The Rukka AirMan jacket is an update of the Rukka Airway jacket, reviewed exactly one year ago on webBikeWorld.
The Airway was a short length jacket but the AirMan is now a longer adventure-touring design.
There's really no comparison between the two however, because the AirMan has many new features and a completely different outer shell.
The jacket shell is made from something called Cordura AFT or "Air Flow Technology", a 100% polyamide material (i.e., nylon) and it's rugged and flame-resistant.
The fabric is also claimed to have enhanced tear and abrasion resistance compared to standard Cordura types.
The AirMan jacket also comes with a removable Gore-Tex liner that includes the Outlast phase-change technology.
I'm a big fan of Outlast; I've used it in several motorcycling products and it really does work. The Gore-Tex liner adds some wind and water protection also to the jacket.
Also included are magnetic closures on the collar and pockets, with old-school hook-and-loop used on the sleeve cuffs.
Rukka switched to D3O protectors since last year and the AirMan jacket includes D3O protectors in the shoulders and elbows. A D3O back protector is available as an option, but should be included at this price.
Let's break down the AirMan jacket feature-by-feature and see what makes it tick...
The AirMan jacket is an interesting design that one could also classify as unique. It's really not comparable at all to last year's Airway jacket, other than the fact that both are mesh and designed primarily for warm-weather riding.
The shell of the AirMan jacket is made from Cordura AFT. AFT stands for "Air Flow Technology" and it has a fine mesh weave with a surface finish that looks something like miniature "shields", not the woven "chain mail" type used in the Airway mesh and most other mesh motorcycle jackets.
The Cordura AFT means that the AirMan jacket is aptly named; it flows a huge amount of air and the jacket feels light (even though it isn't) and -- hopefully -- the Cordura AFT is more protective than cheap mesh.
Cordura AFT is claimed to be more resistant to tearing and abrasion than regular Cordura. The jacket shell is lined with the typical mesh taffeta-type of motorcycle jacket lining for comfort when the AirMan's liner is removed.
The AirMan jacket has additional overlays of Cordura AFT on the elbows. They're about 3 mm thick and they have a different weave than the more supple fabric used on the body of the jacket.
The elbows and the jacket fabric sections are almost all sewn with double-stitched rows according to the ISO 4916:1991 standard. This is not a protective standard; it's a standard for stitch types. Rukka does not list the ISO 4916 stitch class used on the AirMan jacket, which makes this knowledge more of a curiosity than anything.
More information is available in this nice description of the ISO 4916 stitching standards courtesy of Coats, the worldwide stitching fabric masters.
The Cordura AFT fabric has a very different feel or "hand" from the Cordura types usually found in motorcycle jackets. It's impossible to describe...perhaps almost like a metallic feel? The shell fabric is actually rather thin compared to thick Cordura and the flat surface that is knitted in the tiny "shield" shapes has a soft drape that doesn't hold shape like a thick Cordura jacket, so the Rukka section cut and stitching helps here.
This makes it very important to select the correct size though, because if the jacket is too large it will feel "baggy". I'll discuss that in the Sizing and Fit section below.
Here are a couple of close-up photos showing the surface texture of the Cordura AFT. The second photo, taken from a different angle, has a flashlight behind the mesh and you can see the potential for air flow:
Another interesting feature of the AirMan jacket is the use of magnets instead of the typical snaps and hook-and-loop used for the collar and pocket flaps. This streamlines or smooths the overall appearance of the jacket while also eliminating any worries about breaking or tearing off a snap.
The fabric completely covers the magnets, so there's no issue with paint scratching either. I really like this "why didn't I think of that?" feature -- it's simple and it has several benefits...as long as the magnets keep their muscle.
The only fly in the ointment is that the magnets do feel a bit weak at the collar. They seem to do the job for the most part, but the collar flap came loose a couple of times when I was riding with the jacket.
There's another potential downside to magnets -- two actually. First, you have to be careful about what you put near them. Credit cards are a no-no and I'd be careful with smartphones or action camera memory cards also. And if you have a pacemaker, this jacket's probably not a good idea.
That said, I still like the idea of using magnets and it does make a difference in the AirMan styling, giving the jacket a smoother overall appearance. That smoothness goes farther than just appearance, however, because the AirMan feels very comfortable on the road. The supple fabric moves with you and never binds, and that makes a real difference when riding.
The Cordura AFT used for the entire AirMan jacket shell is flow-through to the max, no doubt about that. But Rukka wanted to extend the seasonal comfort of the jacket and they gave it a high-tech liner that includes both a Gore-Tex membrane and Outlast technology.
The jacket liner zips in to the shell on both placket sides and attaches with two snaps inside the sleeve cuffs (color-coded for ease of use) and one behind the neck. The silvery-smooth outer surface of the liner slides easily in and out of the AirMan jacket shell, unlike too many motorcycle jackets that make it difficult to add or remove a liner.
