The Castle Slate jacket is inexpensive but it has all the basics, including a Hitena nylon shell, a mid-weight removable liner and shoulder and elbow padding.
The generic styling is fine at this price point and the jacket comes in several colors, including this vibrant yellow.
The overall construction and quality is adequate, although some of the stitching is borderline.
Overall, the Slate jacket is a relatively good value for the money.
It may be a good choice for motorcyclists on a budget or as a basic "beater" jacket.
Castle Sales is a motorcycle products distributor in the U.S. The company has a large booth each year at the Dealer Expo, where all of their products are on display, including HJC helmets, which are also distributed by Castle.
Taking a cue from distributors like Tucker Rocky, Parts Unlimited and others, Castle also manufactures a line of "value" motorcycle apparel including jackets and pants. The jackets range in price from $79.95 to $199.95, with textile filling out the lower end and a couple of nice-looking leather jackets at the upper range.
Matching pants are also available at a reasonable $149.95 to $159.95, while gloves and "base layers" also fill out the Castle Sales motorcycle product lineup. The company also distributes a line of snowmobile wear and, by the way, both the motorcycle and snowmobile apparel is available in men's, women's and youth sizes and styles.
At $99.95, the Castle Slate jacket is built to a price. This obviously means that it's not a substitute for the Rukka Armas jacket (review), nor is it a competitor of Rev'it motorcycle clothing (reviews). It isn't even the equal of Firstgear apparel we've reviewed and I'm not sure I'd even place it in the same category as the Joe Rocket gear I've tried.
But that's not to say that the Slate jacket doesn't serve a useful and valuable function, because very few motorcyclists are going to lay out $1,200 for a Rukka jacket and even 10% of that can be a stretch for some. This means that the availability of a lower-cost choice for a decent motorcycle jacket is important.
Understanding that, the Castle Slate jacket is actually a pretty good value, in my opinion. The only thing that holds the Slate jacket back from a more enthusiastic endorsement is the quality of the stitching which, while certainly better than the Akito Desert jacket (review), is still shy of some of the more popular brands like Joe Rocket or Firstgear.
Stitching seems to be the differentiator between "cheap" and "good" in motorcycle clothing. Apparently, it takes more effort (read: higher cost) to do stitching right. There are some loose threads and ragged edges that can be seen in several locations on the Slate jacket, which degrades owner confidence in the overall build quality.
We're careful about analyzing the stitching types and quality in the webBikeWorld motorcycle clothing reviews because it can be an indicator of potential crash performance and that, in the end, is the most important function of motorcycle apparel.
But despite the sketchy stitching, the Slate jacket is built better than others we've seen and in wearing this jacket for several weeks, I haven't found anything yet that looks like a failure. My conclusion is that the jacket is certainly worth the hundred bucks. It's an honest, what-you-see-is-what-you-get piece of motorcycle clothing that should serve well for many riders.
Based on this example, the Slate jacket fits exactly to size, so I'd have to assume that the Castle size chart is correct. This yellow version is a men's size large, which equates to a 44" chest, according to Castle. It fits just like a size large should and when the liner is removed, about a half-size larger.
The Slate jacket is available in yellow, red, blue, silver and black, each with black and white trim. Sizes range from S to 2XL.
While not breaking any new ground by any means, the Slate jacket looks good, especially in this vibrant yellow. The radiating trim design helps to mask the rider's too much holiday cheer stomach, and that's always a good thing. The jacket certainly doesn't look "cheap" and I doubt very much that anyone who sees you in it would be able to guess what you paid for it.
The short waist length is easier to shape, so there are no style mis-cues in the way the jacket is cut; basically, it fits well and is proportioned correctly.
The Slate jacket shell is made from 600 denier "Hitena" nylon, according to the marketing information. This isn't the Cordura you may be familiar with, but Hitena can be found in less expensive motorcycle clothing. It has a relatively dense weave and although it's difficult to know how it might hold up in a crash, it appears to be the equivalent of any other medium-weight nylon motorcycle jacket textile fabric.
The contrasting color panels fit together nicely, and some of the stitching is actually pretty good looking, although most of it is single row and exposed. There are a few double rows here and there, such as around the sleeve/shoulder junction and at the hem, and there are even a couple of reinforcing bar tack stitches used on the upper and lower corners of the pockets.
