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The Beginners Guide To Motorcycle Jackets

To continue with our series more geared (ha-ha, no pun intended!) towards beginners, we're introducing a detailed motorcycle gear guide, kicking off with jackets!

These days, there are a ridiculous amount of options available, everything from types of fabric to features to ventilation. It can be overwhelming to pick the right one (or ones!) suitable for your needs. We're here to break it down a little to help make the selection process a little easier.

Functionality of a Motorcycle Jacket

A motorcycle jacket is not just to make you look badass. Its purpose is to not only protect you in case of a crash, but also to make the riding experience more comfortable. This is why you can't just buy any old leather jacket from a swap meet and use it for riding protection!

Here are some primary functions and common features of motorcycle jackets:

Impact protection: Many jackets will have built-in or removable armor options.  Some common protection areas include elbow, chest, back, and shoulders. All jackets will have a different level of protection, the lowest being just foam layers to the highest being CE-rated armor with sliders  (we recommend looking for jackets with CE-rated armor!). When picking out a jacket, be aware of which protective pieces it provides. The price, of course, varies based on level of protection, but we recommend being on the safer side and going for something that offers more protection.

Abrasion resistance: Should you end up horizontal on the pavement, a good riding jacket should be made of tough enough material that it holds up during a crash, ideally so that you walk away with minimal skin injuries.

Weather protection: There are also many options for those of you who are not stopped by rain or cold weather! Many riding jackets will come with some kind of waterproof coating or internal liner in case you find yourself stuck out on the road in rainy weather. There are also insulated longer-length jackets for those brave souls who ride out in the freezing cold.

Ventilation: Just like it's important to be protected during rain or cold weather, it's equally important to stay cool while protected during hot weather. The sun may be shining, but that doesn't mean it's okay to go out riding in a t-shirt! There are lightweight jackets designed for these hot summer days with ventilation panels or mesh to keep you from heating up, and all the padding and armor to keep you safe.

Jackets for Different Types of Riding

Your most typical riding style will play a big role in what kind of jacket suits you best. Here are the features you want to look for for each riding style:

Race and aggressive sport: This is the most intense kind of riding and you will need the highest level of protection. Leather is the superior material for this case. The fit must be snug in order to maximize protection in the event of a crash. These jackets are designed with pre-bent arms, sport humps and heavy armor designed from race track development. Leather jackets are also more wind resistant and aerodynamic, meaning you can ride faster and more comfortably.

The Alpinestars GP Pro jacket is one of our best sellers in the race and aggressive sport category, with CE-rated protection, external sliders, perforated back hump and pre-curved arms

Touring and urban: Long distance touring jackets are designed to endure long hours on the road in all weather conditions, all year round. The fit and design are more relaxed than race-style jackets. Touring jackets typically have enough abrasion resistance and armor to protect the rider while still being comfortable. They make a great choice for commuting or everyday use.

Joe Rocket's Sonic 2.0 leather jacket is a stylish touring jacket with a relaxed fit, zip-close breathable mesh sleeve panels, removable insulated liner, and armor in the elbow and shoulders

Dual sport: Protection from all sorts of weather conditions is a must for dual sport riders. These types of jackets are typically specially designed lightweight jackets with less armor and road protection, but offer a great range of versatility in terms of weather protection. They are often waterproof, windproof, and breathable, with the option for liners to keep you warm.

The Moose Expedition jacket is a solid choice in the dual sport category, featuring a lightweight waterproof and windproof shell with elbow, shoulders, and back protection

Now let's take a look at the materials. Leather or textile is a great debate between riders. Let's break down the pros and cons of each.

Leather Jackets

Pros: best protection, extremely durable, classic
Cons: more expensive, heavy, hot to wear, not rain resistant

When it comes to protection, nothing can beat leather. Leather is the most durable material with incredible abrasion resistance. A high quality leather jacket can hold up for multiple crashes. But it is extremely important to choose a jacket that is thick enough to take the impact. A thickness of at least 1.2mm is ideal as it offers a great level of protection while still being soft and comfortable enough to wear.

