Ever since people took to motorcycles, they have chosen to ride in leather jackets, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, they can offer exceptional protection. Leather is one of the most abrasion-resistant materials available (hence why racing suits are made of leather) and is most likely to protect you in the event of an off that sees you sliding down the road.
They can also be very casual and not scream ‘motorcyclist’ at the top of their voice, which can be useful if you’re on the bike but also, want to spend some time off it when you arrive at your destination or, indeed, en route.
They can also help create an image of you and your bike, from old-school racer to biker bad-boy. In fact, many non-motorcycling leather jackets have taken their cues from garments developed and used on the road – look at Marlon Brando’s jacket in The Wild One, for example.
What to look for in a leather motorcycle jacket
In practical terms, modern leather will look cool, should protect you from at least a slide and a tumble and can even help keep you warm and dry. It will feature armour like any motorcycling jacket – at the shoulders and elbows and if it doesn’t come with one, should have a pocket for an optional back protector and possibly chest protection too. These will be CE Level-1 or the higher-specification and more impact-absorbent Level-2 so check.
The jacket itself should also be CE rated, with a B, A, AA or AAA rating, AAA being the most abrasion-resistant and with the most secure construction. You could also look for a removable thermal liner to help keep you warm on a chilly ride and a degree of water-resistance may also be present though not as effective as a proper waterproof textile, for example. If it looks like rain, then grab yourself a set of throw-over waterproofs, as we looked at recently.
MCN's expert testers have been taking a selection of leather jackets to task. Here's what they've had to say.
Richa Toulon 2
Tested by Emma Franklin for 12 months, 6000 miles
Quality 4/5, Value 4/5
This buffalo leather jacket combines retro looks with a sporty twist, thanks to its detachable cotton hood that fixes to the collar via poppers. The AA-rated Toulon 2 is my go-to jacket for dry spring and summer days, and even after considerable wear, it’s still looking and performing as good as new. It comes with a full complement of D30 Level-1 soft armour in the back, elbows and shoulders that feel comfy and don’t add too much bulk.
Inside there’s a detachable thermal gilet to help keep the chill away from your core on cooler days, but I have to admit to riding without it most of the time. I found the fit to be pretty much true to size, although you will need to go a size up if you’re planning on wearing multiple layers underneath. Available in sizes UK 8-20, and in mens’ cut, too.
Alpinestars Crazy Eight
Tested by Phil West for 14 months, 1,200 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
This is a retro-style jacket that is actually impressively versatile. The design is subtle and classy in either trendy brown or black with padded shoulders and elbows. The outer is in quality, soft, full grain leather with chunky but smooth-operating zips. The fit is neither too snug or loose with waistband popper adjusters. There's a zip out thermal liner in stylish tartan, two large, zippered outer pockets and a waterproof inner for your wallet plus removable Level 1 CE shoulder/elbow protectors and a sleeve for a back protector.
I've been really impressed. It's comfortable, fits well, oozes quality (the metal Astars detail on the right sleeve is a typical touch), the lining works great and it's stylish on or off bike so much so that it's become my go-to jacket, not just for retro bikes but for round town and all-day rides, too. It's even not bad value.
Tested by Saffron Wilson for 13 months, 1,560 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
This is one of my favourite jackets for summer riding - it’s sleek, sculpted and is made from soft and supple buffalo leather, which has so far worn well. It features removeable D30 protectors in the elbows and shoulders, and although you’d have to buy it separately, there’s a pocket for a back protector too. The whole jacket is rated to CE AA for abrasion and burst strength.
The pockets are surprisingly roomy, and the one on the sleeve holds a payment card perfectly which makes paying for toll booths a lot easier. Plus, thanks to the hip adjustment zippers, you’ve got a bit of adjustability if you get uncomfortable.
I only used this for mega hot days on the road as anything less would render me a little chilly, especially if doing long miles. The cut means there isn’t much wriggle room for a jumper underneath unless you get the next size up, but the removeable thermal liner is surprisingly effective. As you’d expect for a quality leather jacket, the price is somewhat on the high side, but the quality is immense and will last for years
Tested by Simon Weir for five weeks, 1,200 miles
Quality 4/5, Value 5/5
I’m blown away by the quality of this stylish jacket – which in terms of looks and finish compares very well to my vastly more expensive old Dainese jacket. It’s made of soft 1mm cowhide, reinforced in key areas, with triple-stitched seams. It has armour in shoulders and elbows and is CE-AA rated.
Minor niggles are that the inside pocket is on the right (so I have to remove both gloves to get my wallet), the phone pocket won’t take an iPhone in a case, and only Oxford’s (£29.99) back protector insert fits – I can’t use one I already have. Those are small points – it’s a great jacket and outstanding value. All it really lacks is the snob value of an Italian label.
RST Ladies Ripley
Tested by Ali Silcox for 2 years, 2,000 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 5/5
Made from cowhide, the jacket has a soft finish, is incredibly supple, well-made and looks good, both on and off the bike. There are quilted panels on both the shoulders and forearms, which give it a retro feel and the embossed RST logo on the hem is discreet. All the zips, including those on the pockets and waist adjusters, are substantial, chunky and have sturdy pull-tags. The two zipped pockets at the waist are large enough to carry keys or keyless ignition fobs, while the zipped chest pocket is purely for decoration. My smart phone and credit cards fit in the internal breast pocket.
Minimal adjustment at the hips comes in the form of two zipped flaps. I’m not overly curvy in the hip department, so haven’t needed to use them. There’s a rolled collar, which is soft and prevents any rubbing at the neck. When zipped shut the cuffs fit well and are slim enough for gloves to fit over them. I opted for the black version, but it also comes in a dark brown. Both options are available from sizes 8-20 and they come up true to size. I’m 5’10” and long in both body and arms but find everything fits perfectly.
