RST Vento jacket - it's real cool
As we've mentioned before, when it's too hot to wear protective clothing it's too hot to ride. British bikewear maker RST, however, has made a serious attempt to design a jacket that keeps you cool and should protect you if you fall.
The shell of the aptly named Vento Jacket is made of abrasion-resistant cordura fabric, double-stitched at the seams
There are plastic impact protectors at the shoulders and elbows and a big, closed-cell polyurethane foam back protector, all Velcro'd into pockets in the lining to keep them in the right places.
But the really cool parts are the mesh panels in front, down the sides and on the inside of the sleeves. RST has borrowed the light, tough but permeable polyester mesh used in motocross and enduro clothing - few athletes dump as much heat as off-road riders - as well as the perforated polyester lining used inside their brightly coloured overshirts.
The result is a road-riding jacket noticeably lighter than usual for a textile garment and half the weight of a leather jacket but promising protection in the crucial areas that go down hardest in a fall - shoulders, elbows, back and arms.
The jacket is very disconcerting first time out - the wind goes right through it and you feel like you're not wearing a jacket at all! I felt very vulnerable for a few days until I got used to the feel of the wind on my skin - and I still don't use it for high-speed testing.
My head tells me the Vento gives me as much protection as my leathers - but my skin says different.
It has, however, become my riding gear of choice for anything else. It's lighter, more comfortable and cooler than anything else I have.
This can be a problem if you like to get out on the roads before dawn; with no wind protection whatsoever the chill factor can bite - and of course it offers absolutely no protection against rain. Once the sky clears, however, it dries very quickly because the lining is designed to wick moisture rapidly away from the wearer's body.
Since all the materials are synthetic it's fully washable - just slip the armour padding out before you throw it in the Speed Queen.
The shoulder and elbow pockets are difficult to get to, however, and re-assembling the impact protectors requires patience, practice and dexterity. It's worth it though; once properly in place you hardly feel them, no matter what you're riding.
Attention to detail
RST's CEO Jonny Towers is a rider and ex-racer; his attention to detail is impressive. A small but vital point is the strong Maxtex waistband with built-in kidney padding; even if the mesh panels tear in a violent fall the jacket will stay in one piece and the padding will be held in place on your shoulders and elbows.
The centre zip and those on the two outer pockets are each protected by sewn-in fabric lips so they won't scratch the paint on your favourite toy's fuel tank.
The tight-fitting, mandarin-style collar is lined with soft Alcantara fabric; cordura would chafe unbearably since you typically don't wear anything more than a T-shirt under the Vento.
The Vento has two failings: it's too short in the body for the average rider and unless you are very slim and wear the waistband of your jeans high there will always be an unsightly (and vulnerable) slice of your T-shirt visible between jacket and jeans.
Signs of wear
The centre zip is also too light; the one on my test jacket was showing signs of wear after nine weeks of everyday use. If you don't line up the two sides accurately before zipping up it can open unexpectedly from the bottom - very disconcerting.
There are strong waistband adjusters, rib-line straps and sleeve adjusters at biceps and wrists to stop the jacket flapping at highway speeds and a zip to attach it to any of RST's range of riding pants.
RST doesn't, however, offer them in the same construction, alhough the company's lightweight Force jeans would go well with this jacket.
It's limited to fair-weather riding but anybody who can justify owning a state-of-the-art sports bike just won't mind spending R1 695 for the comfort this jacket offers.
Test jacket from RST Importers.