For the launch of the new Triumph Bonnevilles, my esteemed editor said that I needed to start looking slightly smarter than my normal two-gallons-a-day-of-moonshine disheveled appearance. I was to get myself a new, as in less than 40 years old, leather jacket more in keeping with Triumph’s cutting edge retro bikes. I thought that nudging me towards any form of smartness was optimistic in the extreme, but did as I was bidden by the Master of the Motorcycling – clearly because he signs my pay check!
Retro is now big in the mainstream motorcycling world. Whether it be fake Amal Monobloc carburetors on the Bonnevilles or fake, pre-stained, Bell t-shirts or fake “Wild One” leather jackets – younger riders are aching to reach back to a simpler and purer age. This meant that there was no shortage of jackets to choose from. The problem was that I wasn’t going to risk my body wearing clothing made from ex-Russian war department hamster skins no matter how hip, fashionable, or right on the Retro message it was. For me, my riding gear has to be functional first and attractive a very clear second.
In fact, there was an answer and, almost inevitably, it came from Alpinestars who really do understand how to make riding gear which is safe and functional. Coincidentally, the Huntsman jacket I was sent to try is also very sharp looking.
So, to the safety part of the story. The jacket is made from Alpinestars’ cow hide – not sheep nappa or some other cheap alternative. The leather is described as “distressed”, apparently to look retro, but it looked fine to me and not a bit upset with life. If you wanted to know what distress was like in the 1960s, you should have tried pushing a seized 250 BSA home from college in the snow – now that was real distress…
There is CE-approved armor in the elbow and shoulders and this is essential. If you haven’t ridden with body armor before, it might feel a bit odd but in the modern world it is as essential as a good helmet. The jacket is cut to fit a normal riding position and this means that the body armor can be positioned accurately so that it doesn’t move in an accident.
There is no back protector and, in some ways, this is disappointing with the jacket selling at $699.95. Alpinestars kindly supplied a lightweight, Nucleon back protector which is their latest offering to accompany the jacket. The back protector slips into a pocket inside the rear of the jacket, replacing the piece of decorative bath rubber which comes as standard. The Nucleon KR -2I is made from a heavily ventilated, PU injected foam which gives it CE level 2 protection. This is near race standard.
If you are new to back protectors, do be patient if they initially feel intrusive because, after about four hours’ use, the foam develops a memory of the precise shape of your back and really does mold to the rider’s individual shape – even if mine has more in common with Mothercare than a svelte motorcycling athlete.
The Nucleon back protectors sell for $49.95.
The final part of the equation are big, strong, retro (again!!!) YKK zips which mean that the jacket won’t burst open in the case of a biggie.
So, in summary, this is a quality riding jacket which is going to provide a lot of protection.
It’s also, and I really do struggle writing this next word, rather smart as well as being practical. As one would expect from Alpinestars, there are some lovely touches on the jacket which show that the designer has done much better than just make another bit of bike gear to a budget. This care is shown in the subtle, suede, Alpinestars’ logos and the little leather tag covering the base of the zip so that it doesn’t scratch the bike’s gas tank.
Externally, there are two large pockets and one smaller one inside the cotton lining. Finally, there is a large, and very thoughtful, zipped inner pocket which is completely waterproof and will take a phone.
Now here’s the really interesting thing. Although initially ordered to wear the jacket for the launch I have become so fond of it that it’s now my first choice for summer riding. Clearly, the jacket will not be anything more than shower proof – no leather is. Also, despite being windproof, it will also not provide the level of warmth which one gets from a good quality textile garment. Against this, the Huntsman is outstandingly comfortable and provides high levels of protection in a retro garment: I love it.
All that I need now is for the jacket to remove several miles of facial wrinkles, conduct a hair transplant for me and take off 30 pounds quickly and without any effort and it will be perfect for the new fashionable me. Over to you Alpinestars.
Alpinestars Black Shadow Huntsman Leather Jacket
Sizes: U.S. 44 – 50 / Euro 54 – 60