FirstGear Women's Contour Mesh Jacket
I probably have one of the
smallest windows of temperature comfort of anyone I know, and riding my
scooter is no exception. This was my (lame) excuse for riding
without an armored jacket in the warmer months. The thought of putting on
a heavy, sweat-inducing jacket when it is 90 and humid was enough for me
to risk my skin, elbows and shoulders, and to reduce my visibility at
Then I was given the
woman-specific Firstgear Contour Mesh jacket to review; the words ‘sheepish’ and
‘humbled’ come to mind now. Also, the word ‘wrong.’ I was wrong. There, I
said it. After a full season of warm weather riding under my belt with
this jacket in tow, I can honestly say I love it. The Contour Mesh is
designed to maximize airflow and protection at the same time, and it
delivers on both counts.
The main shell is made of a
very pliable 250-denier poly mesh fabric for both full abrasion resistance
and to allow air to move completely through the jacket; this material is
what is often used in other jackets as venting panels. The interior
permanent liner is made of a perforated nylon material that reminds me of
the cheap gym shorts of my youth. There is a zip-in liner for
wind-blocking and water resistance (note that it does not claim to be
waterproof) that has full
sleeves. It’s fairly simple to zip in and attach at the sleeves and neck. Pro
tip: keep the zip-in liner in your scooter’s under seat storage or top case. It
doesn’t do squat for blocking wind or resisting water when it’s hanging in your
coat closet. I may or may not have learned this the hard way, so let me spare
you the trouble.
There are five pockets on the
Contour Mesh without the zip-in liner; six with it in place. A scan of the Firstgear website suggests that new models will have an internal cell
phone pocket built in to the main shell. The model I was given for review
was sorely lacking in this feature. I generally have my cell with me when
I ride, no matter the temperature. It seems odd that it would be excluded
in a warm-weather jacket,
though Firstgear appears to have resolved that
issue. That being said, the external pockets are roomy enough and well
placed. The chest pocket was a decent substitute for my cell phone
storage. Zippers are chunky which is an added bonus – the material is much
more pliable than most armored jackets, putting it at risk for getting
snagged in a zipper, but the designer thought this one out. I find the
really toothy zippers are less likely to cause tear-inducing snarls and
subsequent streams of curse words.
The fit is fairly classic for a
moto style jacket: slightly cropped, tapered to the bottom, which hit me
near the top of my hip. I’m 5’5” with a somewhat short torso. Taller girls
may find this too midriff-y but it wasn’t an issue for me. The tapered fit
is flattering to the feminine form but has the drawback of accentuating
the armored shoulders, drawing unfortunate refrigerator box comparisons.
This is often a painful fact of a fully protective jacket, but the Contour
Mesh is really one of the least offensive jackets in that department. I’ve
worn far worse.
I recommend sizing up. I’m a
standard size 6 and typically wear a women’s small, but the medium was
just right in the Contour Mesh. Sizes are available from XS-3XL. Kudos to
Firstgear for recognizing female riders come in all proportions.
The overall fit is solid and
comfortable. There are no binding or cloying areas, which is especially
important when riding in hot weather. The jacket moves well and the
CE-rated armor is generally unobtrusive. The elbow armor extends quite a
ways into the forearm for added protection, but doesn’t complicate
movement. As with almost every other jacket I’ve reviewed, the back panel
is an abrasion resistant foam pad rather than all out armor; an upgrade to
a more rigid panel is recommended. There are Velcro adjustments at the
cuffs to help cut down on wind infiltration in cooler or wetter weather,
though I generally left them loose to keep air moving. Sleeve length is a
definite lowlight on the Contour Mesh. Even when my arms were slack and
not in riding position, the sleeves were shorter than I like them. They
ride up even further in riding position.
This jacket was surprisingly
cool even in the hottest of summer days. Pleasantly surprising, I might
add. The combination of very lightweight material and full mesh get the
job done. The only time I felt remotely uncomfortable in this jacket was
on a sunny day in the 90s, with a dew point encroaching on tropical
levels, sitting at a stoplight with baking blacktop underneath me. As I
sat at the light I could feel my core temperature rising slowly, but this
disappeared as quickly as the light changing to green.
I was also surprised at how
deep into the season I could wear this jacket. With the liner zipped in
and a sweatshirt underneath for layering, the Contour worked really well
as a transitional piece. The medium was roomy enough for a fairly bulky
sweatshirt underneath without sacrificing fit or armor placement, making
it quite versatile, especially during an Indian summer when days are warm
and nights are crisp. Again, keep that zip-in liner handy.
It stands to reason that if one
is wearing this jacket in face-melting heat, one is going to sweat into
it. And, if you’re like me, you’ll have pretty serious contact with the
main liner if you’re throwing this jacket on over a tank top in the dog
days of summer. That is to say, you will sweat directly into it. That’s
why I was pretty disappointed to read the care tag and see that you can’t
machine wash or have the jacket dry cleaned. You can, however, hand wash
it with regular detergent should you find yourself with that kind of time.
Though this is a bit of an aggravation, it isn’t a deterrent.
must admit that the color of the review jacket was somewhat appalling to me,
though this is very much a matter of personal taste. A friend of mine referred
to it as “bridesmaid’s dress teal.” To be clear, this is not a compliment. That
being said, the material is pliable enough to be crammed into the under seat
storage of my Buddy pretty easily, so I could hide it away when walking into a
store or wherever my ride would take me. That being said, who cares what color
it is? It keeps me cool and it keeps me safe, and that’s really the idea here.
Besides, one woman’s teal is another woman’s treasure. The jacket does come in a
variety of colors for 2011 including basic white, silver/black, charcoal/silver
and black options, as well as your standard “I’m a girl” pink and even a yellow
“precious metal” color for those looking for a bit more flair. Lighter
contrasting panels on everything but the black color provide added visibility;
reflective accents increase nighttime visibility.
The Firstgear Contour Mesh is a
simple, flexible, well-made protective garment that does what it says it
will. It’s a solid product that I find easy to recommend. It’s mid-range
price tag – about $150 – and array of sizes make this a very accessible
product for many female riders, and should keep you cool and protected for
the majority of the riding season.