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Review: 2007 Alpinestars T-Armstrong Textile Jacket
Summer is here and it’s time to break out the hot weather gear. For those die-hard leather cronies, squeeze into your leathers and move on; this review isn’t for you. For the rest of us who don’t want to be a sweaty noodle in a Zip-Loc bag, you’ll take particular interest in our latest product review.
Truth is, sweating in your gear makes for an uncomfortable day of riding. Understandably there is little you can do, particularly in the swampy areas of the southern U.S. The desert dwellers boast a “dry heat” where the ******** (we mean than in the most endearing way possible) suffer from heat, humidity and flying insects that would challenge a Cessna 152 for airspace given the chance.
The prevalence of air mesh jackets over the last handful of years has yielded some fantastic products from a variety of manufacturers. While summer riders continue to weigh safety versus comfort and compromise with more breathable gear, space remains in this segment of the market. That is, we’re not seeing the major gear manufacturers scale back their textile and mesh lines; quite the opposite.
Black Label Society
While perusing he multitude of new products for the ’07 riding season, we were particularly intrigued with the Alpinestars T-Armstrong Jacket. The T-Armstrong is part of the family of apparel Alpinestars terms “Black Label.” The Black Label line provides a relaxed fit, think denim jeans, that incorporates hi-tech features with somewhat of a retro look. The classic or retro style has made a resurgence as of late as evidenced by competitors new lines. Basic and functional is the purpose.
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Perhaps what is most impressive about any Alpinestars product is the commitment to function. We can only imagine the research and development budget considering the extensive testing Alpinestars carries out with their products. If you read our SMX-R boot review, that is readily apparent. With such advanced engineering and testing such as the "Advanced safety technology suit”, no expense is spared in the product development cycle. By integrating data loggers into race suits measuring gravitational and impact forces, cooling performance and even physiological effects, Alpinestars can use the results to design better gear. These high tech measuring tools trickle down to basic street gear and everyone benefits. So, slip on the T-Armstrong and you’ll see what we mean. 600 denier nylon, CE padded protection, multi-stitched seams and list goes on and on.
What did you say, denier?
The major component of the T-Armstrong is 600 denier polyester. Huh, what’s that? A DENIER? A denier is a unit of fineness for yarn equal to the fineness of a yarn weighing one gram for each 9000 meters. 100-denier yarn is finer than 150-denier yarn, so 1200 denier is twice as strong or half as fine as 600 denier. However, 1200 denier is something you find in, for instance, luggage. To date, we know of no Samsonite sportbike apparel, so 600 denier is very typical in jackets in this segment. The perfect compromise of comfort and durability.
Further, the fabric is heat embossed creating a ghost-like design; sometimes called camographic. Instead of screen printing which typically doesn’t wear well over time, the design is actually part of the fabric and will not fade over time. It’s also somewhat muted, not loud and obnoxious. The surface is slightly heated which creates a design without compromising the integrity of the fabric.
The entire external shell is water resistant, including the mesh. Now that’s not to say water won’t permeate through the mesh, but the mesh itself will not absorb water. The mesh runs the leading edge of the arms, under the arms and across the high back where the spelled alpinestars” logo resides.
The logo is Thermal Plastic Rubber, or TPR. It is chemically and mechanically bonded to a hard plastic core and can be made in various degrees of hardness. Its non-marking, regardless of its color, and gives good flexibility along with added benefits such as abrasion protection. The shortened “A” logo, also TPR, is found on the left breast of the jacket. The back logo does add some degree of protection; albeit small.
Insert Protection Here
Speaking of protection, let’s talk about CE armor. The CE Mark is a conformity designation required for certain products to be sold in Europe. The CE label applies to products regulated by European health, safety and environmental protection legislation. It is also obligatory for certain products sold in the European market. Many riders in the United States look for this designation when purchasing gear, though it is of little legal outside of Europe. Most importantly, CE armor is designed to absorb a single hard impact and must be replaced afterward.
The T-Armstrong incorporates CE armor in the areas you’d expect: shoulders and elbows. These are removable through the access zipper in the lower back tail of the jacket. Also accessible through the zipper is the back protector pocket. Alpinestars, like most manufacturers, provides a honeycomb style foam back protector. The supplied pad is not CE rated, but one is available. Alpinestars has also sewn in horizontal reflective piping along the high back area for increased night time visibility.
The reflective piping
Also available are Alpinestar leather pants. A stretch panel zipper flap covers the access to the armor and to this flap you may zip your choice of compatible Alpinestar leather pants. With the exception of a few nicely placed inside pockets and the zipper flap, the entire liner is polyester jersey mesh stitched with hidden seams.
The only item absent in this area of the jacket is the belt loop found in other apparel. There is a subtle drop tail, if you want to call it that, but it’s mostly a straight cut. While the length was adequate, some of our test notes indicated a belt loop would have been a nice addition. Of course, with pants zippered on it’s a moot point.
Finally, the stitching: The main stitching on the T-Armstrong is multi-stitched for redundancy in the event stress is placed on the seams during impact. This is, essentially, a standard in the industry but amazingly there are still cost-conscious apparel manufacturers that don’t double or multi-stitch high stress panels. Alpinestars is not one of them.
The T-Armstrong comes with a full quilted liner, not just a vest. Because of the lightweight fabric, inserting and removing the liner is piece of cake. Liner inserted, the T-Armstrong has the feel of an entirely different jacket. All of the airflow benefits cease to exist and the jacket quickly becomes warm. While the T-Armstrong with the liner installed would not be appropriate for sub-freezing riding, the wind resistance does work well on cool summer mornings. Remove the liner for afternoon riding and you’ve got a versatile jacket. The liner is compact enough it fit in the tail of our ride, folded up.
The T-Armstrong has pre-curved arms, much like you find on leathers. This accommodates the CE armor and serves to provide less fatigue while riding as you’re making adjustments and fighting your jacket. And, speaking of adjustments, the waist is adjustable with one of two positions held in place by a rubberized snap. This is particularly useful depending on whether you have the liner installed.
The wrists are also adjustable and have the standard zipper and wrist strap combo. The wrist strap is Velcro so you can cinch it up in an infinite number of positions as opposed to a snap.
During our hottest weather testing, we would have liked to have felt more airflow through the torso region. Most of the air we did get suctioned through the neck area and out the bottom. Considering the heat soaking black color of our test jacket, waiting at lights meant baking. Once underway again, all was well. The mesh placement on the arms performed admirably. The airflow on the arms and the armpit area was more than adequate.
A note about sizing. The T-Armstrong is sold in standard sizing (large, Extra Large etc.) so make sure you try one on before you buy one online. Ours didn’t appear to run big or small, but you will want to size it for your riding intentions. An XL might be the perfect size for riding with the liner, but without the liner it may be too large and flap in the wind.
It’s clear the “T” line from Alpinestars stands for tough. Feature packed, performance driven and quality constructed, the T-Armstrong met and exceeded our expectations. Liner removed, the jacket is so light you won’t even know it’s there. A good compromise between an all mesh jacket and a non-mesh textile, the T-Armstrong features the best of both worlds. Examining our test notes over and over yielded nothing bad to say about the jacket.
The T-Armstrong is priced a little higher (about $200 US retail) than other comparable jackets, but gear devotees know Alpinestars is worth it. The T-Armstrong comes in a variety of flavors to match your ride:
Comfort / Fit :
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