The concept of wearing a dedicated set of armour to protect you from impact injuries and then, adopt whatever over-covering you want, to protect you from abrasion in case of a slide along the road or a waterproof layer in case it rains, is not new.
Off-roaders in particular have been doing it for years – there is plenty of body armour around that will offer you protection from a fall though admittedly, many of these are relatively low-speed, so abrasion resistance is not as important as on the road.
Of course, if you spend most of your time on the road, then the chances are you have something that combines impact protection with abrasion resistance and high strength in case of a higher-speed off – up to motorway speeds, for example.
However, the issue here is that in many cases, you have to compromise. You might want ultimate abrasion resistance (typically a leather jacket) but you also want it to be wind and waterproof (like a textile).
You might also want it to keep you warm so you need something with a bult-in thermal liner but if you want to use the same garment for rides that start chilly and warm up (in spring or autumn, for example) then you have to remove liners and store them somewhere.
And if it gets really hot, then you might want something with a mesh component to allow ultimate air flow for cooling. Or you might want a casual jacket that doesn't look like it's specifically for motorcycling.
The Knox Urbane Pro Mk2 could be exactly what you need. It is the basis for a variety of needs and uses and can form the foundation of whatever clothing system you want.
In its most basic form, it is an armoured mesh shirt – calling it a jacket is a bit of a stretch, as is the material. The key impact areas – the shoulders, elbows and lower arms and the top of the back – are formed in solid material.
Knox Urbane Pro Mk2 spec
CE Rating: AA
Armour: Level 1 shoulder and elbow, level 2 back
Pockets: One front, one back
Construction: Mesh textile
However, the remainder of the shirt – the front, sides, back and inner arms – are formed in mesh to allow vast amounts of air to enter. The garment achieves a CE rating of AA on its own, meaning it provides exceptional strength and abrasion resistance along with that cooling effect.
It comes with Knox’ Micro-lock Level-1 armour in the shoulder and elbows though the included back protector is Level-2 for greater protection. This is all incredibly flexible and doesn’t feel intrusive though you know it’s there and that in itself offers a huge amount of reassurance.
The Urbane Pro is designed to be worn over a base layer – essential as some of the seams are a tad scratchy - and should be worn snug; I’m a strange shape and the XXL fits me perfectly across the shoulders and the chest but is a little loose on the waist.
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However, that’s a situation I’ll happily take, as the snugness on the shoulders, combined with the stretch in the material, means it assumes the minimal profile and the armour is all kept in exactly the right place while still allowing plenty of movement on the bike.
While the Urbane Pro is intended primarily as a summer outer layer – it’s AA rating means it can be worn on its own and offer that level of protection – you can easily add to it should the conditions demand it. For example, if it gets a little chilly, I can wear a regular hoodie over the top and it doesn’t look daft while a T-shirt easily sits over the top if I don’t want to look too ‘bikey’.
If the weather gets windy or rain is hoving into view, then a cheap waterproof jacket over the top will keep the water out while the Urbane keeps you protected and safe. Alternatively, Knox has a dedicated waterproof and insulated jacket designed to sit over the Urbane Pro – but that’s a story for another day.
In use, it’s enlightening and liberating. Enlightening because it you’d never imagine a shirt as supple and light as this could possibly offer these levels of protection. It takes a few moments for your brain to readjust from expecting a potentially cumbersome or heavyweight jacket to something so svelte.
It’s liberating because in the heat of summer, the airflow through it makes it feel like you’re just wearing a T-shirt and again, you need to readjust your brain to almost convince yourself you are properly protected. It’s a bit like overcoming the body’s instinct not to breathe when the face gets wet when snorkelling.
The designers have also thought about the little things too; there are thumb loops on the ends of the sleeves so on the bike – or if you do put something specific on over the top of it – the sleeves don’t ride up and the elbow armour stays in the right place. There is a handy chest pocket, big enough (just) for a large iPhone or a slim wallet and there is a larger ‘poacher’s’ pocket in the small of the back, accessed from the side.
It’s not a cheap product if you consider it in the context of body armour. However, you shouldn’t; it’s a proper motorcycling jacket that is designed to be worn unobtrusively and keep you cool in the height of summer.
However, unlike other mesh jackets, its design means you can pair it with other outer clothing to suit a variety of conditions should the weather be changeable on your ride.
It’s a very well thought-out and specified garment that offers excellent protection and versatility.
Core base layer for protection
Great airflow when worn alone
Easily paired with specific waterproof or thermal clothing
Primarily a summer garment in isolation