How to Choose a Motorcycle Jacket
There is nothing like the sound and smell of a good leather motorcycle jacket. The odor is as distinctive as a new car, and the noise they make when you wear one is a little like your favourite rocking chair. A leather motorcycle jacket is undeniably cool, and the more you wear it the better it fits.
Beyond the cool factor, today’s motorcycle jackets are engineered to keep you safe. They go beyond the traditional leather bomber-type jacket and have a variety of styles and fabrics that appeal to everyone – including vegans who wouldn’t be caught dead in leather.
With all the choices on the market today, how will you choose?
Types of Motorcycle Jackets
Motorcycle riding gear is big business. There are all kinds of manufacturers and styles on the market today, but the types of jackets can fit into four basic categories:
- Adventure/Dual Sport
We’ll start with the Adventure/Dual Sport style. These jackets are generic in that they are designed for multiple environments. Most are waterproof yet breathable and flexible. You can wear them off road or out to a bar (Note: Wash the mud off, first). They rank high in durability and usually have an insulated liner that you can zip in or leave at home. These jackets remind us of cargo shorts; they have lots of pockets to carry stuff around in and they’re just as comfortable. Most of the time they’re cut tall in the neck and long at the hip, for added protection on the road. Armor can be layered in as needed for safety.
Cruiser jackets are the classic leather motorcycle jackets we were talking about earlier. While leather is still the bomb (Is this why they’re called bomber jackets?), there are more synthetics on the market today. Cruiser jackets are heavy on style but low on the protection scale – most of these jackets don’t offer armor. But you will look darn good sliding across the pavement. Kidding aside, as armor padding gets lighter, expect to see more safety features in these jackets.
Racing jackets have pretty hardcore safety features, offering armor and abrasion resistant fabric. They often incorporate the best of all materials; using leather on the main panels, but adding synthetics to the places where the fabric needs to stretch for rider mobility. These jackets make use of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) which is a plastic designed for all kinds of uses; in this case, it prevents road rash. You’ll find TPU sliders on the exterior of these jackets to help protect the rider from
high impact crashes. This feature, along with armor plating, will make you feel a little like Batman. These jackets fit comfortably and snugly to make them more aerodynamic. (Flying is optional.) Many of these jackets were designed to also zip into racing pants.
Sport/Street jackets are a little less intense than racing jackets. They look like racing jackets, with the same sporty cut, but they fit more loosely. These jackets have armor and removable insulated liners, along with venting panels, and a small number of pockets.
All of these jackets will make you look good on your bike, but some clearly provide more safety features than others.
Now that you’re starting to get a feel for the styles out there, let’s figure out which features are best for you.
Choosing Your Motorcycle Jacket
Since there are advantages and disadvantages to all of these jackets, start first with your budget. Next, think about:
- Colour and style; do you want a longer cut in the jacket?
- How much abrasion resistance do you want?
- What weather conditions will you be riding in?
- Should the colour you choose be reflective?
Beyond the look and feel of your jacket, safety is the biggest consideration here. Keep in mind these jackets were designed, first, to protect your body during a crash. How much or how little armor you look for in a motorcycle jacket is up to you, but generally, we think more is better.
Finally, how does the jacket feel when you wear it? When you’re on a long ride, an ill-fitting motorcycle jacket can feel cumbersome. If it’s too small, you’ll have to work for every movement, and this can lead to rider fatigue. Look for a comfortable jacket with tab adjusters on the sides and sleeves to help you get the perfect fit.
Good luck and ride on!
Tina is a co-founder of Motorcycler.com. At Motorcycler, she manages the creatives and leads the community outreach program. Tina loves is a travel addict and a coffee junkie.