We never quite know when it will show up but at some point the dog-days of summer, with all of its shimmering heat and high humidity, will arrive. The challenge for riders when the temperatures rise is to stay cool and look good while you’re doing it. Vented gear provides an excellent combination of protection that also allows free-flowing air to pass around the rider’s body, creating a cooling effect which, for all intents and purposes is supposed to make those warm weather rides survivable. There are ventilated jackets, vented jerseys, perforated gloves, vented pants and even vented footgear choose from. Helmets are equipped with state-of-the-art ventilation systems these days too, so take your time and do your research so you can make an educated purchasing decision. There are also a number of high-tech liquid-cooled gadgets out there, but for this Vented Gear Buyers Guide we are going to take a look specifically at traditional riding gear that incorporates some type of ventilated materials into the construction.
Free-flowing air creates a cooling effect by accelerating evaporation of your body’s natural coolant—perspiration. This is an elegantly simple and effective system, but it does have a potential drawback to keep in mind and plan for - dehydration. The higher the temperature, and the more air flowing over your body, the greater the rate of perspiration and evaporation. As a result, your body can lose a lot of fluid which can lead to dehydration, but you may not even be aware of it. The solution is simple, when you’re riding in hot weather you should carry some fluids along with you in a hydration pack, perhaps in your saddle bag or anywhere you can easily access it and be sure to take a drink at each rest stop. Now, without further-adieu, it’s on to the Vented Gear Buyers Guide.
A ventilated jacket is one of the best ways to stay cool on a warm day, while still protecting you from the inherent road hazards. Ventilated jackets are available in leather, textile, mesh and combinations of all of these materials. Perforated leather jackets generally run higher in price than textile or mesh jackets, but the look, feel and toughness of a good leather jacket is hard to beat for comfort and protection. Most perforated leather jackets will feature neatly-punched holes in the leather outer shell which allows the air to flow in against the rider. The best jackets will also utilize combination CE certified impact protectors as well as external hard armor placed in the high-impact areas of the forearms, elbows and shoulders. In most cases, there will be additional ventilation ports that can be opened or closed by some sort of zipper or snap-open storm flaps. The down side of a vented leather jacket is that they are still thick and heavy. While the venting helps keep you cool, they still tend to be warmer than a completely mesh jacket. The difference that remains in favor of the leather is its durability. Leather is still considered the best protection against road rash and other hazards, but personal preference will play a major role in which type of vented jacket you feel comfortable with. If you want leather and plan to ride in hot weather, then a perforated leather jacket is the only choice.
GP Plus R Perforated Leather Jacket
Overlord Leather Jacket
Sonic 2.0 Perforated Leather Jacket
Non-perforated leather jackets with zipper-closure vent systems are common too. And while they allow some adjustability for the amount of the air flow, they are still not quite as cool as the perforated leather designs. So why would you pick a vented over a perforated jacket? A perforated jacket can’t be easily turned off so if you get caught in the cold or wet, you can’t shut the holes. Meanwhile, the vented jacket allows the rider to choose how much air is flowing and regulate it by opening or closing the intake and exhaust ports designed into the jacket. The most common location of these ports are zippered areas under the armpit of the jacket, along the back or shoulder areas, and in some cases there are even ports in the chest area that can be opened up. By opening the front and back ports together you create a venturi effect that channels the air around the rider’s body. Another approach to allowing a combination of cool and warm weather performance is the use of zip-off panels where the leather can be removed altogether or folded back and held in place by other zippers or snap closures, leaving large areas of mesh fabric exposed underneath. This allows huge volumes of air to flow to the rider’s body.
Super Ego Leather Jacket
Jaws Leather Jacket
Dragon Leather Jacket
Textile vented jackets have become more popular in recent years thanks to state of the art advancements in fabric and designs that the manufacturers have developed. The textile world is constantly trying to create a light, breathable material and jacket styles that provide similar levels of protection as a comparable leather jacket. This is great news for motorcycle riders because these textile jackets are usually lighter, cheaper and come in many unique styles. The textile jacket designs also tend to offer almost unlimited levels of ventilation options because it’s easier to cut and strategically place zippered panels and ports in fabric than it is in leather. As a result, the use of textile in the production of adventure touring and off-road riding jackets has provided us a myriad of amazing jacket options.
