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Belstaff Trialmaster jacket review

Published on: 10 April 2024

The Belstaff Trialmaster goes back a long way. Some say it was first introduced in 1948; and certainly that's not implausible. In fact, it was Barbour that first created the long, four-pocket, waist-belted, waxed-cotton jacket.

That jacket came about in response to a request from submariner Captain Phillips, who, during the war, asked Barbour to create a cut-down version of their one-piece, Ursula suit that had been created specifically for crews of U-class submarines. He wanted a shorter, more wearable jacket for his crew. After the war, Barbour introduced this same jacket into its civilian range, although it is unclear whether Belstaff managed to get theirs into the motorcycle market before Barbour. But whoever got into the market first, jackets like the Barbour International, as it became known, and the Belstaff Trialmaster, became 'de rigeur' with trials riders the world over; including Steve McQueen, of course, when he wore his Barbour International when competing for the US Vase team in East Germany in 1964.

Steve McQueen ISDT 1964

McQueen actually wore the Barbour version of the Trialmaster in the ISDT.

The Trialmaster has always formed the backbone of the Belstaff range. But until the Melanotti family bought out the ailing British brand in 2004, the Trialmaster was little more than an all-purpose, waxed cotton jacket that offered little by way of protection, and that relied solely on the wax impregnated into the cotton for waterproofing.

Shortly after the Italian Melanotti family acquired the brand, they transformed the Trialmaster into a proper, motorcycle jacket. They fitted it with armour in the elbows, shoulders. A few years later, they added a waterproof membrane, turning it from a very water-resistant jacket into a properly, waterproof one.

In truth, since then, and that was some 20 years ago, the Trialmaster has changed very little. Belstaff has offered it in a variety of different colours. And about ten years ago they upgraded it, and fitted D3O armour into the jacket. But otherwise little has changed.

2024 Belstaff Trialmaster jacket

The 2024 Belstaff Trialmaster

For quite some time we have put it to Belstaff that, impressive as the Trialmaster was, it was simply too heavy and robust for many motorcyclists. Yes, its 10-ounce, waxed-cotton, outer fabric certainly made the Trialmaster a hard wearing jacket that was guaranteed to last, but this didn't make it a very comfortable jacket. It weighed a ton. Okay on the bike perhaps, but this was not a jacket that anybody relished walking around in. And it was never great in hot weather. This having been said, a lot of people commuted through the winter in their Trialmaster, but for the casual rider, for the person who rode for fun at the weekends, and for the person who wanted to tour on the bike, the Trialmaster was potentially just too much.

Belstaff Crosby jacket lifestyle

Until now, we always felt the lighter weight Crosby was the one to go for.

For us, Belstaff's Crosby was always a more wearable option, but the new-for-2024 Trialmaster is made from pretty much the same eight-ounce, waxed cotton that the Crosby is made from, so it's going to be nicer to ride in, cooler, more comfortable and more wearable.

The fundamentals, however, have not really changed. The Trialmaster is a long jacket. You get four external pockets that are protected by flaps, and with poppers. At the waist you get a central belt. This allows the jacket to be cinched in, in order to give it some shape.

Belstaff Trialmaster jacket detailing

All the detailing on the new Trialmaster is pretty much unchanged.

Now, as before, you get a waterproof membrane, and D3O armour in the shoulders and elbows, (there's a pocket for a back protector). The jacket is check lined. Inside the cuffs and the neck you get corduroy for comfort. At the neck you get a traditional, belt and buckle adjuster. You get gussets and poppers at the ends of the sleeves. Behind the shoulders there are what is known as 'football pockets' that are designed to make movement easier. Under the arms are metal aerators for some added breathability. There's a zipped pocket inside the jacket. And the main belt buckle has a waxed cotton sleeve to make sure nothing can scratch the bike. In all these respects the new Trialmaster is identical to the old one. But there are some real differences.

Belstaff Trialmaster slanted pocket

Just because it looks the same, it doesn't mean it is the same!

The new Trialmaster is fashioned from an eight-ounce waxed cotton. And this will make a huge difference. It does not mean that the Trialmaster will work on everybody. It is still a long jacket, and so it can still dwarf those who are challenged in the vertical plain. Indeed, the Trialmaster can make some people look as though they've got no legs. Of course, this will not change; the new Trialmaster is just as long as the old one. But the eight-ounce fabric will make the new version so much nicer to wear.

There is another step change with the new jacket. Now the old version was made from about the heaviest weight of wax cotton that you could conceivably fashion into a garment. Yet, surprising to some, that jacket was only rated A under the EN17092 abrasion test. This rating, however, was never a surprise to us; and we always knew that the material would have passed the test at the AA, and conceivably even the AAA, level. But when the new standard first came into force, many motorcycle clothing manufacturers only tested to the single-A standard to save money. Thereafter, in subsequent years, most motorcycle clothing manufacturers re-tested to a higher standard. Belstaff never did. Belstaff has never been what you would call a 'serious' motorcycle business. They were never focussed on protection, or even perceptions surrounding protection. They tested to the standard that allowed them to legally market their garments as PPE for motorcycling. And that was enough for them. We didn't agree with this position, but so be it!

Belstaff Trialmaster jacket AA EN 17092

Even though the new Trialmaster is lighter, it now has a higher CE rating.

But with the decision to introduce a lighter waxed cotton for the Trialmaster, Belstaff had no choice but to resubmit the jacket for testing under EN17092. It was not surprising to us that it passed at the AA level, leaving us pretty convinced that the old jacket could well have passed at the AAA standard. But on one level it feels that we have a win-win situation here. The new Trialmaster is lighter and easier to wear, but notionally more protective. (In the real world it probably isn't, despite its rating).

The material used by Belstaff comes from British Millerain, with whom Belstaff has worked for many decades. It is called 'Ultracore Wax Cotton'. This material has a slightly stiffer handle, so as to give the jacket a feeling of substance, even though the material itself is lighter. Ultracore is also more water repellant than their traditional wax cottons.

And so we think the new Trialmaster represents something of a raising of the game. It is going to be nicer to wear, on and off the bike, yet presents no trade off. The jacket no longer has a thermal, inner jacket; but this suits us. You'd be better bringing your own down jacket to the equation. Belstaff does offer a clip in vest, but it provides no insulation for the arms. Some years ago, Belstaff jackets came with insulation in the arms, but they no longer do, so we cannot see that their clip-in Climate vest really makes much sense. You'd be far better off with the Klim Maverick down jacket, in our view.


Some will like the Climate Vest, but the Klim Maverick will work better.

So that's it. We had kind of fallen out of love with the Trialmaster, because it was such a hard-arsed monster. It was a cracking looking jacket, but it was not easy to live with. The new Trialmaster is a whole different ball game.

There's one other thing that surprised us. Belstaff has reduced the price from £650 to £595. So that's a nice little, added bonus.

For more information and to buy online, click Belstaff Trialmaster jacket.

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