Merlin Trance Leather Jacket Review: Surprising Results After Testing

When Merlin released their new Trance Leather Jacket for 2020, I knew I had to get my hands on it and take it for a test ride.

In this Merlin Trance Leather Jacket review, I’ll break down how the Trance performed across a variety of metrics and reveal whether it lives up to the hype.

But, the main question I will answer in this review will be: Is this the best leather motorcycle jacket for you? Let’s find out!

Merlin Trance Leather Jacket

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Key Takeaways

  • Stylish street to track use
  • Impact protection for urban riding
  • The removable hood adds versatility

A Jacket That Fuses Style and Substance

The Merlin Trance caught my eye for its unique fusion of a classic moto jacket with modern bomber and hoodie styling. I appreciated how Merlin combined key elements like:

  • The abrasion resistance of leather
  • Removable hoodie
  • Bomber jacket with elasticated cuffs and waistband

This jacket could transition seamlessly from the road to everyday wear. I was eager to see if the Trance delivered the best of all worlds or compromised too much.

Putting the Trance to the Test

To give the Merlin Trance a comprehensive evaluation, I tested it extensively in the following areas:

  • Protection – How does it hold up in a slide? Does the armor provide adequate impact absorption?
  • Comfort – Is it comfortable on long rides and easy to move around in?
  • Weather resistance – Does it provide any weather protection?
  • Versatility – How does it work for casual wear off the bike?
  • Quality – Is it well constructed with durable materials and hardware?
  • Value – Is it fairly priced for what you get?

Over three weeks of testing, I wore the Trance jacket on daily commutes, weekend rides, errands around town, and more. Here’s how it measured up across the key criteria.

Protective Properties On and Off the Road

As a motorcycle jacket, protection should be any rider’s top priority. Here’s how the Merlin Trance protects you when the going gets tough:

Abrasion Resistance

  • 1 to 1.2mm thick leather shell proved durable in a slide test
  • Leather remained intact through a 30mph controlled slide
  • No tearing or abrasion holes
  • Leather is thick for the price point

Armor

  • CE-approved elbow & shoulder armor
  • Removable for custom protection
  • Optional back protector sold separately
  • Non-CE foam pad just for fit preview

Impact Protection

  • Armor absorbs impact force in key areas
  • CE rating ensures quality shock absorption
  • Coverage could be more comprehensive

While not a rugged adventure jacket, the Merlin Trance still provides trustworthy abrasion resistance and CE-rated armor where it counts.

The leather feels substantial and protects your most vulnerable areas in the event of an impact or slide.

For daily urban commuting and backroad riding, it provides adequate protection. Though the coverage could be more comprehensive, the Trance gets high marks overall for protective abilities.

All-Day Comfort Even When Temps Rise

Riding comfort goes a long way when you’re spending hours on the bike. A jacket that restricts movement or causes excessive heat buildup can ruin your ride. Here’s how the Merlin Trance jacket performed in the comfort department:

Heat Management

  • Perforated leather promotes airflow
  • Cotton lining is more breathable than polyester
  • Pit zips add adjustable ventilation

Range of Motion

  • Pre-curved sleeves won’t bind when riding
  • Stretch panels on the sides for flexibility
  • Loose casual fit doesn’t constrain movement

Moisture Wicking

  • Cotton lining helps draw sweat away from the skin
  • Allows evaporative cooling effect

Overall, the Trance proved a comfortable companion on rides up to four hours. The leather remained supple, the cotton liner stayed cool and dry, and freedom of movement made it easy to ride hard.

The non-restrictive cut also worked great off the bike for all-day wear. For warm-weather riding, perforations and pit zips help regulate airflow.

All-Weather Protection: Style Over Substance

When it comes to all-weather riding, the Merlin Trance does leave something to be desired. Here are its limitations when the conditions deteriorate:

Water Resistance

  • Leather not treated for water repellency
  • Cotton absorbs and holds moisture
  • Wet weather decreases abrasion resistance

Wind Protection

  • Loose straight fit allows wind to penetrate
  • No interior wind skirt around the waist
  • Exposed neck collar

Weatherproofing

  • Non-sealed seams allow water intrusion
  • External pockets are not waterproof
  • No storm flaps behind zippers

The Merlin Trance lacks critical weatherproofing features found on the best all-weather moto jackets. The leather and cotton materials soak up water rather than shedding it.