Adventure touring jackets are generally long and available in over the waist designs that are a bit heavier and include more armor compared to a dual sport or off-road riding jacket. There will also be more liberal use of reflective materials and strategically placed venting options in the arms, armpits, shoulders, chest and back on ADV gear. The adventure touring jackets tend to be waterproof once the closures are zipped up tight, giving you a handy, multi-purpose riding jacket that is good for both street and off-road riding. Plus, it’s a bit easier to clean textile than leather. All of these features are the reason ADV riders have embraced these textile-based designs. High end textile adventure touring jackets can cost as much as $800+ while mid-range jackets are likely going to set you back about $200-$300 for a quality example that still has a bunch of good features.
Airglide 4 Mesh Tech Jacket
Sonora Air Jacket
Dual sport and off-road riding jackets are very similar to the ADV jackets but they are different in a few key areas. First of all, the off-road jackets tend to be much lighter, thinner material and will have less-extensive features because a dirt bike rider is more likely to be in action for longer periods of time and doesn’t need all the bells whistles. The trick with these designs is to still cram as many great features like the venting, waterproof zippered pockets, adjustable collars to allow them to be worn with neck braces, and other options that cater to the OHV riders. Removable armor is typically offered in the elbows and sometimes they even a pad to give added protection to the spine. They will be secured with pockets, Velcro, snaps or some combination of the three. Extra layers of Kevlar or other durable, abrasion-resistant materials are often sewn over the outer shell in the impact areas as well. Some of these off-road jackets even offer removable sleeves so you can transform your jacket into a vest when riding on a hot day. Most jackets with this option will feature some sort of storage pocket, usually located on the bottom of the back of the jacket. Riders can expect to spend $400-$500 for the most feature-heavy designs from manufacturers like KLIM while the less expensive versions will run somewhere between $100 and $200 if you are a savvy shopper.
Last but not least are the ever-popular short mesh jackets. These are designed to look like a traditional jacket but are constructed of lightweight textile and mesh fabrics. They offer the fit and form of a standard jacket that appeals to sport bike riders and cruiser riders alike. These mesh jackets tend to incorporate some combination of vented mesh fabric that allows the most possible airflow you can get from a jacket and still have some level of protection. The difficult part of the design process is combining the light mesh material with tougher Kevlar panels or other textiles which allow the jacket to hold its form and the armor in case of a crash. The CE-approved armor is often sewn into place in the all-mesh designs and consumer reviews show that the mesh jackets are pretty tough considering their delicate appearance. Joe Rocket and ICON have led the industry for a number of years in the design of these mesh materials so it should not come as a surprise that they top the list of examples below.
Intake Air 3 Jacket
Viper Air Jacket
Sedona Mesh Jacket
There is also the short-style textile street bike jacket with great ventilation systems. These are also popular with the cruiser and sport riders because they have the letterman jacket styling. They are most often designed with a waist zipper that allows them to be zipped together with matching textile pants to provide full length coverage for the rider. Strategically placed zipper ports are incorporated but there is also another popular feature adopted from the off-road jackets;removable sleeves. These short textile jacket designs can be seen on riders everywhere these days because they look stylish while offering good protection. There are a lot of manufacturers out there these days, so there is sure to be a style that suits your taste.
Speed and Strength
Top Dead Center Textile Jacket
Alter Ego 3.0 Jacket
GX Sport 3.0 Jacket
Hybrid perforated leather/textile/mesh jackets are also available. These can offer the toughness of leather in key areas with the high flow and light weight of textile, at a lower price than full leather. A common configuration of these garments includes leather swatches that are used on the high-impact areas like the shoulders and sleeves. Sometimes the leather may even run down the sides of the body or around the waist.
Reactor 2.0 Jacket
1000 Vigilante Dropout Jacket
With most perforated and ventilated jackets, a quilted, insulated, in some cases waterproof, vest or full coverage (includes sleeves) zip-out liner may be included to allow the jacket to be comfortable in cooler temperatures as well as workable in wet weather. The trick is carrying it along with you.
