I’ve been looking for a brown leather jacket for a while, but nothing had quite tickled my fancy. While I liked the feature set, particularly the full perforation of the Dainese Street Rider jacket John Burns recently tested, I felt it was a little too sporty in the styling for my purposes. I wanted something that would look at home on a modern classic or cruiser as it would on a sporty bike. So, when I stumbled on the AGV Sport Element Vintage Jacket during some clandestine surfing on family movie night (a.k.a. dad suffers through yet another kid-friendly rom-com), I was pretty stoked. It had the right combination of classic yet modern style I craved. My only real hesitation was whether the arm and shoulder vents could make up for the lack of perforation in the SoCal heat.
The AGV Sport Element Vintage Jacket is constructed of top-grain cow leather that has been given a vintage appearance. The distressed leather has a rough, weathered look to it, and it even feels that way to the touch. The cut is close-fitting, and the XL sizing feels accurate for my torso. The precurved sleeves keep the jacket comfortable when in a riding position, but they are not so radically curved as to make wearing the jacket off the bike awkward.
For protection, the leather thickness doesn’t feel up to the same standards as hard-core sport riding gear, but it feels plenty sturdy for street use. All the seams are “multi-stitched” for durability. CE-approved EN 1621-level 1 armor protects the rider’s corners with removable pads on the elbows and shoulders. An unlabeled 6mm memory foam back pad (which means no CE testing/approval) resides in a pocket on the jacket’s rear. It is better than no pad at all but may not offer the safeguarding of a certified back protector. No upgrade is offered by AGV Sport, but perhaps a stouter pad from another jacket could fit.
The closures are all metal YKK zippers with a brass-like finish. All zippers are covered by a protective leather flap on both sides. The sleeves offer additional adjustment via hook-and-loop fasteners. Similarly, the waist has dual hook-and-loop adjusters to accommodate any expansion or shrinkage of your middle. The sleeves have 5-in. zippered vents, while the upper shoulder vents are slightly smaller at 4.5 in. The rear exhaust vents measure 6 in., and all of the vents are lined with nylon mesh to keep out errant bees. Two exterior hand-warmer pockets and two interior chest pockets offer decent cargo capacity – as long as your items aren’t any bigger than an average-sized smartphone.
Breaking in the Element Vintage Jacket took minimal time, but the new leather smell, which was quite strong compared to most jackets I’ve owned, took weeks to dissipate. How strong was the smell? My wife exiled the jacket to the garage instead of the bedroom closet where I store the jacket I’m currently wearing. This was even after hanging the jacket out in the sun for a couple of days. I can only guess that this chemical smell is the result of the leather-distressing process.
The Element Vintage Jacket is primarily sold as a two-season jacket (read: Spring and Fall), but I even used it during the triple-digit temperatures of late summer. Yes, like all leather jackets at a stop, the Element Vintage turned into an oven, but once underway, the upper arm vents combined with the partially unzipped central closure to flow a remarkable amount of air, delivering cooling flow even to the center of my back where there were no vents. Now that the temperatures have dropped for the transition from Fall to Winter, keeping the vents closed makes for a nice cooler-weather jacket. When the mercury drops to the 40s, I’ve just slipped on a wind blocking liner I already own under the Element Vintage Jacket to stay reasonably toasty. (Though, truth be told, I’d reach for the Aerostich Kanetsu Electric Warmbib for longer rides.)
Usually, at this point in my review, I’d give the retail price ($299) and give the jacket a thumbs up or down, but I went the extra mile while testing the jacket. Riding the 2016 Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Iron 883, I got a little greedy with the ground clearance and ended up sliding on my back on the pavement at about 40 mph. The leather and the back pad did their jobs, and I escaped without even a bruise. The jacket sustained minimal damage with only portions of the leather’s dark finish rubbed away, revealing lighter hide below. The damage to the leather itself can barely be felt when lightly running a finger over the scuffs. Now, the distressed leather is a little more authentic.
So, what I considered to be a stylish, well-made, vented leather jacket at a reasonable $299 list price gets a thumb’s up and my gratitude. The AGV Sport Element Vintage Jacket is available in sizes M–3XL from its U.S. distributor, Motonation, or from other retailers.