Of the usual spiel targeted at cruiser riders about being independent and a maverick, riding apparel company Black Brand might have the best tagline yet: “You need to be the wolf, not the sheep to ride in Black Brand.” Those wolves, in the eyes of Black Brand, are those in the mid-line market. These riders don’t necessarily want the bulk or price of ultra-protective riding gear, but they also want something more substantial than bargain-priced items with no protection and shoddy quality. And for the cruiser riders especially rooted in their patriotism, Black Brand also wants you to know that proceeds from each purchase goes to helping returning veterans thanks to BB’s partnership with Home for Our Troops.
With the mid-level price point in mind comes this, the Black Brand Street Team jacket. At $250, it’s a moderately priced riding jacket for the cruiser set who want protection but in a jacket that looks equally at home on or off the bike. Styled to look more like a long-sleeve riding shirt, the Street Team jacket has a bit more substance than that. It’s constructed from a polyester/nylon shell, with treatments to help protect it from the elements and keep it water resistant (but not waterproof).
Four huge pockets – two traditional pockets along each side, as well as two snap pockets in the breast area – provide plenty of space for wallets and such. Adding to their convenience, either of the side pockets can swallow the full-sleeve, windproof zip-out liner. A single internal pocket is included, too. Airflow is allowed through the jacket via zippered vents above the breast pockets, exiting through zippered vents along both sides of the torso.
Inside the jacket you can find quality D3O armor in the usual places like the shoulders and elbows, but the Street Team jacket stands out because, instead of a cheap piece of foam or no back padding at all, D3O is also found in the spine protector. Even many sportbike jackets lack substantial padding for the back as standard, so its inclusion in the Street Team jacket is a big plus.
As someone in need of a less sport-oriented jacket, the Street Team stood out to me for its protective qualities and its casual appearance. Both John Burns and I ordered one – JB in grey, mine in the brown color seen in the photos. While Black Brand products are designed in Los Angeles, our Street Team jackets were manufactured in Pakistan. This isn’t a bad thing, as the jacket feels well built with nary a loose thread.
The bigger issue both Burns and I experienced is the sizing. Medium is the smallest size offered for the jacket, which is typically the size both JB and I – who stand roughly 5-foot, 8-inches and 150 – 160lbs. – wear in nearly all other brands. However, upon closer inspection of my gear closet, I realize that most of my gear is from Asian or European brands.
Looking at Black Brand’s sizing chart, JB and I both fall on the smaller end of what constitutes a medium. Despite this, the Street Team jacket is big on both JB and myself and there isn’t a smaller size available. The fit gets “even more loose and flappy with liner out,” says Burns. The tagline on the sizing page of Black Brand’s website says, “It fits like it should.” If that’s the case then are Americans really that much bigger than the rest of the world? Or am I just a little person?
The liner does a decent job at keeping the wind at bay except, due to the large sizing, air can creep in from the sleeves or up from the excess in the waistline (though adjustable snaps along the waist help tighten the fit slightly). This isn’t as noticeable while riding, say, standard bikes in the upright position, but can be felt in the lay-back cruiser position. Of course, if the jacket properly fits you then this isn’t a concern.
Removing the liner involves releasing two snaps on each sleeve, a single snap on each side of the waistline, and unzipping the perimeter of the liner from the main jacket. Folded up neatly and packed away in a pocket, the Street Team jacket feels much looser on me than I’d prefer. Airflow clearly increases, but it’s difficult to say whether it’s the result of the vents or simply the looseness of the jacket allowing it all in.
A potential concern for slim riders is if baggy sleeves will hold the armor in the proper positions in a tumble. D3O is good stuff, but it can’t help if it isn’t between you and the asphalt. On the bright side, JB notes that “you barely know they’re there anyway and it’s a fashionable jacket you don’t feel like a weirdo wearing in public.”
The Street Team jacket has a nice weight to it, the fabric has a quality feel, the YKK zipps are smooth, and it looks good even when I’m not on a bike. My main beef is only with its sizing that doesn’t accommodate riders with small statures.
For the big and/or tall set of motorcycle riders out there, the Street Team jacket may have the goods you’re looking for in a casual-looking riding jacket. It’s much more protective than a leather vest, doesn’t single you out as a Hell’s Angel at the local Starbucks, and even provides a measure of weather and impact protection should you need it. And for $250, it won’t break the bank, either.
Visit the Black Brand website for more info.