Living on a budget is a fact of life, and MO staffers remember how buying our first motorcycles drained our available funds. So, like many young riders, we skimped a bit on our first riding gear. (I, for example, rode in a jean jacket until I could afford my first leather one.) The advent of textiles in the moto-gear arsenal of materials helped bring proper gear within reach of many budget-minded riders. On the flip-side, however, we’ve also noticed a ton of gear that went well beyond price-consciousness into the realm of cheap – as in crappy – gear that offers either little protection or sub-standard construction. The folks behind Pilot Motosport noticed this, too, and decided to create a price-point jacket that didn’t skimp on the protection or quality. The result is the Pilot Slate Air Jacket.
Let’s start up front with the $99 price. Keep that number in mind while you read what this jacket gets you for less than a wallet-sized portrait of Benjamin Franklin. First, much of the jacket exterior is made from 210-denier Micro Mesh nylon. The main abrasive points (shoulders, outside of arms, and side) are beefed up via more durable 600D Nylon Polyester Fabric overlay panels. All the seams are double or triple-stitched. Since denier ratings for fabric are rated on a numerical scale with higher numbers being thicker and therefore more abrasion resistant, the 210D portions of the Slate Air are obviously less stout than the 600D additions. However, the mesh should provide adequate abrasion protection in slides generated by street-reasonable speeds.
Inside the polyester liner, the shoulders and elbows disburse impacts through the use of removable CE EN1621-1 microcellular polyurethane armor. The sturdy-feeling, closed-cell foam back pad is not CE-rated, but the Pilot Core Back Pad 2 ($40) can be inserted into the Air’s back pocket, as it can with all Pilot jackets. A hook-and-loop attachment point is even provided for one of Pilot’s Core Chest Protectors ($50 or $60), allowing the Slate Air’s functionality to grow over time and then be transferred to a more fully-featured Pilot jacket in the future.
Other nice features for such an inexpensive jacket include Pilot’s Red Tab visibility system that highlights key features with red fabric for easy viewing inside the black jacket. For example, the hang loop, interior pocket tabs and interior pocket zipper all stand out for easy discovery in low light. The elastic headphone cord loop – a nice feature on its own in an inexpensive jacket – is also red and helps to keep the cord away from the main YKK zipper for easy closing of the jacket. Strips of 3M Scotchlite in a dark grey color add to nighttime conspicuity.
With bargain jackets, riders really don’t expect much in the way of adjustability, but the Slate Air features hook-and-loop tabs on both the waist and wrist closures. Additionally, the upper and lower arms each receive snap tabs to tighten up the jacket shell for those with smaller arms.
Since the Slate Air is a price-point jacket – although a full-featured one – Pilot only offers it in black, which is the most universal color for motorcyclists – even if it isn’t the most conspicuous. In the two months I’ve had the Slate Air, it has become my daily run-around-town jacket because of its light weight (It almost feels like it isn’t there) and its massive breathing ability. Even though I have access to a selection of very good, very expensive jackets, I could be happy with this as my daily commuter wear. With a jacket this functional at a $99 price, any motorcyclist who is on a budget has no excuse for riding in just a t-shirt.