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MD Product Review: Marsee Adventure Ballistic Jacket

“Dress for the crash, not the ride.”, I overheard a local fast-guy tell a t-shirt clad (with no gloves) sport bike rider I was standing near, at a SoCal motorcycle hangout many years ago. I myself was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket, along with the gloves, helmet and blue jeans.

Leather is good for abrasion resistance, but it doesn’t breathe well, the water resistance lasts about 2 minutes and the insulation qualities in cooler temps leave a bit to be desired.

Textile jackets can offer many of the qualities that leather doesn’t, while abrasion resistance of some non-leather materials is near enough to leather that the difference makes the textile option a good one for street riders.

Rex Marsee has been designing motorcycle apparel and luggage for over 30 years. Before that, he raced motorcycles and was a design engineer for Harley Davidson, so he knows what the enthusiast needs from their gear in the way of features and performance. Rex fitted me up with his newest jacket from the Adventure products line and sent me on my way.

It is a very robust design that uses a 500 denier Ballistic shell, with a stronger, 1050 denier Ballistic layer in the shoulders and elbows. Between the outer and inner layers is a breathable, seam-sealed, waterproof liner. CE body armor provides impact protection in the shoulder, elbow and spinal areas and is easily removable (when it becomes necessary to wash the jacket). A zipper and velcro front closure incorporates a doubled-up storm flap to keep the drafts and rain where it belongs – on the outside. The neck collar has a polar fleece lining and uses a paired snap closure. There is a zip-out liner for cooler temperatures, and vents in the back under the arms to provide circulation on warm/hot days.

To help make sure the jacket fits well with or without the liner, there are waist-level adjustable belts, and compression snaps on the sleeves and at the cuffs. An elastic drawstring at the back, lower edge helps seal out drafts attempting migration up your back. Vertical zippers on both sides, near the lower pockets, allow a little expansion to enhance comfort while seated. A back zipper gives the ability to attach to a pair of Adventure pants.

In spite of its black color, night-time visibility is excellent, with an abundance of highly reflective material integrated into the shoulder and across the back.

Comparing the new jacket to the model it replaced, the new jacket feels more substantial overall, like it is better prepared for the elements and, knock on wood, a trip to the pavement. The hand warmer pockets come in handy, a feature missing on the old model. Day to day use shows Rex’s design to be very sound and well thought out. It seals very well to keep out the chilly temps, and, once the vents are opened (to whatever amount you desire), a cooling breeze circulates to keep the wearer comfortable. Pockets close with full-width velcro and one snap, which are easy to open and close. After removing the liner, you can use the snaps along the sleeves to keep them from flapping in the breeze.

Sizing of the jacket has adopted a numeric value system, versus the previous small, large, etc. sizing method. My chest typically measures out to 42 inches, yet I needed a 46 to make sure I had enough room to reach comfortably forward to the handlebars. Our old, size XL Adventure jacket has a slightly looser fit and provides more freedom to reach forward than the new jacket. This could be attributed to the larger, thicker spinal pad in place. Other aspects of the jacket’s fit are very good.

I commute a fair distance every day, and put every pocket I have to use, so, the more, the merrier. The Adventure jacket does not disappoint. 5 weather-sealed pockets keep things dry, with one pocket at the lower edge of the jacket in the back. It’s large enough to carry maps, or serves as a glove storage area when off the bike. An internal, zippered pocket located along the zipper line, behind the storm flap, provides a secure place to put a wallet, PDA, or whatever you want to fit in there. Hand warmer pockets are formed by the lower pair of front pockets.

A feature I wish was carried over form the old model is the Velcro neck closure. It folded in on itself when not in use, and was easy to manipulate, with or without gloves. The new snap closure is a pain to use at first, but you eventually develop a technique. I also feel that the snaps on the sleeves should reach toward the back to shrink the sleeve, instead of forward. This way, wind does not pop the snap, and road grime is not scooped into the fold of the fabric.

Rex prices this jacket at $325, which, too me is a very good value, given the fit, finish and performance of this garment. Jackets from other manufacturers offering similar features will lighten your wallet to a greater degree. It works better than my Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket, and also better than my year-old Teknic (don’t remember the model, but has a similar list of features) jacket, which has been superseded by newer models.

We would have tested his Adventure pants (also updated for this year), which zip to the jacket, but it never got cold, or wet enough to make them necessary. Still they nicely combine to make an inexpensive alternative to a purpose-made full suit without sacrificing quality or features.

Marsee products may be stocked at your local dealer, but in case they’re not, you can order online and get free shipping.