There are hundreds of choices in riding jackets and it can be difficult to work out the right one. This guide should help you decipher what makes a good jacket and give you an idea of what is available.
The first thing you need to do is think about your budget but don’t buy something just because it’s cheap, look at what you get for the money, a $150 jacket will probably look more expensive because it has better quality finishes. The materials used in cheaper jackets might not be as durable, breathable, or comfortable. Look at the way a jacket fits before buying, no two people have the same body shape so try before you buy if possible! Button up any zips on pockets to check they’re not going to fall apart at the first hint of rain.
Most riding jackets are waterproof, but not all are showerproof so make sure you buy one that is, they’re often more breathable than fully waterproof ones and let some of your sweat out in the summer months. A showerproof jacket will keep you dry for around 30 minutes before water starts to soak through and if it’s windproof it’ll retain some heat as well.
A full-length zip means you can easily take a jacket off over your head while wearing gloves or when it’s just too hot to wear something so thick. Storm cuffs prevent cold air and rain from getting up your sleeves so are essential in the winter months.
Zips on the chest allow you to attach an inner layer for warmth while zips under the arms help to give a better fit and add ventilation.
Rule of thumb, unless you’re going to be riding in very cold or wet weather then a 3/4 length jacket is more than adequate for most riders. They usually have standard outer pockets with waterproof linings so you can keep your phone, wallet, etc safe even if it starts raining unexpectedly (leather saddlebags are good for this too). A winter jacket will often come down below your hips but also above your waist to make sure you stay warm. If you want to wear something over the top of your jacket when it gets really cold then an insulated jacket and pair of overtrousers would be perfect; they have a thermal zip at the base so you can just undo them if you start to overheat.
Another good idea is a detachable hood, they snap on and off very easily when needed but stay attached to your waterproof when you don’t need them (you’ll find most expensive jackets have this feature). The tops of riding boots are often not waterproof so wrapping a rainproof hood over your head before putting your helmet straps on will save you from getting soaked from the waist down.
A neck warmer or scarf keeps the cold out as well as keeping the wind away from your throat, especially useful for motorbikes and scooters which tend to get a bit more air around there. A full-length zip means it’s easier for you to do than one that doesn’t go all the way down. Riding in winter can be a bit of a pain so anything you can do to make life easier is worth it.
The material a jacket is made from determines how breathable the jacket is, how windproof it will be and what damage it can resist. A combination of three materials works well for most jackets.
Cotton-Lined Polyamide – Most summer riding jackets are made from this as cotton absorbs sweat but polyamide resists rain and wind. Some cheaper jackets use cotton only which means they’re not great in wet or cold conditions.
Polyester Mesh Lining – Lightweight mesh lining adds ventilation to your jacket without compromising on its weatherproofing abilities (not breathable enough by itself). This material also reduces static making your coat feel soft and smooth against your skin.
Neoprene – Protection from minor bumps and scrapes without sacrificing your comfort. Neoprene cuff adjusters replace traditional Velcro or elastic inserts and are a must-have feature for any jacket that doesn’t have this already (nearly all jackets do).
A good fit is important, especially for riding bikes because you want to feel snug but not restricted. A slimmer cut looks more stylish than a baggy one while providing better protection and warmth (think of it like hugging yourself). Large pockets might look trendy and be useful for carrying things on your bike. so think about where you’re going to use your jacket. Before buying something that’s got too many features.
For women riders, sizing is often smaller than with men’s jackets so check reviews/find out the size equivalents by asking manufacturers directly before buying anything online. Plus-size ladies will find their options are limited compared to skinny jeans and tall boots, even if you’re a plus-size man so it’s best to measure your bust and waist then go from there.
Size – Always check the measurements if you can before buying as sizing is very different between brands. If you know which brand fits well for your body type then stick with them, otherwise, look at reviews of similar products or request size/fit comparisons from manufacturers themselves.
Style – A simple crossover style is best as it gives more protection against rain (riding position allows more wind in through the armholes on bikes making them better for cycling) while retaining good visibility for traffic behind you. You should also look out for reflective patches or piping that are designed to improve your presence on the roads at night.
Some ladies prefer a more feminine cut while others don’t mind wearing something designed for men. Through trial and error you’ll find what works best for you but never rule out anything based on looks alone, opting only for stylish jackets is a false economy when buying safety gear. It’s also worth noting that some brands run smaller than others so bear this in mind too when choosing pants or gloves (if it’s tight now then it will be even tighter once you’ve put your layers under it).
Motorcycle clothing will last longer if treated well and used correctly- waterproof or water-resistant isn’t the same as waterproof so avoid machine washing and always hang your jacket up to dry after riding in wet weather. If you zip in a plastic liner for the colder months then don’t forget to unzip when warmer or you’ll end up with sweat stains like most riders do.
Polyester – Man-made fabric that works well for jackets due to its strength and durability (won’t rip easily). However, it does conduct heat so is less breathable than some fabrics meaning your jacket will probably be heavier and bulkier as a result. This bulky weight also restricts movement even more than cold weather alone would, plus it’s uncomfortable (especially when wet) so choose clothes that are lightweight if possible.
