Comfortable jacket works surprisingly well in warm weather. The wild “Rasta” colors are also highly visible and the jacket is available with several other unique graphic patterns. If you’re a smaller motorcycle clothing manufacturer competing with the big guys, what do you do? Don’t follow — lead!
It’s a story that has been repeated time and again. The little company makes a name for itself by taking a few chances and ends up hitting on a formula for success. As it turns out, this is a perfect strategy if you’re making motorcycle clothing, because motorcyclists like edgy designs, so there’s a high probability that a styling hunch will make it big.
I’m not privy to the Shift Racing design philosophy, so it’s not clear if the paintbrush-gone-wild colors are a way of pushing the envelope or not. But Shift has now become recognized for radical colors and wild graphics, which is certainly one way to throw down the gauntlet. Take away the colors and graphics though and what’s do different about the Avenger? At the most basic level, every motorcycle jacket starts out with pretty much the same basic canvas. A jacket has to have a body, sleeves, a zipper and armor.
The same goes for other motorcycle gear; pants have two legs (on this planet anyway) and gloves have five fingers. It’s what you do with that canvas — how you spread the paint, so to speak — that makes the difference. Of course, in the real world it’s not that simple. There are many other factors, like the quality of the materials, the ingenuity of the design and how it all comes together in final assembly that make the difference.
Speaking of paint (you knew where I was going with this, right?), how about this new Shift Avenger jacket? The Shift catalog simply calls it the red, yellow and green Avenger jacket. But this particular color pattern has come to be known by its street name: “Rasta”.
The design looks like some Shift staffer’s kid went wild with a paintbrush but the side benefit is that the jacket is highly visible, due to the combination of the colors and the pattern. Surely the Avenger looks much better than any of those “plain” yellow high-viz jackets, which suddenly look much too industrial and antiseptic in comparison?
Shift has been advertising the heck out of the red/yellow/green Avenger in the print magazines, so when it came time to choose one for a review, the Rasta color was a no-brainer.
The choice wasn’t easy for sure, because the Avenger comes in a few other patterns that are just as wild as the Rasta version — here’s a sampling:
Photos courtesy Shift Racing.
Besides the red/yellow/green, I’m also rather partial to the second Avenger from the right, which I can only guess is called the “Cartoon” or “Graffiti” pattern or similar. It’s covered in black-and-white reproductions of decals, signs and other wacky scribbling. But in the end, the outrageous colors won the day, and I’m diggin’ it.
Wild colors look cool, but it’s the entire package that counts of course, and the Avenger passes the test. One of the hallmarks that is also a paradox of Shift clothing is the way they combine unpretentious design and structure with the in-your-face style.
The Avenger jacket is a good example; strip away the colors and at first glance it appears to be a pretty standard motorcycle jacket.
The shell is constructed from a fairly typical 600 denier nylon; it has two outside pockets, an inside zipper pocket in the placket, a zip-in vest liner and a removable back pad. CE-approved (claimed) armor in the elbows and shoulders, a zipper up the front with a hook-and-loop neck clasp and that’s about it.
Most noticeable by their absence is the missing air vents in front. Other than a couple of cool-looking shoulder scoops, there are no front or rear air vents on the Avenger jacket, zippered or otherwise. But, as it turns out, that’s not a problem at all, as I’ll explain in a minute.
But first, back to the design. Take our stripped-down Avenger jacket shell, which at first glance seems to have some rather basic specifications.
Then start adding in the small details that are easily overlooked at first and you’ll find that we end up with a winner. The details are easily overlooked at first — it took me some time to even see some of the features through the camouflage that is the “Rasta” color pattern!
Besides the shoulder scoops, which are very much functional even though they are placed right over the shoulder armor, the other interesting features include details like the raised “SHIFT” logo across the front and the “S” on the sleeves.
The logos are “3D” style, raised off the surface of the jacket. We put together a slide show (below) which features close-ups of all the little details that make the Avenger special.
The raised logos are constructed from some type of rubbery-feeling vinyl, and they add a nice character touch to the design and look much richer than any simple sewn-on logo would or could.
Also made from the same type of raised vinyl are the “V” strips along the front sides of the chest. Look carefully at the photos of the front of the jacket to see them; those white accents are actually raised, with a black vinyl border.
