Date reviewed: April 2022 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £379.99 (jacket), £279.99 (trousers) | www.merlinbikegear.com
The Merlin Monty jacket on review here is classically-styled with some excellent modern-day features. Paired with the Lombard trousers (or indeed a pair of riding jeans) it’s a combo that’ll suit many riders of street, classic and retro motorcycles.
I’ve been wearing it for about 500 miles on an old Honda VFR800, as well as a Yamaha Tracer 9 GT to find out how well it performs in all weathers…
The Merlin Monty jacket is made using Halley Stevensons 12oz Scottish silkwax cotton, and though this style might not be to everyone’s taste, I think it looks fantastic. While a motorcycle riding jacket, it looks brilliant off the bike too (even with all the armour in), helped by the great detailing and brass-coloured zips throughout.
The jacket’s paired with the Merlin Lombard trousers, which are made of ‘Cotec’, a fabric produced in association with Halley Stevensons. It’s a ‘technical wax’ material and does look the part with the Monty, but it’s a more traditional motorcycle textile fabric that lacks some of the old-school charm of the jacket. On the other hand, it’s more abrasion-resistant.
The trousers also have the same YKK zips, but I would have preferred plastic here; it is nit-picking a little, but I keep catching my finger nail on the zip fly, and also think it’s lacking in the smooth action you’d get from a quality plastic zip. As this is never seen, I don’t think it would have been detrimental to the style.
Check your sizing – I’ve put on weight in the last couple of years, but I’m still generally fine in large pants and jacket; I had to go up to an XL in these trousers.
While fit is subjective, I do like the cut of both the jacket and trousers, though I’d prefer a little more length in the arms.
The armour supplied with the Merlin Monty is extremely impressive; D3O Level 1 protectors at the shoulders, elbows, back AND chest. It’s unusual to see this amount of armour fitted, so all credit to Merlin. You can of course remove it – and it does add weight – but with the fit and cut so good there seems little reason to reduce your protection.
It’s a shame to see the jacket is only certified to the bottom Level A under EN17092 for abrasion, tear and seam strength, though the armour will help and this is a stylish jacket most likely to be used in more urban environments.
The trousers are rated to Level AA, and include D3O’s slimline Level 1 Ghost armour at the knees and hips. I find there’s a small amount of movement of the knee armour, but this will vary according to your fit; in any gear, it needs to be over your knee when sat on the bike, and stay in place as much as possible.
For everything you need to know about the safety labels in your motorcycle kit, click here.
The Merlin Monty jacket has two main pockets on the front with popper fastenings; these are sealed with a fold when closed, so do a good job of keeping the rain out. Directly behind these two pockets are vertical openings that you can slip your hands into when off the bike, with a warm-feeling soft fabric lining. It’s a nice touch to find slim magnets here that keep the hand-pockets closed; details like this really show the thought that’s gone into the kit.
On the right chest is a small zipped pocket, and on the left is a poppered one, while there’s a good-sized map pocket on the back.
The thermal liner has a single Velcro-fastened pocket, and with this removed you’ll find the same on the main shell, plus an additional vertically-zipped pocket on the other side.
The trousers have a pair of open jeans-style pockets (with a little coin pocket), as well as a single zipped one on the right thigh, with a water-resistant zip.
The Merlin Monty jacket fastens with a retro-style brass-finished YKK main zip, the waterproof thermal liner also having its own plastic zip. An outer storm flap is secured with six poppers, plus the collar can be closed with an additional flap and popper. This is a little fiddly to do, and I tend to leave it unless it’s a longer journey, but it can be clipped back on itself to avoid it flapping. The collar – which also has a soft neoprene section under the chin – snaps shut satisfyingly with another concealed magnet. Neat.
As mentioned, I’d have preferred to have a plastic zip on the fly, but the waist is also closed with a clip, making for a good, secure fit that doesn’t burst open after one too many Greggs at the services.
Six belt loops are fitted to the trousers if you want them, and the two garments zip together with a short rear connection. I’d prefer a fill-length zip here, but as this isn’t really touring kit, it’s forgivable. A ‘Eurohoop jacket-to-jean connecting strap’ is also fitted to the jacket, which can be fixed around a belt on almost any trousers.
