Though experience and proper training do greatly help to mitigate the likelihood of a crash, riding a motorcycle nonetheless comes with the inherent risk of wrecking. With nothing separating your body from the road or the other multi-ton vehicles that occupy it, wearing proper protective gear is essential.
Choosing the best motorcycle jacket depends on a variety of factors, including your riding style, desired level of protection, and comfort preferences. Check out our motorcycle jacket reviews to find the best all-around motorcycle jacket that provides optimal style as well as other features that will make your ride more enjoyable.
Benefits of Motorcycle Jackets:
- Safety: It’s important to wear a jacket even in the summer. Shorts and a t-shirt don’t provide adequate protection to your extremities in the event of a crash. Whether it’s cool or warm outside, the best protective motorcycle jacket will shield your body from harm.
- Comfort: Top-rated motorcycle jackets will give you an extra layer of protection against the weather. If it’s cold outside, a jacket will keep you warm. If it’s raining, it will keep you dry.
- Style: Leather jackets are often regarded as the most fashionable type of biker outerwear, but you can also opt for a sporty look by choosing a stylish textile jacket.
Types of Motorcycle Jackets:
1. CRUISER – Cruiser-oriented jackets tend to be more fashionable and comfortable than other types of motorcycle jackets. They are not the best motorcycle jackets for protection because they don’t have body armor. These casual, classic jackets are versatile and can be worn on and off the bike.
2. SPORT – Sport jackets are either leather or abrasion-resistant textile, and contain advanced armor and impact-absorbing materials for protection. The best sport motorcycle jacket is form-fitting and has an aerodynamic design to accommodate high speeds and mobility on the bike. These jackets are often made of high-quality materials and are rigorously tested to provide optimum performance.
3. TOURING – If you do a lot of long-distance riding, you need the best motorcycle touring jacket. These jackets tend to be quite comfortable and often have several features that make them convenient if you’re riding for an extended period of time. Typically, they have removable liners and layers, multiple pockets, and a waterproof exterior. Some premium touring jackets even have built-in heating systems.
4. ADVENTURE – Adventure riders are exposed to unpredictable terrain, so they require riding gear that is tough enough to withstand a variety of conditions—both on asphalt and more rugged forest roads. Adventure jackets are typically made of a strong, nylon shell that keeps you from getting scraped or bruised. These jackets are also constructed of breathable and waterproof materials.
5. OFF-ROAD/MOTOCROSS – Off-road motorcycle jerseys are primarily built to provide abrasion protection on loose dirt surfaces, and breathability in physically-demanding track sessions. They are lightweight and offer unparalleled mobility, but they also offer very little protection. Jerseys are meant to be worn over off-road armor, such as a chest protector and neck brace.
6. LEATHER – The best leather motorcycle jackets provide comfort, style, and safety. Leather motorcycle jackets protect your body against road rash caused by sliding across asphalt better than any textile option. They are usually made of cowhide, but some use alternatives like goat or kangaroo leather. These more exotic leathers are thinner and softer, but still strong. Perforated leather offers increased ventilation in hot weather, and strikes a compromise between the protection of leather and the comfort of textile.
7. TEXTILE – Textile jackets offer less abrasion resistance than leather. However, they offer advantages in breathability and water resistance. The best textile jacket is often made of nylon and polyester, which is very lightweight and preferable on hot and rainy days. These jackets are good for sport, touring, and adventure riders.
8. MESH – Mesh jackets allow air to flow directly onto your body, and they’re best to use in the summer. A mesh jacket will provide the most ventilation, but they offer little crash protection. Most mesh jackets include padding on the chest, back, and shoulders. Even when equipped with armor, mesh material is often not strong enough to hold it in place during a serious crash. They tend to be less expensive than leather or textile jackets.
9. ARMOR – Many motorcycle jackets incorporate or are compatible with armor, typically located in the shoulders, elbows, and forearms. Some jackets have built-in pockets to accommodate back and chest protectors. Durable foam armor is designed to absorb impact to vulnerable areas. Hard composite or metal armor, sometimes found on sport jackets, is designed to slide easily to protect against road rash and prevent a rider from tumbling after impact with the ground. Some new materials are even soft until struck, at which point they become rigid. The very best jackets now offer inflatable airbag systems designed to activate in the event of a crash. It’s important to match your riding style with the appropriate level of protection and understand the CE rating system used to evaluate motorcycle armor.
Due to the lower speeds and more dynamic nature of off-road riding, dirt-oriented armor tends to be more focused on impacts than severe abrasion. Strong chest protectors, neck braces, knee braces, and padded undergarments are designed to protect against broken bones and torn ligaments caused by crashes or collisions with other riders.
