A motorcycle jacket is undoubtedly the most stylish piece of riding gear that you'll ever own. They have an unexplainable aura and mystique, and wearing one makes you feel like you could take on the world.
If you're new to motorcycling and want to grab yourself a decent jacket, you'll want to have a good idea of what's out there. After all, there are several styles to choose from, not to mention all the different types of materials and the countless features available.
Buying your first riding jacket means making some decisions. Your individual needs and preferences will play a big part in your choice, so we've put together a comprehensive guide to help you reach the right decision.
The best motorcycle jackets not only look good but will provide a whole range of benefits. Safety and protection should be the top priority, but you'll still need to consider things like comfort and practicality. Riding clothes should meet a variety of conditions and last several years, while still looking nice and slick.
Obviously, there is no one right choice, but arming yourself with the correct knowledge will help you make the best possible choice for your gear.
WHAT TYPE OF FABRIC IS BEST FOR MOTORCYCLE JACKETS
Deciding on the fabric of your jacket is a good starting point. You can go with a leather jacket for a timeless and classic look, or maybe you'd prefer the modern design of a textile jacket that more closely resembles everyday clothes. There's pros and cons for both and only you can say what feels like the right material.
Leather will always look cool, and although it's dipped in popularity since the boom of textile jackets, many riders still prefer the feel of it.
A leather motorcycle jacket will generally be more abrasion resistant than most other riding jackets. Leather is a tough fabric, and in the event of a crash your skin will be pretty well protected if you're wearing it. If your focus is on safety then a strong leather jacket will probably appeal to you.
Comfort may be an issue. Some riders love it, while others find it restrictive. It's important to try on leathers yourself so you can determine how they feel. You'll probably be able to tell straight away whether it's for you or not. Keep in mind that leather breaks in over time and does become more comfortable.
Leather jackets can be quite limited when it comes to dealing with weather conditions. Leather is quite heavy so you may find yourself hot and bothered during summer, and most aren't waterproof. Leather jackets can last a good while if taken care of properly but they won't meet a wide range of riding conditions.
The big strength of textile jackets is versatility. You'll have plenty of options like style, airflow and waterproofing to match your specific needs. Textile jackets can be lined with various fabrics, like Kevlar and Dyneema, and even made with mesh to keep you cool.
Modern textile jackets have a lot to offer thanks to improvements in technology. While leather will generally provide superior abrasion resistance, new fibers like Dyneema make the difference minimal. Dyneema is used to make bulletproof armor and even linespace shuttles, so you know it's tough, and yet it's amazingly lightweight for all that strength.
Textile jackets are usually the cheaper option. They also tend to look more like normal everyday jackets. You can find yourself a decent jacket that looks natural once you're off the bike as well, which is a great choice if you're out and about while you ride.
You can find textile jackets that offer water resistance, and although no jacket is truly 100% waterproof, they certainly help when you're riding in the rain. If you love a jacket but it doesn't offer water resistance, you can always layer on aWater Resistant Anorak over your riding jacket for both rain protection and warmth.
ARE MESH MOTORCYCLE JACKETS WORTH IT?
Mesh jackets are designed to keep you cool by increasing airflow. They're similar to textile jackets but filled with lots of tiny holes, which circulate air to reduce heat. These holes won't cover theentirejacket, but rather mesh panels will cover certain strategic areas.
Mesh jackets can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, the tiny mesh holes not only make the jacket cooler but lighter as well. However, this also means less overall protection. Mesh jackets won't be as abrasion-resistant as leather or most textile jackets.
Generally, mesh will come at a better price than most other motorcycle jackets. If you're a beginner and don't want to break the bank this can be quite appealing. It's important, however, to have a long-term mindset when you're buying gear.
Mesh jackets are quite limited in style, and they often have a 'race driver' look, as opposed to more natural-looking textile jackets. You want to get at least a few years out of your riding gear before you start considering an upgrade, so make sure the style of your jacket is something you'll enjoy wearing for a while.
If you're looking for something that's breathable, affordable and not cumbersome, mesh is certainly an option. Just keep in mind the downsides, like decreased protection and the limitation of styles available. The best option, as always, depends on your personal needs and preferences.
THE BEST MOTORCYCLE JACKETS FIT YOUR INDIVIDUAL STYLE WHILE GIVING YOU PROTECTION
DO I NEED A MOTORCYCLE JACKET WITH ARMOR?
To put it simply, yes. You should absolutely be wearing body armor anytime you're on the bike. While the fabric of a riding jacket will protect your skin from getting cut up in a crash, only proper body armor will reduce the sudden impact of your body on the ground.
Good motorcycle armor protects your upper body from bone breaks and internal injuries. Impact injuries are by far the worst type a rider can receive, with long term and sometimes permanent consequences.
Motorcycle jackets can have their armor weaved into the jacket or included separately. More often than not armor is not included with a jacket, but this can have its advantages. It means that you can grab armor that suits your specific needs, like D30 which is light and flexible, and it gives you the option to swap out your armor in the future.
A good jacket will have multiple pockets for armor, specifically in the shoulders and elbows, which are susceptible to impact injuries. There should also be a pocket for a back protector included. Make sure that armor fits before you buy it. A good way of guaranteeing this is to buy it from the same place you got your gear.
Armor should fit snug under your gear, without being uncomfortable or preventing movement. D30 armor achieves this while still providing solid crash protection. It's designed to be flexible while you're riding but turns hard upon impact, which has made it a popular choice among riders.
Body armor should be CE certified if you want the best protection, and some will have a CE level rating as well. We've written detailed content about body armor, which you can find in our collection of great articles about all-things motorcycle clothing.
