Gear review: VikingCycle Hammer motorcycle jacket

An interesting thing about this particular gear review: I didn't pay for the gear myself. Normally that's not the case; in previous reviews, the stuff I've talked about is stuff I bought with my own hard-earned money. And often that can be an important factor in determining the real quality of an item: it may be good, but is it good enough for you to spend your money on it?

In this case, however, MotorcycleHouse.com got in touch with me and offered to send me an item if I'd take the time to review it. By effectively eliminating the question of whether I would spend my money on the item, no doubt they were hoping I'd see the product in a more positive light. I'd like to think, though, that I've looked at the item honestly and that this review is as truthful as any other I've done.

Please Hammer, don't hurt 'em.
The item in question is the Exelement VikingCycle Nomad USA Hammer motorcycle jacket -- it goes by a few different names. In all cases, it is a surprisingly affordable combination leather-textile jacket with incorporated armour in the shoulders, elbow and back.

And before we go any further, I should add another caveat to this particular review and admit that I haven't actually used the product. MotorcycleHouse.com sent a jacket that was much too large for me, so I can't reliably speak to its fit, nor can I say how well it holds up against the elements. I mean, if I were to put the jacket on and go for a ride, all I would report back is that the jacket ballooned up and I was cold and miserable. But I would report the same on even the most expensive jacket if it, too, were the wrong size for me (a).

In terms of how the jacket looks, however, and based upon what I can gain by putting it on and wearing it around the house, I can say that if it did fit I would expect it to perform agreeably on the road. 

For the ATGATTer in you...

The leather part of the jacket runs across the top of the garment, covering the shoulders, collarbone and neck. It seems to me relatively durable leather (i.e., not fashion leather) and within it is a certain amount of padding of the sort that might come in handy were you to be attacked by children with sticks. True, that's not a lot of padding, but in terms of clavicle protection it is more than exists in my current riding jacket. And underneath that padding is additional shoulder armour, though it does strike me as just a bit small.

The rest of the jacket -- from about the nipples down -- is textile, made up of 600 denier "Tri-Tex fabric." Good luck determining exactly what Tri-Tex fabric is, but I'd say a good bet is that it's a fancy name for polyester. It feels very much like the Cordura used in the motorcycle trousers I wear. There is always a certain exchange made when it comes to wearing textile: it simply does not hold up as well at high speed as does leather, but it is lighter, easier to waterproof, cooler and machine-washable. 

Within the arms of the jacket is reasonably thick armour for the elbow that extends a decent way down the forearm, and on the jacket sleeve there is a large elbow patch that Exelement's promotional materials claim is Kevlar. MotorcycleHouse.com does not make this claim. Whatever it is, it's at least one more layer at one of the most common spots to earn road rash. And I suppose one more layer of anything goes that much further in helping you to avoid turning out like this guy.

There is a large pad in the back of the jacket, as well, but again I'd put that into "protecting you from kids with sticks" territory. If you are concerned about back injuries, you should probably just splash out and get a back protector. Or volunteer to have the Canadian government infuse your spine with adamantium.

Both the shoulder and elbow armour are CE marked. The back pad is not.

Multi-season comfort

If the jacket were to fit me, there are a number of features to help fine-tune the fit. There is a snap at the neck to help keep the jacket closed. There are zips at the bottom of the sleeves and Velcro to cinch them at the wrists. Additional strips of Velcro help to ensure a good fit at the waist and and forearms (useful in making sure the elbow armour won't slide around in a crash).

Stop. Hammer time.
For cool-weather riding, the jacket comes with a zip-out quilted lining that I found to be quite warm. With the lining in, the jacket has four pockets, each about large enough to hold a mobile phone or wallet, etc., and two strange elastic straps that I suppose would be useful for holding shotgun shells. Because you never know when you're going to need to MacGyver your way out of a bad situation with some shotgun shells and a can of WD-40.

You will only be able to do that in the winter however, because you lose two pockets in shedding the liner. For additional comfort in warm weather, there are two subtle zippers on the chest and one large one in the back to allow air flow.

There is also a zipper in the lower inside of the jacket that would allow you to attach it to a pair of motorcycle trousers, on the off chance that your motorcycle trousers have the same zipper set-up as VikingCycle's jackets. Mine do not, and it is my general experience that such zipper set-ups rarely work across brands. 

Keep it slow

There are one or two things I'll admit I don't really like about the jacket. Aesthetics, first and foremost. The leather on the shoulders is a little too "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for my tastes. Whereas those stripes across the chest take me back to JC Penney in the 1980s, and that's not really a place I want to be. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it may very well be that some people would look at this jacket and think: "That is the new hotness."

And in fairness, the look of the jacket has grown on me somewhat since I first pulled it from the box. If I were to have spent my own money on this jacket I would have done so primarily for its safety features and the stripes are a part of that. The big white stripe makes you visible day or night, and it turns out that light grey strip is reflective, running all the way around the torso and down the sleeves.

And in terms of keeping safe, I'd say this jacket is best suited to urban commuting, or otherwise travelling below 45 mph. This is purely supposition but I'd be concerned that high-speed abrasion might too quickly melt the jacket's polyester.

Lastly, I'm not sure how long the jacket's main zipper would hold up. But then, you get what you pay for; this is not a heritage item. I don't think anyone sees this as something they will be passing on to their children in their will.
 
Affordable safety

The best gear is the gear you actually use. Is this jacket as good as, say, an Aero Leather Cafe Racer? Nope. Not even close. But the latter jacket costs $1,050 (base price). Whereas for that same amount of money you could buy this VikingCycle Hammer jacket, and gloves and a helmet and motorcycle trousers and boots and a brand new Honda CG110

In other words, the Aero Leather jacket is better, but you're not likely to go out and get one. And the jacket you don't have isn't going to be of any use to you in a crash. If your budget can only be stretched to encompass the VikingCycle Hammer, I'm pretty sure it's better than riding around with nothing more than a hoodie and a heart full of hope.

Which brings us back to the question posed at the start of this review: Would I spend my own precious money on this jacket? Because of aesthetics, the answer is no. But if I could find no comparable jacket within my price range (and it would be hard to find a jacket so good for so little), or if my tastes were such that I liked looking like a JC Penney kid from the 24th century, then, yes, I would definitely fork out my own cash.

And I'd feel OK doing it. The jacket is made in Pakistan, a country that earns a 4.57 score on the Democracy Index. That's not as good as the United States' score of 8.11 but more positive than China's score of 3. If you can't buy local, try to buy democratic.

MotorcycleHouse.com offers a pretty large selection of jackets on its website, which includes their exclusive VikingCycle range.

__________

(a) MotorcycleHouse.com seems to really pride itself on its easy returns policy, but my situation is rather unique in that I live on the other side of the planet from where they are based. I'm in the United Kingdom; they are in the United States. And sending packages between these two places is an arduous process. It took roughly a month for my jacket to arrive. That's not their fault; it takes about a month for anything to get to me from home. I once had a package disappear for six months. So, sending the jacket back and having the correct size returned would have taken at least until March. Obviously, this would not be the experience of someone living in the United States.

Comments

  1. The jacket looks really cool and stylish, great color and also look safe. Thanks for sharing about this jacket.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts