Whether it’s mountain biking, climbing, walking or indeed motorcycling, layering is generally held to be one of the best ways of ensuring you’re ready to face any of the conditions thrown your way. When it comes to motorcycling, layering has come at a high price with offerings from the likes of Knox or the more adventure-focused Adventure Spec. With help from a team of customers, Spada is looking to change this with it’s new, affordable Alberta layering system.
After nearly 1,000 miles of heat waves, muggy drizzle and chilly morning commutes I’ve spent the last month putting Spada’s layering setup to test on on my 2016 Honda CB500X. Here’s how I’ve got on and why it might be worth a look…
The Alberta system is made of five individual layers, with a mesh jacket serving as the starting point available for a modest £139.99. This can then be expanded depending on the conditions you choose to ride in, with a waterproof outer jacket (£39.99), a thermal gilet (£39.99), and a reflective over ‘bib’ (£19.99).
Matching trousers cost £129.99, though these are a standard waterproof drop-liner design with an included, removable quilted lining, taking the total to £369.95, or £349.96 if you don’t bother with the reflective bib.
Each layer is well-made with a nice finish to zips, cuffs and lots of hints to the real-world riders Spada worked with in the Alberta’s development. The main jacket and trousers are the layers designed to be worn at all times, in all conditions. Both were true to size with my usual small jacket and short/small trouser fitting being just right.
The main jacket has a somewhat boxy shape, which leads to a really comfortable fit. The choice of armour, adjustment locations and materials leads to this being a sofa-like jacket; once it’s on you forget it’s there, which is testament to the work in design and is impressive for its price.
The only caveat to this is the sleeves, which while just right at the wrists seem to have an excessive amount of material on the arms. Even adjusted fully there’s so much bunched up material it lets the otherwise well-fitting jacket down. The more concerning impact of this is that the elbow armour has a lot of movement, easily twisting to my inside arm and not boding well in the event of a spill. The main body of the jacket and a large portion of the sleeves are made from a mesh material not dissimilar to my Knox Urbane armoured shirt, giving great air flow but a good degree of structure. This is accompanied by a tough nylon material at the impact zones, neck and lower back.
The trousers are similarly well-made, constructed from 600D polyester fabric with enough reflective detail and branding to give them some character without being garish. Similarly to the main jacket, the zips, vents and adjusters feel really well made throughout, and on the move they’re comfortable and – unusually for me – just the right length for my slenderish 5’9” frame and somewhat short legs, even in the bent leg riding position.
Providing additional warmth the thermal gilet is a simple down-style sleeveless jacket. It’s extremely lightweight and easily stuffed away when not in use. The material, although very thin feeling, has put up with some fairly rough use and shows no signs of wear or damage. Fit is really simple and as with the other items in the range, true to size, being snug enough to easily serve its function but not so much that wearing additional layers underneath is a challenge.
Providing protection from both wind and rain is the waterproof outer jacket. Made from a slightly thicker material than some of the over-jackets I’ve used before, this is worlds away from a ‘pac-a-mac’. Fit is really good, with the lack of adjustment not being an issue, and plenty of space in the size small for all of the above layers plus a decent jumper. The material feels really hard-wearing and strong, with some light reflective details. I particularly appreciated the fact that it didn’t seem to billow or rustle constantly like some similar products I’ve used.
The final layer is an over-bib, which looks like the lovechild of a traditional storm collar and a nun’s habit. It fits over the top of whatever layers you’re wearing to provide a little additional wind protection and some added visibility. Again, sizing was bang-on with the collar not too tight and fitting well over the other layers in the Alberta range. In use with the lower straps well adjusted it didn’t billow too much but at high speed there was some flapping that might prove distracting for some.
The main mesh jacket and trousers meet the EN17092 Level A standard for protection. Both come with a full package of level 2 armour with shoulder, elbow and back protector in the jacket and both hip and knee armour in the trousers. It’s impressive to see the higher level 2 armour and back protector included at this price.
