Next to the helmet, your jacket is arguably the most likely bit of gear you’re going to invest in. Also arguably the one with the most choice. From the retro ‘cafe racer leather’ to the technical ‘4-season touring textile’ you can (and probably will) spend days deciding, then potentially a huge chunk of change.
A clear primary principle is to get the jacket that is right for you. Whilst it’s easy to be swayed by image, peer pressure, and advertising, you really need to consider:
- Your style of riding – do you commute, tour long distances, do track and sport riding, ride in the dirt etc.
- The environment you ride in – you’re going to need a different set-up in Arizona compared to Alaska
- Your body shape and size – no point in getting the slim fit racing leathers if you’re generously shaped 🙂
- Your budget – stats show injuries to lower limbs are more prevalent in motorcycle accidents. This is likely because it’s hard for any gear to protect a leg squished by 200+ kgs of motorbike, and that most bikers rarely wear more than (or even as much as) a helmet, jacket, and gloves. So save some budget for boots and protective pants.
My riding could be described as somewhat, er, eclectic. Commute, twisties, occasional off-road, with a bunch of international tours thrown in.
Note: I was hoping to receive the jacket prior to my four days of riding through Northern California to give it a good test in cooler temperatures over multi hour rides. Alas it only arrived a week after the ride, fortunately the day I returned home to Australia, not the day after.
The Viking Jacket is made in Pakistan, from black textile (cordura? This is the most common textile used in bike jackets.) It is black with either flouro yellow, red, or grey insets. I opted for the yellow insets to improve driver visibility on the road.
I have to say, it is a good looking jacket. Not at all bulky. Very similar to the RJay’s Voyager I bought back in 2010. The bright yellow contrasts the black of the jacket in all the right places, and a number of people commented on the bright visibility.
It also has a couple of 3M reflective panels and piping to improve nioght visibility.
Comfort and Fit
There is an online sizing chart that suggested I opt for the XXL. I’m glad I did. Despite losing over 8 kgs (almost 18 lbs) this is still a pretty snug fit, and that’s with the thermal liner removed.
With my upright position on the Multistrada, this jacket rides nicely. It doesn’t hitch up around the waist, neither does it constrict anywhere. Standing or sitting you are fully protected and have good flexibility.
I did find the neck too tight. I have to pull the fastener over to connect the velcro, and this squeezes my neck, restricting turning my head. (So I didn’t close this whilst riding). I do have a particularly thick neck, and am very sensitive to closed collars. So this may be peculiar to me.
As the rain liner is part of the garment, this is a cool weather garment. Anything above about 25C and you’re melting. I wore this to work in a pouring rain, and the jacket kept me dry. From the rain. My sleeves and shoulders were still sopping, from sweat, due to the temperature and lack of breathability.
However, this is an ideal jacket for cool to cold temps. Pop the thermal liner in, and I can see you snug and warm despite freezing temperatures on the bike.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road (pun intended). There is absolutely no value in buying a good looking jacket that doesn’t protect you when you fall.
The website doesn’t give the detail on the actual textile used in the Enforcer. It certainly seems like a standard cordura, but without technical specs there’s no way of determining the denier rating, thus protection against abrasions, and/or burns.
Shoulders and elbows are protected by CE ratified armour pads, the soft flexible type, and there is a pocket for a spine protector that has a dense foam pad protector.
Look this is better than not wearing a jacket, and considering the price, good value.
The jacket comes with a bunch of pretty cool features.
There are more pockets than you can point a stick at, including a large rear pocket that is good for gloves, or things you may need on the road. The phone/mp3 player pocket has a nifty cable channel that allows you to feed earbuds through the collar. Great if you’re still wired to your music, but no really necessary if you’re sporting a Quadlock mount and/or Bluetooth headset.
This is where the Enforcer shines. For <U$100 there is a lot to this jacket. No it won’t give you the versatility, weather and crash protection of a Rukka, Klim, BMW, or an Olympia, but it is a factor of 5 – 10 cheaper than those brands.
Given all of the features, a mere US$100 represents good value for money. You’re not getting anything with this versatility much cheaper, and there are plenty of equally specced jackets for more money.
If you’re just starting out, or deciding whether this “Bike Thing” is right for you, the Viking Cycle Enforce Touring Jacket is a low cost way to at least ensure you’re protected. It’s a great first jacket for a learner. Not to meniotn one to keep in the cupboard for a pillion.
If you’re going to be taking on serious cross-continent touring this jacket will limit your comfort in warm temperatures – so you won’t be wearing it in India, Australia, or anywhere between about 34 S to 34 N in the summer, or 25 S thru 25 N for the rest of the year.
I also recommend researching the actual materials used, both in the shell and the armour, to give peace of mind that you’re as protected as you can be. By all means, replace the armour for something more robust, but consider the back pocket won’t fit a Dainese G-Spine Proctector.
All in all I had fun in the Enforcer, despite being drenched in sweat at my desinations.