Date reviewed: December 2023 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £229.99 | www.oxfordproducts.com
The Oxford Barkston jacket on review here stands out for several reasons… it’s designed primarily for urban riders yet it’s rated to the AA level for protection under EN 17092, it’s properly waterproof using Oxford’s proven lamination process and it looks great both on and off the bike being surprisingly lightweight and flexible.
I’ve been wearing it on a 2001 Honda VFR800 and a 2019 BMW R1250GS to find out whether it’s worth the keen pricing…
Available in the khaki colour seen here, black or navy blue, the Barkston’s outer shell is made of 60% recycled nylon, and has clearly been very well thought-out in order to be so lightweight and easy to wear.
Fit is obviously very subjective, but I found my usual size large is spot-on for me, the slight stretch in the material helping too.
The protective performance of any motorcycle garment (so jackets, trousers and one- and two-piece leathers) is broken up into two parts: the rating under EN17092 and the armour fitted.
The Oxford Barkston might be designed as an urban jacket, but that hasn’t stopped it from achieving AA under EN17092. This means the abrasion resistance, seam strength and tear/burst resistance has been proven to be better than products that only manage level A, though level AAA is higher still. Most textiles are currently AA at best, and a lot of manufacturers only bother with level A for their urban kit, so this is great to see.
What’s impressive is that it doesn’t come at the expense of bulk. By layering the elbows and shoulders with additional material (you’d be surprised how even the most premium brands are actually using a patchwork construction in key impact areas, rather than layering), Oxford has produced an incredibly lightweight jacket that’s still able to offer some very valuable protection.
The armour supplied is level 1, so not the highest performing, but it’s unobtrusive and, importantly, it sits in the right place and stays there. Level 2 armour offers more impact protection, and is arguably more important in an urban environment, though typically comes at the expense of bulk. Having said that, a more expensive armour could almost certainly achieve Level 2 in the same thickness.
This armour is made by Smoothways and isn’t the slimline, fully-ventilated kit we often see from the likes of D3O, but it does keep the cost down, and it’s well shaped to sit correctly on your limbs, and to stay there. It’s also ‘Type B’, which means it’s designed to the larger minimum size requirements of the EN 1621-1 2012 standard for motorcycle armour, and it’s T- and T+ rated, so has been tested for impact protection at -10°C and +40°C.
No back protector is supplied with the Barkston. Oxford says this is because only 50% of buyers want one, but that if it came as standard, 100% would have to pay for it. If you do want one (and I’d recommend it), it’ll take Oxford’s Level 1 or Level 2 back protectors, which are available for as little as £17.99 and £20.55 respectively.
Some will try to tell you that an A-rating is all you need, especially if there’s large level 2-armour fitted, but while we of course agree that armour is very important, as is comfort, it’s great to see such affordable gear proving that with a bit of thought, higher levels of abrasion, seam and tear strength CAN be achieved in a lightweight comfortable shell. It begs the question of what’s stopping other brands from combining this design philosophy with their larger, higher-rated armour…
Reflective strips on the arms and back add a small amount of additional visibility to the Barkston.
All motorcycle clothing sold in the UK and Europe is deemed to be Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This is a good thing for riders as it can help them choose kit that has provable levels of safety because, to meet this legislation, it must be tested to a recognised standard. To fully understand the labels found in all bike kit, click here.
The Oxford Barkston is well equipped with pockets where I find them most important – at the waist. I can easily fit my Pixel 7 Pro phone, along with my wallet and keys. Kit stays dry inside thanks to a fold-over design, though I find the poppers a little fiddly to fasten, especially on the move when I realised I forgot to secure them. Being vertical pockets, your gear is very unlikely to fall out, but a little Velcro would have been appreciated.
What’s great to see is the tight ‘bar tack’ stitching used in key stress points on the jacket to prevent the material pulling apart during extended use. I had a similar-looking jacket from another brand many years ago that came apart at the pockets after a few months due to the stitching failing here.
There’s another pocket on the chest, along with an open ‘pouch’ in the removable liner and mirrored inside the main shell, which might be handy for shoving your gloves into, but is of limited use to me.
An excellent addition is the zipped hand pockets at the waist, which while not particularly softly lined, do offer some very welcome warmth.
The main fastening is a fairly chunky YKK plastic zipper, with five poppers closing over a substantial – and effective – storm gutter. With four layers of material below and above the zip, there’s no problem with drafts or rain getting through here!
The neck has a soft bead running around the edge, and is fastened with a single popper. There’s no adjustment here, so check you’re happy with the fit, and be aware that it’s a little fiddly to use with gloves on. Still, I had no comfort issues with it, and didn’t have any rain spill inside.
