by Alice Dryden for webBikeWorld.com
The Macna Ivy RL jacket is comfortable and functional.
It has all the features you need to keep riding from autumn, through winter and into spring.
When it's bathed in the glow of headlights, the innovative Night Eye material makes the Ivy RL light up like a Christmas tree.
With winter coming up fast, it's time to think about riding in the dark.
When the temperature drops and the days get shorter, warmth and visibility are key to riding in comfort and safety.
I've long admired the highly visible silver reflective jackets worn by cyclists and wondered why nobody had brought out something similar for the motorcycle market.
The answer, I concluded, was that most bikers don't want to ride around looking all shiny like a knight or a robot.
(I do, obviously, but I never did get the hang of that "growing up" thing.)
Then I discovered that Netherlands-based firm Macna do indeed make a jacket with all-over reflection.
The difference is that the Ivy RL appears dark grey in normal conditions, only showing its true colours when a light source is directed at it.
The Ivy RL jacket is shaped for the female form, with a markedly different cut to the equivalent men's jacket, the Essential RL (Macna).
It's obvious straight away that there's something special about the fabric.
There's a faint graphite sparkle to it and at certain angles, under artificial light indoors or even sunlight, you'll notice the silver glow as the jacket reflects it back.
As the photos show, it’s difficult to get a true idea of colour, as it changes so much in different lighting conditions.
Its usual appearance to the naked eye is a charcoal grey; it’s definitely not black.
To the touch, the material feels rather like the surface of a non-stick pan. It's not soft, but it's smooth and not unpleasant.
I do notice, however, that it's noisy when the sleeves rub against the body as I walk.
A Macna logo on the left of the chest and another on the back look like metal, but are in fact rubber.
A word about sizing.
I ordered the jacket in Medium, which was listed as a UK 12 (US 8) or European 40. When it arrived, the label read M / EU 38 / US 8 / UK 10.
These don't quite match up, but I'm going with the M / US 8 diagnosis, because the fit is fine: it's close, but not tight, with room for freedom of movement and space for layering.
The front has three separate sets of fasteners, which makes it a bit of a chore to do up, but does provide a good, wind- and weather-proof seal.
Closest to the body, there's a flap with a series of press studs, then a zip, and finally another flap with a hook-and-loop closure.
The main zipper (marked YBS, with plastic teeth) is hands down the most annoying element of the jacket.
If it's not getting snagged in the surrounding fabric, causing it to jam, it's coming apart from the bottom up. Very poor.
The sleeves flare slightly at the cuffs, which close with hook-and-loop.
There's no zip here, and it can be a tight squeeze getting the cuffs over winter gloves to keep the rain from going up your sleeves.
Zips at the sides allow you to wear the jacket loose or tight to the hips. I open these to make room for bulky over-trousers and close them over motorcycle jeans.
The zip tabs fold upwards, so they don't dangle from the hem of the jacket. There are also two plastic toggles, so you can draw the hem tight against the cold.
Fit at the waist is provided by a press stud-fastened belt, with four positions on each side of the waist.
This belt is noticeably more feminine-looking than the webbing-and-buckle belt on the equivalent men's jacket, the Essential RL.
I thought it looked slightly fussy and not very robust, but it does the job.
Now, I don't find this jacket especially warm, despite the detachable lining.
But -- disclaimer -- I am almost always too cold on the bike. It's possible that normal human beings will find it more than adequate.
Certainly it keeps the wind out very well, thanks to all the adjustable fasteners.
The lining has a lovely feel, soft and silky. It attaches and detaches easily, with a single long zip around the body section, and a small zip around each of the cuffs.
The collar isn't as high as I'd expect on a winter jacket, and isn't adjustable. My cotton Buff fits under it, but a fleece tube for colder weather is too bulky.
With the Buff, I find things a little tight at the throat, and the top inch or so of the zip tends to come undone down to the point where the hook-and-loop flap stops it.
The jacket is equipped with attachment points for Macna's battery-powered Hot Vest (Macna) and there's a special pocket for the battery pack.
What it doesn't have, incidentally, is a hanging loop, which makes it a slight pain to hang up at the office.
Many riders are suspicious of waterproofing systems with names ending in "-ex" that aren't Gore-Tex.
Macna brings us Raintex, a breathable and waterproof layer that's laminated to the outer shell of the jacket.
Keeping water out of the fabric altogether doesn't just keep the wearer dry: the jacket itself is prevented from becoming heavy and waterlogged.
Having ridden through both showers and heavier rain, I'm impressed by the repellant qualities of Raintex.
The inside of the jacket stays dry, while water beads on the outer surface and can be shaken off.
It's great to have a jacket that won't hang around dripping, and smelling like a wet dog, for hour .
The jacket doesn't come with a back protector, although there's a pocket to fit one and I did so as soon as possible.
The shoulder and elbow protectors are branded "Armadillo" and CE marked.
They're soft and flexible, sit comfortably against the body, and don't stand out too noticeably. The protector pockets are closed with hook-and-loop and easy to access.
There are two decent sized pockets on the front of the jacket. Hook-and-loop closure runs all the way along the top, making them highly secure and waterproof.
Unfasten the jacket and you’ll find a zipped pocket inside, of the type designed for a wallet or mobile phone.
There’s also a pocket in the lining. This one has no closure and is designed, I believe, to hold the battery pack when the Hot Vest is installed.
Almost the entire surface of the jacket makes use of Macna’s two reflective technologies, Night Eye and Side Eye, which I’ve detailed below.
This gives excellent visibility in low light and darkness, but do remember that in the daytime it’s just a dark grey jacket. A hi-viz vest might be a sensible addition to your ensemble.
The matching women’s trousers, Abby, don’t feature Night Eye but do have side panels in Side Eye.
Night Eye fabric has a coating containing microscopic glass beads, which reflect light in the same way as the coating on traffic signs.
The results are pretty spectacular, as can be seen in the photos taken with flash.
After dark, car headlights activate the reflective powers, making the rider visible at a distance. You can also see the effect in strong sunlight, as well as under artificial light indoors.
Several other Macna jackets for both women and men have the Night Eye technology also.
This short video from Macna explains and demonstrates the Night Eye reflectivity:
Macna is sparing with the technical details of Side Eye, but its reflective properties are claimed to be especially visible when viewed from the side.
The Ivy RL has a vertical stripe of Side Eye material on the right side of the torso, and a horizontal stripe on each sleeve, adding to the eye-catching nature of the jacket.
Its appearance is noticeably different to the Night Eye fabric: it both looks and feels rougher.
It appears to be made from a coarser grain and it has a speckled look compared to the homogenous grey of the main body.
The Ivy RL isn't quite a budget jacket, but it is priced at the low end of mid-range.
For the money, you get a comfortable, functional jacket, with all the features you need to keep riding from autumn, through winter, and into spring.
What really sets it apart, of course, is the Night Eye fabric.
You'll either like this or hate it, but, personally, I'll feel a lot safer on the road after dark.
I still wouldn't mind dressing up as a knight or a robot. But I'll settle for glowing like a superhero.
|wBW Review: Macna Ivy RL Jacket|
|Manufacturer: Macna||List Price (2016): £169.99|
|Colors: Black, Brown||Made In: Bangladesh|
|Sizes: XS-2XL||Review Date: December 2016|