The bottoms of the trousers seal well over my waterproof boots, but it’s the cuffs on the jacket that give me my only real cause for complaint. The zips here are metal, and not that smooth, but more frustratingly there’s not enough expansion to get thicker gloves underneath. I can get my waterproof AlpineStars Range 2-in-One gloves under the Monty’s sleeves, and they seal pretty well, but the Velcro straps on the jacket’s cuff don’t really help due to the thick material bunching up; you’re basically stuck with one size of cuff.
The trouble is, if you want to put your gloves over the jacket sleeves, they’re still fairly bulky, so you’ll struggle with a lot of them. The thick material here also causes a draft gap due to it bunching up when you try to tighten them.
If this was touring kit this would be a more serious problem, but the Monty isn’t really designed for all-day riding in heavy rain.
Poppers at the forearms, biceps and waist give a small step in adjustment that’s mainly useful when you remove the thermal liner.
The waxed cotton is a heavy material, so doesn’t cinch up as well as some textile kit, but this is a specific style that comes with some understandable compromises.
There’s no venting in the Merlin Lombard trousers, but the Monty jacket does have small zipped vents at the biceps, one on the left chest, and two larger vertical exhausts on the rear. These are ‘straight to body’ vents that aren’t blocked by waterproof membranes (when the liner’s removed), though the small chest vent is blocked to some extent by the chest armour.
The arm vents do make a noticeable difference, as do the exhausts, but waxed-cotton isn’t the ultimate kit for very hot weather.
The jacket’s removable liner does a good job of keeping you warm (and looks great with its internal metallic-brown finish). It’s kept me snug with nothing more than a tee-shirt at 7-8°C for an hour, and fine for an hour and a half at 9-11°C in very heavy rain.
The trousers aren’t as warm due to the quilted liner only covering down to the upper thighs, so cold legs soon become noticeable; if you’re riding in the winter, you’ll want some long-johns. Outlast is fitted to the trousers, which helps regulate your temperature, but with little heat trapped there, they soon cool off.
The jacket’s outer shell has a light mesh liner that keeps it more comfortable in the hotter weather. While not a set of textiles designed for very high-temperature performance, the Merlin Monty is fine pretty much year-round in the UK.
The Lombard trousers have a light mesh from the thighs down, but a quilted liner around the waist and hips, which will make them a bit warmer in summer compared to some others.
During a 90 minute ride in torrential rain, I got a wet stomach on the Honda VFR800, due to water driving up under the jacket. This would vary depending on your seating position and bike, but a longer connecting zip would have helped, as well as a higher waist.
I didn’t get any water in the cuffs despite their lack of adjustment, but this was thanks to the good seal I managed with the gloves. I’d have preferred to have used my warmer winter gloves, like the superb Held Twin IIs, but these were too bulky to get under the Monty’s sleeves.
Besides the water getting up between the two garments, the jacket dried off very quickly, the trousers not far behind; they were both dry when I put them on the next morning.
The fact the wax cotton helps to stop the outer from wetting-out (getting soaked) makes a big difference as it’d get very heavy otherwise, leaving the inner Reissa-branded waterproof liner to do all the work. The wax will wear out, but it can be re-proofed to keep it at its best.
Small details keep showing up in this kit, and the elasticated drawstring around the waist of the liner is another neat touch. I didn’t use this the first time I got wet, but it can help reduce the water that finds its way up.
Step 1: Soften the wax using a hairdryer or stand the tin in warm water.
Step 2: Use a lint-free cloth to work the wax into the jacket, paying close attention to the seams and creases.
Step 3: Wait for an hour or so for the wax to settle in, then wipe off any excess.
Step 4: Gently blow-dry the jacket with a hairdryer to help the wax sink right into the fibres.
Step 5: Hang it in a warm place overnight.
It’s important to know how to care for, and keep a wax-cotton jacket clean:
Anybody considering the Merlin Monty jacket – or the Lombard trousers – is likely keen on the style; I have to say that Merlin has nailed it, but here are some others to look at…
If this was designed to be touring kit I’d have reservations about the cuffs and the seal between the jacket and trousers at the waist. But it’s not really intended for this, and as a versatile, really good-looking piece of urban kit that’s very much in keeping with today’s classic, retro and street bikes, it’s superb.
If you like the styling (and I definitely do), the Merlin Monty jacket comes with an outstanding compliment of great-quality D3O armour, plus the Lombard trousers pair well.
For most city journeys and commutes, I now sling on the Merlin Monty and a pair of riding jeans. Wax-cotton kit is timeless in its style, and can last many years with good care. It’s one of those garments that ages with you, so keep in mind the limitations and it’s well worth checking out.