Classic materials and details wrapped up a modern cut. It’s hard to place the style but that may also be to the Compass jacket’s advantage; it looks right at home on a modern cruiser or a vintage bike and not out of place even on a modern sportbike. But looks aside, the Compass jacket offers good protection for basic street riding and touring. Despite the pants connection zipper that may or may not be present and the waxed cotton shell that won't really help keep out the water, this jacket is going to serve well as a fair weather riding companion. In the end, the AGV Compass jacket offers a good combination of unique looks with decent protective features and does so at a reasonable price of $249.00. Now where did I put my brass-framed riding goggles and silk scarf?
The AGV Sport Compass jacket combines a unique and “modern retro” look with protection of a modern motorcycle jacket. Accommodations are present for back protection and CE rated elbow and shoulder protection is include. The unique construction consists of a brown waxed cotton and buffalo leather to deliver a look that is very different from the typical modern jacket. It would easily be at home on anything from a vintage bike to modern machinery.
Although lacking any obvious ventilation, the Compass jacket actually does well in warmer weather thanks to some subtle air inlets. AGV Sport products are regular visitors to the webBikeWorld review arena.
Over the years we have reviewed gloves, jackets, pants and even leather suits carrying the AGV Sport brand. AGV Sport products tend towards the low- to mid-range price point and often they are not the least expensive product in a riding gear category…but not the most expensive either. Their products are geared towards the street rider and track day enthusiast, with a few products crossing into the off-road segment by way of adventure style jackets.
This is similar to how I described the Joe Rocket brand recently in my Joe Rocket Ballistic 7.0 pants review. I think mentioning these two brands in same breath makes sense, as they both bring some good value to the table for the street rider. AGV Sport has also started to develop some products that fit nicely into the “modern retro” theme and they look good when paired with most any style of motorcycle. It may sound like I’m caught up a bit on the looks of this gear and maybe I am.
But protection in a crash is still the most important factor for me when I’m riding and I think most of you would (or should!) agree. So if the gear happens to offer good protection AND look good, then I’m going to be intrigued. And so I was very interested in the Compass jacket when I went looking to replace my AGV Sport Element Vintage jacket (review) recently.
That jacket is full leather and it also has a vintage look that held up very well in my low-side crash last year. I actually would have kept wearing it except that I have lost some weight, which has made the fit too loose fitting for my taste.
The AGV Sport Compass jacket is definitely unique looking. While the overall cut and shape are very much in the sportbike vein, the materials used give it an interesting appearance. The shell is made from buffalo leather and waxed cotton canvas, with a four-way stretch material. Yes — waxed cotton! That’s one of the oldest materials used create a waterproof garment.
So even though the Compass is not the first motorcycle jacket to use this material, it may be the first time it is used like this, with leather. The “old meets new” looks might not be for everyone but I really like it. The Compass jacket is available in one color scheme: brown and black. The leather portions are black, as is the stretch fabric. The waxed canvas portions are brown and the texture of the canvas is very fine, making it easy to mistake it as leather.
Even though waxed canvas is primarily used in waterproof applications, the Compass jacket is not claimed to be waterproof, so apparently the waxed cotton is for appearance only. There are other details that lead me to believe this is not the jacket you want to wear in the rain and I’ll get to that later.
There are two hand-warmer pockets on the front as well as small breast pocket on the left side. There is also an internal pocket on the left side interior and another pocket in the same location on the included insulated zip-in liner. At the shoulders are small vents and across the upper back is a large vent, along with perforated vented sections at the crook of each elbow for additional air flow.
Unlike the shoulder and back vents, the elbow vents are not closable. Metal zippers are used for the main closure, the exterior pockets and the sleeve cuffs and they have a gunmetal color that adds to the vintage look.
Positive locking metal snaps are also used at the sleeve cuffs and at the neck, while the shoulder and rear vents use plastic zippers. Depending on where (and maybe when) you order a Compass jacket, it may come with an eight-inch attachment zipper for connecting AGV pants.
I went through three jackets in a return process before finally getting one with the attachment zipper!
Moving on, 0.9 mm thick buffalo leather is used in about 15% (my estimate) of the outer shell construction, including impact areas like the shoulders, elbows, forearms and various other places. The leather is soft and pliable and it has a nice sheen or finish.
Along the sides of the body of the jacket as well as the inside facing sections of the arms a four-way stretch textile is used. This material is similar (if not the same) as the stretch material used on the AGV Podium Suit I reviewed last year. This stretch material allows the jacket to fit closely but with some freedom of movement. This is enhanced but the material running all the way from the underarm up to the neck on both the front and rear upper sections of the jacket.
