Is there a bolder decision when it comes to motorcycling in the UK than putting on a mesh jacket? It’s an act that almost guarantees an instant downpour. When the sun’s out there’s nothing better, but when it’s raining few things are more porous.
A waterproof jacket worn over a Knox Urbane mesh armour shirt is one solution, but what if you want a single, all-encompassing jacket that can do it all?
The Oxford Dakar Dry2Dry Air 1.0 is a sports-adventure jacket that promises to cope with anything a British summer can throw at it – from scorching hot sun one minute to barbecue-dowsing rain the next, and everything in between.
A highly vented outer layer is backed up by a thin, weatherproof drop-liner that can be packed away until needed and then zipped in at speed.
Due to its wind-blocking ability, it can also be left in the jacket to extend its use beyond those two tarmac-melting summer weeks, well into Spring and Autumn too.
What level of protection does the Oxford Dakar jacket offer?
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first – the Dakar has CE Level 1 (EN 1621-1:2012) shoulder and elbow protection and a pocket for a back protector, which you can buy separately.
What’s it like to wear?
Really comfy, incredibly lightweight and highly ventilated – perfect for hot summer blasts, urban rides and short commutes. Worn by itself you get a proper gust of wind flowing through the chest and arm panels and out of the back, to combat the dreaded boiler suit effect of traditional leather or textile jackets in warm weather.
What makes this so versatile though is the fact that you can block that wind (and any potential rain) with a weatherproof liner, and carry on wearing this jacket even when the thermometer isn’t pushing 40.
With a jumper on underneath I rode for an hour on the motorway in 10 degrees during February, and was absolutely fine. The Triumph Tiger 900 I was riding has a tall screen, so you might be colder on a sports or naked bike, but that’s impressive performance none-the-less.
What’s the Oxford Dakar Jacket made from?
The outer shell is constructed from a tough, high-density polyester that Oxford says is durable and resistant to tears, as backed up by its AA abrasion rating. However, what’s most impressive is how light and flexible the material feels – I have lower A-rated jackets that don’t move with me as well as this.
Partly that flexibility is down to the fact that large parts of the jacket are made from ventilated mesh; on the front, the back and down the inside of the arms, and these sections don’t offer the same protection. But even the non-mesh sections on the shoulders, outer arms and flanks move like a much lighter garment.
Accordion panels near the elbow, poppers on the biceps and Velcro waist adjustment straps ensure a snug but tailored fit, and while the jacket on test is a dark camo colour scheme, there are high-vis stripes on the tops of each sleeve to help other motorists see you.
In terms of fit, I’m 6 foot 2 and 90kg and the size large is perfect. The arms have a pre-curved shape and the jacket overall has a sporty cut at the front to avoid bunching when tucked up, and a slightly dropped tail, with a short zip for attaching a pair of trousers.
What about weatherproofing?
Obviously, the mesh sections are not going to offer much protection from rain or wind (that’s kind of the point) but the main jacket material has a water-resistant coating to stop it from getting soaked and heavy in a downpour.
The main rain defence comes from a clip- and zip-in liner which is shiny black on the outside but has a soft material lining. It’s slightly shorter at the bottom than the jacket but zips all the way up to the neck, with a storm flap secured with poppers to protect the opening, and the seams are taped too.
It attaches to the jacket with two short zips and two poppers further down, and then the usual neckline and colour-coded wrist fasteners inside the jacket. As such it can put added or taken away very easily, and its low profile means it sits almost undetected under the main shell.
This comes with an 8,000mm waterproof rating – not as high as the similarly priced Oxford Montreal jacket but certainly enough to keep the worst of the rain off when I tested it during a deluge. The material is an effective barrier against water ingress, but the liner doesn’t have the coverage you’d get with a touring jacket, so I wasn’t completely dry.
It’s important to remember that the Dakar doesn’t claim to be an all-year-round jacket, let alone aimed at long touring rides, so its performance is just right. If I was out on a summer’s day when the weather turned suddenly I’d have no concerns about the Dakar keeping me comfortable and dry.
What storage and protection features does it come with?
As mentioned earlier the shoulders and elbows have CE Level 1 protectors, both secured in Velcro pockets inside the jacket’s liner. They’re not D30 and the former feels a bit chunkier than the latter, plus you’ll have to pay extra for a back protector.
The back panel being made completely of mesh means the rear of the Dakar jacket felt more vulnerable than one with a more solid construction (material doesn’t provide any impact protection, but you know what I mean) so a back protector is a confidence-boosting upgrade. But then, it is normally.
There are two main pockets on the front of the outer jacket plus a chest pocket higher up, although that’s located behind a mesh panel so anything you put in there could interrupt airflow. The waterproof liner has an inner pocket if you need to keep anything dry in a storm.
What colours are there?
There’s a green version, a silver and blue one, and this grey camo – while these things are subjective, but I think the latter is the best looking.
It suits the whole adventure sports vibe perfectly, and while the green does something similar in a more low-key way, the silver and blue looks a bit more like a touring jacket to me.
What about matching kit?
Oxford’s marketing material for this jacket has the rider wearing a matching pair of grey camo gloves, which I can’t seem to find for sale in the UK (yet?) but luckily there is already a pair of Brisbanes in grey, black and high-vis that look spot on.
I’ve said before in our best summer gloves article how much I like these because they’re short, offer good protection and breathability and great value for money. The floating knuckle protection in particular gives you a good range of motion without sacrificing safety, and helps combat the hand and forearm fatigue I seem to get from tight gloves.
The mesh back and leather palm gives a good balance of abrasion resistance and comfort, and the fluoro stripes on this colourway match the shoulders of the Dakar jacket. Plus, because they stop just short of your wrist, you can get a good blast of cooling air up your sleeves, too.
I’m really taken by the Oxford Dakar Dry2Dry Air 1.0 Textile Jacket – style isn’t everything but I really like the way it looks combined with how light and non-restrictive it feels to wear.
Adventure bike kit with a sportier cut might sound a bit niche but there are plenty of off-road machines that cater for faster road riding too – the Ducati Multistrada, or any KTM, for example – where something between full touring textiles and race leathers would sit.
Most of all though I like how versatile it is. A mesh jacket traditionally spends more time in your wardrobe than on your back, waiting for a weekend hot enough to justify wearing it. This one’s the opposite, I reckon.