I like the Alpinestars ACR Air-Flo mesh jacket for its simplicity, it's heavy-duty mesh and, paradoxically, for its emphasis on function rather than style. I'm never too sure about what type of protection mesh clothing will really afford in a get-off, and thankfully I haven't had the opportunity to run a real-time evaluation. But if I had to go for a slide in a mesh jacket, I'd just as soon do it in the ACR Air-Flo jacket than just about any other.
This is the third in our series of reviews featuring Alpinestars mesh motorcycle clothing. First up was the Alpinestars T-Stunt 2 mesh jacket, then the matching Alpinestars ACR Air-Flo mesh pants, and this review features the ACR Air-Flo mesh jacket.
We also have two pairs of Alpinestars jeans in the review pipeline, the Alpinestars ERGO Painter pants and the Alpinestars Street Cargo pants, either of which could match the mesh jackets for cool summer wear.
The ACR Air-Flo mesh jacket is a “back to basics” design. There’s really not much new here that hasn’t been done before, but for Alpinestars fans or for those who like their mesh with a touch of serious practicality, the ACR Air-Flo may be just the ticket.
The jacket reminds me a lot of the original Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh jacket, which one of the original (and possibly the only) jacket to start the mesh craze back about 4-5 years ago.
I still pull out the old Phoenix now and then just to ride with it for old time’s sake. I remember the first day I wore it — I purchased it from a local Moto Guzzi dealer (of all places) after having unsuccessfully searched for one online when the jacket was first released to the public. Riding home from the dealer was a revelation, and I remember feeling like I was riding naked because of all that air blowing through the mesh.
The popularity of the jacket took Joe Rocket by surprise, and the entire first year’s production was sold out in a matter of weeks. Retailers who had them in stock were actually charging a premium for them!
And here we are, with zillions of yards of mesh being worn on the backs of motorcyclists since then. So what’s new? Well, I guess you can say “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Which basically means that once a design is fundamentally correct, it can be enhanced every which way but loose and eventually you’ll end up where you started, back with the basic functional design.
I think that’s the ACR Air-Flo in a nutshell. It’s a straightforward jacket design — in an almost identical color scheme to my original Joe Rocket Phoenix, by the way — with a few modern tweaks that only make it better.
First of all, the mesh is definitely thicker, in the modern idiom of the stuff. The Phoenix had a loose mesh and a looser fit; the designers probably thinking that looser was better for hot weather.
But we’ve since learned that loose isn’t necessarily best with regards to either air flow or protection. A loose open weave fabric could theoretically act like a net, catching and holding a rider as he or she slides along the ground during a crash. This could potentially cause more harm than a “simple” slide, which is the preferred way (if there is such a thing) to do it, all things considered.
In any case, the mesh on the ACR Air-Flo appears almost as a solid weave, but held up to the light, it’s readily apparent at how much air can flow through. Unlike the Alpinestars T-Stunt 2 jacket, the ACR Air-Flo has no styling flourishes in the form of solid fabric sections that can get in the way of the air flowing through.
That’s what makes the jacket seem Old Skool, if such a thing can be said about a modern product like a mesh motorcycle jacket. But without the solid and colored material sections to add some flair, plain ‘ol’ mesh looks, well, plain and old.
But hey — who cares? After all, the primary purpose of a mesh jacket is air flow, and lots of it, right? And the ACR Air-Flo delivers on the implications of its moniker. The mesh continues down the arms unimpeded everywhere by any solid fabrics, allowing the maximum amount of air to flow through to the rider. The only items blocking the flow are the CE-approved elbow and shoulder armor and a relatively thick/stiff and long section of padding on the back. But the entire front of the jacket and the arms allow air to flow directly on to the rider.
One of the features that makes the ACR Air-Flo a more “serious” mesh jacket than, for example, the T-Stunt 2 are the dual arm adjusting straps, two on each arm. They have a wide range of adjustment to fit the jacket closely to the rider’s forearm and over the bicep.
This helps to hold the elbow armor in place, which is a necessity during a get-off. All the armor in the world won’t do a thing if it’s not where you expect it to be in a crash.
The jacket also has a more snug natural fit than the T-Stunt 2 and some other mesh jackets we’ve tried, which is also important for the best potential protection. The only thing missing is a better waist cinch system; the ACR Air-Flo has only a two-snap adjuster at the waist (one adjuster on each side), but no elastic in the waistband or the lower back that could hold the jacket snug to the rider’s body.
Curiously, the ACR Air-Flo jacket does include an internal zipper, designed to attach to a theoretical pair of Alpinestars pants. Unfortunately, the matching ACR Air-Flo mesh pants do not come with a zipper, which is a serious oversight in my opinion.
The only saving grace is that the three-quarter-length zipper that is attached to the jacket comes with a matching half that could be sewn on to the ACR Air-Flo (or other) pants. Many jackets are outfitted with zippers like this, although I’ve never tried to sew the matching half to a pair of pants.
