Buying A Motorcycle Jacket - A Beginners Guide
Choosing the right motorcycle jacket is tough when there is so much choice available. For both new and experienced riders this can be a little daunting, so what should you consider before making your purchase?
In this guide, we’ll help navigate you through the often complex world of riding gear by looking at considerations such as style, materials, and safety, with a few other tips thrown in along the way.
Let's start with safety, as this will apply to all bike jackets regardless of material.
Motorcycle Jacket Safety Ratings
All garments produced and sold as ‘motorcycle clothing’ is now classified as ‘Personal Protective Clothing’ or PPE for short. It must therefore conform to a safety rating issued by the European Committee for Standardisation, which is currently the EN17092 standard, often referred to simply as the CE rating.
When purchasing a motorcycle jacket, you'll see one of 5 CE ratings, from AAA (most protective) to C (least protective). Below you’ll find a high-level overview of what this means in practical terms. If you want to know more about the specific ratings and test's involved you can view them here
Motorcycle Jacket Styles
Next on the list is style. We are not just talking fashion here, but also the style of riding and indeed the style of motorcycle you ride can all have a big influence on the jacket you choose to wear.
Long or short? a personal preference of course, but if you’re going to be riding a sporty motorcycle with a more aggressive riding position then a short jacket is going to work much better. Conversely, if the bike riding position is more upright or laid back then a long jacket may well fit the bill better.
Commuters and tourers who are likely to ride in all weather conditions will benefit from a long or three quarter length jacket. It's also very handy to have lots of pockets to store all your essentials.
The final consideration is the material which is split into two camps, Leather or Textile.
Leather Motorcycle Jackets
There are, of course, pros and cons for each, leather is a more traditional material, and a black leather jacket is undoubtedly a must for every biker's wardrobe?!
Depending on the thickness and type of leather used, it can offer varying degrees of abrasion resistance. Leather is generally a comfortable jacket material to wear. Over time leather tends to become softer and builds a nice patina, which is why if you take good care of it, it will last you a lifetime.
Conversely, though it's not a great material to wear in the rain, and it offers no thermal qualities so you will need to layer up in the winter.
A leather jacket can prove to be warm during the summer months, and as it's a natural material, it will also require a little care from time to time.
Our advice when buying a leather jacket is to choose one that fits snugly. It will stretch and mould your shape over time. A leather jacket that's baggy when new will only get baggier!
To help you whilst you look through the RideTo Store, we’ve selected three leather jackets to suit various price points;
Entry Level - Richa Harrier - £199.99 - A retro-styled cowhide leather jacket from Belgian manufacturer Richa. The Harrier jacket features a removable thermal liner and comes fitted with D3O armour in the shoulders and elbows.
Mid Level - RST Matlock - £279.99 - Traditional black ‘Biker’ jacket with a classic asymmetric zip from UK manufacturer RST. The Matlock is a simple classic design with minimal branding, nice zipped cuffs and a lovely red lining. The jacket has an ‘A’ CE garment rating and is perfect for your Cafe Racer or custom styled bike.
Top Level - Richa Retro Race 2 - £349.99 - A retro-styled jacket with more of a sporty look and cut. The Retro Race features a removable cotton liner for warmth and full armour, including a back protector as standard. The Retro Race offers a high-level of protection with a ‘AA’ CE rating.
Best Women’s Jacket - RST Ripley - £199.99 - A women’s specific jacket made from cowhide with a lovely milled finish. The Ripley has a comfortable mesh lining for added ventilation and is CE ‘A’ rated with armour in the shoulders and elbows. A stylish choice with lots of nice design touches, the Ripley is a popular choice.
Textile Motorcycle Jackets
When it comes to textile motorcycle jackets, the term can cover many materials from waxed cotton right through to the very high-tech GoreTex fabric.
This means they can cover a huge range of price points too. The significant advantage of textile over leather tends to be weatherproofing.
As leather is a natural hide, it can take on water (wet out), and an effective coating still hasn't been perfected. Textiles, on the other hand, can be coated with hydrophobic materials.
Textile jackets can also be constructed with a waterproof membrane using two key methods.
Drop Lining - This is where a waterproof/breathable membrane is included in the construction of the jacket behind the outer material. It acts to keep water out while being breathable enough to let sweat and moisture escape.
Drop liner jackets are generally cheaper and easier to manufacture and are often more flexible and hence comfortable. The drawback is that in heavy rain, the outer material will become wet, while the inner one is keeping you dry, which can make it heavier and potentially colder for the rider. It also means the jacket can take a long time to dry.
Laminate - This procedure bonds the waterproof/breathable membrane to the outer material, leading to it taking on a minimal or no amount of water (depending on the laminate).
The moisture tends to bead and can be brushed off, which means the jacket takes on no additional weight, does not have any adverse temperature effect, and dries incredibly quickly.
The drawbacks of Laminate are that the manufacturing process is complex and thus more expensive to produce. Laminate motorcycle jackets are stiffer and could potentially be less comfortable, in some cases requiring a period of breaking in.
We’ve selected our pick from the RideTo Store based on various price points and features.
Entry Level - RST Pilot Air £89.99 - A sporty mesh jacket with excellent ventilation ideal for summer riding and the unpredictable British weather. The tough Maxtex material allows plenty of air through, and with the included removable waterproof liner, it will also keep you dry in light rain. The Pilot air is CE ‘A’ rated and offers excellent value.
Mid Level - RST Maverick - £199.99 - With its tough MaxTex ballistic outer material, the Maverick will stand up to the rigours of commuting and touring. Rated at CE level ‘A’, the jacket features removable thermal and waterproof layers, making it ideal for all year round use. Full Armour is also included as standard.
Top Level - Richa Touareg 2 - £299.99 - A workhorse of a jacket. Stylish yet practical this jacket features a tough Cordura outer material with a waterproof removable liner. For summer use, the jacket has an incredible 11 zippered vents to keep you cool. Full D3O armour comes as standard, and there is an optional chest protector.
Best Ladies - Richa Lausanne - £169.99 - A brilliant textile jacket that looks great both on and off the bike. The Lausanne offers full D3O armour, including a back protector, which is rare at this price point. A soft neoprene collar adds comfort and the waterproof Aquashell outer lining keeps you dry. A removable thermal liner means the jacket works all year round, and it has a CE ‘A’ rating.
Whichever style or material you choose, our advice is to look for the CE rating as part of your decision process. Whilst it's not a legal requirement to wear CE rated clothing on a motorcycle, we always recommend buying the most protective and feature-packed jacket you can afford. Generally, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is true, particularly when it comes to motorcycle gear.