We are quite new to the Fuel brand. Not everything they offer is, I have to say, for us. Now there’s always an element of ‘dressing up’ when it comes to biking. Some bikers will try and deny it, but biking is still somewhat tribal, and there are modes of dress, to which many of us conform, when we ride a particular style of bike.
Sportsbike riders like to emulate Moto GP riders by wearing one-piece leathers. Those who ride Harleys often go for more of an Easy Rider look, with leather waistcoats. The adventure bike rider will want a helmet with a peak, boots with buckles, and a jacket with lots of pockets. Those who espouse a more retro look will gravitate towards jeans and a leather, or wax cotton, jacket. And so on. There’s no harm in this; and to an extent we all indulge a little in looking the part. It’s why there’s a dip in the concrete floor in our shop, just in front of the mirror.
At times, Fuel has struck us as a brand that puts too much emphasis on style, and not enough on function. But we can see that the company is making an effort to become more technical, and indeed some of the styles we have been shown more recently feel to us as though, whilst still undeniably good looking, they will work well on the bike too.
The new Bunker jacket is just such a piece.
The Bunker jacket is a blend of classic and adventure themes. It has not been designed for serious off-road riding. It’s more Steve McQueen than Lyndon Poskitt. It’s the kind of jacket you might go for if you ride a classic-looking scrambler; something like the Ducati Scrambler, the Triumph Scrambler, the Guzzi 85 TT, the R nineT Scrambler; perhaps even the Honda Transalp. It is for those who want want to invoke ‘adventure’, without going for the whole metal pannier and spotlights look.
Having said that Fuel is trying to become more technical, let’s not get carried away here. We’re not talking Klim, Rukka or Held. On one level, the Bunker is just another take on a Belstaff motorcycle jacket. And in this regard it sits somewhere between the Trialmaster and the Crosby. Of course, as you might expect, it is cheaper than both. Two hundred pounds in the case of the Trialmaster. One hundred pounds in the case of the Crosby.
The outer material is a canvas of some description that has been ‘wet waxed’, whatever that means. Yet the fabric could still pass for something from British Millerain or Halley Stevensons.
Now some brands, and we know that Fuel is one of them, think that an AAA rating under EN17092 is a benefit. We know this because that is what they told us when we met them recently at EICMA. We told them that this was not how we saw it, and explained to them that none of the most technical brands go for AAA, on the grounds of comfort and breathability. As everyone in the motorcycle clothing business knows, achieving AAA is not difficult. Just add thickness, weight and extra layers until the fabric is strong enough to pass the abrasion test. Which explains why, in recent years, the highest rating under EN17092 has become the calling card of the budget brands.
And so whilst we accept that some people will see the Bunker’s AAA rating as a benefit over the Belstaff’s AA rating, we do not. You’re not going to wear the Bunker on the track; and so we would take comfort and breathability over a higher EN17092 abrasion rating any day of the week.
To help achieve its AAA rating, Fuel has added panels of a Cordura-like material on the shoulders and elbows, because these are the areas where EN17092 demands the highest levels of abrasion resistance. These panels are in black, and they do contrast a little with the main fabric. Some may like this, but personally we would have gone more for a tone on tone effect. This might have looked a bit more stylish, but heck what do we know?
The armour throughout is Level 1, D3O, including the back. And that’s good, but as we have pointed out in recent videos, an AA rated jacket with Level 2 armour will almost certainly be more protective than an AAA one with Level 1 armour. The D3O armour in the Bunker is all Ghost, by the way. In fact, this is the very first jacket that we’ve come across that has the new Ghost back protector fitted as standard.
For protection from the wet stuff, the Bunker is equipped with a drop-liner membrane. Now some people shy away from drop-liner membranes these days because they are concerned about ‘wetting out’. This is much over played in our view, but what has to be understood with a waxed garment is that wetting out is less likely because the rain cannot easily pass through the outer shell of the jacket.
Most of the design cues on the Bunker are, of course, pure Belstaff. So we are talking about a soft, brown lining in the collar, for comfort. Large flap pockets. And a chunky brass, two-way zip. Although it is encouraging that the zip is by YKK.
But, unhindered by concerns about messing with tradition, Fuel has taken the opportunity to improve upon Belstaff’s offering in some areas. The Bunker has vents on the forearms. The elasticated neck collar strap arrangement is easier to use and, dare we say it, less dangerous than the belt and buckle at the neck of most Belstaff jackets.
Interestingly, there’s are zipped gussets at the hem to allow the jacket to splay a little on the bike. Now we always find this helpful on a longer jacket, but unfortunately the gussets on the Bunker are so small that they achieve almost nothing. A nice idea, therefore, but perhaps not so well executed.
What is particularly pleasant about the Bunker is its softness. The jacket is no lightweight, but the outer fabric is very pliable. It has a really nice ‘handle’ to it. Even out of the box it doesn’t look brand new; and you can tell that, with use, it’s going to develop a lovely patina.
We were kind of surprised that Fuel did not go for a tartan lining; it’s what most brands would have chosen. Instead, the jacket is lined with a heavy-duty, brown twill material, reminiscent of what one would have found on a classic WW2 leather, flying jacket. We like it.
There’s not much more on the jacket that merits discussion. You get a zip at the ends of the cuffs to help getting gloves inside the sleeve, but the poppered strap has just the one position, so you can’t cinch the sleeve tight around the glove. A bit like the gusset at the hem of the jacket, it feels as though Fuel has copied this strap from other jackets without realising why it’s there.
Lastly, the Bunker comes with a padded inner jacket. This will undoubtedly add thermal insulation to what is already going to be a warm-ish jacket. This inner jacket will serve perfectly well as a destination jacket. But even though it looks like a down jacket, it’s technically not one. The jacket’s baffles are filled with an unspecified hollow-form fibre of some description. This is no Klim Maverick, but it’s a perfectly nice jacket. You get two external, zip pockets, and a drawstring at the hem. Technically, you could popper the sleeve ends into the jacket, but we cannot see that one ever would. It will work best worn separately. Wear it, or don’t wear it, dependent upon the temperature.
As a first attempt at a Wax Cotton jacket, we think Fuel has done a great job.
At £450, the Bunker is not cheap, but unsurprisingly it offers much better value than any of the similar offerings from Belstaff. Some people will be impressed by the Bunker’s AAA rating. You get a D3O Ghost back protector as standard. You get venting on the arms. You get thoughtful touches like the gusset zips. And you get a very wearable, padded, destination jacket for warmth. It’s a great package, and some people will feel that it ticks all the boxes on their shopping list.
Nevertheless, it is significantly bettered in terms of value by the Helstons jacket called the Hunt that does use British Millerain wax cotton, that also comes with armour throughout, and that is also equipped with a thermal lining.
My suspicion is that the person who wants a Belstaff will not be swayed by the Bunker. Nobody buys Belstaff motorcycle gear because it represents great value for money. They buy a Belstaff on style grounds, because it has the coolest badge in the business, and because it wears more like a street jacket than a motorbike one.
But if you are not enticed by the rising phoenix, if you want the highest levels of abrasion resistance, and if you are impressed by extra features like venting and a down-style, thermal, destination jacket, then the Bunker presents a compelling proposition.
We did mention the Helstons Hunt jacket. And yes, it is much cheaper than the Fuel offering but, in truth, the Bunker is a better and nicer jacket in just about every respect.
Bottom line? You get a lot for your money with the Bunker. We cannot really see how you can go wrong!
For more information and to buy online, click Fuel Bunker motorcycle jacket.
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