Choosing The Best Motorcycle Jacket: A Buying Guide

For non-bikers, a motorcycle jacket is nothing more than a fashion statement, though it is a uniform of sorts for bikers.  It serves as a piece of protective clothing and getting one requires several considerations other than just making you look good.

When picking the right motorcycle jacket, you will have to check certain characteristics or features, such as the armor or padding, reflectivity, ventilation, and removable liners. These jackets also come in various styles and materials, and what you pick will be a matter of preference. Of course, getting the right fit is also very important.

Read on to know more about what you will need to look into when buying a motorcycle jacket for your outdoor adventures. These articles of clothing are not exactly cheap, so you might as well make sure you get the perfect jacket for your needs and one that gives you value for your money.

Do You Need a Motorcycle Jacket?

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

If you are new to the biking scene and are just making a checklist of all the gear, clothing, and accessories you need to get, you may be wondering whether a motorcycle jacket is really necessary or if you can just grab any leather jacket stored in your closet. Some people might even ask whether they need a jacket at all.

To put it simply, yes, you need a motorcycle jacket when you go off biking. And, no, an ordinary jacket won’t be a good-enough substitute.

Benefits of a Motorcycle Jacket

A motorcycle jacket not only completes your biker look, but it is a part of your safety gear. A lot of new bikers and non-bikers think that a helmet is enough protection, but it isn’t. While the helmet is your highest priority as it protects your head and neck, and it could spell the difference between life and death when you get into a road accident, the motorcycle jacket and other protective gear could also play a crucial role in your survival.

A motorcycle jacket is also designed to give your body a level of protection against injury in case of a crash. For one, it can protect you from road rashes, which is a type of skin abrasion or friction burn that you can get when you scrape your skin against a rough surface. It can also save you from getting your skin peeled off and sustaining major open wounds if your bike violently skids off the road or you get thrown off. These road rashes and open wounds can be a risk for infection. 

Additionally, a motorcycle jacket can protect your bones and can prevent significant sprains in the event of a crash. And even in the absence of an accident, this piece of clothing can keep you warm when you’re riding during cool weather, as well as keep you cool and protected when you’re riding under the heat of the sun.

Motorcycle Jacket vs Ordinary Jacket

Even if you are talking about a normal jacket made of high-quality leather, it is still different from a motorcycle jacket. A normal jacket may be more comfortable because it is made of lighter, softer, and more flexible leather, but it was not designed to hold up to friction during a crash.

A motorcycle jacket is made of a thicker and harder leather or another material, has a tighter fit that won’t bunch up, and expose your skin in case of a crash, and it has extra padding to cushion your body from a potential blow.

Moreover, a motorcycle jacket has stronger seams and stitching. A high-quality one features a layer of stitching that is not exposed externally, so it has lesser chances of bursting due to the threads being shredded or compromised from abrasion. 

In other words, a motorcycle jacket is not something you would wear for the sake of fashion alone, or for the sake of letting people know you are a biker, but because it is a necessity. It works with your motorcycle helmet, gloves, pants and boots in keeping you safe as you cruise through dangerous streets and sometimes even under extreme environmental conditions.

How to Buy a Motorcycle Jacket

When buying the right motorcycle jacket, you first need to know the features that you should look for. This helps you make sure you are getting the level of protection you need when you are out on your big bike. Knowing the various characteristics of a motorcycle jacket will also keep you from getting duped or shortchanged. You wouldn’t want to pay the price of a motorcycle jacket and end up with an ordinary leather jacket just because you didn’t know better.

Here are the characteristics or features you need to look for in a motorcycle jacket:

Armor or Padding

HeroBiker Jacket

A motorcycle jacket features an internal body armor that will serve to protect you from the initial impact of a crash and the abrasion that follows as you slide to a halt. Armor is made of high-density foam that is usually paired with Kevlar composite abrasion panels or carbon fiber. 

These paddings will be positioned to protect all your major and minor joints as they have the highest potential of impact during a crash. Jackets with full-body armor, such as this HeroBiker motorcycle jacket, will also have paddings on the chest and spinal area. 

