You buy an Alpinestars jacket.
The quality is nice, it’s extremely well ventilated, has Cordura at all the right places, and looks cool. The armor is fuckall, the one at the back is almost non-existent, the chest pads are literally non-existent, but it serves the purpose you bought it for – comfort. It’s extremely light, doesn’t make you sweat like a pig, and gives you bragging rights.
Then you go online to research a bit more about the jacket, and you find something really odd.
It’s sold only in India.
Alpinestars is a global brand, whatever you can buy in the US should be exactly the same as whatever you can buy in India. The jacket looks like it’s good enough for the global market, and yet it’s available for sale only in a small part of Asia (I did also find some search results from Malaysia). It’s like Alpinestars never made this thing! There might not be something obviously wrong here, but it’s weird for sure.
What’s also weird is the fact that nowhere does it say where this jacket is made. Not online, not on the jacket, nowhere. If it’s made in China, Vietnam, Italy or the slums of Dharavi, nobody knows.
I’ve used this mysterious jacket for roughly 10,000 kms now, so here’s the review.
Alpinestars Fending air jacket review: Value for money (6/10)
At 12,999 Rupees, it’s not cheap, even when compared to the top-of-the-line stuff from Spartan/DSG. You don’t get a lot for your money, but it’s still half-decent. The way it covers your body is brilliant, so fit and finish are A-OK. It’s extremely well ventilated, feels extremely light, and looks snazzy, so job half done.
The problems start with the protection, and they very quickly fuck up the entire experience. You can upgrade your back and chest protectors for a total cost of around 6000 bucks, but that puts this jacket into the 20,000 range, where you then start missing the abrasion resistance of leather and tonnes of goodies that other jackets offer.
There’s a very particular set of conditions where it makes sense to buy this jacket. You live in a city that remains hot throughout the year. You don’t travel too far or go too quick. And you are in reasonably good shape. If you are too fat or too thin, you don’t get much adjustments here to make it stick to your body.
If you don’t satisfy these conditions, buy something else.
Build quality (7/10)
Aside from the fact that you have no idea where this thing is made, things are good. It feels sturdy, the mesh is durable, the zips work without trouble, and the overall level of craftsmanship feels premium, feels Alpinestars.
The only part where they seem to have gone a bit cheapo is the rain liner, which feels very thin and delicate. I haven’t been able to ride it into rain till now, but I have real doubts about it being able to do anything at all.
The internal lining is a bit flimsy though, in the sense that every time you take your armors out, the Velcro quickly attaches itself to some random part of the lining, and it takes a rather soft hand to separate the lovers without tearing thier guts apart. I guess that’s a problem that comes with breathable internal lining, but I expected more from A*.
Also, as far as night riding goes, this jacket has far less reflectors than most other jackets do. On most jackets you have reflectors running down the entire back, but on this thing they are just 2 tiny strips on the upper arms, nowhere else.
Overall, the jacket has a solid feel, and it’s not easy to point out any manufacturing errors.
The Alpinestars Fending Air is, by far, the most comfortable piece of riding equipment I have ever used. It’s easy to forget that you are even wearing it, such beautiful is the fitting this thing has.
With my DSG Triton and Mototech jackets, you essentially had to make sure that the temperature around you never went above 20 degree Celsius. The only tiny trouble there is that this is India, and the temperatures are usually around twice of that number.
With the Fending Air, all you have to do is just keep moving, even very slowly, and the airflow is perfectly maintained throughout your torso. At times when other jackets will make your head spin with heat, the Fending Air keeps you cool and keeps you riding.
Meh, nothing to see here.
Back protection is probably the most important job of any riding jacket, and this thing completely blows at that. Unlike most other jackets, you do get a place to put in chest protectors, but by default they are filled up with shitty pieces of foam that look like they were cut out of a homeless man’s bed.
The elbow and shoulder armor is both Level 1, and Type A. From what I’ve researched, Level 1 means that it provides the most basic level of protection mandatory for European laws, and Type A means it’s a smaller size than Type B. Type A is generally suited for children.
So yes, protection wise things could be much better, but you’ll end up shelling a lot more money if you want to upgrade your back and chest armors. I’m not certain what can be done about the elbow/shoulder guards though.
This is one more area where this thing excels, and I’d blame that squarely to the awesome build quality and the near-perfect fit. There are lines and embroidery and logos at all the right places, and the whole thing just comes together as a brilliant piece of gear.
Unless you go for the all-black color, the other two, red-white and grey-white, get very dirty very soon. I’m not the kind of guy who keeps care of his riding gear, and with my long distance trips the jacket now looks like it was used by a series of construction workers over a decade or so.
You get only 4 Velcro straps around the arms, 2 buttons around the chest, and 2 Velcro patches around the waist to mold this jacket to your body shape. Needless to say, this doesn’t work much, especially around the chest and the waist. On top of that, the adjusters around the wrist are next to useless, so in short you really have to have a reasonably good body shape for this thing to look good on you.
Here’s my definition of confidence:
Confidence in riding gear is about how mentally secure you feel inside a particular piece of equipment. The unit of measurement of confidence is T/km, where T stands for the number of times you worry about the consequences of a crash, per kilometer distance traveled. The lower the confidence, the higher the number.
Unless you don’t give a shit about yourself, or you are a delusional psychopath, it’s very hard to keep riding in the high-stress, high-danger environment that is India, and not worry about what would happen if you are involved in a vehicular orgy.
If you are wearing stuff that you trust, it’s very rare to have these thoughts, because you are certain that as long as you don’t just spaz out like a snake on ecstasy, nothing could happen that’ll put you in grave danger. The less confidence you have in your gear, the more you worry, and the more likely you are to crash.
With this jacket, I do worry a bit, especially on high-speed highways. There’s very little abrasion resistance, thanks to no leather, and the impact protection also feels dodgy. Unfortunately, the only way to feel completely secure on a motorcycle is to be in a full-leather suit all the time, and that’s probably what I’m going to do in the future.
All-weather usability (8/10)
Even though the rain liner that comes with this thing is flimsy, I love this jacket for its all-weather usability.
Indians are cheap motherfuckers, and we always look for 1 jacket that can be used from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, which obviously doesn’t work. I have always been in favor of buying a mesh jacket, because it can be used in summer with ease, used in winter with thermal wear inside, and used in rain in rain wear outside.
Of course you end up cutting corners, there is no such do-it-all solution, but it works. You don’t get any thermal liner with this thing though, as is quite common nowadays with manufacturers.
The Alpinestars Fending Air jacket is a strange piece of textile. If you are an experienced-enough rider, you’ll probably want better protection. If you are not an experienced-enough rider, you’ll probably not have to money to buy this thing. Even if you do happen to buy it, chances are you’ll want to upgrade within a few months.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you want to buy this thing, don’t. Buy the TBG Adventure jacket instead. It comes with all Level 2 armors, even at back, is cheaper by about 4000 bucks, and is usable in most weather conditions. If you can’t find TBG gear around you, buy the Spartan Helios, or the Hyperion if you have the money.
And once again it’s proved that if you do want to buy stuff from a premium brand, it’s better not to buy their downmarket shit.