Return of the Cafe Racers - Gear Review – Icon 1000 Varial Jacket

Gear Review – Icon 1000 Varial Jacket

I’ve been riding in an Icon 1000 Basehawk for the past 4 years and can honestly say it’s one of the best motorcycle jackets I’ve owned. It’s seen me through a typhoon in Tokyo, 24 seasons of almost daily commuting and earned me countless compliments from fellow riders. With Summer fast approaching and my beloved Basehawk showing signs of its age, it was finally time to retire the jacket for a newer model. The Basehawk has since been discontinued so I decided to try out its replacement, the Icon 1000 Varial jacket.

From my experience Icon’s quality control is top-notch and my Varial was no exception. I haven’t had any of their gear arrive with stray threads or defects and they’re built tough so you can expect years of hassle-free use. Like the Basehawk the Varial features a stealthy blacked-out appearance that incorporates a hood into its design. Not all riders like hooded jackets due to the wind resistance they create at higher speeds. Personally, the added functionality and look of a hood really appeals to me. Icon describes the fit of the Varial as ‘Sport” which translates to a loose-fitting yet slim cut. The Varial goes a step further than the Basehawk by incorporating additional leather panels into its design for improved abrasion resistance.

The Varial’s chassis is a sturdy waxed, PU coated nylon that offers decent wind and waterproofing. Water-resistance is further improved through the use of Aquaguard YKK water repellent zippers. I’m sure the Varial would get you through a few light showers unscathed. Anything more extreme and I would opt for a purpose-built winter riding jacket. The two external pockets on the waist give you somewhere to stick your hands when they’re not gripping the bars. The 3 additional external zippers on the upper chest and back are ventilation points. And on the inside of the Varial, you’ll find a moisture-wicking mesh liner containing pockets for armor.

Icon 1000 Varial jacket

When it comes to protection the Varial isn’t going to offer the same level of abrasion protection as an all-leather alternative. Recognizing this, Icon includes a full set of D30 armor (shoulders, elbows, and back) in the jacket’s price to bolster it’s off the shelf safety offering. Seeing as this jacket is all black, Icon has also added reflective strips into the Varial’s sleeves, main zipper and across the back so other motorists can spot you at night.

Small details are what Icon 1000 really excels at and the Varial is no exception. It features a single internal pocket containing Icon’s trademark Saint Christopher amulet. The pull on the main zipper has a rubber insert making it very easy to operate with gloves. A knitted waistband and cuffs provide additional comfort and wind protection and thumb straps prevent the sleeves from pulling up while riding. The leather on the sleeves is broken up by the same elasticated panels found on the armpits and torso for unrestricted movement. There are even small pockets in the collar to tuck the ends of the hood drawcords into so they won’t flap about while you ride.

Like everything in the Icon 1000 range, the Varial is a quality item that’s priced accordingly and packed with impressive features. The Icon 1000 Varial jacket is priced on par with the outgoing Basehawk at $295 USD. Since I moved to this jacket after years of using the Basehawk comparing the two was inevitable. So after using both, I have a few pros and cons to share.

For starters, the waxed nylon chassis of the Icon 1000 Varial jacket feels stiffer than the Basehawk, although I expect it to loosen more over time. It’s lighter than the Basehawk and lacks the high collar so layering up and adding a neck tube will be essential in cold conditions. Two things I miss most about the Basehawk are the integrated headphone attachments and the elasticated hood adjusters. While the pockets for the pull cords are clever, failure to put them back in can result in some painful neck whips at high speeds.

On the flip side, the Varial is a much cooler jacket for summer riding. Despite having fewer ventilation points than the Basehawk, the Varial’s vents are well placed and the whole jacket breathes much better. I’m not usually a fan of waxed finishes because of how easily they mark, but so far I’ve found that the Varial cleans up well with a warm wet cloth. After years of heavy use, my Basehawk had faded to more of a dark purple than black. Icon has chosen a different material for the Varial which I doubt think will fade the same way.

As for styling, the Icon 1000 Varial has really grown on me. It’s less aggressive than the Basehawk and features much more subtle branding. This makes it more appropriate as all day and off the bike wear. It offers the same 3 season wearability as the Basehawk but is better equipped for really hot summer days. So, although I’m going to miss my beloved Basehawk I do believe I’ve found the perfect replacement with the Varial.


Icon 1000 Varial jacket

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