HOW SHOULD YOUR MOTORCYCLE JACKET FIT?
Motorcycle jackets should be worn with a snug fit. This increases abrasion resistance and keeps your armor in place. Your gear should feel tight without restricting movement or being uncomfortable. Leather jackets will feel tighter around your body, while textile jackets are bulkier but feel lighter.
If you're unsure about size, ask yourself if a jacket you're trying on will feel comfortable for one hour of non-stop riding, which is not only a good indicator but a requirement. You might find yourself wearing a road jacket all day, on or off the bike, so look out for something that feels good on you.
For extra comfort, some jackets include a removable everheat liner that can be unzipped and taken out from inside the jacket. A detachable membrane for wind and water resistance might be included as well. These aren't absolutely necessary but something to keep in mind.
Some motorcycle jackets have adjustable straps so you can tailor the fit to your body. This can be handy, but you won't find in in a lot of jackets, and there's plenty of gear available that should fit you well even without the option to adjust.
A good rule for trying on gear is to get yourself into a riding position. That's how you'll be wearing it most of the time anyway, so make sure it still feels comfortable while you're in the seat.
BODY ARMOR SHOULD COVER YOUR ELBOW AND SHOULDER AND A BACK PROTECTOR NEEDS WILL PROTECT YOUR SPINE
WHAT FEATURES SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A MOTORCYCLE JACKET?
SAFETY AND PROTECTION
That's the whole point of wearing the gear, right? It doesn't matter how skilled you are or how carefully you ride, the stats say that you will probably crash at some point. And when that happens, the only thing between you and the road is the riding gear you're wearing.
As a minimum, a motorcycle jacket should include armor pockets in the shoulders and elbows, and a pocket for a back protector. Many riders and manufacturers neglect the importance of spinal protection but it is an absolute must. Look for armor that is CE certified and shows the CE level if you want the best protection.
Jackets should also provide good abrasion protection. Leather is usually the strongest material but you can find plenty of alternatives that still do a great job. Most manufacturers will list the material of their gear, and can include stats like slide time on the road.
Riding gear can be pretty expensive, so it's tempting to go for something cheap but this will probably be to your own detriment. Your first jacket should last at least a few years, so look for something that ticks a lot of boxes and won't need replacing anytime soon. You don't want to cheap out now and find yourself wanting a better jacket in 12 months.
As a beginner rider you'll only need one jacket. Leather is the most expensive option for the best protection, but some textile jackets still provide excellent value with minimal difference. Generally you'll get what you pay for. Sometimes gear will come at a high cost purely for the brand name so make sure you get your moneys worth.
STYLE AND PERSONAL USE
There's no reason that a motorcycle jacket shouldn't fit your personal style. The best brands offer plenty of variety in their gear, be it leather or textile, so you can grab something that matches your own sense of identity.
Consider where and when you'll be doing your riding. If you're a weekend rider, you can find a great jacket that doubles as casual wear. If you commute to work, depending on what you do, wearing a presentable motorcycle jacket could save you from having to change clothes.
If you do a lot of off-road riding or adventure riding, you'll want to get gear that you won't mind getting dirty. Likewise, if you're riding mostly at night you'll need to consider a jacket with a reflective print for extra visibility.
Modern riding gear can be stylish without compromising safety. New fibers like Dyneema are used to make clothes that are light and flexible while still providing crash protection.
Jackets with a waterproof and wind-resistant outer shell can be great for when the weather turns on you. Just be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket, because hot weather will be a factor as well. If this is your first jacket then you'll want something that can be worn year-round.
If you want to grab a winter jacket, make sure you can adjust it for all conditions. The thermal liner should be removable. Maybe you want to buy a certain jacket but it doesn't have ideal waterproof qualities. Throwing aWater Resistant Anorak over your jacket is an option if you want to deal with cold weather without owning multiple jackets.
Textile jackets are generally better for dealing with varying weather conditions than leather. Leather offers less ventilation and can get quite hot in summer. Leather can be great for cold weather because it fits tight, but if it gets soaked in rain it needs a couple of days to dry out.
COMFORT AND FIT
Like most riding gear, a jacket should fit snug without being uncomfortably tight. A tight fit keeps you protected in a crash and prevents armor from moving around.
As a rule, a jacket should feel comfortable for at least one hour of nonstop riding. Leather will be a tighter wrap around your body while textile jackets are bulkier but lighter. Every rider is different and only you can say for sure what feels like the right jacket.
There's a lot of features out there which can seem overwhelming if you're a newbie. You should probably educate yourself on the main ones, but really, they won't make or break the jacket most of the time.
Just know what's out there and try not to stress it too much. Here's a small breakdown of some main jacket features.
Some jackets are made with perforated panels, which are areas with tiny holes that allow airflow, while others have ventilation zippers in strategic areas to keep the rider cool.
Adjustment tabs can be placed around areas like the waist, neck and wrists. This not only lets you tailor the jacket's fit to your body, but prevents water from seeping in.
Some riding jackets include pre curved sleeves, which means that a bend is incorporated into the arms of the jacket.
This is a feature really made for racers, where the aggressive arm position of the rider requires a severe bend. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're not a racer, so you probably don't need to worry about this one.
Most jackets will have features that you may not be familiar with. In these cases, a quick Google should tell you everything you need to know about some of the more obscure terminology.
WHAT IS THE BEST BRAND OF MOTORCYCLE CLOTHING?
Sa1nt's riding gear is unique for being unbelievably tough while having a sense of style and authenticity. Our Unbreakable gear is strong enough to hold the weight of a person, withstand a box cutter and even tow a car.