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Olympia Switchback Jacket Review

Olympia Switchback Jacket for Women

By Karl and Kerry Heckman

My daughter Kerry was looking for a warm weather mesh jacket to wear on our trip to Japan in July. She will be spending most of her time in the part of Japan where daytime highs are in the 90s and humidity is high as well. We went to the Revzilla showroom so she could try on a variety of mesh jackets, and we were not disappointed. There were many brands and styles, and the staff could not have been more helpful. After trying them all, Kerry settled on the Olympia Switchback for its quality, fit and features.

The Revzilla website description gives you the basics on the jacket. It is a first rate piece of riding gear that has all of the strength and crash protection that a serious rider looks for and would not compromise for fashion. However, what sold Kerry on the Switchback was the obvious thoughtfulness that had gone into the design specifically directed at the wants and needs of a female rider.

Variation in the female form seems to be a great challenge for serious motorcycle apparel manufacturers. Several touring-type jackets that are made for women have the requisite crash and weather protection, but give the wearer the silhouette of a sofa cushion. With a few treasured exceptions, women's jackets have traditionally been sized-down versions of men's jackets, which does not work on inherently different proportions. Wearing one of these "women's" jackets meant that in order to fit the bust and/or hips, you were left with excess gaping material around the waist. The shoulders were too wide, dropping the seam halfway down your upper arm, resulting in sleeves that came to your fingertips. All of this left the armor in iffy places and too much material to uncomfortably blow about in the wind stream: no one likes a flappy jacket.

While some other manufacturers have also developed dedicated women's designs, they are all built on different forms with limited adjustability, further reducing a woman rider's options. None offer the full range like the Switchback, making it a standout option for a wide range of women riders.

The Switchback starts out being proportioned to a woman's torso, shoulder width and arm length, and then adds adjustability features that enable a significant degree of individual customization. The cut of the women's jacket is completely different from the men's. For example, the fabric panels and stitching on the front of the jacket are contoured to provide more shape than the comparatively boxy men's jacket, and with appropriate changes to the ventilation and protective panels. There are subtle elastic bands at the waist sides, supplemented with hook and loop straps at the back that not only allow adjustment for waist size but also provide that little bit of give when in a sitting position. In addition, there are two vertical zippered panels at the sides of the hem (gussets to the initiated) that will give or take a couple of inches each for hip size fitting as well as a pair of tabs with two snaps at the back for making greater adjustments. The standard waterproof liner has all of the same proportioning in the cut but relies on elastic panels in the critical areas. All of the straps, zippers and tabs used to affect the fit are finished off with rubber tabs, allowing you to adjust the fit as conditions change.

In use, the jacket performs flawlessly. The generous mesh areas maximize cooling, which was very useful in the 95 degree, 90 percent humidity conditions we encountered. This is even more important for a pillion rider, since the driver blocks a great deal of the air flow. Going through the many long tunnels in the mountainous areas of Japan, the reflective striping lit up like it was internally powered.

Kerry's complaints about the Switchback are minimal, Olympia could make some small improvements. The tab in the collar is held closed with Velcro that is just a little too long for the overlap, leaving the hook end rubbing at your throat. Fortunately, Olympia provided loop-side Velcro on the inside of the collar as well, so you can just fold the tab back out of the way. Because the interior of the jacket is also mesh, every bit of interior finishing counts, too. There are a couple of places where a hardened nylon thread pokes through to scratch bare skin when the fittings are made as tight as possible.

Don't expect to carry much in the pockets; they are less than capacious. With the close fit of the jacket, a pair of sunglasses in the front pocket leaves a large and uncomfortable bulge. The only interior pocket is the "Olympia Mobile" branded pocket. Unfortunately, this pocket is still just a little too small for an iPhone, the most popular and smallest smart phone in the country.

As you can see, the complaints with the Switchback are minimal, and the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Bottom line, the Switchback women's jacket is the one to get if you want form along with top notch function.

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Karl Heckman started riding his junior year in college 45 years ago as a way to get back and forth to campus. It was a 125cc Benelli, and when he discovered you could wear the rubber off the bottom of the foot pegs, he was hooked. After that came a Honda Valkyrie Tourer, a BMW R1100RT,an Triumph Tiger 990 dual sport, and currently a Triumph Rocket III, and a BMW R1200GSA. He also has a Guzzi 750 Breva that he lowered the suspension for his daughter Kerry’s use. She also has a Buell Blast.

Kerry has been riding with Karl since she was old enough to sit on the seat of the Suzuki in front of him and hold on to the gas tank for rides up and down the driveway. They have been on several tours to Mexico together, a tour in Turkey and most recently two weeks in Japan, riding in the southern Honshu area. Karl resides in Belmont, California.