CW EVALUATION: Cortech VRX Air

This jacket beating the heat with “Armor-link” mesh.

Cortech VRX Air Gun Metal color jacket front view

Back in 1964, a year after I started riding and when I was already going too fast in corners on my new Yamaha 250cc YDS-2, I couldn't afford a leather jacket, so I foolishly bought a fake leather jacket to help in get-offs. This was not a smart move, as I quickly discovered in my first low-side while wearing the jacket, but I didn't make enough money from my after-school job in a commercial laundry to buy a real leather jacket. On the other hand, it was smarter than wearing no protective gear at all, which too many riders then as now opt for when the sun turns the road-world into a blast furnace.

That's why even a relatively inexpensive jacket like the Cortech VRX Air makes sense for riders who actually do strafe the apexes on twisty roads—or, indeed, for any rider who takes his/her personal well-being seriously, especially if he/she rides the sort of bike for which this jacket was specifically tailored. The Cortech VRX Air is clearly not meant so much for Gold Wing riders as for VFR pilots and their sport-riding kin, and for that purpose, it's a pretty well-thought-out piece of kit. At 6-feet-tall and 175 lb., with a 42-inch chest, I found the size Large to be a bit big, but the waist adjusters (the manufacturer calls them "TPR pulls" and they use hook-and-loop patches to quickly cinch the waist) and sleeve adjusting tabs helped minimize the high-speed airflow flapping and potentially, anyway, keep the armor where it's supposed to be. Off-the-rack, standard-sized gear always has limitations for the "perfect fit" but in riding gear as in everything else, you get what you pay for.

Even though it’s not bespoke, the Cortech VRX Air’s features include not just the extensive mesh outer layer that allows the air to flow into and through the jacket, keeping you cooler on miserably hot days, but also an easily and quickly removable inner waterproof/breathable liner that makes the jacket usable on cooler, wet days too. The manufacturer doesn’t claim serious three- or four-season utility for the jacket in all climates, but the inner liner means that you could layer-up seriously on cold days in some of our more benign climes, say, and use it through the year, at least potentially, in those environments.

Cortech_VRX Air Gun Metal color jacket rear view

Aiding the VRX’s sporting utility is the CE-approved removable armor at shoulder, elbow and back (the back protector is triple-density and articulated), as well as the pre-curved and rotated sleeves, which help with lower sportbike-ish handlebars. “Phoslite” reflective piping is on the sleeves, and a Cortech reflective logo is incorporated into the upper back. An extension on the lower back of the jacket, also with the name Cortec embroidered thereon, gives some more coverage for the leaning-forward rider, though for a “sit-up-and-beg” riding position, the tailpiece can be a nuisance if it tucks in between the rider’s backside and the seat-back, as happened with my touring rig. This flap also covers the included jacket-pant zipper attachment.

The Cortech’s mandarin collar, like the cuffs, is lined with microfiber that makes it soft and therefore not irritating, and I never had a problem with the collar interfering with the helmet or helmet chin strap. The main zipper is by ESO, and it worked easily with gloves. A similar but smaller zipper seals the left-side chest outer pocket, which is deep enough for folded maps or other gear. The jacket also has two side “hand-warmer” type zippered pockets, as well as three inner pockets; one on the upper left side, closed by a vertical zipper and designed for a wallet, seemingly, plus one on the mid-section of the inner left side, made for a mobile phone no bigger than, say, an iPhone 4S with an Otterbox Defender case, and a flap with a tab closes that pocket to help ensure that the phone stays put. On the right-hand side of the jacket, just above the waist, is a larger pocket with a hook-and-loop tab closure for wallets or other gear.

Because the California heat machine was up and running when I had the Cortech VRX Air to test, I never used the inner liner during the day or during a rainstorm, but when I tried the jacket on with it at night, with the cooler air, it felt good and gave the jacket a substantial feel. Given that the manufacturer uses what it calls “Armor-Link mesh” for the jacket shell, and that the elbow and shoulder outer sections are comprised of 600-denier “Carbolex polyester material,” one hopes the jacket would perform reasonably well in a get-off.

The Cortech VRX Air is available in a slew of color combinations, and our test unit came in “white-black-red,” which had enough potential conspicuity value to ward off—maybe—the dreaded distracted driver in an Expedition veering toward your side of the road. Street prices seem to be in the $170-plus zone as this is written, which the online inflation calculator just told me would only have been about $22 in 1964, when I bought my fake-leather jacket. That means, to me, anyway, that this Cortech is a lot of technology, comfort, and utility for the money, and were I looking for an inexpensive two-plus-weather zone jacket whose job was mainly to make my sporting rides in midsummer more fun, it would be a very good deal indeed.

UPS DOWNS
Cortech VRX Air www.cortech.netPRICE: $169.99 Men’s XS to 4XL; Tall MDT to 3XT Women’s XS to XL; Plus SM to LG; Tall SMT to LGT * Mesh works in hot weather to keep skin cool * Inner zip-in and snap-in liner helps keep rider dry and warm on cool, wet days * Six pockets: three outer, three inner * Cut for more sporting riding position * Off-the-rack fit not for everyone, despite many sizing options * Tailpiece can interfere with stepped seatback * Removable back protector is not CE-approved * Inner pocket might not fit today’s larger phones