I ordered a size medium, hoping the jacket would have a snug fit, which it does and the stretch material helps in this regard.
The exterior of the Compass jacket uses a combination of three different materials, the most prominent of which is brown and something that AGV Sport refers to as a “waxed cotton canvas”.
I don’t doubt that the material is cotton based, but when I think of canvas I envision a more heavily textured material like seen on the Duluth Trading Fire Hose Logger pants I reviewed some time ago. The canvas used in the Compass jacket has a fine texture and at first glance, it might be mistaken for brown leather (I did). Canvas can come in different forms and “duck” is a type that uses a fine weave, so that might be the type in use here. The canvas sections are coated or “waxed”, giving the material its sheen and that also keeps air (and presumably water) from flowing through the weave.
It gives the material a vintage look but I’m not sure that the waterproofing is of any value in this particular jacket.
My reasoning is that the rest of the jacket would not appear to offer much protection from rain, so the sections of waxed cotton won’t do much to keep the water out.
Also, the zippers at the vents and main opening are not waterproof and the perforations at the elbows aren’t going to keep out rain either. The waxed cotton fabric still looks cool, but the “wax” must just be for looks.
Zippers and Snaps
All of the exterior zippers (main, vents, cuffs, and pockets) are metal with a gunmetal color. Gunmetal is a sort of pewter or light grey color that at once looks classic but not as “vintage” as brass. Metal zippers usually don’t have a very smooth operation and the metal zippers on the Compass jacket are not quite as smooth as their plastic counterparts.
But metal zippers can often be made smoother by using a graphite pencil, some car wax or any number of other remedies. I used a tiny amount of DuPont Chain-Saver (review) rubbed onto the teeth, which made the zippers feel much better.
On the subject of zippers, none of the zipper runners on the Compass jacket have any type of extra strap or string included. Since the zipper pull tabs are rather small, grabbing them firmly when wearing gloves can be a little difficult. The pocket and vent zippers can be very difficult to grab if the tab has slipped under the rolled leather edge on either side of the pocket or vent opening.
Lining and Insulating Liner
The main body of the Compass jacket is lined with a polyester mesh, which is typical of many motorcycle jackets today. What does stand out is the fact the sleeves are lined with a smooth silk-like fabric, making it easy to slip over the arms. It’s a subtle but welcome touch.
Included with the jacket is a removable quilted vest liner for use during cooler temperatures. On the one hand, it is not very thick, so I can wear it inside the jacket despite the snug fit. But on the other hand, the liner is not very thick, so its insulating properties are only fair and it is not going to keep you toasty warm in cold conditions.
The Compass jacket comes with what I would call the “standard” set of protectors, in this case I’d call it CE rated but not certified (see the webBikeWorld report “CE Certified vs. CE approved” for more information). The jacket has elbow and shoulder protectors and a simple foam pad is inserted in the back protector pocket. The pad is rather thin and is really nothing more than a placeholder for the shape of the pocket.
The shoulder and elbow protectors seem to be single density and although they are noticeable when wearing the jacket (especially with the snug fit of my jacket in size medium), they are not too obtrusive.
I specifically wanted the snug fit so I would feel confident that the protectors won’t have much opportunity to move around in a crash.
The protectors are removable and can easily be replaced with higher spec versions if desired.
For back protection, you’ll definitely want to get a proper insert or a stand-alone back protector if that is your preference. The Compass jacket is advertised by many retailers as accepting the Forcefield 001 back protector insert, so I ordered a Knox insert based on the dimensions of the Forcefield protector.
When the jacket arrived, however, it was obvious that a Forcefield 001 or similar-shaped protector was, in fact, not going to fit. Fortunately for me I had an older Alpinestars back protector that was about the right length and could be trimmed to shape. It’s made from some type of viscoelastic material and after the modification, it now fits nicely into the jacket’s back protector pocket.
Of course, you could also wear a stand-alone back protector (full wraparound, not an insert) under the Compass jacket, but just be sure to measure yourself wearing the protector before choosing a jacket size.
It’s possible that some early photos and descriptions of the Compass jacket that reached the retailers might have been based on a pre-production version, thus the differences between the description and my experience. Or, perhaps some changes have been made during the production run; it happens more often than you’d think.
The issues with the back protector sizing may also be responsible for the problems with the missing pants attachment zipper, so just be aware of that in case you order one.
While the shoulder, elbow and back protector will take care of impacts, the buffalo leather on the Compass jacket is located in the potential impact zones to take care of abrasion resistance.
The buffalo leather is only 0.9 mm thick, which in my opinion is probably too thin for good abrasion resistance, but since the protectors are underneath it, I’m not too concerned about those spots wearing through to the skin. For those who are concerned about visibility, the Compass jacket will come up a bit short.
