I have previously owned three dedicated summer jackets but never been really happy with any of them. The first jacket was a $99 clearance bin item made by Dryrider that I purchased 10+ years ago. This was a very light weight item with minimal protection but maximum cooling. I expected to use it for a limited time until I found something better however I still have this jacket and was using it on the very hottest days each year until this summer.
The second jacket I purchased was a Cortech item that was supposed to do it all. The base was a combination of mesh, textile and leather with lots of armor. To this you could zip in wind and water proof liner and thermal liner. Instead of doing it all it really did not work well for anything. Heavier than my full leather jacket it was simply too heavy and hot to wear on a summer day and with the liners in I remained cold on a winter day so I actually threw it away recently.
In the USA caught out by the 40+ heat I purchased a full mesh jacket made by River Road and this was perhaps the best of the three but it was very light weight with simple foam padded armor and like the Dryrider would offer less protection than a regular jacket in a crash.
This summer I decided to finally get a summer jacket that worked but with good protection. I have been very happy with the BMW pants I have so I decided to investigate their jackets.
The BMW Airflow 4 Jacket is actually very expensive (in Australia) if you were looking at it full retail price. I happened to walk in to my local dealer when they had a 40% off clearance and even at a reduced price it was at the upper envelope of what I would be prepared to pay. Fortunately with eBay, Amazon, Google shopping etc you can seek out items worldwide and hopefully avoid paying full retail. Or if travelling then email a BMW dealer where you are going about price as retail items in Australia are marked up huge amounts compared to overseas.
Ok with that out of the way I can say the jacket itself is excellent. I purchased it a couple of months ago but so bad has the weather been that it has taken two months to get two solid riding days completed. Instead of open weave the jacket has sturdy construction, full complement of BMW’s armor including full back protector and uses ventilation panels at specific locations. Sizing I would say it runs a little small and fits a little more snug but arms are good length.
I was at first a bit sceptical about the ability of the panels to flow enough air but reviews seemed good so I decided to try and indeed the jacket works very well. The front and rear panels flow air in and along and around your arms and body and back out the rear panels to cool you effectively without resorting to a open weave type construction. An added feature is the jacket is a pale sand colour which does not hold heat like a black item and last weekend despite being a summer day the jacket did not get that heat build up as much as black does.
I don’t want you to think I said this was good because of the brand as I actually do not like the brand itself per se as I find like Harley, BMW has too much elitism attached to it however their clothing line seems to be quite good albeit super expensive. If full price I would never buy as can buy quality brands like Alpinestars for much less however on sale it represents reasonable value.
Update 2014. Ok well I find the jacket on a fairing bike is not as cool as the mesh type jacket I have for airflow but it worked well on naked bikes. The colour seems to not absorb heat and when you think of it black is a stupid colour for a summer jacket. The sleeves in particular get hot and have no mesh liner to assist breathing or air flow.
Update 2. Still have this jacket 2019. Now I am no longer in Australia I don’t use a summer jacket much. If you are on bike with some wind protection this is not the jacket to get. I find I need a full mesh jacket on my bike here. I tried to use it in SE Asia but it did not work well there for touring as I needed to bring inner for cool mornings and a water proof outer, so three items when I could have made do with just my simple AStars WP jacket. So yes it is limited in its usefulness but well made.