Icon doesn't mess with success in this update of its popular Contra jacket.
It's almost like Icon knew I was looking for a new mesh jacket for summer when they sent us this Contra 2 jacket. I've been wearing it for the past few weeks in various conditions, and I'm quite impressed with what Icon has done here.
My jacket is bright freaking blue, very close to the color of the classic Subaru rally cars I like. It's super visible. Other available colors are a light blue (with green mesh), red, green, and yellow, which should cover all of your favorite Japanese motorcycles, or maybe ghosts from Pac Man. Black is also available if you prefer a more subdued look, but I like being visible.
Fit and Adjustability
The Contra 2 is available in a wide variety of sizes, from small through 4XL. Mine is an XL and fits great, even though I normally wear a large shirt. Without the liner (more on this later) it fits comfortably loose without being baggy, exactly as Icon describes on their website. With the liner installed the fit is snug, but not tight or uncomfortable in any way.
To fine-tune fitment, the jacket has plastic buckles and straps on the sides to tighten or loosen the waist to fit your particular girth. Each arm has two straps to ensure that they are tight enough to not flap in the breeze, but loose enough for comfort. I had a little trouble adjusting these to the perfect fit with one hand (I couldn't use the other because the arm was in the sleeve I was adjusting), but this is a set-and-forget adjustment. At least, unless you spend a lot of time at the gym, bulk up your biceps, and have to loosen the straps later.
The main advantage of a mesh jacket, of course, is its airflow. I don't get a lot of ventilation behind the barn door of my Honda PC800's oversized windshield, but the jacket could still breathe well inside that air pocket. I discovered that if I simply leaned forward a little and extended my elbows outside that bubble, my arms would not only catch a good breeze, they would also channel the air through my sweaty armpits (I apologize for that visual but at least this isn't Smell-O-Vision) and my back. On particularly hot days this was a great way to get some extra cooling. On my KLR 650 with no wind protection, ventilation is excellent, of course. Other than the weight of the jacket, it feels like I'm wearing no jacket at all when I'm in motion.
The Contra 2's main purpose is to keep you cool as well as protected, but what about when the temperature suddenly drops? The jacket comes with an insulated liner you can snap and zipper in to not only protect you from the wind but also to keep you warm. One cool evening I stopped under a streetlight before hitting the highway to add the liner. There are six snaps that can be a little awkward to find and secure the liner into place before zipping it in. The benefit of these is a liner that doesn't shift around and bunch up on you. While the jacket's cuffs are well ventilated, the cuffs in the liner fit tightly around your wrists, preventing unwanted cool breezes from getting inside the jacket. While I didn't have any particularly cold weather to test this jacket in July, I can say it kept me perfectly comfortable at highway speeds on a 60-degree evening.
Icon claims the Contra 2 is good for mild and hot temperatures, but not cold. I believe them. While my cool nighttime ride was comfortable, I wouldn't want to try it below maybe 50 or so.
Unlike leather or textile, mesh sacrifices some protection in exchange for ventilation. That's the trade-off we make when we choose a mesh jacket. Therefore a mesh jacket requires good armor to give you the protection that you are wearing the jacket for in the first place. The Contra 2 includes D3O armor plates for the back, shoulders, and elbows. I was wearing this jacket when I took a tumble on a trail on my KLR and faceplanted into a rock. Thanks to my helmet, my face is intact. Thanks to this jacket, I felt no upper body pain, either. It works.
I like pockets, and the Contra 2 delivers. It has two outside hip pockets that zip shut, where I like to keep a glove in each one when I'm off the bike and not wearing them. It also has two inside hip pockets. These don't zip shut, and the liner covers them up when it's zipped in, but they're there. Finally, there's an upper chest pocket that zips shut, good for your phone, bike registration, or whatever.
There are reasons why the original Contra was so popular, and Icon hasn't messed with that formula in this updated version. I'll switch back to leather in a few months when the weather cools off, but for now, this jacket is exactly what I want in a summer jacket, and is my daily riding jacket. It sells for $250 at numerous online and sticks-and-bricks retailers.