There is one stitching and construction detail on the jacket that bothers me, however. What appears to be black-colored abrasion-resistant fabric sewn over the elbow and forearm is actually two pieces of the same fabric used for the shell.
The single joint and stitch that runs down the entire arm also splits this important abrasion protection piece right down the middle. Ideally, the additional abrasion wear material would be stronger than the body of the jacket and/or at least sewn over the jacket sleeve seam in one piece, to protect the seam from bursting.
If you fall, there may be a good chance at some point you'll put out your arms for protection, so this section covering the outside of the arm and elbow is crucial, and one can only hope that the seam won't immediately burst open. I'd suggest to Castle that they change this design to make the black abrasion protecting elbow and forearm section a true protective device and a one-piece overlay of a "fake" abrasion section sewn in two halves.
There are no additional abrasion protection fabric sections on the jacket at the shoulders or the back of the jacket either.
The Castle Slate jacket has basic "armor" padding in the elbows and shoulders and a thin pad in the back. All of these are removable. The company doesn't list a CE rating for the padding, but it feels about like the standard Level 1 type found in many other jackets.
The padding fits well and is comfortable, which is an indication that the overall design was crafted with the extra room needed for the padding in mind -- this isn't always the case with less expensive jackets.
The main entry zipper is an unbranded nylon type with large teeth. It's easy to use and works smoothly and it has a nice plastic pull tab. There is a short fabric backing behind the zipper on the right side to help prevent air from leaking in through those big zipper teeth.
The pockets have unbranded coil-type zippers, also with good-sized pulls attached. Both sleeve cuffs have a large vertical zipper of the same gray color and with the same teeth style used for the main entry zipper. The sleeve cuff zipper teeth are slightly smaller than those in the main entry zipper and they look rugged and work smoothly.
None of the zippers have the locking feature on the runner so it is possible that over time, wear on the main zipper pull will lead to some fatigue and the runner could drop, opening the zipper at the collar. The jacket does not have a zipper runner keeper at the collar, nor is the collar adjustable; it's a short stand-up collar only, comfortably lined with some type of micro-fleece fabric.
The jacket features two upper chest vents, one on either side just below the shoulders and located horizontally in towards the center. These vents use the same type of coil zipper found on the pockets, but the pocket runners don't include the longer plastic zipper pulls found on the pocket zippers.
The additional pulls were probably not used on these because they would interfere with the styling, but the vents could use the pulls to make it easier for opening and closing when riding and wearing gloves.
There are two more semi-hidden vents in the rear of the jacket, just behind the shoulders, also with the zippers. And finally, two more vertical vents are located behind the upper sleeve adjusters.
The vents aren't as efficient as they could be, although they do open directly into the jacket through the shell. The problem is that the vent openings aren't designed to hold the vent slit open to allow air to flow in, although this is a problem that can be found on more expensive motorcycle jackets also.
Although it's a bit difficult to judge the overall effectiveness of the vent system because of our current cold winter weather, I think the Slate jacket would actually feel rather comfortable for summer riding. In any case, the design is biased more towards spring, summer and fall.
The shell has a nice lining attached on the inside with a fine-mesh pattern; Castle calls it their "Comfort Flow" mesh design and it feels soft and comfortable. There is no other waterproof or breathable lining attached to the inside of the shell.
The Hitena shell textile is slightly porous, so it doesn't completely block the air flowing through it. This is a bonus in summer but not in cold weather. The shell does not completely stop the rain from getting through either.
Overall, even though it's currently winter here and rather cold, I'd rate the Slate jacket as three-season capable, as long as the seasons aren't extreme. Although the jacket will work for a quick spin in winter, I wouldn't rate it as winter capable and a 3/4-length, windproof and insulated jacket is usually better for winter use anyway.
The liner zipper is a pleasant surprise; it's a full-length coil type, starting on the hem at the left-hand side and running all the way around the back of the neck and down the other side. This does a good job of keeping the liner in place. The liner is also attached to the inside of the shell with a single elastic loop at each cuff end. The loops are located about 100 mm above the end of the cuff to allow the cuffs to be placed inside the glove gauntlets.
