Date reviewed: January 2022 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £119.99 | www.rst-moto.com
The RST Frontline softshell is a textile jacket intended mainly for city riding, with a design that means it won’t look out of place off the bike. I’ve been wearing it on the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT and my Honda MSX125 in a variety of weathers, and I have to say I’ve grown to really like it…
The softshell fabric of the RST Frontline gives it quite a pleasant feel, and while I’m way past any kind of fashion sense, it looks good when wandering around off the bike.
The biggest issue some will have with this jacket – and equally, something many will love – is the hood, which can’t be detached. In use it sits fine under the helmet and doesn’t cause any problems, plus it suits the style when off the bike; given that this isn’t intended for touring or sport riding – it’s more a causal jacket that doubles as some useful commuter wear – I do like the styling.
While fit is of course very subjective, I find it feels extremely comfortable on my slightly podgy frame, while having room to layer up in the winter.
The RST Frontline Softshell is rated at Level A under EN 17092. That’s the minimum standard, but for lower-speed riding – especially in and around a city – it’s not surprising given the design and focus on off-bike styling.
Kevlar panels sit between the armour and the outer shell, which can be seen to cover the entire armour area under the mesh liner. The relatively loose fit means the armour can move around more than in something that allows you to cinch the arms tighter, or that has stretch panels built in, but overall I’m a lot happier riding around town in this than I would be in something with no protection.
The elbows and shoulders have Level 1 armour fitted (typical of textile kit, with Level 2 being the higher option), but while there is space for a back protector, one isn’t included. I’d always recommend riding in one, so if you haven’t got any separate armour (I use my Furygan airbag Gilet underneath), it’s worth budgeting the extra £17.99 for the RST back protector.
There’s a good amount of reflective graphics on the front and back of this jacket, helping it to standout when riding at night.
For everything you need to know about the safety labels in your motorcycle kit, click here.
There are two main pockets at the waist, which aren’t that deep but you can tuck your hands in them and they’ll swallow my keys. You can’t quite get a Samsung Galaxy S21 in there though.
On the outside, there’s also a small chest pocket, and inside is one zipped and one Velcro-closed pocket that’ll each easily take the phone.
The back has a pocket too, which your pillion can use for whatever they want to stash, or will accomodate your phone if you want it on your back?! It’s not big enough to be a traditional map pocket, but it’ll fit a few Snickers bars.
All the outside pockets use water-resistant zips that do a good enough job of keeping out water during a shower.
The main zip has a large toggle, with a loop to make it easy to grab even with gloves on. It has a fold of fabric over the top of each side, but it’s not water-resistant and is still fairly exposed. There is, however, a storm-flap behind that keeps drafts away.
The hood and hem can be tightened with pairs of toggles on elasticated drawstrings, and the cuffs can also be cinched down snugly thanks to a long run of Velcro. You’ll struggle to get any but the thinnest of gloves under the sleeves, but while the sleeves are a little bulky, you’ll get most gloves over them.
My problem with the cuffs is that, while the Velcro is good and long to cinch the cuffs tight, it starts too late, so when you don’t want to tighten them – for instance off the bike – the flap hangs loose as it doesn’t quite reach the section of loops on the arm. You can cinch it up a touch to hold it, but then it bunches up a bit and isn’t as comfortable. Hopefully RST will shift this section of Velcro by just half an inch to cure it.
There’s a zipped vent on each shoulder, with an exhaust vent on the rear. These aren’t direct to body (ie the waterproof drop-liner sits behind them), so their effectiveness is limited. They’re small, and also will be hidden if the rider has a rucksack on, so in the heat of summer this might be a consideration as there is better ventilated kit out there.
No thermal liner is supplied, but the RST Frontline is fairly thick as it is, the waterproof drop-liner adding some air-trapping ability. I’ve also found that I can tuck a lightweight down jacket inside and feel quite snug even in winter.
You won’t be touring Iceland in this (well, unless you’re looking for bags of chicken nuggets), but again; for a city commuter it does a decent job.
The jacket’s lined with a fine mesh that makes it easy to slip on and off – none of that sticky material from jackets of old.
The RST Frontline’s SinAqua waterproof membrane is rated to 10,000mm/cm3, along with 5,000g/m3/24hr for breathability. There’s no durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outside of the jacket, so it quickly wets out, which stops the membrane from being able to breathe properly. This can make you feel damp over time as sweat can’t evaporate as easily, plus the storm flap behind the zip doesn’t have a fold on the edge to catch water as it drives through, meaning it can work across and onto your chest and belly.
However, for a short city commute the jacket’s fine, and the outer shell dries off surprisingly quickly.
For the price (and we’ve seen it discounted to as little as around £100), this is a fairly unique jacket. However, consider what you’re looking for…
These are just three of many alternatives – you can find all the textile riding kit we’ve tested here and be sure to regularly check for the discounts available through BikeSocial membership.
It could be argued that RST would have been better leaving the waterproof membrane out as it’d make for a slightly lighter, cooler jacket. However, for many UK riders on shorter city commutes, it’s really rather good.
I’ve found The Frontline to be great when I want to hop on my MSX125 and nip into town, and it feels good to wander around in. It’s more bulky than a fashion jacket, but its armour gives you more confidence in the protection. It's the base level of PPE, but it's targeted at an audience that might otherwise be riding around in little more than a cotton hoody.
For those riding into work or cutting across the city to meet mates, the RST Frontline is well worth a look if it’s the style you’re after.