The same materials used for the jackets we listed above are also used on the vented pants. Textile/mesh pants with plenty of mesh in the areas exposed to air flow are combined with tough textile in the high-impact areas and will provide the most potential cooling on a hot ride. Armor or pads are usually included for the knees, and padding at the hips offers a level of protection that is far beyond what a standard pair of Levis can provide. These days the vented pant designs even allow you to look good while you’re off the bike in most cases.
Venture Air Pants
Phoenix 3.0 Pants
Solare Vented Textile Pants
Overpants are available that allow plenty of ventilation with mesh panels in non-impact zones and full-coverage material in key areas while allowing you to wear your favorite well-worn jeans—and they tend to be economical. A removable inner-liner that is insulated and/or waterproof increases the utility of the overpants for multi-season use. Full-length side zippers are a feature that make getting them on and off easy. The overpants aren’t going to allow the most airflow since you’ll have pants underneath, but they will let air inside if you open the zippers up.
HT Air Overpants
Oxygen Air Overpants - 2013
Vented leather riding pants can be cool too… Not in a Y-M-C-A sort of way, but cool as in increased airflow. Most vented leather uses perforated leather or some sort of breathable stretch textile panels placed in strategic locations. Vented or perforated panels in the thigh allow a lot of air to flow, while zippered ports in the same area can increase the flow exponentially. In almost all types of vented pants, features such as multiple fit adjusters, reflective panels or stripes, cargo pockets and reinforced seams or double and triple stitching are good details to look for.
Willow Perforated Leather Pants
Overlord Prime Leather Pants
Your hands always need good protection from abrasion and impact because a person’s natural instinct during a fall is to put their hands out as the means of breaking the fall and protecting the body. As a result, it is important to keep them protected at all times. Keeping them cool and comfortable on a long ride on a hot day takes a little planning. Rugged protection and light breathability would seem to be mutually exclusive goals, yet with modern materials and clever design, you can now have both.
Leather is one of the longest-used materials for gloves, simply because its durability, toughness and flexibility is well documented. Full grain cowhide has been a standard for heavy duty applications such as saddle work, heavy construction and of course, motorcycle riding. Of course, the thicker and heavier the leather, the hotter and the less flexible it will be for the rider.
For that reason motorcycle riders seem to prefer their leather gloves to be thinner and more pliable which has led us to using thinner hide in the manufacturing process. For example, leather fashioned out of goatskin or sheepskin offer tough abrasion resistance with the comfort of thinner leather. Add into the mix, perforation used all over the back and finger surfaces and integral impact protection over the knuckles and you have a high-efficiency vented glove that fills the bill where protection is as much a concern as keeping cool. There are a vast number of vented leather riding gloves to choose from so the key is knowing the style of gloves that fit your needs and the size of glove to properly fit your hand. If they are too tight, go a size bigger next time. Plus, here’s a little tip to keep in mind - don’t store your gloves in your helmet long term. The sweat and road grime your hands are subjected to will leave a greasy smell on the inside of your helmet.
Twenty Niner Gloves
Pursuit Perforated Gloves
Scheme Kevlar Gloves
Hybrid gloves using leather in the palm and other high-abrasion or impact zones in combination with textile or mesh on the back of the hand and fingers have become very popular. This configuration often includes high density foam padding or hard plastic impact protectors along the back of the fingers and knuckles and are less expensive than full leather gloves.
SP-X Leather Gloves
Summer Elite 2 Gloves
Atomic 3.0 Gloves
Boots may not immediately come to mind when thinking about ventilated gear, but when you think about it, ventilated boots can be a nice feature when riding in hot weather. After all, boots are usually constructed from the heaviest materials, though the high-tech hybrid combinations have made boots for motorcycle riding light and protective in recent years.
Specialized features like hard toe-sliders, plastic ankle protectors, padded heel protectors, reinforced shifter toe-pads and reinforced toe boxes distinguish modern riding boots from regular footwear. Those advanced features combined with perforated leather make for footgear that is cool in the heat and yet offer great protection. Perforated boots really came onto the riding scene thanks to the road racers. Circulating a hot race track all day can be fun but the heat can wear you down quick. Alpinestars and a few other high-end boot manufacturers started using perforated leather in the shell design and the concept was an instant success. For both racers and road riders alike, a vented boot is a great way to stay cool when the temperatures are high.
