Perhaps most famous for its application in bullet-proof vests, Kevlar is also used in radial tires, heat- or flame-resistant fabrics, fiber-reinforced composite materials for aircraft panels, boat hulls, golf-club shafts, and lightweight bicycles.
According to the Dupont website, which first produced Kevlar in 1965, this tough fiber weave can be made “five times stronger than steel on an equal weight basis,” yet, at the same time be, “lightweight, flexible and comfortable.”
Ten years after its initial production, in 1975, the first field trial of body armor made with Kevlar was conducted with police officers and sales have exploded since then as protective gear around the world for police and military.
SO WHY NOT MAKE MOTORCYCLE APPAREL WITH KEVLAR?
Motoport (motoport.com) does exactly that. In fact, they make the jackets and pants themselves down in Escondido, CA where I have visited and met with Motoport President, Wayne Boyer. (Previously Cycleport).
Not only is Kevlar strong and light, Wayne says “It’s 10 times stronger than the best leather and less than half the weight.”
I purchased a pair (him and her) of the Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Jackets with dual liners for each jacket and took delivery of them in July 2005.
With over 2 years of heavy use, including a coast-to-coast North American tour and innumerable other multi-day trips, I offer my review of the product.
REVIEW OF MOTOPORT AIR MESH KEVLAR JACKET
In April 2005, I provided the sizing requirements to Motoport and ordered two black, fully-armored, Air Mesh Kevlar Jackets. Each cost $399.00 plus an additional $189.00 for the matched 2-part liner for cold, rain and wind protection. That equals $589.00 per jacket and of course, tax and shipping were on top of that (not the least expensive investment you can make for a motorcycle jacket).
Over 12 weeks later, I received both jackets and their dual liners via FedEx and they were immediately pressed into service.
Of course, the primary purpose of the purchase was to buy the best protection available, especially for summer riding, since my other jackets are too warm in hot riding weather. As a Kevlar “mesh” model, which allows air to freely flow through the jacket (except in all the armor locations); it seemed well suited for both requirements. Think of the “mesh” as a very thick, hightech, Kevlar-cheesecloth.
I’ve ridden with the jacket all over North America including through the Mojave Desert and 114 degrees temperature. Quite simply, the jacket (without liners) was, and still is, the most comfortable, protective motorcycle jacket I have ever worn in hot weather. And this is real protection, as opposed to most other mesh jackets, which will become problematic should you embark upon an unscheduled tumble along the asphalt. Here’s what Wayne says on the matter, “Sliding on pavement with any other air mesh jacket or pant is not safe. We have seen many riders with permanent skin damage where the Polyurethane coating melted into the skin.” (See Kevlar reference above re “heat- or flame-resistant fabrics.”)
How much is that worth to you?
One thing I did not like was that our removable jacket liners were bright red, and contrasted greatly with the black jackets. (I was not offered any choice during the original purchase). Today I checked motoport.com to find that the only liner color currently available is black (although it looks gray), which I would have preferred. The current liner design looks better, too. Although I don’t think the jacket or the liner will win any fashion awards, the liner currently displayed on the motoport.com website would be something I’d be more likely to wear into a casual restaurant without the Kevlar-mesh, outer jacket.
While I was on motoport.com I also observed that the jacket and liner prices are still the same today as when I purchased them over 2 years ago.
In brief, the Kevlar air mesh jacket is indeed exceptionally lightweight, comfortable, and of primary importance, offers unparalleled protection. Conversely, it is also oddly bulky when you want to put it down or hang it up.
A key feature I have enjoyed is the practical convenience of its washability. To clean it, just toss the jacket with armor in the washing machine! (Much easier than maintaining my leather jacket, as well as my other textile jackets). For top-load washers, weighing it down with old sneakers can be helpful to keep the jacket immersed. Front-load washers are best, because the jacket is so buoyant that it floats on top of the water: it would probably work as a good flotation device in the ocean, too!