Product test

By David Booth

May 30, 2017

Triumph Barbour AW16 Leather Jacket

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We all know that the rain is Spain falls mainly on the plain, Eliza Doolittle having seared Mediterranean precipitation into our collective consciousness. But what Alan Jay Lerner — the man who actually wrote the lyrics Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady made famous — failed to mention was that Spain’s mountainous regions can get plenty foggy too.

Spain, for anyone not in the motorcycle testing business, is the preferred destination for motorcycle manufacturers launching bikes in the winter months. The roads are fantastic, the racetracks are even better and thanks to the Euro crisis, it’s dirt cheap. Most important of all, it’s always sunny and warm.

Or not.

This particular Monday morning — last December 11, to be exact — Madrid and its surrounding hillsides were doing a fair impression of a Scottish moor. So foggy that you could barely see the motorcycle in front of you and chilly enough that even the toughest Scotsman would be wearing leggings under his kilt. It was simply too cold and damp to be riding a bike, even one as much anticipated as Triumph’s new Bonneville Bobber.

Unless you were wearing the company’s AW16 leather jacket. Manufactured by world renowned Barbour, the AW16 mates a waterproof Gore-Tex substrate with the warmest quilted liner in the business for a coziness that even Spanish fog and six-degree morning frost couldn’t permeate.

Said Gore-Tex is the company’s TriTex variety, which essentially means the rainproof layer is stitched between the outer leather layer and Barbour’s traditional inner liner. It means you get stylish and, hopefully (I didn’t test it out) abrasion resistant leather on the outside without having to resort to a rainsuit when the weather turns foul. Zip in the, again stylish, liner and even the chill of a full force wintry gale might not be enough to overwhelm the AW. The only downside I can think of is that the outer leather might, if it rained hard enough, get soaked and weighed down by water. As inconvenient as that may be, it’s a whole bunch better than being wet and cold.

The AW16 by Barbour jacket has more quality details. There’s a couple of waterproof pockets, the lining itself has inner pockets so its increased warmth doesn't mean a lack of stowage, and the armour — including back protector which is, for once, supplied in the jacket’s base price — is high-quality D3O stuff.

Indeed, the main tribulation I have with the AW16 is that Barbour seems to have mixed up the cuff and neck closure systems. Oh, I’m sure that Triumph, motorcycle experts to be sure, specified one to be Velcro’ed and another for snaps, but I think the clothing manufacturer got them back asswards. The Velcro, you see, is used for the wrist closures that loop through a hook and are then pulled tight. They are, compared with simple snaps, a pain in the you-know-what.

Worse yet, Barbour took the snaps meant for the wrists and put them in the neck closure. Making matters worse, it’s not a simple snap-it-tight mechanism. First, you have to hook it through another loop — I’m assuming so you can cinch it tighter — and then snap it way over to the right side of the collar. And then the liner in the jacket’s arms are so thick that I found it very difficult to reach far enough to snap it shut. More than once I had to ask someone to do it for me. It’s hard to be a bad-ass biker when you need help getting dressed.

Those niggles aside, the AW16 is an amazingly versatile jacket. Again, I’ll assume its leather is crash worthy, the D30 armour is certainly amply protective and the AW16, as I found out, is an all-weather jacket (though I suspect it might get a tad warm in the middle of summer). The coupe de grace is that — like the BMW Downtown I tested recently — the Barbour is more than stylish enough to be worn as a regular garment. Strip out the armour, doff the liner and you’re stylin’ with the Harry Rosen crowd. Not bad for $635.00.