarkable abrasion resistance of leather, the difference is not, as securities lawyers are fond of saying, material (pardon the pun).

To provide some more meaningful context, consider that motorcycle competition leathers are generally three ounces per square foot.  Each ounce of leather per square foot represents a thickness of 1/64 of an inch.  This means that competition leathers are 3/64 of an inch thick (0.0469 of an inch).  Vanson competition leathers are a tad thicker than that (0.0591 of an inch).  The Angel Fire (0.1045 of an inch) is just a touch less than twice that thickness.  Competition leathers will withstand 2,600 revolutions to failure in a standard test, versus ballistic nylon at 817 revolutions to failure, Cordura nylon at 459, and broken-in denim at 168.  That means that the Angel Fire jacket will protect about twice as well as competition leathers.

That's one tough jacket, and I don't mean the looks.

Where the Angel Fire jacket must lose marks in the safety round-up is in the absence of  elbow, shoulder or back armour.  That, and the jacket is too short, ending at the waist with the potential to expose the lower back and abdomen to road rash in a slide.

This is a very stout, sturdy, and well-constructed jacket.

Overall, this is a jacket I am proud to own, and one that puts a smile on my face.
The Angel Fire jacket certainly provides decent protection, and should be more than adequate for the typical use I will put it to: cruising down Lakeshore Boulevard, at a leisurely pace, on a sunny summer weekend, with the other cruisers that parade along that route all summer long.

Once I've done that I'll write a ride review.

I can't wait.

7 comments:

  1. One can be very unassuming on a Vespa. I want to see how often you get pulled over on the flamed out bike and wearing your leather jacket. :-) Not that the police would ever profile.

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    1. Brandy, speaking of being pulled over, I went to the Honda dealer to begin making arrangements for servicing. When I mentioned that the Shadow has Cobra pipes, the three guys in the shop immediately chimed in with advice of the best method for avoiding being pulled over for violating the noise regulations.

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  2. I have a leather riding jacket that I picked up on sale years ago but it's only really useful in the summer. Just not very warm and no ventilation. You now need to find a new helmet that matches the style of the jacket...

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    1. Richard, I'm afraid I'm sticking to my Nolan.

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  3. A very handsome jacket. I prefer leather over other materials due to the abrasion factor. This model is cool looking, too. I also think it will be an interesting contrast if worn on a Vespa. Go for it!

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    1. I think I will rock it on the Vespa. Maybe I'll get a sticker that says "my other bike's a Shadow".

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  4. Nice looking jacket. I like the fact it has roomy pockets.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.