That’s because there are no reflective markers or patches on the jacket so at night your upper body is essentially in stealth mode unless you wear a reflective vest (reviews) over the top.
Fit and Comfort
The Compass jacket is available in five sizes, medium through 3XL and luckily for me the medium fits me just right. Also, just by chance I noticed that the sizing is very consistent in the four Compass jackets I tried. I’m 5’10” and 190 pounds with a 41 inch chest and the sizing seems spot on and the size medium should fit up to a 42 inch chest.
It leaves just enough room for me to wear a thin sweater underneath or the included quilted vest for cooler days. If you like your jackets to fit a little on the loose side, you should consider going up one size from your usual. Thanks to the hybrid makeup of the Compass jacket, it has a lighter weight than the average leather jacket, which makes it comfortable for longer rides.
I wore the Compass on a 400 mile round trip to Birmingham, Alabama earlier this year and it makes for a nice lightweight sport-touring jacket.
There are not many options for customizing the fit but there are two hook-and-loop fastened adjustment straps at the waist to keep the lower portion snug. This is a sport cut jacket, so it does sit up at the top of the waist with many types of pants and being able to adjust for variances here a is good option. Overall, I find the Compass jacket to be very comfortable. The smooth lined sleeves feel great and allow me to easily slip the jacket on and off.
Even though I chose the tighter fit, the inclusion of the stretch fabric lets the arms and upper back move freely and it works whether sitting upright or tucked in behind the windscreen on my Kawasaki Ninja 1000 (review).
The sleeve cuff openings at first seemed odd to me in that they are a little larger than I would prefer at 10.2 inches (25.9 cm), but I believe I know why. As I understand it, European riders tend to wear their sleeves over their glove gauntlets rather than inside. I pull my glove gauntlets over my sleeves and I think most riders I’ve seen here in the States do this too.
This sleeve opening could be simply an accommodation for this practice and the AGV Sport Element Vintage jacket I mentioned earlier has a similar design. It doesn’t seem like big deal but it does end up making the cuffs feel a little more bulky and this could make it difficult for some glove gauntlets to easily wrap around the sleeve opening. Of course, if you wear short gloves this is a non-issue.
The collar of the Compass jacket has a soft neoprene pad that runs around about 75% of the circumference with the front 25% just ending with leather at the top.
I’m not sure if this was for aesthetics or for technical reasons but I would liked to have seen this run all the way around for comfort, especially since there is only one snap point for the collar so there is no adjustment here in case it is too tight or loose.
As one would expect, the “waxed cotton” material really doesn’t breathe and as for other ventilation, the forward vents are pretty small. I’ve also seen some retailers describing this as more of a cool or mild weather jacket, but in my experience, it actually has better ventilation than they realize.
The upper vents on the shoulders are a bit small at 3.75 inches (9.5 cm) but they are also placed in an excellent spot to catch the air while on the move. Also, the perforations in the elbows work well and I can definitely feel air flowing through them when riding.
However, the inability to close these elbow vents is one reason I feel this jacket would not be suitable for rainy weather despite the waxed cotton shell. For optimal air flow through the jacket, it is important to make sure that the broad vent on the back between the shoulder blades is open.
With this vent open, the air flows freely around inside the jacket and out the back and it does a decent job in warm weather (mid 70’s F or around 24 C).
There is another method I discovered that can help improve ventilation to extend the temperature range. Opening the breast and hand warmer pockets will induce a bit of additional air to pass through the lining of the pockets in the Compass jacket.
I discovered that by doing this, I can wear the Compass jacket comfortably on my commutes in temperatures up to around 87 F (30 C). On the flip side, my own low tolerance for cold weather riding had me moving to a warmer jacket once temperatures started dropping around 50 F (10 C).
Closing all the vents in the Compass jacket helps but the sleeve vents still flow some air that one can feel when the weather is cold.
I’ve been thinking of how to classify the Compass jacket from a style standpoint. It uses some classic materials and details wrapped up a modern cut. It’s hard to place the style but that may also be to the Compass jacket’s advantage; it looks right at home on a modern cruiser or a vintage bike and not out of place even on a modern sportbike.
But looks aside, the Compass jacket offers good protection for basic street riding and touring.
Despite the pants connection zipper that may or may not be present and the waxed cotton shell that won’t really help keep out the water, this jacket is going to serve well as a fair weather riding companion. The temperature range is biased towards the warm side of things, so spring through summer and early fall is where it will likely be most at home.
In the end, the AGV Compass jacket offers a good combination of unique looks with decent protective features and does so at a reasonable price of $249.00. Now where did I put my brass-framed riding goggles and silk scarf?