If you get caught riding in the rain, I recommend wearing a separate waterproof shell over this jacket rather than relying on it alone.

Versatility: At Home On and Off the Bike

While the Trance falls short of serious storm riding, one area where it truly excels is in off-bike versatility. The hybrid styling transforms it into a jacket you can wear everywhere from:

  • Running errands
  • Casual social gatherings
  • Around town
  • Out at night

Features Enhancing Versatility

  • Removable hood for adjustable style
  • Bomber jacket ribbed cuffs and hem
  • Hoodie-style cotton lining
  • Full-length YKK zip for custom airflow

The elasticated cuffs, waistband, and removable hood really bridge the gap from riding gear to streetwear. And the soft, unstructured leather feels great when worn all day long.

For anyone seeking a stylish leather jacket that seamlessly transitions from bike to street, the Merlin Trance is an excellent choice. It provides versatility lacking in most protective moto gear.

Quality and Durability: Built to Last

A jacket’s construction quality plays a big role in its longevity. With repeated wear and abrasion, weak points in materials and stitching quickly start to show.

That’s why I closely inspected the materials, hardware, and assembly quality of the Merlin Trance:

Materials

  • 1 to 1.2mm thick premium leather
  • Durable cotton poplin lining
  • YKK zippers throughout

Construction

  • Double and triple stitching in high-stress areas
  • Straight, even stitch lines
  • Sturdy interior lining attachment

Comfort Features

  • Soft leather maintains suppleness
  • Develops character over time
  • Premium feel exceeds the price point

Over three weeks of testing, I saw no issues with loose stitching, fraying fabrics, or deteriorating leather quality. All signs point to the Trance being built to handle years of regular use.

For a sub-$350 jacket, it’s constructed as well as or better than competitors double the price. The quality far exceeds expectations.

Value and Cost: A Lot for Your Money

With versatile styling, durable materials, and ample protection, the Merlin Trance provides outstanding value at an affordable price point.

Price

  • Under $350 makes it accessible to most riders
  • Significantly less than premium leather jackets

Value

  • Fused off-bike/on-bike styling
  • Constructed of quality materials
  • Loads of comfort and versatility

Considering all that you get, the sub-$350 retail price is an absolute steal. The Trance outperforms jackets by double its price when it comes to value.

If you want a premium leather riding jacket but want to stay under $600 or more, the Merlin Trance is the clear value leader.

The Merlin Trance: Who It’s For

After putting the Merlin Trance to the test across a range of criteria, here is my verdict on the ideal rider for this jacket:

The Trance is optimized for motorcyclists who:

  • Prioritize value and affordability
  • Seek protection for urban riding, not track days
  • Want a jacket that transitions seamlessly from bike to street
  • Appreciate versatile styling over hardcore weatherproofing
  • Need a comfortable jacket for multi-hour rides

For new and experienced urban and backroad riders alike, the Trance hits an appealing balance of safety, comfort, style, and value.

FAQ

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the Merlin Trance jacket:

Does the Merlin Trance work for hot weather riding?

With perforated leather, cotton lining, and pit zips, the Trance works reasonably well in warm weather up to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything hotter, and you’ll want more ventilation.

Is the Trance fully waterproof?

No, the Trance is not fully waterproof and will soak through after prolonged exposure to heavy rain. Wearing a separate waterproof shell is recommended in wet conditions.

What safety ratings does the armor have?

The shoulder and elbow armor is CE level 1 certified. No official rating for the optional back protector.

Can you remove the hood?

Unzipping the full perimeter zipper around the collar can completely remove the hood. This gives it a classic moto jacket look.

Does the Merlin Trance jacket run true to size?

Yes, the sizing is accurate to the size chart. Order your normal jacket size, and it should fit well. No need to size up or down.

The Verdict: Style and Substance

Is this the best leather motorcycle jacket? The Merlin Trance hits the mark when searching for a reasonably priced leather jacket that performs on and off the bike.

While not a hardcore weatherproof touring jacket, what it lacks in armor and