Castle claims that the liner is an "insulated liner with exclusive bonded membrane technology creating windproof, waterproof, breathable performance".
It actually keeps me fairly warm and has a relatively substantial heft; I'm not sure about the "breathable" and "waterproof" part but it does have the standard windbreaker-type of nylon outer shell fabric that does a good job at blocking the wind when I'm riding.
The Slate jacket has what appears to be reflective piping down the arms. It's the black-colored type but it just doesn't seem to pop in the flash photos shown above. Sometimes this happens; for some reason, the flash doesn't trigger much of the retro-reflective feedback and it's barely visible in the above photos.
The yellow color of this example, with its white trim, adds another level of visibility both during the day and at night. It's a cheery sort of sunny egg-yolk yellow that looks good.
Another surprising bonus is the use of metal snaps throughout the Slate jacket. Each snap cover has a soft rubber top to help prevent scratching of the paint.
The sleeves have two sets of adjusters using the snaps. One adjuster is located at the upper arm and the other at the forearm. The adjuster strap is a "V" shaped elastic section and the system works well to provide up to three levels of adjustment for the sleeves.
The same rubber-covered metal snaps are found along the lower jacket hem at the sides. A snap on a non-elastic strap provides three levels of adjustment for the hem. This isn't as efficient as an elastic waist adjustment, but it helps to keep the lower hem tight to keep out the cold air in winter.
In addition to the large vertical zipper noted above, the sleeve cuffs have a rubber-covered snap on a triangular section of leather to cover the end of the zipper when it's closed and to secure the cuff. Although there's no real adjustment with this system, the addition of the leather section gives a richer look to the jacket and it's a nice detail.
The Slate jacket has a better-than-average number of pockets for a jacket of this type. The two hand pockets on the outside of the shell are the most obvious.
The inside of the both the right and the left placket also each have a handy vertical zippered pocket, which is a definite surprise and very welcome. Most motorcycle jackets have a single pocket inside the placket, but not on both sides. I find these to be some of the most useful pockets and they are very handy for storing a wallet or important papers.
Another bonus is that the pocket on the inside of the left placket has a rubber-covered opening to feed through a set of speaker or headphone wires.
The insulating liner has a vertical storage pocket at the lower left-hand side. It has a large fabric cover with a snap. This pocket also has a rubber-covered opening for speaker wires.
So that's a total of five pockets that I count. Castle's marketing information says there are six pockets total on the Slate jacket, but I only count five? Maybe I'll find a hidden pocket somewhere...
|The wBW Opinionator: Castle "Slate" Jacket|
The Castle Slate jacket is a good value and it offers some level of protection and better-than-expected comfort. It's difficult to know how well the jacket might perform when protection is needed and the single rows of exposed stitching are somewhat troubling.
But we've seen a lot worse and the general construction and quality of the jacket is probably better than one might expect at this price point.
The insulating liner actually works pretty nicely and it's comfortable, as is the soft mesh lining when the insulating liner is removed. The extra placket pockets are a bonus, as are the sleeve adjusters.
Understanding that not everyone can afford to spend several hundred dollars on a motorcycle jacket, the Castle Slate jacket is a good value and will probably find many happy customers.
wBW Product Review: Castle "Slate" Jacket
|Manufacturer: Castle Sales||List Price: $99.95
Buy Your Castle Slate Jacket Here!
|Colors: Yellow, Black, Red, Blue and Silver.||Made In: China.|
|Sizes: S to 2XL.||Star Rating (1-5):|
|Review Date: December 2012|
From "B.Z." (December 2012): "Though it isn't the same product, my fiancée has the older version (i.e., I think we got it 3 years ago-ish) if this jacket (Castle Ladies Turbine Jacket) and while it isn't exactly the same, it isn't much different.
I can say from some of the various conditions she has ridden with that jacket (and the Castle Velocity pants) that you more than get your monies worth from their product.
It has held up through several cold and rainy rides with reasonable results. She has tossed it around, she has fallen over off the bike in the grass in it, she has goofed around in various situations in it (think roughhousing like a bunch of kids), and I can honestly say it has little to no issues or signs of wear or fraying or falling apart.
I wouldn't stray away from their product based on the results I have seen from her 2 pieces of apparel from them."