A good riding jacket is not only going to keep you from turning into pink streaks on the pavement, but is a fashion statement. Not that we ever want to expect to lay down our bikes, but we need to plan for the worst when roaring down the roads while straddling a high output engine. Most modern jackets I’ve looked through (and tried on) were either uncomfortable, had way more frills than I’d ever need or want, or looked like I was wearing a loose garbage bag. I won’t lie… it’s an honest review after all – most jackets looked good, but in actuality weren’t very good. It feels like a lot of manufacturers are going for more features, while forgetting about rider comfort and looks.
I began with a preliminary, run-of-the-mill armored jacket, just to get me back on the road. It took a good while of searching to find ‘the one’ that satisfied all my search criteria: protection, fit, finish, and looks. Us riders get a lot of peace of mind when we know we’re wearing gear that will perform under lots of different riding conditions. Luckily, my local shop has a good selection of gear, but they finally had a jacket that I could really sink my teeth into: the Road King jacket made by Vanson Leathers. Just look at the picture! It’s an attractive addition to any rider’s garage (except for the MSRP).
Let’s talk about Vanson Leathers first. I’ve heard countless stories from other riders about how much they love their Vanson gear, how long they last, and how well they hold up under rough conditions. This wasn’t a company I was all too familiar with before, but since moving to the Boston area, they’ve gotten onto my radar. They are a ‘made in the USA’ shop that has an all purpose storefront and factory in Fall River, MA. I’m a fan of high quality, domestic products; and with some of the styles they’ve been coming out with, the Vanson Road King was a perfect match. This Road King jacket makes me feel a little closer to that classic, cafe-style I’ve been trying to reach. I don’t want to be fully decked out in a cafe racer style, but instead want to achieve a classic look with a modern flare.
[Excuse me… sorry for drooling]
Features of the jacket itself are plenty, even though it has that simple, understated look. It’s got all these features built into it and hidden very well… like a ninja. Vanson definitely did their research when putting together this jacket. There are zippered vents along the underarm and two on the back. A mandarin collar to keep road debris and weather from pelting the neck is a nice addition. It has zippers along the inseam of the forearm for adjustment, snap buttons along the arms and wrists, and belt straps along the waistline. All these help to adjust the fit to match your riding. the 6 zippered pockets are also a nice touch – and they’re easy to use with gloves on (something that a few other jackets overlooked)! The icing on the cake is the integrated armor that lines the shoulders and arms (included), and a pocket to install back armor should you so desire to go that route.
As for looks, like I’ve mentioned earlier, The Road King has that classic-simple design that appeals to many (riders and civilians alike). The jacket is offered in flat black with two white lines running down each arm, made with high quality leather. It also has a Vanson Leathers patch on each shoulder (for bragging rights, of course). The textile material, while stiff initially, quickly broke in and is now pretty comfortable all around.
I wasn’t so lucky as to get a tailor made jacket from Vanson, but I found an off-the-shelf Road King jacket that felt like it was taylor-made for my frame. This jacket isn’t a full leather production, but is instead made of 1000 – Denier Cordura: a type of dense knit textile. It’s not as soft as waxed cotton, but feels nicely sturdy. At 5’10” and 150lbs, I’m definitely not a big guy and found most other small and medium jackets were just too loose in lots of areas. But the Vanson Leaters Road King fit me like a glove… a stiff glove, but I knew it would break in with a little road time. It’s not a flashy jacket nor does it look all ‘tech’d-out.’ It has a simple, classic design with attractive edges and some striping down the arms – exactly what I was looking for!
Likes: After receiving the jacket from the shop, I’ve put in some solid road time with it. I’ve encountered both hot and cool weather while riding, and this jacket has held up pretty well in all cases so far. Riding mobility and comfort are top notch and it doesn’t ride up on me during long trips. The interior of the jacket is soft and doesn’t chafe the skin. It feels a bit rougher on the outside, but is surprisingly smooth along the inner surfaces. The lining around the neck (mandarin collar) is also a very soft leather that doesn’t itch, poke, or stab in any way. This is something you just don’t think about until you start tugging on your collar because it freaking hurts. The construction of the sleeve feels super premium and even with the integrated armor, feels comfortable to ride in. The jacket not only looks good on the bike, but off the bike too – it’s not a bulky mess that’s embarrassingly distracting. Most days, people think it’s just a regular jacket… a super cool looking jacket.
[Pictured: Not a Vanson Road King]
Dislikes: The venting has been nice to have, except it’s definitely not made to be an all-4 season riding pal. On the hotter days of the summer, the venting, while adequate at speed, was a bit lacking. The 1000-Denier Cordura is definitely no mesh material – it can get pretty stifling without wind to carry the heat away. The back vents are definitely a welcome feature that I’ve really appreciated when faced with some unexpected heat, but if you’re a commuter who wears a backpack or bag while riding, you’ll definitely notice that the back venting becomes non-existent. The snap buttons are a welcome feature, but they don’t hold well enough to keep them snapped in all the time. I find that even after I snap a few of them closed, they’ll pop out after a few minutes on some bumpy roads. Finally, the price tag… even for textile and other non-leather gear, you’ll be surprised to find just how expensive their products can get. I understand that producing a premium product like this will cost money, but just prepare yourself to make an investment.
[This is what I imagine their bank looks like]
As a whole, the Vanson leather company makes some quality gear. It’s got a lot of things going for it, especially since it’s a domestic maker with some real heritage behind them. The price is nothing to sneeze at, but they will have some periodic sales (like serious markdowns) that really make them more accessible – within budget! Each garment you purchase from them has a registration tag and a warranty, in the event you need to fix it up. If anything, you can take pride in wearing a jacket from the shop that made the gear for Talladega Nights. This jacket, while its not made for the hottest seasons, will look right at home in any garage and any rider meetups you have.