Thanks to big advancements in motorcycle gear technology, most body armors are no longer as bulky and rigid as they used to be. Early armors would restrict mobility and are so uncomfortable to wear that riders would rather not wear one.

Now, motorcycle armor technology has made armors almost unnoticeable in motorcycle jackets. Leading motorcycle gear manufacturers can now make armored jackets thin, lightweight, and pliable under normal circumstances, but rigid upon impact. To make sure that you are getting proper armor protection, go for jackets with a CE-rated armor like this one from Jackets 4 Bikes.

CE stands for Conformité Européene, or European Conformity, which means that the product conforms to motorcycle safety standards in Europe. The term has been used since 1993.

Sliders

Some jackets come with hard armor on the outside called sliders. These sliders are typically made of TPU, which is a durable and hard type of plastic. Sliders are placed in high-impact areas, such as the elbows and the shoulders, and let these areas slide on the pavement to lessen tumbling.

Do All Motorcycle Jackets Come with Armor?

Not all motorcycle jackets come with armor, although most of them feature shoulder and elbow protection. Back protectors also come standard in many products, but for others, they are available as an upgrade. There are also jackets with removable armor, which is nice if you love wearing your jacket casually or when you are not on your bike. 

Reflectivity or Visibility

Joe Rocket Hi-Viz jacket

A huge factor in your safety as a biker is your visibility, especially at night. Even if your motorcycle has lights, other motorists may fail to notice you, and this could lead to accidents. This is why it is important to wear a very visible riding gear to make sure you get the attention of other drivers on the road. 

As such, many motorcycle jackets are offered in Hi-Viz colors, like this hi-vis from Joe Rocket. And even those that are mainly black have an abundance of reflective material on them. Take for instance this 

However, having high visibility doesn’t mean you have to wear something with screaming neon colors. There is an advancement in reflective technology that now allows small and inconspicuous reflective piping on your jacket to keep the stylish look. This piping will be on the most visible areas and go unnoticed during the day or under normal lighting conditions but can get bright once it is dark and a headlight hits it. 

Ventilation

M-Boss Leather Jacket

Leather can be hot and promote excessive sweating and heat exhaustion when worn in warm weather. The same can be said about other jacket materials since they are typically thick and heavy. That is why proper ventilation is very important, and you should make sure your motorcycle jacket has it. 

Not all ventilation systems in motorcycle jackets are the same. Some jackets sport a straight-through system, while others feature a perforated or mesh material to provide breathability. The mesh material will help draw out excess heat and moisture from your body, but it will keep moisture from getting into you if it is raining. 

You may want to look for exhaust vents in the back of the jacket, as well as intake vents in the front. These exhaust vents will help heat and moisture go out. One example of a motorcycle jacket with front and back vents is this triple vent jacket from M-Boss Apparel.

Liners

Xelement Motorcycle Jacket with Zip-Out liner

Insulated liners can give a motorcycle jacket enough warmth during the cold months. And if these liners are removable, you can take them out when the weather gets warm. As such, removable or zip-out liners would make your motorcycle jacket more versatile as you could use them any time and all year round.

The warmest liners feature full-length sleeves. Other liners, however, are merely vests.

There are also motorcycle jackets that boast removable waterproof liners. These liners are often used on water-resistant motorcycle jackets to keep water from seeping through the material and getting on your skin. And because these waterproof liners are extra material, they also add some warmth, but not as much as insulated liners.

Some manufacturers have also come up with liner vests that customers can buy separately and that they can use with their old motorcycle jackets that don’t have liners. Most of these liner vests are designed to be universal and can fit jackets from any brand. Some of these liner vests have also been fitted with elastic stretch panels on the sides to accommodate all body types.

Other Things to Consider When Buying a Motorcycle Jacket

Aside from making sure your motorcycle jacket has the characteristics that make it different from any other jacket, there are also a few other things you need to consider.

Jacket Style

Motorcycle jackets come in four main styles, based mainly on purpose: racing jackets, cruiser jackets, sport or street jackets, and adventure touring or dual sport jackets. Each style of jacket is tailored to fit specific biking needs, and each style may be made from different materials. It should be noted, however, that while most jackets adhere to a certain style, some are more versatile and could fit in more than one style. 

