When I think of waxed cotton jackets, I either conjure images of tweed caps, leather gloves, shotguns held in the crook of an arm and grouse being dragged across a field by a dog or off-road motorcycle racers in the 1960s drenched in mud with comedy mudless eyes where their goggles were worn.
In short, I never considered it to be a modern alternative to say a textile jacket or even a leather one. However, like leather, a waxed cotton jacket can make a real statement, particularly if you ride a retro bike but while making a statement and getting the right gear is useful, protection is the most important element of any motorcycle gear.
This jacket from Merlin has both angles well and truly covered.
1. Merlin Edale
The Edale forms part of Merlin’s Heritage collection and as such, is a classic cut with an outer in 8-ounce Cotec, a material developed by Merlin and waxed-cotton specialist Halley Stevenson. According to Merlin, it is stronger and lighter than traditional waxed cotton and also breathes more, allowing the body to stay cool and dissipate moisture.
Putting it on, it’s neither light nor heavy and doesn’t feel cumbersome. The material itself is relatively stiff to begin with but it soon starts to loosen up and after a couple of rides, is no more restrictive than a lightweight textile – it’s really flexible and supple.
The fit is bang on for me; I went a size smaller than I usually take and because of the suppleness, this transpired to be perfect with just a single base layer underneath. The design is more modern than the traditional hunter and eschews the familiar external belt for an internal, elasticated waist cord to give it some additional shape and style.
I like a jacket that fits snugly at the waist and this not only prevents any undue flapping or gaping, it also feels nicer as a fit – certainly to me anyway.
There are also pull-tabs with antique-brass poppers on the upper and lower arms to tailor the fit if the liner is removed and there are more poppers and tabs on the hem. There is a storm flap, fastened by both poppers and Velcro, covering the full-length zip which goes to the very top of the collar, which itself is closed by a flap of material through a brass loop. The collar is edged in faux leather for a lovely feel against the skin as are the cuffs.
There are plenty of pockets, as the style suggests, all also fastened with antique-brass poppers; two chest, two lower with side-entry hand-warmers and one small ‘map’ pocket on the back. There are two internal pockets in the thermal liner and one on the inside of the main jacket as well as a short joining zip to trousers and a belt loop to join to any riding jeans.
The thermal liner uses Outlast technology – originally developed for astronauts, apparently and is designed to regulate the body temperature by absorbing heat when warm to change the phase of paraffin within the garment and then, release that energy back to the body when the temperature drops.
It is superbly comfortable, with a quilted lining and a flash of tartan and if anything, works a little too well – I found on rides where the weather was on the cusp of needing it in, it was a little warm but I’d rather that than cold.
The jacket itself is CE AA rated and comes with ventilated D3O armour in the shoulders and elbows, each rated at Level-1. There is a pocket for the optional D3O Viper Level-1 back protector, costing £35.99 extra and with it fitted, there is a genuine sense of reassurance, with the armour held in place well and in contact with the body though not digging in or causing movement issues.
In use, the Edale does not wear as long as the photos would have you believe. They make it look longer and thinner than it actually is in real life and I found it sits well both on the bike and off. The obvious issue with longer jackets is bunching around the waist when you sit down but it is minimal with the Edale and causes no issues thanks to the suppleness of the material.
The zip and storm flap close well and keep any draughts out of the jacket and the collar fastening does the same though it can be left open if you want some cooling air around the neck. As I said, the jacket is warm, which is great for chilly weather but it doesn’t seem to regulate warmth as much as hold it in.
On rides with temperatures hovering around 10°C, it was a toss-up whether to take it out. With the liner out, it was a little chilly round the edges and with it in, it was slightly too warm and it also got a bit sweaty.
There are two zipped vents in the front which help a little with airflow though the zips aren’t waterproof and I’m not sure how well they would keep water out in proper rain. I only wore the Edale in a couple of brief showers yet it didn’t let any water in in either, with liquid beading on the surface as it is supposed to.
I’d never considered a waxed-cotton jacket before but I’m glad I did with the Edale. It looks great, both on and off the bike, particularly if paired with a pair of loose-fitting riding jeans and on a bike with a bit of a retro vibe. It is comfortable, warm and protective and fits really well, with plenty of adjustment for all conditions.
It might need some more care and attention that say a regular textile – you need to clean it and potentially re-wax it - but I reckon it’s worth the effort. It’s nicely made and is packed with quality touches. I really like this jacket.
Classic, retro styling
Modern construction and protection
Great fit and features
Can get a little sweaty