This makes the AirMan that much more usable because you're more likely to take advantage of the quick-switch routine in variable weather.
I'd call the AirMan a two- or three-season jacket, summer for sure and partly into fall with late spring added for good measure. Where I think it will come in really handy is during a European summer, which can go from hot to cool in a day, depending on the weather and altitude -- like when you're riding the mountains.
We've discussed Gore-Tex to death here on webBikeWorld; it's a breathable membrane technology that is both waterproof and windproof and it works.
What's interesting is the use of the Outlast phase-change material in the AirMan liner. This too has been described many times on webBikeWorld; basically, the Outlast "Thermocules" retain body heat when the ambient temperatures are cool and release it when the temperatures climb.
It's a NASA-inspired technology that I've used in several different motorcycle-related products over the years and I'm a believer, because it works.
Now it's not going to give you heated vest warmth in winter and Florida hotel air conditioning in the summer, so understand that. In fact, the only thing you'll notice is that you're warmer than you should be with a lighter garment than you'd normally wear in winter and you're not as hot in the summer.
It's a very subtle feeling that you have to think about to realize, but again, it works very well.
The AirMan jacket fits like a cross between a 3/4-length and shorter jacket. It looks more like a 3/4-length...but not quite. That probably sounds a jumble, so I call this one a 5/8-length; we have reviewed a few jackets with this length before.
The waist adjusters are nicely integrated into the design, keeping the "streamlined and flat" profile all over the jacket. The adjuster runs from the front all the way around the back and then attaches to an elastic band across the back of the jacket and over to the adjuster on the other side. So you effectively get almost 100% coverage by the adjustment system, which is rare.
The adjusters are supposed to be one-handed affairs, but they're pretty stiff at first. It doesn't matter much, because once you adjust the jacket to your preference, the only time you might need it is for a slight bump when inserting or removing the jacket liner.
The AirMan also has 140 mm long zippers on either side, under the arms and running up from the hem. These can be opened to add about 60 mm more room at the bottom of the jacket hem to help when moving up and down on the foot pegs when riding off-road.
The sleeves have two of the standard snap-type adjusters at the forearm and bicep. I guess Rukka couldn't use magnets on these because they just wouldn't be strong enough, but I'm a little surprised they didn't come up with some type of lower-profile system to match the sleek appearance of the rest of the jacket.
The sleeve straps only have two snaps, which means there's only one snap inward for adjustment. This can be a bit of an issue when it comes to fit, because the sleeves seem a bit larger proportionally for the jacket. I'll discuss that also in the Sizing and Fit section below.
Then we have the sleeve cuffs. My feeling is that Rukka jackets could use a different sleeve cuff design; the cuffs don't seem to be designed to fit under a glove gauntlet on any of the four different Rukka jackets I've tried.
The sleeve cuffs on the AirMan jacket have 120 mm of hook-and-loop length on the sleeve and 70 mm on the small adjustment flap on top. When the jacket liner is removed, it's possible to run out of adjustment before the sleeves are made tight enough and the flap sticks out on each side because there's no hook-and-loop underneath to hold it.
Keep in mind that Rukka jackets are apparently designed to wear the cuff over the glove gauntlet. I know this is popular in Europe but I have yet to see a motorcycle rider in the U.S. wearing a jacket this way. The AirMan liner has an elastic sleeve cuff at the end to fit inside the glove gauntlet, while the jacket sleeve goes over the top of the gauntlet.
But since this is primarily a warm-weather jacket, chances are many owners will be wearing short-gauntlet gloves of the type now popular. With the liner out and wearing a pair of shorties, the sleeve cuff can't be cinched tight enough.
The other issue is the long zipper pulls Rukka uses. The pulls on the AirMan are annoying, because you don't want a 40 mm long piece of fabric flapping around down by your hands.
The collar uses the magnetic closure system with flat magnets. A hockey stick shaped flap is approximately 18 cm long on the downward leg and it covers the upper length of the entry zipper and then curves at the top to form the collar adjustment strap.
The collar strap has a 40 mm long magnet sewn inside and the collar itself has a 70 mm long magnet, which provides good adjustability. However, I did have the collar strap come loose a few times when riding, so I wish the magnet had more pulling power.
Otherwise, the system works well and makes the collar and upper neck feel nice and smooth to fit underneath a helmet. By the way, the collar has a neoprene section all the way around, which is very comfortable and warm. The jacket doesn't have a retainer snap to hold the collar open however, something the adventure-touring riders may be looking for during hot-weather, slow-speed off-road rides.
The Airman has 5 outer pockets, although you'd never know it, because the big pockets are so well hidden and camouflaged by the low-profile magnetic snap system.