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Key features to look for before you buy a motorcycle jacket:
- MATERIAL: The type of rider you are will dictate what material is most suitable for your motorcycle jacket. If you’re a casual rider, synthetic materials may work just fine. If you ride more aggressively or at high speeds, leather will be a better option because it provides superior protection in a crash. If you ride a sportbike, armored jackets built for performance and crash protection are the top pick. There are also jackets that are made of fabric that’s more suitable for summer or rainy conditions.
- Ventilation: The best motorcycle jacket will provide sufficient ventilation. Some materials can be very warm, thick, and dense. Without proper ventilation, these types of jackets can be very uncomfortable. Fortunately, the best motorcycle jackets for men and women have perforated leather, breathable textile panels, or air vents that you can zip open and close for airflow.
- Armor: The best-armored motorcycle jacket is typically constructed with CE-certified armor on the elbows and shoulders (you often see CE or “Conformité Européene” apparel on the race track). Some of these jackets feature armor on the back and torso as well. Armor can be flexible or rigid. The former has foam padding, while the latter has a hard shell with padding underneath. Flexible armor is more comfortable but doesn’t provide as much protection.
- Fit: The best motorcycle jacket will have a contoured fit and may allow you to add layers underneath in cold weather. The sleeves should be long enough to reach your wrists while in the riding position. If the jacket contains armor, the pieces should fit properly on your elbows and shoulders. The best motorcycle jackets will have a variety of adjustments for your waist and sleeves.
- Additional Features: You may want a jacket with reflective strips on the shoulders and back so other people on the road can see you better at night. The number and placement of pockets may also be important, depending on what you carry with you when you ride. Also, some jackets have inside liners with pockets and media outlets for phone or headphone cables.
Best Motorcycle Jackets 2020:
Our pick for best overall motorcycle jacket offers crash protection worthy of track use, in addition to comfort and breathability. It’s a contender right out of the box, but we like that you can add features later—up to and including Alpinestars’ inflatable airbag protection system—for what is possibly the most safety available on two wheels.
Premium, 1.3 millimeter cowhide leather provides high-speed abrasion resistance that will scuff and slide while your skin stays safe. Perforated panels in the front add much-needed ventilation to keep this jacket cool. A mesh liner and padded collar facilitate airflow and prevent rubbing. Leather accordion panels in the back and stretch fabric under the sleeves allow this jacket to flex as you change body position. Composite hard armor protects the shoulder and elbow areas. An aerodynamic speed hump not only reduces drag in the tuck position, but also draws heat out of the jacket for improved air circulation.
There are few jackets that we’d rather have during a crash, but that doesn’t make this the best choice for every rider. Its price puts it out of reach for many, and its track-ready image and fully-committed features are too flashy and bulky for most daily riding situations. Casual riders will want to look at our picks for best value and honorable mention.
Joe Rocket’s take on retro styling is a safe bet for cruiser and cafe riders alike. This jacket offers quality construction, understated styling, and compatibility with aftermarket crash protection. An accessible price point makes this a great value that most riders can afford.
Leather construction uses cowhide between one and 1.2 millimeters thick to create a strong barrier between you and the road. Pouches in the elbows, shoulders, and back accommodate body armor that can be purchased separately. Outside, two low pockets provide storage for items like a phone and wallet, two top pockets are a great place to put your registration and insurance, and a small pocket on the sleeve is perfect for keys or a toll pass. Two additional pockets are located inside the jacket. A zip-in liner makes this a versatile option that can be worn comfortably in warm or cool weather. Heavy-duty stitching and zippers throughout ensure this jacket is ready to stand the test of time.
The Classic ‘92 is not ventilated, so it can get uncomfortable in hot climates. While this jacket is well-built and uses rugged materials, safety-conscious riders will want to purchase armor. Other jackets include armor, but leaving it out does make this option more affordable and let you choose your own. We can appreciate that.
Some riders would rather not wear a dedicated motorcycle jacket, or can’t justify the expense for the type of riding they do. For them, this riding shirt from Milwaukee Performance fills the gap between motorcycle jackets and street clothing.
A thick, 14.5-ounce cotton denim outer shell provides more abrasion resistance than a typical flannel or denim shirt. High-friction areas that are most likely to slide during a crash are lined with kevlar panels, and the shoulders and elbows are protected by CE-rated removable padding. The front closure uses a hefty zipper behind a button-up cover that makes this riding gear look like a regular button-down shirt. Gussets over the shoulder blades make reaching for the bars easy. Zippered underarm vents increase airflow to keep you cool.