So, what are the different styles of motorcycle jackets and how do you know which one is for you?

Cruiser-Style Motorcycle Jacket

Xelement Bandit Black Leather Cruiser Jacket

The cruiser style is considered the classic style of motorcycle jackets. This is characterized by fashion and comfort. A cruiser-style motorcycle jacket’s fit is generally a bit loose to give you more room and more comfort. There may be a little or no armor at all, although more and more cruiser-style jackets are starting to sport an improved armor technology, wherein the armor is less constricting to movement and less rigid.

Cruiser jackets most commonly use leather as its main material. However, cotton and synthetic textiles are quickly becoming popular. 

An example of a highly rated cruiser jacket is the ‘Bandit‘ Black Buffalo Leather Cruiser Motorcycle Jacket with X-Armor Protection from Xelement.

Sport or Street Motorcycle Jacket

Joe Rocket Textile Jacket

Sports bikes are also called street bikes, and they go with a more casual jacket. This jacket style boasts a cut that allows you to assume the sportbike riding position easily and comfortably, so the fit is a little looser and more relaxed than the other jacket styles. 

Sport or street-style motorcycle jackets are mostly made of textile, although some are also available in leather or a combination of both materials. These jackets have venting and removable liners, so they are versatile and are great for all seasons. Armored protection is also a common feature in these jackets.  Pockets are still minimal in sports jackets, although they usually have more of these compared to race jackets. 

Racing Motorcycle Jacket

Photo by Richard Clark on Unsplash

Racing jackets are constructed with high abrasion-resistant materials due to high speed-off risks. Thick cowhide is the most commonly used material for the main chassis of this type of jacket.  This is because cowhide has excellent abrasion resistance. And to aid you with mobility, there are synthetic stretch panels placed in key areas. 

To give you some level of protection against high-speed slides and impacts, racing jackets typically have internal armor and external TPU sliders. Some, like the GuTe Motorcycle Protective Jacket, have full body armor protection, with the back, chest, shoulders, elbows, and forearms featuring hard shell padding. You can expect minimal pockets or none at all.

Racing jackets also have a very tight fit so they can be more aerodynamic. The sleeves are usually pre-curved to accommodate the tucked riding position. This position helps reduce rider fatigue.

What’s more, racing jackets often have a zipper on their bottom hem so you could attach them to your racing pants. This will keep your jacket from sliding up when you slide.

Adventure/Dual Sport/ Touring Motorcycle Jacket

ScorpionExo XDR Yosemite Textile Adventure Touring Motorcycle Jacket

Some jackets are specially tailored for adventure or dual sportbikes. These ADV jackets are designed to accommodate different riding situations that you may experience an encounter on an adventure ride. Adventure riding jackets are typically made of durable textile that is breathable and waterproof. They also feature insulation and ventilation, and you can also add thermal liners, to make them suitable to wear in any weather or temperature and at any time of the year.

ADV jackets almost always include an armor, or at least have it as an option. And since you would be expected to ride in an upright position most of the time, these jackets usually go below your waistline to cover that area of your body properly. Moreover, these jackets have tall collars to cover your neck entirely.

What’s more, an adventure or touring jacket generally has the most number of pockets than the other types. These pockets would allow you to carry more gadgets and more necessary items for longer trips. 

Multiple Style Jacket

Biker Street Cruiser Jacket

Do not get confused if most of the motorcycle jackets you see do not identify with a specific style. These are jackets that were designed to fit more than one purpose. For instance, some jackets are classified as racing and dual sport jackets and street cruiser jackets.

Material: Leather vs. Textile

Jackets that are meant for bikers are typically made of leather or specialized man-made fabrics or textiles, such as Cordura or Kevlar, as the main material. Most of these jackets also include a vent system and heavy padding on the elbow, shoulder, and spine regions, and these are made of different materials, too.

Now, the number one question would be which is the better material between leather and textile.

Both have their share of advantages and disadvantages. And all you need to do to determine which material suits you best is to match these advantages and disadvantages to your needs, your riding style, and your preferences.  

Leather

Leather Jacket

One advantage of leather motorcycle jackets is their resistance to abrasion. A motorcycle jacket that is made of top-quality leather, mostly cowhide, is the best material when it comes to protecting you from road rash. 