There are two side pockets that open with zippers, one pocket on each side about mid-waist. These have a waterproof liner but the zipper isn't waterproof. The zipper runner slides up into a "garage" at the top. The loose and flowing fit of the Cordura AFT means that the jacket shell fabric doesn't have as much "body", so it can be difficult to pull the zipper both ways with one hand.
The two lower cargo pockets are well-hidden in the front; they use the magnetic snaps, one big round magnet on either side under the pocket flap. This is the best use of the magnet system on the jacket, because the pocket flap has no tension. All it has to do is lay flat and the magnets do a good job at that.
Another interesting twist is that the lower left front pocket contains a small waterproof pouch attached with a flat cord. This can be used to store a wallet or cell phone and keep it dry.
The jacket has a large storage pocket in the rear, also well-hidden with the flat magnet closure system. This pocket can hold the liner for storage. The liner also has two pockets.
The AirMan jacket comes in sizes ranging from Euro 46 to 66 in gray/black or all black. Size 64 and 66 are available only in black. In the U.S.A., the AirMan jacket is available in size 46 to 62 at RevZilla, the U.S. distributor/retailer (and webBikeWorld affiliate).
Something I forgot is that the Rukka gear seems to run at least one size large; RevZilla warned me of that and wanted to send a 52. I normally take a 54 in European-sized jackets and I thought 52 would be too small, but the 54 is about 1 to 1-1/2 sizes too big, like a U.S. size XL.
The model shown in the photos does take a size XL though, so you can see how the jacket fits him. It actually seems a bit large even on him; the liner is inserted and he's wearing a T-shirt underneath.
The Cordura AFT fabric not only has a very different "hand" than standard Cordura, it drapes differently. The weight of the various sections can pull the fabric differently than a "stiff" Cordura motorcycle jacket, so it will be important to select the right size.
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.
I have to say, I'm still not a big fan of D3O protectors. They're supposed to be CE Level 1 rated, but they just seem too thin, which, on the other hand, I suppose may be an advantage for some.
But the D3O protectors also don't seem to have the shape that I prefer, especially around the elbows and forearm. I prefer the more cup-shaped enclosing fit of standard protectors. The D3O protectors used in the elbows of the AirMan jacket feel too wide and too short for my liking, but maybe it's just me.
Rukka offers an optional D3O back protector to fit inside the AirMan jacket for $55.00, but come on -- a 900 buck jacket should come with the back protector and concierge service to put it in and out, fer cryin' out loud!
The Airman jacket has a simple single exposed YKK zipper for the main entry. It has a short 30 mm wind block underneath on the right placket.
The zipper gauge seems about two sizes too small for a jacket of this type; I prefer the larger Vislon style teeth type on a YKK entry zipper, but that would probably mean that Rukka would need to put a flap over the top to hide the thick zipper teeth and keep the sleek overall appearance of the AirMan jacket.
The AirMan 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.
I do wish Rukka would spice up their color palette, however with some high-viz, bright orange, blue or yellow. The dark gull gray and black choices for the AirMan jacket seem a bit dull and boring.
The two most important features the AirMan jacket offers are the huge amount of air flow with the liner removed, but probably most important is the overall comfort. 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 AirMan jacket, because gear that makes the rider more comfortable can also improve safety because it offers less distraction.
The word "unique" is used (and perhaps abused) quite often but the Rukka AirMan jacket really is something different.
It's difficult to categorize the AirMan jacket -- it's sort of a 3/4-length jacket; sort of a mesh jacket; and sort of a waterproof jacket all in one.
Once you get over the price, what you have is a jacket that flows about as much air as you'll ever get in a motorcycle jacket but which also works really nicely when the temperature drops.
The thermometer has yet to exceed 24 C (75 F) here, so we have been wearing the AirMan with the liner inserted most of the time, yet the Outlast technology keeps a perfectly comfortable interior even down to a cool 15 C (60 F) with only a T-shirt underneath.
The Cordura AFT shell and what I keep calling the streamlined or sleek outer appearance of the AirMan does make a difference in feel when you're riding. The soft draping of the fabric gives the jacket a supreme comfort that you'll never get from one of those stiff canvas-like thick Cordura or even leather types.
As with most Rukka products, you'll have to first get over the price tag. But the build quality and utility of the AirMan mean that this should be a jacket that outlasts (hey, a pun!) lesser jackets by a large enough factor to easily amortize the cost over time.
From "A" (May 2015): "Thanks for reviewing the Rukka airman Jacket. I just like to comment on the magnets used. These magnets pose no threat to credit cards or pace makers. The magnetic field falls off very rapidly with distance.
You would have to put them right on top of a credit card and make an effort. They are far too weak to affect any pacemakers.
Your review helped me in deciding to purchase this jacket.The pro's and con's you listed are spot on."