I’m guessing that it would probably take a crafty sewing machine operator to make sure everything is precisely lined up so that the jacket fits to the pants at any sitting angle. Maybe I’ll bring the set down to my local tailor and see if she’s up to the job…
The sleeve cuffs on the ACR Air-Flo jacket do not have zippers. They close only with a section of Velcro, but the fabric is sewn with a dart, which allows the sleeve end to fit over a pair of gloves. The REV’IT! Hurricane mesh gloves or their newer Solar mesh gloves work well with the Alpinestars mesh jacket because those gloves are designed to be worn under, rather than over the cuff.
The ACR Air-Flo jacket has another somewhat curious design quirk; the collar has no snap or connector whatsoever. A big, honkin’ YKK plastic-type zipper is the only thing holding the front of the jacket together. The lack of a zipper on the cuffs, no snap on the collar and only the zipper up front is an ultimate expression of simplicity (one way of looking at it) and, in this case, I’ll buy it. After all, who wants complex with temperatures — and humidity — in the 90’s?
The jacket liner is slightly different than others we’ve seen; it’s a finely-woven mesh, not like the open “holey” type mesh liner usually found in motorcycle jackets. It’s very comfortable next to the skin and let’s face it — most riders will probably be wearing nothing but a T-shirt underneath, so a comfy liner is important. The liner does seem slightly bulky in the sleeves though, and it bunches up a bit down around the forearm, which can be slightly annoying, especially if the rider is working up a sweat because it lessens the cooling effect.
Pockets? There’s a nice wallet pocket with a zipper just inside the right-hand placket in front. A couple of patch pockets with Velcro closures are provided in the zip-out windproof (and claimed water-resistant) liner and matched again on the permanent jacket liner mentioned in the paragraph above. This is a nice touch by Alpinestars which I’ll assume is standard on all their jackets, because we found the same pockets on the T-Stunt 2 jacket.
Finally, there are two zippered slash hand pockets on the outside of the ACR Air-Flo, just where you’d expect them to be and, get this — the zippers on these pockets work very smoothly, allowing one-handed operation. Hurray for that!
I like the Alpinestars ACR Air-Flo mesh jacket for its simplicity, it’s heavy-duty mesh and, paradoxically, for its emphasis on function rather than style. I’m never too sure about what type of protection mesh clothing will really afford in a get-off, and thankfully I haven’t had the opportunity to run a real-time evaluation. But if I had to go for a slide in a mesh jacket, I’d just as soon do it in the ACR Air-Flo jacket than just about any other.
From “R.C.” (4/09): “I bought an Alpinestar ACR jacket for the hot summer days and I have to say it has performed extremely well, including in a destructive (un-planned) test carried out last summer.
I had taken advantage of the matching zipper supplied with the jacket by having it sewn onto some armored denim jeans and was wearing the kit when I went down on my left hand side at about 30 mph. The arm of the jacket is severely damaged, the lower strap which holds the elbow padding in place has almost worn right through, but the armor stayed in place and I did not suffer any bruising of grazing to my elbow or arm.
The shoulder section on the same side is also completely destroyed down to the padding, but again it did its job very well and I was completely free of injuries or even visible marks on my upper body and arms after the accident.
My only disagreement with the manufacturer’s claims relates to the statement that the jacket is designed to be a “year round item”. There is no way I would support temperatures below 25ºC wearing such a lightweight jacket, even with the liner fitted.
Needless to say I will be replacing my ACR jacket for an identical one this summer.”
From “M.G.”: “Just thought I’d let you guys know my take on Alpinestars’s ACR Air-Flo Mesh jacket. I bought it as my first motorcycle jacket after doing some research on the differences between leather, textile, and mesh. I’ve owned it for about 6 months now and have worn it from temperatures ranging between 40 and 105 F, in sunny and rainy conditions.
The mesh works wonders in the heat. I’ve had to double-check that it was zipped due to how much air can flow through it. The liner is extremely effective as well. My day in the rain with it proved that it actually is waterproof. However, the jacket is hardly suitable for the cold. In the aforementioned 40 degree ride, I had a sweatshirt underneath with the liner in and my teeth were still chattering.
Unfortunately, I’ve crash-tested this jacket as well. I went down at about 10mph. My right shoulder hit first, which in turn threw me onto my back. The padding did its job. Neither my shoulder nor my back suffered any injury. And the jacket shows no signs of wear.
My biggest complaint would be the long-term quality. As my primary jacket, it’s used rather frequently. Material is coming off at the wrist Velcro enclosures due to the repeated tightening and loosening.
In addition, the area on the chest right by the bicep Velcro closure is suffering the same ailment. This causes me to cut off the fuzz in those areas every other week or so. Thus far, its integrity hasn’t been compromised enough for me to stop wearing the jacket, but it is notable.
The overall quality is high, something I’ve come to expect from Alpinestars. It will probably last me at least another year of almost daily usage. As a mesh jacket for protection, it’s excellent. As a winter jacket, you better wear lots of layers underneath.”