Motorcyclists have been wearing leather jackets ever since riders first discovered that cow hide was better at resisting damage than tweed.
However, things have progressed a lot in recent years. From the fairly basic all-black jackets riders worn by the Rockers in the 1960s (black to hide the oil spots as the bikes’ engines were generally far from oil-tight), we now have multi-coloured jackets in a huge variety of different shapes, styles and colours, covering everything from casual to full on touring. There are even garments available that are specifically designed for summeror winter.
And there are even a few options that include the latest airbag protective technology.
About motorcycle jackets
For many riders a leather jacket simply isn’t practical, which is where textile jackets come in. Textile jackets are not only generally lighter than leather, they’re also waterproof or water-resistant and breathable, meaning they are better options for those looking to cover big miles in comfort. And again, like leather jackets they come in a huge variety of styles from adventure to sporty in short and long lengths, and lots of different colours.
So which are the best options? We’ve rounded up our favourite motorcycle jackets and answered all of the important FAQs at the bottom of this article to ensure you make the right decision.
The best motorcycle jackets in detail:
Best for any occasion
Alpinestars are world-leaders in motorcycle clothing and the T-Jaws jacket is both stylish and
Best for style
The sporty and stylish Dinamica Air D-Dry is claimed by Dainese to be fully waterproof and
Best for versatility
CE-certified to level A, the Crosby TT is inspired by the famous Isle of Man TT races and is a
Best for value
Oxford's top-of-the-range adventure jacket is claimed waterproof thanks to a drop liner and comes
Best race jacket
Furygan's Raptor jacket is wholly CE-certified as a piece of Personal Protective Equipment and is
Superb wash and care solutions for cleaning outdoor textiles and maintaining waterproofing.
FAQs: The important questions
What is its certification?
There has been a recent change in certification when it comes to motorcycle clothing with a CE A, AA and AAA protective rating introduced. By law, all newly produced motorcycle clothing should have this stated on their label. The A ratings mean:
AAA (triple A) is the highest grade, intended for the highest level of risk. Key areas (e.g. shoulder, elbow, hip) must be covered by an approved impact protector and resist abrasion for at least four seconds at 70mph.
AA (double A) is the next level and covers the wide range of risks that riders are likely to encounter. The abrasion test lasts for two seconds at roughly 45mph.
To pass the single A grade, garments are only required to resist abrasion for one second at 30mph, so they can be less bulky and more comfortable to wear on a daily basis.
Generally, AAA is for sporting equipment such as leather race jackets and jeans or one-piece suits where AA is touring textiles and A urban equipment such as scooter or lightweight jackets. Many older jackets don’t have this rating and instead are simply ‘CE-approved’ which generally means that actually the jacket itself isn’t CE-approved, only the armour is. The confusion here is that technically a motorcycle jacket is a piece of Personal Protective Equipment but if it is sold as ‘non-protective’ then only the armour needs to be CE-approved, which is how most jackets are marketed. A few carry full CE-approval, but not that many.
What armour does it have?
It is important to check the armour is CE-approved but generally it is only CE-approved on the shoulders and elbows with a soft back protector. Ideally, buy a separate back protector that is CE-approved and always wear it. A back protector can save you from serious, and life-changing, injury.
Can it be zipped to a set of trousers?
A lot of jackets have a zip to allow them to be connected to a set of trousers (from the same manufacturer) to create a single garment. This is more protective as it stops the jacket riding up in an accident. Trackday companies insist on ‘zip-together’ leathers being worn on track.
Is the lining removable?
Most textile jackets will have a removable lining but not all leather ones will. If the lining isn’t removable, the jacket can become sweaty and a bit smelly, so buying one with a removable lining is generally a good idea (most textile jackets can be machine washed or hand washed, leather ones can’t). A lot of leather jackets have a quilted lining, which can be removed.
Does it have vents?
The more vents, the cooler you will be! Some leather jackets are perforated, which is fine if the sun it out but less good when it rains, where textiles generally have zip-covered vents. If you are planning on touring hot areas, the more vents the merrier, but be aware that any zip is a potential weak point when it comes to water ingress so a waterproof zip is ideal.
Is it waterproof or water-resistant?
A lot of jackets are ‘water-resistant’ or ‘shower-proof’ which means they will resist a bit of rain but not a full-on deluge. A waterproof jacket should ensure you stay dry.
What size is it?
Consider what you are planning on wearing underneath the jacket. If you are going for a jacket to use in winter you may need a bit of extra wiggle room under for jumpers to help ward off the cold. If you are riding in summer then you can afford to have a snugger fit. Some jackets are measured in sizes (XS to XXXL), others in EU measurements or UK sizes so check each firm’s size chart first what size will suit you.
Does it have a hump?
Some sporty leather jackets have an aerodynamic hump on their rear. It is a pointless fashion accessory on a leather jacket used on the road, so think if you want this style or not.