The Rukka AiRider jacket is new for 2014 and it has the same Cordura AFT mesh shell of the type used in the Rukka AirMan jacket (review).
The AiRider is a shorter sportbike style jacket that forgoes the Gore-Tex removable liner and the Outlast phase-change technology of the AirMan but includes the D3O protectors.
Cordura AFT ("Air Flow Technology") is a different type of mesh fabric with a softer feel that moves plenty of air.
It's also claimed to have enhanced abrasion and tear resistance compared to standard Cordura.
The fabric is very comfortable and it drapes much differently from standard Cordura or typical mesh, so correct sizing is important and that is discussed below.
The combination of the excellent ventilation and the soft feel of the Cordura AFT makes the AiRider the jacket to have for riding in hot weather.
The AiRider is also currently the lowest-priced jacket in the Rukka lineup, although it's still expensive.
To sweeten the deal, there's a special offer from our friends at RevZilla, a webBikeWorld Affiliate and the Rukka importer: buy an AiRider jacket and get a free D30 Air Centrial back protector insert.
The new Rukka AiRider has many of the same features as the Rukka AirMan jacket (review), but in a shorter and less expensive format.
Although the AirMan also has a Cordura AFT shell, it's a three-season jacket with a Gore-Tex removable liner with Outlast phase change technology. The AiRider is designed for a single purpose -- hot-weather motorcycle riding -- and it has no additional liners.
Both the AirMan and the AiRider feature a Cordura AFT fabric shell. "AFT" stands for "Air Flow Technology" and its fine mesh weave makes it quite different from the standard types of Cordura or textiles in most motorcycle jackets.
The AiRider is also different from last year's hot-weather choice, the Rukka Airway jacket (review) and the Cordura AFT is also unlike other types of heavier weave "chain mail" mesh you may be familiar with.
Cordura AFT has a silky-soft feel that does not have much inherent stiffness or structure, which means that it's very important to make sure you select the correct fit or the jacket will feel heavy or "droopy".
My feeling is that Rukka could have mitigated this problem by designing the cut of the jacket and the fabric section patterns differently for their Cordura AFT jackets. Perhaps even a bit of elastic here and there, placed in strategic locations, would help to give the jackets a more form-fitting shape. Maybe this will happen as Rukka gains more experience with using the fabric.
However, one of the biggest benefits of using Cordura AFT is the amount of air flow that it provides. This helps to give the AiRider a light and airy feel that is very comfortable when riding. The soft "hand" of the fabric eliminates the restrictions of a stiffer material and as you move around on the bike, you'll notice that this feeling is quite different from other motorcycle jackets.
Cordura AFT is also claimed to be more resistant to tearing and abrasion than regular Cordura, but we haven't been able to find any technical data to confirm this.
Like the AirMan, the AiRider has additional overlays of Cordura AFT on the elbows for extra abrasion resistance. The added sections are about 3 mm thick. This overlay material has a different weave than the more supple fabric used on the body of the jacket.
Here's a close-up photo showing the surface texture of the Cordura AFT used in the body of the AiRider and AirMan jackets, using a flashlight behind the mesh so you can see the potential for air flow. A piece of paper on the right-hand side was placed underneath to show the structure of the fabric without light passing through:
The AiRider jacket is a basic short-length motorcycle sportbike type, so there's nothing too unusual here. Call it a chameleon look, because the style works just as well on a sportbike as it does on a cruiser or adventure-tourer...and that's not easy to pull off.
Cruiser riders: here's a black jacket for you that surely will provide much better protection than a T-shirt!
The AiRider doesn't have much snap, however, because it uses Rukka's typically somber color palette. The Nordic company's garments are styled with about as much excitement as the opening credits of an Ingmar Bergman flick. The AiRider comes in your choice of Vibrant Funeral Black, inspired by Winter Light, or radical Persona gray.
Rukka really, really needs to hire an Italian designer...
Also, like most Rukka jackets, the AiRider uses the company's trademark white double-row stitching as the signature styling element. Some may like this '70's designer jeans visible stitch look and some may not. One thing's for sure: the white stitches pop on the black fabric background, but please Rukka -- enough already!
The problem is that when the stitching isn't 100% perfect, the flaws are readily apparent because they show on the dark background. There are a couple of places where this is the case with our AiRider.
I noted in the AirMan jacket review that the stitches are claimed to meet the ISO 4916 stitching standards. We couldn't confirm that for the AiRider jacket but I'd expect it's the same.
The AiRider jacket shell does not have a removable water-resistant or insulating liner and in this case, that's a good thing, because the jacket is focused on keeping you cool in hot weather with nothing between you and that cooling air.
Inside the jackete shell is an attached lining that feels different from the standard perforated taffeta stuff commonly found in textile motorcycle jackets. It's surprisingly dense, although that doesn't seem to affect the amount of air that flows through the shell.
The lining is also nice and comfy next to the skin and I'd guess that it was deliberately made that way for better comfort when you're wearing only a T-shirt underneath, which will surely be the case in the hot weather riding in which the AiRider excels.
The AiRider has the new Rukka magnetic snap system at the collar (also found on the AirMan), which works well enough but the magnet pull needs to be stronger, also just like the AirMan. The collar fit and shape on the AiRider seems to be a bit off, as you can see in the photos.
The flap at the bottom of the front zipper has a snap instead of a magnet and fabric on top to prevent tank scratches. The sleeve cuffs have the standard Rukka zipper and hook-and-loop adjuster; more on that in a bit.
The AiRider is a simple and basic jacket design with a short-length, street/sport type of cut. Simplicity is good in this case, because this is the type of jacket you want in the hottest summer weather. Throw it on over a pair of Rokker jeans (review) and you'll have yourself a good-looking, comfortable, cool and relatively protective outfit for hot-weather riding.