Competitively priced at just under £200 and has a quality feel that you’d expect from jackets that cost more.
It’s CE approved to the A-rating and has level one CE approved armour at the elbows and shoulders. There’s also a pocket for a back protector, which can be retro fitted. What I do like about this jacket is it doesn’t look too ‘bikey’ if it’s worn with riding jeans or leggings. My only criticism is it doesn’t have a connecting zip but that’s really being quite nit-picky.
Tested by Mike Armitage for twelve months, 2,500 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 4/5
As someone who does their weekly food ‘big shop’ based on what’s on offer and who has been known to superglue his kid’s school shoes back together, the idea of spending almost eleven-hundred quid on a leather jacket seems preposterous. Well over a bag of sand for a bit of hide? Surely the price of this BMW clobber is some sort of typo.
It's not, of course, and you realise why as soon as you get hold of it. Created out of horse hide, the PureBoxer jacket has a fabulously smooth finish and subtle sheen, and softness that makes you want to stroke it. Quality is wondrous. Copper is used for the zips, press-studs and arm badge which adds another layer of class, as does the silky liner and high-quality removable thermal layer. You get a little kit as well, which contains a couple of badges in alternative colours. There’s another journalist I know who’s a riding kit magpie, and he couldn’t stop cooing over the jacket last time we bumped into each other – a sign of its obvious quality.
After a year of now-and-then use (I can’t help but save it for best) there are a couple of niggles. One of the leather tags pulled off a pocket zip, and the delicate lining inside the sleeves is starting to fray a tiny bit from where it’s been in contact with Velcro on gloves. While it’s AA-rated and has pukka shoulder and elbow armour there’s no back protector included, either. I can forgive these minor niggles however, simply because the jacket feels special each occasion that I wear it. Splendid garment.
Richa Mugello 2.0
Tested by Dan Sutherland for one year, 1,000 miles
Quality 4/5, Value 3/5
There’s no question that the Richa Mugello is an expensive jacket at a penny shy of £420, but it’s a high-quality garment stuffed with comfortable, supple D3O protection. An understated design, with a streak of red across the chest and on the hard external shoulder protectors, it’s kept me safe and stylish on a range of bikes from early spring to the beginning of autumn. With perforations for ventilation, this is not a jacket for winter without plenty of layers, but it’s not billed as that.
It may be made of 1.3mm cowhide leather and feature a thermal lining, but you do get a cooling chill through the stretch panels of the arms, but that is welcome when the temperature climbs. On top of this, you also get D3O armour on the shoulders and elbows as standard which are soft, comfortable, and unnoticed when you’re riding, however I think you should get a back protector as standard for this price.
This particular jacket has the back armour installed and it too is soft and flexible, adding to the comfort. If you want to take things further, there’s space for a chest protector, too. Also adding to the comfort are the soft neoprene cuffs, with Velcro waist straps also allowing you to tailor it to your exact fit. Those wanting to make it into a set of two-piece leathers can do so too thanks to the wrap around zip.
More top leather motorcycling jackets to consider
We've seen a few Texpeed products from Amazon and they usually get pretty good reviews online and this classic-styled leather with a distressed finish is no different. It's made of 1.2-1.3mm thick full-grain leather and has a removable thermal lining for use when it's chilly or warm. It comes with what the manufacturer says is CE-approved armour to the shoulders, elbows and back, with no confirmation what spec, you'd assume Level-1 but even so, for that money and looking like this, it seems a bargain.
Dainese Super Race
As the name suggests, Dainese's sporty Super Race leather jacket is pretty much track ready. Crafted from specially treated D-SKIN® 2.0 leather, it features CE Level 2 armour at the shoulder and elbow, with exterior seamless aluminium sliders for added protection. Pockets are provided for optional chest and back protectors and the 'Nanofeel' liner brings an extra touch of comfort. Ventilation comes in the way of zipped side vents and a full length zip allows for the attachment of Dainese jeans.
Gaining a Recommended award in RiDE's test, the Detroit from Weise is a retro-style jacket that is CE AA rated and comes with Level-2 armour at the shoulders and elbows and a Level-1 back protector included. It comes up reasonably large with a 'European' fit, but does have a warm removable thermal liner and plenty of pockets, including a dedicated mobile-phone spot. There's neoprene edging to the collar and a zip to join to matching riding jeans.
This classic-styled jacket from Oxford is CE AA rated and comes with shoulder and elbow armour and a pocket for an optional back protector. It's a straight-cut garment, with buckle detail at the collar and the waist and zipper cuffs. It has a removable quilted thermal liner and quilted detailing on the shoulders and forearms. It's a jacket that would look great on a retro bike.
The Wyatt is another retro-style leather jacket, with subtle styling and a relatively straight cut. It's CE AAA-rated, for the highest level of protection and comes with Level-2 armour at the shoulders, elbows and back protector. It features a waterproof and breathable membrane and a removable thermal liner and it is both supple and easy to wear. You need to get the right fit, as there is little adjustability but RiDE gave it a Best Buy triangle for its combination of protection, comfort and style.
Furygan Houston V3
This jacket from Furygan has a touch of both sporty and retro styling to it. Formed in cowhide, it has a removable thermal liner with a fixed breathable inner for comfort. There's neoprene edging to the collar, plenty of pockets and waist adjusters, as well as connecting zips to join to matching trousers. It comes with D3O CE armour at the shoulders and elbows and there is a pocket for an optional back protector and chest armour as well.