This is the reason why the main chassis of the leading motorcycle racing jackets in the market is made with leather and why leather has a long history of being the most preferred material for motorcycle jackets. The aesthetic aspect of leather and the fact that it makes you look cool, classy, or badass is just a bonus. 

Another big advantage that leather has over textiles is that it can be treated to be water-resistant. So even if it suddenly rains while you are riding, you won’t soak too quickly. You will be able to stay a bit dry until you find a shelter or a place where you can wait for the rain to subside. Take note, however, that leather is not completely waterproof, and it will eventually give way to the wetness or moisture.

There are also disadvantages to using leather. For one, while perforation can make wearing it more tolerable during the summer, it still pales in comparison to some textile jackets when it comes to breathability and to keep you cool. What’s more, leather can be fairly heavy, too, and the added weight can contribute to rider fatigue.

Textile

Easyguard Motorcycle Kit

When it comes to versatility, motorcycle jackets that are made of textiles are the winner. Textiles can be far more versatile than most types of leather and they are easier to work with, too. Because of this, you will find way more features that are built into a textile jacket. 

Moreover, textile jackets can easily be made waterproof, and this is good news for bikers who need waterproof or water-resistance property when they are expecting to encounter adverse weather. Additionally, textiles breathe well, and they often have great ventilation, making them the preferred choice for many riders in warmer climates or during summer. Textile jackets are also often a lot lighter when it comes to weight and they are way more flexible as well.

However, while textiles are now durable, thanks to the advancements in textile technologies throughout the years, they are still not as good enough as good leather. Mesh and other textiles don’t have the same abrasion resistance qualities of leather. Textile jackets have to be strategically designed and constructed in layers for them to provide your skin and body protection in case of a crash.

Another disadvantage is that textiles tend to wear out much more quickly than high-quality leather.

Fit

Your motorcycle jacket must fit you perfectly. A well-fitted jacket is always the key to comfort while you are out riding. If it is too large for you, you will be more likely to ride up during a slide, which will leave your skin exposed. And if your oversized jacket has an armor, this armor might move out of place. 

On the other hand, if your motorcycle jacket is too small for you, you will feel more restricted in your movements while riding. This could lead to poor blood flow and may result to cramps. This could also contribute to rider fatigue.

So how do you make sure you got the right fit? First, know your size. It would be best if you could fit the jacket in person at the store and if you could try doing several positions while wearing it. Try to bend and stretch your arms, crouch, sit, and twist your body to the sides to make sure you can move freely. 

The next step is to pick a design that gives you adjustability features. Many motorcycle jackets now come with fitment adjusters on the sides, sleeves, and waist. These would allow you to custom fit your jacket yourself. 

Jackets for Women

Photo by Monica Leonardi on Unsplash

If you are a female rider, you should not think that motorcycle jackets are just for men. Some jackets were made especially for women. They were designed to fit the female figure, complete with curves. Motorcycle jackets for women also have more feminine aesthetics.

Cost

Another very important aspect of motorcycle jacket shopping is your budget. Jackets can be pricey, and this is usually the case if you are looking at a complete set of features that are mostly backed by the manufacturer’s proprietary technology or by a third-party innovative technology. 

Take for example this Scorpion XDR Yosemite Motorcycle Adventure Touring Jacket, which sells for more than $380. This jacket features removable zip-out Airguard waterproof liner, removable thermal EverHeat liner, Sas-Tec armor at shoulders, Exo-Stitch Safety Seams at critical seams, VELCRO brand adjustment tabs at the wrists, YKK Fold Lock zippers, among many others.

Some jackets are of good quality but are affordable. For example, the Viking Cycle Ironside Textile Mesh Motorcycle Jacket comes highly rated by users but sells only for $50 (at the time of writing this article).

Final Thoughts

If you take your sport seriously and budget is not an issue, it is always a good move for you to go only for the trusted names in the industry. That means you can never go wrong with their products.

You also need to get a top-quality and certified helmet, motorcycle gloves, motorcycle pants, and motorcycle footwear. So, if you are on a budget, stick to it, and if that means going for a cheap but good-quality jacket, then go get one.

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