One obstacle to motorcycles being everyday transportation is the fact that protective riding apparel tends to make you look like a roadracer or some kind of futuristic astronaut. If you’re just riding a few miles to work or the grocery store, after you stow your helmet, you want to look like anyone else who just stepped out of a car or off the bus.
That’s why several apparel providers have lines they call “scooter” or “urban.” These garments look like regular street clothing, but have motorcycling-specific features, like impact armor and abrasion resistance, as well as wind and waterproofing. Some brands do it well, others make you conspicuously unstylish.
Corazzo is a brand that does it well. Based in Portland, Oregon, the company has been selling stylish, well-made gear to the scooter and urban-motorcycling set since 2004, offering jackets, gloves, accessories and lifestyle clothing for men and women riders. I was planning a trip to Chicago in March (not my idea) to cover a new scooter’s release, so I needed something that was light and compact (so I wouldn’t have to check a bag), but would still offer protection from the elements and possible pavement surfing.
Corazzo’s Allen Drysdale offered me not just a jacket and gloves, but a whole cold-weather urban-riding system: a Tempeste jacket, a battery-operated heated vest (imaginatively dubbed the “Heated Vest”) and an “Underhoody.” I didn’t expect to like this stuff as much as I do, but I do, and here’s why.
The $289 Tempeste is a textile jacket styled roughly like a military-surplus field jacket. Its shell is made from 600-Denier nylon (“Denier” is a measure of thread weight, not density of the woven fabric, and 600-Denier nylon is not the same thing as 600-Denier Cordura) with Corazzo’s proprietary “Corazzo Storm Shield” waterproof membrane. Light, flexible, CE-approved Sas-Tec armor is standard, installed in Velcro-secured pockets at the shoulders, elbows and back. There’s a zip-out vest liner (that you can wear as a stand-alone garment) and zippered chest pockets that double as vents for hot weather as well as a pair of cargo pockets on the front of the jacket. The collar is kind of a mock turtleneck thing and the cuffs secure with wide Velco tabs. 3M Scotchlite tape adds visibility on the back, cuffs and front. Drysdale told me he’s crashed in this jacket and it held up well, and I believe him—the quality of the material and the stiching seem good (there’s a one-year warranty on it, too) at least as good (and in some cases, much better) than other non-Cordura textile gear I’ve tested.
I really like this jacket. It’s lightweight and has a roomy, comfortable fit, on or off a motorcycle or scooter. The sizing is closer to European sizing than U.S. sizing, so order a size up if you like a more relaxed fit. The armor molds to your body, is light and installs and comes out quickly and easily. The zipper-and-snap closure offers decent (but not perfect) wind protection. The waterproofing is good: it kept my top half dry in a torrential early downpour. The front vents will let a little moisture through, so keep your valuables out of the pockets in the rain. Pull out the armor—it only takes a minute—and it’s a nice-looking, warm and practical jacket for slightly chilly days. There are no hand-warmer pockets, but the sides of the 3/4-length jacket unzip so you can slip your mitts into your pants pockets instead.
Aside from the damp pockets and lack of hand warmers, my main nit was warmth. Chicago in March offers freezing temperatures—no weather for scootering, but sometimes my job is uncomfortable, somehow requiring riding a small scooter on Lakeshore Drive 15 miles to the Science and Industry Museum and then riding back because the stupid U-505 exhibit is sold out. All alone, the not-quite-windproof nylon and thin fleece of the Tempeste would have left me shivering (or worse!), but luckily Allan sent me the $299 Heated Vest as well. It’s a high-collar design with pockets and stretch panels on the side for a snug fit (again, order a size large if you want roomy). Flexible Symtec heating elements—two in the front, one in the back—provide broad, even warmth. You can power it two ways—with the big 4400 milliamp-hour battery or by plugging into your vehicle’s 12-volt system with a standard coaxial plug with an optional connector. A five-stage controller uses LED indicators to show you how much heat you’re getting.
I liked the vest’s fit, but I especially liked how it made riding in temperatures only slightly above freezing possible. With the battery attached, I got around five hours of warmth, alternating between the highest and second-highest settings. Corazzo claims up to seven hours at the lowest setting. Obviously, using your vehicle’s power is better than a battery, but it’s nice to not overtax your charging system—some older rides can’t supply the current—or be able to have the warmth off the bike, so you can roam about the rally or campsite and say things like, “sure is cold, isn’t it?”
The vest is pricey—you can get battery-operated vests for half the cost—but it’s a quality product. The battery is much bigger and offers a lot more life than some competing vests, and it offers more heat elements than some competitors. It’s also a very nicely styled and made item. You get what you pay for.
Corazzo’s ensemble was topped off with the $69 Underhoody. It’s made from a tight-fitting Lycra-poly blend to form a perfect-fitting base layer. The balaclava-style hood and thumb holes in the sleeves make it ideal for motorcycle use—the thumb holes keep it in place when you put a layer on over it and the hood gives you extra warmth under a helmet without affecting fit or restricting vision. Having a moisture-wicking layer next to your body is key to holding dry, warm air next to your skin, and the Underhoody is a great way to do it.
Corazzo’s lineup is extensive, if not lavish. There are women-specific items, as well as gloves and other accessories. A women’s jacket, the Avventura, can incorporate the Heated Vest as a liner, as will an upcoming men’s jacket. It’s a small company, and you won’t see its gear in every shop, but it’s functional, stylish and a great choice for urban riders.
See Corazzo’s line of apparel and other items here.
Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to MotorcycleDaily.com.