Safety should always be a rider’s first consideration when evaluating motorcycle gear. An important part of the safety factor of motorcycle jackets is selecting the correct style for your ride. Comfort and fit will also have an impact on your selection but that fit will be dictated a lot by the bike that you are on and your riding position on the bike.
Another factor for many riders is versatility. A jacket that offers a removable liner or a waterproof liner can be a huge bonus. Many riders like to invest a little bit more in a single jacket that will meet all of their needs throughout the year. Price is also a concern as many riders have a strict budget for gear. Getting the best motorcycle jacket in your price range is always the main goal.
We recommend that all riders, whether you are just starting out or have been riding for years, place safety at the top of their list when looking at new jackets. Of course, there’s a lot of other important elements to consider, too: fit, comfort, price, and the type of the jacket are almost as important.
We’re operating under the assumption that you’re relatively new to motorcycles and riding gear; more advanced riders looking for information on the best gear should check out our recommendations for each motorcycle jacket type.
In the perfect world, price would not even be a consideration when selecting motorcycle gear. But that is not a realistic expectation for most of us. So when you are looking at purchasing a motorcycle jacket you should be looking for the best quality jacket within your price range.
The material and safety features will have a great deal of impact on the price of the jacket. Leather is traditionally a very expensive material for a jacket but some of the new safety textiles are equally as costly. It can be easy to get caught up in the cool looks of the different styles of jackets, the designs, and logos but none of that will help you when you are sliding across the asphalt or high siding over a car. Safety is the number one concern that riders should focus on. All of the other stuff is a nice added bonus once you have a safe jacket selected. Shop for the most safety you can afford and then see what color and design options are offered.
If you are just getting your first motorcycle jacket it is also a good idea to remain in the entry level to the middle of the pack price range. Never having worn a motorcycle jacket, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Get a reasonably priced jacket with plenty of safety features but understand that you might have much more information and a long list of must-haves for your next jacket after experiencing your first one for a few month.
And a final note about price, don’t blow your entire gear budget on your first jacket to get the most loaded or coolest looking one that you can find. It is also important to have functional gloves, boots, and a solid helmet. Get some seat time with all of your basic gear and then start to build out your perfect riding gear package as you can afford it and as you become more certain of your wants and needs.
Most motorcycle jackets are designed to fit into one of a few different specific use categories. These uses determine the features that are most important for each style of jacket. The most common types of motorcycle jackets are:
Sportbike Jackets – A sportbike jacket is designed to conform to a rider’s body when in a very aggressive forward position. This position requires the jacket fit close to the body but also provide the range of motion that the rider needs for arms and shoulders. This more fitted jacket also has a shorter back to accommodate when the rider is sitting in a more upright position. The final feature but also possibly the most important is that the sportbike jacket must integrate exceptional safety features for impact and abrasion protection.
Adventure/Touring Jackets -The adventure and touring style jackets are designed to be some of the most versatile motorcycle jackets available. These jackets can be called into action in just about any weather condition that you can imagine including wind, rain, snow or heat. In addition to handling any type of weather, these jackets must also adapt to a variety of terrain variables. Adventure riders could spend hours on the highway just to get to a great trail or dirt road to really begin the adventure. This demands that a single jacket provide the comfort and fit for a long paved road ride and its potential dangers and the off-road hazards of dirt, rocks and natural debris.
Cruiser/V-Twin Jackets – The cruiser or V-Twin jacket is what even non-riders picture when they hear the term motorcycle jacket. It is made of leather, looks pretty stylish and is super comfortable. These are great for a long ride or just about other time that you need to wear a jacket’ as proven by the popularity across the country with riders and non-riders alike. In addition to the prototypical leather version, riders also frequently choose this style of jacket but one made of a textile fabric. The newer materials provide protection that is equal to or better than leather but also offers better ventilation and less weight.
Cafe Jackets – The cafe jacket was created to meet the unique demands of riding the Cafe Racer bikes. The bike is compact and very minimalistic as is the jacket. The simple lines and retro look harken back the 1960’s as does the typical leather used for its construction. There are some textile choices on the market but most riders remain faithful to the shorter cut almost bomber style of the traditional leather cafe jacket.
Each type of jacket has its own purpose, features, and restrictions. The cut and style of each jacket dictate what it was designed for and how it can best benefit riders. Knowing this information helps riders to identify which jacket will best meet their needs, riding style and provide the level of protection that they are looking for in a “perfect” motorcycle jacket.
Fit & Comfort
Everyone has worn jackets before and all of that basic fit information carries over to motorcycle jackets. But, you also need to think about body position when you are riding and not just about how comfortable a jacket feels when you try it on in a store.
Remember the position of your back, arms, and shoulders as you are riding. A jacket that just fits when you put it on might be too short when you are reaching forward on your bike. If that’s the case, then you are leaving your lower back and wrists exposed which could mean extensive injuries if you are in an accident.
Another factor to consider for rider comfort is the material the jacket is made of. Leather can take some time to soften and break in whereas textile might be more flexible immediately. Heat can also be a factor for some riders. Be sure that the jacket you select offers good ventilation if you are riding in hot weather or a warm removable liner if you spend a lot of time riding in cold weather. Comfort is not really a safety feature but comfort allows you to focus on riding without being distracted which does make you a safer rider.
Safety is by far the most important feature for motorcycle jackets. It’s easy to get caught up in what looks cool because it is a jacket and it will be very visible but remember, you want to be able to walk away from a wreck or a slide and that’s it.
The safety features to look for in a quality motorcycle jacket are impact protection and abrasion protection. Padding, double and triple layers of material and armor are all going to absorb impact and keep you from suffering broken bones and internal injuries. Leather, Kevlar, Cordura and other man-made textiles are going to provide you with protection from abrasion injuries and loss of skin and muscle.
There is no such thing as too much protection for any rider. Look for internal pockets for flexible armor and padding as well as hard armor on the exterior of the elbows and shoulders. Protective pads or armor covering the spine and lower back are also critical safety features to look for. Not only will those provide protection on impact but back armor is also great protection in the event of a long slide.
New textiles are much lighter weight than leather and actually provide better protection.Look for features such asdouble or triple stitching, padded collar, padding in the arms and reliable closures to keep the jacket secured in the event of an accident.