In the 30+ years I’ve been riding Motorcycles (has it really been that long!) one rule has stuck with me - ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). In a car you’re protected with seatbelts and solid panels, but on a bike what you’re wearing is your safety net if things go horribly wrong, so it makes sense to pay attention to that. The basics are a helmet, jacket (depending on the weather I have a choice of leather or ballistic nylon, both have armour inserts), pants (while the logic of chaps is undeniable, the Village People have rather claimed that look!), gloves, and good boots (ankle protectors, and a patch to stop the shifter wearing the top). The habit is so well ingrained that I get twitchy just rolling the bike off the drive into the garage if I’m not dressed right!
The downside, as you can imagine, is on a hot day wearing a black leather jacket is … you get pretty warm. Mine has plenty of zippered vents so I can control the breeze when moving, but stuck in traffic it doesn’t take long to feel the heat. In Seattle it was a pain, but here in the Melbourne summer it’s pretty crazy.
Luckily, I’ve found an alternative: Johnny Reb Protective Shirts.
A combination of press studs and a proper YKK zip keep the front buttoned up (no pun intended) and velcro on the cuffs let you fit over or under gloves and control the airflow.
Even with the armour in place the shirt is comfortable off the bike and doesn’t stand out as anything other than a ‘regular’ plaid shirt. Pop the armour out and it would be comfortable enough for all day wear if needed.
On the bike though is where the shirt really shines. The cotton and internal kevlar mesh provide great airflow, and it’s cut for comfort on the bike with no tightness across the shoulders when you reach for the bars. Stopped in traffic in recent days with temperatures above 35C is significantly more pleasant that it would have been in my regular jacket, and it stays comfortable down into the low 20s/high teens. For rides where I know I’ll be coming back when it’s getting colder pairing it with my leather vest is enough to keep the wind off the torso and make for a pleasant run.
If I could change one thing on this shirt, I’d prefer a two-way zipper, like on my jacket, for a bit more flexibility. I might also try and find some memory foam armour inserts to upgrade to (more for comfort than any concerns about the safety/quality of the existing inserts).
I got mine from our local Harley Heaven, but Johnny Reb do mail order so they’ve got you covered. Sizes run pretty true (I usually wear an XL and that was the most comfortable fit in their sizing). I’d be interested to compare to some of the other alternatives, but I’m pretty happy to have found this