The cuffs fasten with Velcro patches and managed to fit under any of my gloves, and over even my benchmark Held Twin II 2-in-1 inter gloves, making for the best seal in the rain. I’d have liked a little more of the Velcro loops material for a more confidence-inspiring fastening over big gloves, and when under gloves the cuff can get a little rucked looking, but it remains comfortable and it stays shut.
Oxford doesn’t offer a pair of trousers specifically for the Barkston, but I’m still surprised to not find a full-length connecting zip to pair with the many choices in the range. There is a short zip at the back though, which works fine with my Oxford Hinterland trousers. As the Barkston is a fairly long design, there’s less of a worry about drafts and rain getting up under the hem.
Besides the cuffs and a useful drawstring around the hem, there’s no adjustment on the Oxford Barkston. Some might like being able to cinch in the waist, but I found the overall fit to be excellent. The shaped armour and some stretch in the material also means that everything stays where it should both on and off the bike – crucial for comfort and protection.
It’s important to stress that I haven’t yet been able to use this jacket in high temperatures, but I can tell you that the lightweight construction should make it very good when summer does return.
Venting is limited though, with just two chest vents and no exhaust. Depending on your bike’s screen and fairing, this might restrict the airflow, but as a predominantly urban jacket – not one designed for touring the equator – it works very well, and the thinner material will certainly be more helpful when riding slowly.
The vents do work, and you can feel air getting through thanks to this being direct to body venting, meaning that with the zip open, there’s no waterproof membrane blocking the wind.
If you’re going to be touring in high temperatures, consider a mesh jacket – or something with vents in the arms, sides and back – but overall the Barkston does a good job of keeping you comfortable.
A removable quilted thermal jacket with 100gsm insulation is supplied and it’s pretty effective. When temperatures really drop, you’ll need to layer up a bit more (and I do recommend the Zerofit base layers), but I found there’s a good amount of space.
The thermal liner clips into place, with coloured tabs ensuring it doesn’t get twisted – a great touch that shows some thought for those of us rushing to fit the liner before heading out to work in the cold.
The interior lining of the Oxford Barkston is a fine mesh, with a slicker material covering the armour. There are no complaints from me as it’s comfortable and doesn’t tend to get stuck to you like kit in the past.
It’s no secret that – like everyone else – Oxford has its kit made overseas. The Barkston is made in Bangladesh, as is the Oxford Hinterland, which helps explain why this is such a great waterproof jacket: Oxford has found a way to make effective, reliable and affordable laminated kit, and it’s using that same manufacturing excellence across its range.
Laminated riding gear used to be the reserve of the most expensive brands as it’s harder to tape the seams of an outer shell than that of a separate drop-liner. Some kit we’ve reviewed just hasn’t done a good job, with taping that’s proven unreliable and poorly applied, but Oxford’s factory clearly knows what it’s doing.
The Barkston has a relatively low hydrostatic head of 5,000mm, and a breathability of 5,000 g/m2/24hrs. Of course, nothing is breathable when it’s soaked in water, but when it’s not raining it DOES work (contrary to click-bait videos), and you’ll appreciate it. Try wearing a bin liner instead, if you’re not convinced.
In practice, the Barkston has excellent waterproofing that’s far more capable than an ‘urban jacket’ needs to be. In one hour of rain on the motorway, I stayed utterly dry in this Oxford kit, the material, seams and even vents sealing properly. Water-resistant zips on those chest vents are important for any riders not protected by a screen, but behind them are also small storm gutters, further preventing rain getting through.
I’m struggling to not think of this as a great longer distance jacket, and I’ll be wearing it plenty on rural weekend rides, but Oxford has designed it to be for urban riders, so let’s look at the alternatives there…
The Oxford Barkston is further proof that quality laminated waterproofing is no longer the reserve of the premium brands. It’s great with a pair of riding jeans for touring, or as a city jacket, perhaps on scooter with its own skirt for instance. The lack of a full-length zip to connect with some textile trousers is surprising, and hints at this not being intended for all-weather touring, but it does work very, very well in the wet. It’s a brilliant commuter jacket, and the fact that it’s AA-rated under EN17092 is great to see. Level 2 armour would be the icing on the cake.
Oxford continues to impress with its textile kit, pushing the levels of protection with each new model, and clearly having absolutely nailed the cost-effective production of top-notch waterproof laminates. This isn’t a go-anywhere, do-anything jacket, but for many riders it’ll do everything they need at a keen price and while looking good on and off the bike.
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