Fit and Sizing
The articulations on the arms and in back of the shoulders, and the general cut of the panels add to the comfort of the Avenger, but you may notice that the jacket in the photos appears to be about one size too big for me.
Well, it is, and here’s why. Before I ordered the Avenger, I pulled out the Shift Dyer leather hybrid jacket (review) to try on, just to make sure a size large would fit. It was then that I realized that either the Dyer jacket had shrunk (not likely), or I had expanded a bit. Or a combination of both? In any case, I ended up ordering the Avenger in size XL.
But my mistake was that I should have tried on the Shift Streetfighter jacket (review) instead and used it as a guide, because it fits perfect in size large. So the good news is that my waistline hasn’t expanded — at least as much as I thought.
No problem though, because the slight extra room in the XL Avenger actually has a benefit; it allows the warm air of summer to circulate inside the jacket as I ride. The Avenger has been surprisingly comfortable in temperatures that have so far ranged up to 85 degrees F or so (29 C), and the reason for the surprise is there are no vents on the Avenger jacket.
By the way, the XL fits just like an XL should, with about a 44-45″ chest and a 35″ or so sleeve length.
The excellent air flow is a result of the very porous fabric used for the Avenger, as you can see from the photo above of the jacket being held up to the studio light. The air flows very nicely through the arms and the chest and the larger sizing helps circulate the air around the inside of the jacket and it flows out the back through the material.
The fabric used in the Avenger is not mesh, mind you, but it has just enough porosity to keep the Avenger cooler than many other jackets I’ve worn that do have dedicated vents.
Whether this was another deliberately ingenious but subtle design trick by Shift, or whether it happened serendipitously I don’t know, but it does work and, in fact, makes the Avenger one of the most comfortable jackets we have in the arsenal.
The sleeves on the XL may also seem too long for my 34″ arms — until I’m leaned over on the bike. Then the extra length becomes perfectly suited for riding.
The lower section of the sleeve is fitted with a dart, which allows the hook-and-loop cuff fastener to snug things up nice and tight, allowing the cuff to fit under any glove gauntlet.
Although the jacket looks a bit on the puffy side for me, the armor stays in place. This may be because the armor is generously sized, with the elbow sections covering most of my forearm.
The shoulder and elbow armor does not appear to be removable, but the back padding is and could easily be replaced with a smaller SAS-Tec or other type if desired. It would be nice if more motorcycle jacket manufacturers partnered with Forcefield, Knox, SAS-Tec or others and offered the option of a Level 2 or better back protector to fit.
The Avenger includes a vest insulating liner that zips in to the shell along the front and also has loop and snap fittings on the sides and at the neck to keep it securely inside the shell. The zipper attachments for the liner in front are a nice touch, because many other jackets of this type use snaps instead.
The Avenger weighs just about 2 kg (4.5 lbs.) with the liner. The jacket also has a short zipper in the rear to attach to Shift pants, or the added half of the zipper can be sewn on to other pants if desired.
The front zipper and the pocket zipper teeth are made from a heavy type of nylon, and the zipper pulls are unique, with a fabric that looks like a James Bond NATO-style watch strap, stripe and all.
The two hand pockets on the outside are semi-hidden behind the seam where the black fabric meets the colored fabric on the sides of the jacket. The pocket inside the left placket is also covered by a zipper and it’s handy for stowing a wallet.
The inside of the placket on the right and the collar are lined with a type of soft fleece-like material for added comfort, and the “Avenger” logo collar tab secures across the top with hook-and-loop. It’s there more to keep the zipper in place than to secure the neck.
The jacket also has waist adjuster tabs down at the hem on either side, which offer a good range of adjustment.
The Shift Avenger has to be one of the most unique looking jackets available, but it’s also highly functional. I find it to be surprisingly comfortable in warm weather because of the “flow-through” ventilation of the porous fabric. This obviously makes the jacket non-waterproof, but you can always buy a Shift Streetfighter jacket (review) for wet-weather riding.
Probably the biggest benefit of the “Rasta” color pattern is that it looks great but also provides very good visibility, a good alternative to anyone not fond of the industrial look of plain high-viz yellow.