S-MX 2 Boots
Mesh Lo Boots
Speed and Strength
Run With The Bulls Moto Shoes
For serious street riding, track days or competition, cool footwear is beneficial but more difficult to design because the boot usually will extend above the ankle up the shin and must offer a very robust upper shaft to deliver maximum protection. Ventilation under those circumstances can be difficult to design in, but the Puma 1000 v3 Perforated Boot uses a generously perforated upper to allow air in. Similarly, the Sidi Vortice Air Boot is available in a perforated upper, but also has closable air intake vents in the toes.
Latigo Air Road Race Boots
S-MX 5 Vented Boots
Vortice Air Boots
For touring enthusiasts, high top vented touring boots are available such as the Tourmaster Solution WP Air Road boots are available. The touring boots are not as over-designed for impact protection as the sport bike and road racing style boots we just described, but they can cover about as much lower leg and ankle, so ventilation and walk-around comfort is just as important.
Milepost II Air Vented Sport Touring Boots
Clever Air Boots
Women's Matrix Boots
We’ve focused primarily on the street riders so far but the fact is, dirt bike riding gear have some excellent advances in their recent designs. Vented Pants and Vented Jerseys made of strong, lightweight mesh or perforated materials will allow a lot of air to pass across the rider’s body, keeping them cool when the conditions are hot. Vented dirt bike gloves combine leather or some type of durable textile in the palm with mesh across the back of the hand to allow maximum airflow to the rider’s hands. Combined, the vented dirt bike gear is a great way to extend your riding season into the summer months but it is almost a necessity if you are a desert rider or desert racer. Here’s a look at three different levels of vented dirt bike gear.
Vented Kinetic Mainline Mesh Jersey
Max Air Jersey
Vented Kinetic Mainline Mesh Pant
Max Air Pant
Kinetic Race Gloves
Max Air Glove
We cover the essentials on helmets elsewhere on this site, so for that information be sure to check out our Helmet Buyer’s Guide. Since we are talking about vented gear here, we will focus on some of the great helmet designs available these days that offer great air-flow or are specifically designed for hot-weather riding conditions.
Helmet ventilation is something of a science unto itself, but it comes down to some basic approaches. Typically, a helmet that offers good ventilation will have forward-facing intake vents to allow air to flow into the shell of the helmet. There should also be exhaust or outlet openings on the side or back of the helmet to allow the air to flow through the shell. This creates a venturi effect. This concept is used in some helmets so that the air is directed across or over the rider’s head and out the back. The air flows through channels in the impact-absorbing material or inner shell, which then draws body heat and humidity away from the rider’s sweaty head and pushes it out the exhaust vents in the back. In other systems, the front openings may be situated to direct outside air so that it directs it right to the rider’s face, forgoing the nifty venturi effect we just described.
Full face and modular helmets have the greatest chance to trap heat due to their complete head coverage so ventilation systems are very important to rider comfort. Most full face and modular designs have chin bar ventilation openings to allow plenty of air flow into the face portion of the helmet as well as the venturi ports at the front and rear. It is common to see a helmet with multiple openings around the sides or top of the helmet, most of which are closable or adjustable to allow you to modulate airflow into the shell, along with vents at various locations to the rear of the helmet.
Commander Bluetooth Helmet
Neotec Modular Helmet
Alliance Dark Helmet
Some open-face helmets and most half-helmets don’t include a ventilation system for the crown of the helmet because of the nature of their design. Obviously, if you are looking for maximum airflow to your face, an open face helmet is the choice for you. Many of the popular retro-styled open face helmets don’t have any ventilation at all so if you want an open face with vents, make sure to look closely at the product descriptions before you put your money down.
RJ Platinum R Open-Face Helmet
Custom 500 Helmet
No matter what or where you ride, keeping cool and comfortable in hot conditions is key to a good day and there are a lot of options for ventilated gear from head to foot. So remember to stay hydrated, wear the best gear you can afford and most important - be safe and have some fun.