In all cases the armour used is very soft, nicely sized to be protective, but not cumbersome. The back protector in particular is great, being slightly larger than the protectors I normally use but so comfortable I barely noticed its presence. Through the recent heat wave the armour breathed well and in no way limited the venting and breathability of either item.
My concern is the freedom of movement for both the elbow and knee armour. The knee armour sits in an inner lining within the trousers but unfortunately this lining is so loose that the armour frequently drops to shin height while velcroed into its upper position. Similarly, it could also be pulled to thigh height. Although this just meant a little adjusting and repositioning once on the bike it did not fill me with confidence that the armour would remain in place should the worst happen. This may be down to my height or size, so it’s worth trying on if you can.
For everything you need to know about the safety labels in your motorcycle kit, click here.
One thing the Spada Alberta system is not lacking is pockets; Every layer has clever stash points for keeping the important things to hand.
The main jacket has two main side pocket with zip closures, an inner phone pocket (which was a tad shallow for my admittedly large phone) and a fairly large rear ‘map’ pocket that proved perfectly sized to accommodate the waterproof layer when carefully folded; a neat practical detail.
Both the thermal gilet and waterproof top layer also have zipped side pockets with the waterproof layer proving fully waterproof during test and naturally when wearing the outer jacket any layer beneath had dry pockets too.
The main jacket closes with a simple chunky YKK central zip and a single popper at the collar. There are also fastenings inside to attach the thermal gilet like a liner, although you do still need to close the central zips on both rather than zipping it into the front of the main jacket like most traditional kit.
That being said, the thermal gilet has a super-simple full length central zip, which coupled with the well-apportioned collar keeps you nice and snug.
The waterproof over-jacket uses a combination of a large YKK zip and a storm flap secured by very strong velcro (I really do mean strong!). Finally the hi-viz bib attaches under the arms with adjustable straps roughly 5mm wide and a central zipped and storm-flapped opening making it fairly easy to get on.
The main jacket can be zipped to the trousers although given that this has no weather protection I’m not sure how valuable this is save for those who struggle with jackets riding up on the move. Still, it does provide valuable protection in the event of a crash.
But, one disadvantage of a layered system is the faff of getting all the layers on. An all-in-one jacket with a single closure is undoubtably easier to chuck on at the start of a ride, however removing a well fitted-thermal liner at the roadside mid journey is never much fun, so it was refreshingly easy to instead remove the gilet and shove it in my top box; no awkward poppers or tiny zips to find blind halfway up a sleeve.
Adjustment proved to be mostly a strong point through the five layers of the Alberta system. The main jacket has velcro waist adjusters with a really good range of adjustment, and elasticated poppers with three positions just above the elbows, which work well although are somewhat let down by an excess of material at this point.
The main cuffs are great too, slightly on the tighter side in their neutral position, but a zipped expansion panel made room to easily accommodate my bulkiest long-cuffed gloves and they have the best velcro pull tab adjusters I’ve seen, specifically because velcro is present around the whole wrist (and inside of the widened zip fold). I dare say even if you had twiglets for arms you’d managed to get a nice snug fit with the Alberta.
The positive adjustment continued with the trousers, which have velcro pull adjusters on the waist along with zips to accommodate larger boots and plentiful velcro adjustment on the lower cuffs. Save for the free-roaming knee armour I was able to get my substantial adventure boots tucked away nicely, all be it a tad tight.
Both the gilet and waterproof jacket lack any adjustment, however both are well-sized with only the wrist cuffs of the waterproof layer proving a little tight. With larger waterproof gloves I found it took a little force to get them through and suspect in time this could lead to wear on the jacket, although I didn’t see any significant evidence of that in my use.
Ventilation and air flow is one of the real strong points in the Alberta system. The main jacket is essentially a full mesh summer jacket and about as close to the feeling of not wearing a jacket as it’s safe to get. Of course this has its downsides as there’s no means of reducing the ventilation should the temperature drop. When riding in the cold you can add the thermal layer or use the waterproof layer as a wind block layer (which it does really well).