Riding Jacket Liners
Zip-in liners can be used to add insulation without bulk which will improve the fit of your jacket (just think how much easier it is to move around). A waterproof liner will keep your dryer for longer as they tend to have taped seams and are more breathable than standard options. For mild climates or seasons, opt for a mesh lining instead that’s lighter but not as durable.
Waterproofing – Garments with taped or sealed seams provide better protection against water than those that aren’t because water has nowhere to get in through any holes it finds (like stitching gaps). However, these products must still be regularly treated with a DWR coating to repel rain and wick sweat away from the skin properly. If you’re buying brand new then look for both qualities (fully taped seams and a DWR coating) but bear in mind that there is no such thing as 100% waterproof in this game.
Cordura – Man-made fabric that’s virtually indestructible even when compared to leather (which will tear if snagged on something sharp). Cordura has a high resistance to abrasion thanks to its tough nature so manufacturers are able to make jackets with thinner material than they would otherwise need which makes for lighter, more comfortable products. Cordura products are also easy to clean without water which means less time spent drying/waiting around and more time riding.
Waterproofing & BreathabilityMotorcycle gear may be expensive but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for other things (e.g work and fun). Just like you would a regular jacket, check the product’s label to see whether or not it’s machine washable before putting it in the washing machine. If it is then you can use this method along with any detergent that has a standard “non-bio” instruction on its back but just remember to air dry afterward (or tumble dry if you must) because heat damages waterproofing faster than anything else does.
Motorcycle jackets are designed to keep you as safe as possible but not all products use armor. Some riders think that it’s bulky and uncomfortable while others have had bad experiences with it in the past (e.g faulty design or a stitching mistake that has caused it to fall out). If you’re buying new then look for a jacket with CE-approved armor added where necessary (shoulders, elbows, and back) because this standard makes them safer than many of the non-armored equivalents on the market.
Plastic armor covers the most important parts of a jacket, namely elbows and shoulders so you can avoid injuries if you fall. It’s flexible enough to move with your body but hardens on impact so it doesn’t crack or break from small bumps either. However, some jackets use soft padding instead because riders often find that the armor disturbs their posture while riding (i.e moves around/moves your jacket up and down) which restricts movement a little. The good news is that both types are lightweight and can be worn underneath a waterproof liner so should you ever get caught in the rain, your armor won’t take long to dry out.
visibility is another important factor for riding jackets because it keeps you safe and allows other road users to see you at night.
Bright, contrasting colors are ideal for improving your visibility because they make it easier to identify each other especially if the light isn’t very good (e.g early morning or late evening). Reflective strips can also be found on some jackets which helps in this area too but try not to get them stitched onto a pocket as this makes them less visible than they would otherwise be.
A brightly colored jacket is easier to see in low light or at night than one that’s black (or any other color) so make sure you choose a product with reflective strips on the shoulders, chest, and back if it doesn’t already have them. During the day, bright colors are a good idea because they prevent accidents caused by tiredness (people often mistake darker colors for black which makes the rider harder to see). A high-visibility jacket can improve your chances of being seen during daylight hours too and all brands/stores offer reflectors for their eye-catching properties.
Cheap motorcycle jackets are usually low in cost because they use cheap materials which aren’t as strong or comfortable as the more expensive ones. Their armor is often made of foam which degrades over time (it’s not hard like plastic) so it might not be suitable for everyday riding and riders who want to wear rider clothing every day should invest a little extra in one that can handle the job without deteriorating.
It is easier to regulate your body temperature so you don’t overheat on hot days or get cold when it’s chilly outside. It also helps you get rid of sweat after a ride because the material can wick away moisture instead of trapping it with nowhere to go.
Venting is very important if you live in a warm climate because most jackets aren’t efficient enough for this type of heat (they stop short at windproof and water-resistant rather than vented). However, they work better during the winter if there’s no snow around because strong winds can make you feel as though you’re wearing nothing at all and cold air will seep through any gaps along the seams too.
Adjustable vents allow riders to change their level of ventilation on the fly so they can switch between being comfortable or cool whenever they want. Most brands adjust their vents with Velcro, zips, and magnets which are easier to use than clips but you might find them below arm level if they’re not designed specifically for motorcycle riding (i.e tucked away at the back of the jacket).
The cotton used in cheaper jackets is thicker and absorbs more water which makes it unsuitable for the rain. It also takes a long time to dry out when wet too which means you run the risk of catching hypothermia if you wear it after getting caught in a shower without an under-layer underneath it. Avoid this sort of thing by checking out any purchases before touching anything because some manufacturers don’t do a great job of explaining what type of materials they use and it’s not always clear from the product photos.
They protect riders from most types of weather thanks to their combination of thick insulation and durable shells with vents on the front/sleeves which prevents overheating while maintaining warmth when it’s cold outside. They require regular maintenance (cleaning and possibly replacing the thermal liner) but this isn’t usually too much hassle unless you ride every day in all types of weather.
Vented motorcycle jackets are great for riders who plan on covering long distances in a variety of conditions because they’re more versatile than windproof alternatives.
Some riders will benefit more from a vented jacket and others might prefer something that’s windproof because it keeps them warm. They’re both good options but the former works best in hot weather while the latter is designed to be worn during cold snaps.
Warm weather jackets are lighter while winter riding gear is thicker and warmer which makes it a good idea to invest in something you can wear during everything from summer nights to cold autumn mornings.
Stay Safe, Good Luck.