This riding shirt falls well short of the protection offered by leather or textile riding jackets, but it’s miles ahead of riding in street clothes. Considering the low price and carefully chosen features, it does make a great option for short, casual rides around town. It’s also understated enough to be worn off the bike.
Adventure and touring motorcyclists need specific features in their jackets, and the Sand 3 delivers. It’s packed full of details that make sure you’re ready to take on a cross-country trip or off-road adventure whenever you want. The outer shell incorporates four types of rip-resistant, flexible synthetic materials. Reflective panels increase low-light visibility.
A removable waterproof liner protects against rain, and a removable insulated liner keeps the cold out. A series of vents can be unzipped for warm weather riding. CE-certified armor adds crash protection, and you can add a compatible back protector or neck brace for even more security. We love that REV’IT made this jacket modular, so you can add and remove components to create the perfect jacket for any ride. Better yet, this jacket is compatible with the brand’s other products, so you can create a cohesive adventure suit complete with riding pants, gloves, and boots. Choose from five color schemes and seven sizes. This jacket is incredibly capable and versatile, but it comes at a price. Buyers on a budget may prefer a simpler and more affordable alternative. All those features also make it fairly bulky.
Dainese fans know the brand is no stranger to premiere features and quality, so it’s no surprise to see the versatile Super Rider D-Dry on our honorable mention list. This jacket is equipped to handle sport riding or touring in blazing heat and pouring rain—in unmistakable Italian style.
This do-it-all jacket combines leather and aluminum armor in high-risk areas with breathable textile materials everywhere else, for a result that’s breathable without sacrificing safety. Pouches accommodate chest and back protectors, purchased separately. D-Dry fabric is uniquely designed to wick moisture and heat away from your body, while a waterproof membrane is up to the task of riding in the rain. A removable thermal liner can be added for cold-weather riding. This jacket features a zipper that is compatible with Dainese riding pants, so it can either be worn by itself or paired with pants to create an all-weather riding suit.
This motorcycle jacket approaches the higher end of the price range, but we think it’s worth it. The form-fitting European cut may not be for everyone. Color options are limited to black with either red or yellow accents.
- When selecting a motorcycle jacket, make sure it fits well both when you’re standing and when you’re in a riding position. Also, don’t buy one that’s too tight or you won’t be able to put layers underneath it.
- Not all jackets will work in all weather conditions. A great leather jacket may be too hot for summer, and a textile jacket may not provide the same level of crash protection as a leather jacket. You may need more than one jacket based on the climate.
- The collar of the jacket should be snug enough so the wind doesn’t pass through. If you ride often in the rain, select a jacket that has a watertight layer beneath the zippers so rain doesn’t leak through.
- The more pockets, the better. It’s preferable to have a few pockets in the front and at least one inner pocket. Also, your jacket should have at least one pocket you can utilize without opening a zipper (which can be challenging when wearing gloves).
- If you want to be really visible at night, choose a bright-colored jacket. Some come in bright yellow and orange, and others have panels made of reflective material.
- Make sure the zippers are easy to open and close. The best motorcycle jackets will have zippers covered in fabric so they don’t cause extra harm during a crash.
- For safety purposes, leather jackets should not have a lot of seams on them. For example, the chest and back should be made of a single piece of leather, not several stitched together.
- Sleeves should be long enough so they reach your wrists when your arms are extended towards the motorcycle’s handlebars. If possible, you should be able to wear the sleeves both over or under your gloves.
Q: WHAT’S THE BEST TYPE OF MOTORCYCLE JACKET?
A: It depends on several factors, but safety is number one. Select a jacket that will protect your body in the event of a crash. Also, you need to choose a jacket based on the type of rider you are (casual, adventure, or sport, for example).
Q: HOW DO I CLEAN MY MOTORCYCLE JACKET?
A: If you have a leather jacket, you can purchase a cleaning kit specifically geared for the material. You should also regularly treat it with a leather product to protect it and keep it durable. You can spot clean Gore-Tex and textile jackets with a moist cloth or stiff brush.
Q: CAN I WEAR MY FAVORITE EVERYDAY LEATHER JACKET TO RIDE A MOTORCYCLE?
A: It’s important that the leather jacket you wear for riding a motorcycle is designed to be a motorcycle-specific jacket. Even the best-made street clothes are no match for a high-speed crash.
Our pick for the best motorcycle jacket is the Alpinestars Missile. It offers the best crash protection technology available and has soft enough leather and enough ventilation to stay cool. Safety is the top priority for this list, and it’s tough to beat this jacket from Alpinestars.
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