The AiRider has a basic main entry zipper, un-branded and with teeth that seem about one gauge too small. As I mentioned earlier, the collar has the magnetic flap and there's a flap with a metal snap at the bottom to complete the main entry point.
The sleeves have a single adjustment at the bicep with a three-way snap and anyone with arms smaller than Batista will need all of this adjustment and more because the sleeve diameter seems two sizes larger than it should be for the jacket size.
There's a very basic hook-and-loop waist adjuster at the hem on either side with no elastic, so when the jacket is tightened the fabric folds underneath. This is a rather cheap detail on a 500-buck jacket.
The sleeve cuffs have the standard Rukka type, which I also find lacking. The problem is that Rukka didn't add a dart or "V" section sewn into the bottom of the cuff, so when the sleeve cuff is tightened, the fabric has nowhere to go and it bunches up underneath. C'mon Rukka, this is basic jacket sleeve design 101! It's one of the things that continues to puzzle me about a company that offers ultra-high-end and high-priced gear that seems to skimp on the basic details.
The combination of the proportionally too-large sleeve diameter and the soft Cordura AFT makes the sleeves feel like they're hanging and drooping. This could probably be addressed by a more clever fabric section design and sew -- the Italians are absolute masters at this.
And maybe some elastic here and there could be employed to keep things snug. The problem is that the overall loose feel means that the elbow protectors may not fit you snugly. The D3O protectors in general feel wider and less form-fitting than other types of protectors and this is more noticeable in the AiRider jacket with its blousey sleeve cut.
Also, the AiRider uses the same long fabric zipper pulls we've seen on other Rukka jackets. "Annoying" is the word I used for these in the AirMan jacket review and it's no different here.
The AiRider has two external hand pockets featuring red zippers. There are two vertical pockets on the inside of the jacket, under the left and right plackets. The pockets are lined with a type of polyester fabric but I don't think it's waterproof. I find the pocket count perfectly satisfactory; as long as I have a place to secure my wallet and another for the cell phone, I'm fine. More pockets isn't always better in my opinion.
The AirRider jacket comes in sizes ranging from Euro 46 to 62 in black or gray/black (46 to 60 in the U.S.). The size 52 shown here should be equivalent to a U.S. men's large but fits more like an XL.
I think RevZilla's size charts are still incorrect; it shows the size 52 AiRider as fitting a 40-41" chest and 35-36" waist with a 31.5" sleeve length. Believe me, anyone with less than a 43" chest will be absolutely swimming in the size 52.
I'm a 43" chest and 35" waist and take a 34" dress shirt and the 52 is at least one size too big in the body and the sleeve length and two sizes too big in the sleeve diameter. The model in the photos is about a size bigger than me and much more muscular and he usually takes an XL. You can see in the photos that the size 52 looks big on him also, especially in the arms, and his biceps are at least 50% bigger than mine.
Once more, the Cordura AFT fabric has a very different drape than standard Cordura and the weight of the various sections makes it hang differently, so selecting the correct fit is crucial. If you're on the borderline, smaller is probably better.
Rukka went to D3O protectors last year, just after the Rukka Airway jacket was reviewed on webBikeWorld. There are photos of the D3O protectors in that review.
Once more, I have to say I'm not a fan of the D3O protectors because they feel wider and flatter and not as form-fitting as other types. I'm also still not sold on the physics of using a thinner protector and the "stiffens on impact" claim, although these are rated as CE Level 1, so I guess we can assume they're equivalent to "normal" protectors.
The AiRider does not come with a back protector but Rukka offers an optional D3O back protector to fit inside the AiRider jacket and an jacket for $55.00. RevZilla is currently running a special where you get a free back protector when you buy the AiRider and certain other Rukka jackets.
The AiRider jacket has some highly reflective piping and the Rukka "R" logo on the back, along with striped panels of reflective bonded material on the upper arms. It pops, as you can see in the photo above.
|The wBW Opinionator: Rukka AiRider Jacket|
Like the AirMan, the two most important features of the AiRider jacket are the huge amount of air flow with the liner removed and the overall comfort. Both of those pretty much trump all my gripes with the jacket.
The very supple Cordura AFT fabric never binds, so the jacket moves with you always and it really does feel almost like you're wearing no jacket at all.
It's quite a different feeling than most other motorcycle jackets, especially compared to the stiff-feeling standard Cordura used in many textile motorcycle jackets. In fact, this may be the most important benefit of the Rukka Cordura AFT jackets, because gear that makes the rider more comfortable can also improve safety because it offers less distraction.
If you think I'm pretty tough on Rukka clothing, well, you're right. In my opinion, the higher the price, the closer the scrutiny.
When you charge premium prices for a product, it better be perfect and beyond. Little issues on a hundred-buck jacket can be overlooked, but when you're talking five C's and up, I'm expecting perfection and maybe even a nuru massage thrown in for good measure. On every ride.
So my feeling after reviewing several Rukka products is that generally I've been disappointed at the attention to detail. In my opinion, Rukka fit and styling needs a pair of turbochargers and maybe a healthy dose of nitromethane and the detailing -- like the sleeve cuffs on every Rukka jacket I've tried -- need a complete redesign.
That said, the AiRider jacket is the best bargain in the Rukka lineup, not just because it's the least expensive, but because even with all its faults, it really does work well in the hottest temperatures you're likely to find yourself riding a motorcycle.
With a few detail changes -- and a Sriracha-inspired color palette -- Rukka could rule the world.
|wBW Product Review: Rukka AiRider Jacket|
|Manufacturer: Rukka||List Price (2014): $499.00 USD.|
|Colors: Black, gray/black.||Made In: China|
|Sizes: 46 to 62 Euro (46-60 in the U.S.A.)||Review Date: June 2014|