Looks-wise, leather is also the most classic option. It will always look cool and never go out of style (and let's be honest, a bonus of riding is looking like a badass!).

We love the vintage look of Alpinestar's Charlie leather jacket!

However, leather does have its downsides. It is heavy and hotter to wear. Many modern leather riding jackets are trying to overcome this issue with features such as perforation or zippered vents to help with heat dispersion, but you may still find that it is not enough if you're riding during summer or live somewhere very warm and humid. (It is a great choice however for riding in cooler weather due to its wind resistance.) Leather jackets also don't hold up in the rain. Contact with water can cause the jacket to discolor or shrink, and in some cases, even get completely ruined. It will be necessary to get a rain shell to go over the jacket.

Shop for leather jackets here:

Textile Jackets

Pros: inexpensive, lightweight, comfortable, better for riding in weather
Cons: not as durable or abrasion resistant

There is a wide range of high-quality textile jackets on the market today designed for all riding styles, making it the more versatile choice. With more and more advanced textile construction these days, some can argue that textile can even rival leather in some cases, but we'll get into that in a bit.

Textile jackets are the better option for riding in all kinds of weather conditions, due to the variety of materials used. They can be waterproof, windproof, insulated, or ventilated - they can do it all, sometimes even all in one jacket by snapping in liners!

Textile jackets come in the full range: from lightweight mesh to keep you cool (a lot of riders who live in very hot and humid States find that this is the only viable option), to heavier advanced fabrics like Gortex or kevlar to protect from harsh climates. Textile jackets can also offer 100% waterproof protection and will not damage, whereas leather will in wet conditions. Basically, for ever changing weather conditions, textile jackets make a great choice.

Alpinestar's Valparaiso Drystar Jacket is a premium textile jacket with features such as waterproof and breathable membrane, sonic quilted liner, and CE-rated armor. A great all-weather jacket.

The lower cost and light weight make textile jackets a good option for general all-around riding, but they do not have the durability and abrasion resistance of leather. They're an ideal option for touring, sport touring, or adventure riding due to their flexibility, many versatile features, and the ability to be worn in many weather conditions.

Shop for textile jackets here:

Cost Considerations

Leather is the more expensive choice, when comparing jackets with similar features and levels of protection. It could go for upwards of $500 to even $1000 for GP-technology race jackets. However, a good one could last for multiple crashes, or even a lifetime if well taken care of. Textile jackets are definitely the more budget friendly option, however, they may need to be replaced after a single crash. It is also possible to patch and repair leather, whereas with textile, damage would usually mean having to buy a new jacket.

In the long run (though we really hope you don't experience too many crashes!), some may find that just getting a leather jacket upfront end up being more cost effective.

Picking a Jacket

The fit is extremely important when picking a jacket that will protect you. In general, a jacket should be snug. The protective padding/armor should not move out of place when the jacket is on. When you're in the riding position, the protective pieces should still fit snugly where they belong (elbow pads at the elbow, etc.).

The right fit not only will protect you better, but also makes a big difference in your riding comfort. Too loose jackets means extra material flapping around in the wind. A tight fit will decrease the wind strain, which will translate into a much less tiring and much more enjoyable ride.


Of course, the best option is to have a few jackets to suit different weather conditions and riding situations, but we understand that the average person does not have that kind of budget. There are strong cases of pros and cons to be made for both leather and texture, so the jacket you choose will all come down to personal preference. But in general, leather is the safest bet for performance riders, while commuters or adventure riders could opt for the more budget friendly and versatile textile jacket.

But remember, whatever jacket and material you choose, the golden rule of "you get what you pay for" applies here. A good motorcycle jacket means the difference between severe bodily injury and walking away without a scratch, so don't risk your safety by going too cheap!

If you have questions or need help picking out the right jacket for you, feel free to ask below, call us, or hit us up on our Facebook page!

By Daniel Relich

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