The all or nothing nature of this ventilation may not appeal to some and I did at times really miss the option of shutting vents and limiting the airflow.
The trousers have my preferred style of vent on the thighs; a square vent with a two-sided flap that poppers open leaving a triangle of the vent square exposed, the folded over part acting like an air scoop and pushing more are into the remaining triangle of vent. These work surprisingly well given that they have a waterproof membrane behind them, blocking the air from getting direct to the body, and are really easy to use on the move. I was initially surprised by their size; in person they’re a little smaller than I expected but still function really well.
The main jacket is of course on the cooler side thanks to its mesh design, but the layering system leaves lots of options to adapt to the conditions. For mildly chilly morning starts I actually found the waterproof layer to be really beneficial in just keeping the wind off and generally keeping me comfortable in the low teens.
For anything cooler the thermal gilet worked relatively well, leaving me not too hot but adding notable warmth. However, it is a massive shame that Spada opted for a sleeveless layer, given the arms of the main jacket are fully mesh too.
Most of my testing has been during the warmer summer months, putting the thermal liner to use on the cold early commutes, however even in these arguably mild temperatures the cool air on bare arms somewhat negated the benefit of having a warmer torso. In practice at speed the air flow on your arms does get into the gilet too, further limiting the warmth it provides.
Even with the gilet, outer waterproof jacket and carefully selected additional layers the whole system lacks the warmth to be used outside of the warmer seasons of the year.
The trousers are a more traditional design with a zip-in thermal liner that’s well-made, thin, and easily removed and refitted with zips to each ankle and to the waist. Even without the liner the trousers are on the warmer side owing to what feels like quite a thick mesh inner layer. With the thermal liner in they’re impressively warm, almost a little too warm for some of the 10°C ish mornings they’ve been serving.
Protection from the wet is taken care of by the waterproof over-jacket, however it’s worth noting that the thermal gilet is water-repellent so, should you opt to use this individually off the bike, it should cope with a light shower (it certainly beads nicely).
The waterproof over-jacket has proven dependably dry in my use. Its fitted cut seems to help with this, avoiding any rain gathering at bunched points in the material. The waist of the jacket is a little loose, with no adjustment and no way of attaching to the trousers, an option some may miss if doing long distances in heavy rain but that being said I didn’t find water getting in at this point in my testing.
The trousers have a waterproof membrane within, however it’s not specified what this is. Still, they have kept me dry in the conditions faced so far though I do wonder if in persistent heavy showers the larger thigh vents may prove to be the weak point.
I plan to update this section once the great British weather returns and I can get them in some heavy showers over longer distances. But that being said, so far the Alberta system holds up well in the wet.
This is relatively low-priced kit with an unusual design, but here are some others to consider…
I’m undoubtedly a fan of layering, and Spada has done a great job of making a full setup available at such an affordable price point. I love the inclusion of great armour throughout, the comfort baked into each element of the system, and I’ve been really impressed by how well it’s stood up to hard use and abuse.
There are however some elements that I’m surprised made it past consumer testing. The looseness of the material in the arms and trouser inner mesh liner are a real shame and potentially a concern, and I’m not sure the high viz bib is of much benefit. And why they opted for a gilet rather than a full-length thermal jacket to couple with a full mesh jacket will remain one of life’s great mysteries.
All that being said I’m actually quite fond of the Alberta. I suspect the main jacket may replace my usual summer mesh jacket as it’s more comfortable, looks great and feels nice and solid. The outer waterproof layer impressed me too, and easily performed as well as my significantly more expensive alternative. Had Spada made it in a brighter/high viz colour I think that too would make it into my everyday setup.
All in all a great entrance into the world of layering and a really accessible setup for the new rider, or those wanting a piece by piece gear purchase option.