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Motorcycle jackets Buying Guide
Writer: staff
Date: 20/09/08

Funny thing-after millions of evolutionary years, we're still protecting our skin with leather. Just as the first motorcyclists did, we wear leather jackets as our primary defense against the elements. Leather has proved to be flexible and tear-, abrasion- and wind-resistant. And, of course, it's a styling statement. But there are things you should know ahead of your shopping trip.

Jackets are often a reflection of a rider's personality; there are more elements to take into consideration when purchasing a motorcycle jacket than simply whether or not you look good in it. Protection, quality, durability and a comfortable fit are as important as style. To help you make a sound decision before plunking down your hard-earned dollars, BikeApparels has developed this basic guide to make the decision process a little easier.

Material Motorcycle jackets are either leather or synthetic. The former is the most popular material for jackets. However, synthetic like mesh is now also commonly used specially in hot season. Dupont Cordura, a variety of nylon with a scale going up to roughly 1000 denier, can also be chosen.

Leather can lasts up to 30 years. Through the years it has already established an attitude and traditional beat. It is also easy to clean and very affordable compared to synthetic materials. However, it is less conspicuous because it is usually dark.

On the other hand, synthetic materials have airflow to allow air to penetrate. Usually, they come in bright colors. Also, they are waterproof, longer and lighter. The drawbacks include being expensive, easily dated, complex to clean and do not last long.

Proper Fit Remember that you're not going to be wearing a motorcycle jacket standing up. Different bikes will place you in different riding positions. This means a jacket should run a little long in the sleeves, it should have a little extra room in the shoulders, and needs to come down a little further so there's no gap between the top of your pants and the bottom of the jacket. It should also have closures around the wrists, neck and waist. Not only will this provide protection against the elements, but it will also keep material from flapping around, which is distracting when you ride.

Padding Padding = Protection. Most jackets come with reinforced elbows, shoulders and backs. It can be as simple as extra material sown strategically into areas that are often injured in a crash to heavy-duty plastic inserts to reinforced Kevlar. Check to make sure the protective armor doesn't shift around when you put the jacket on. It won't do you any good if it doesn't stay in place.

Reflective Material Even though you might look best in solid black leather, this style of jacket will make you almost unnoticeable at night. Most jackets include piping on the sleeves or back made from Scot elite or some other reflective material. Many manufacturers make the logos on their jackets reflective also, like the bold "Rocket" lettering that is splayed across the chest.

Liners We like a removable liner for the added versatility. Chilly? Just zip (or snap) it in and off you go. Too warm? Zip it out and toss it in your saddlebag. You'll be surprised how much warmth even a lightly insulated liner provides.


Ventilation Air circulation is essential especially during hot season when the sun can hurt the skin and can make a rider sweaty and uncomfortable. To remedy this, riders can purchase jackets that have ventilation zippers. These zippers are usually found under the armpits. Other ventilation holes are also made to efficiently allow air to circulate. A Velcro or a zipper at the back can provide substantial comfort. Pockets can also be added.

Waterproof A waterproof jacket is a must in riding. Riding knows no weather. Thus, riders are always on the go. Nothing can stop them, even the unsympathetic weather. However, if riders ride with a non-waterproof jacket, their health can be at stake. Moreover, this will keep them from further enjoying rides.

Pockets/Storage The more, the merrier. Look for an inner pocket to put your license, wallet, or cash in. Outer pockets are of little use if they can't be closed tight. I speak from experience. I lost a $120 pair of when I stuck them in my side jacket pocket without zipping it shut and wind buffeting knocked my favorite shades out somewhere on I-5 between work and home. Pockets with cover-up flaps are best. Wind has a way of finding its way between the teeth of a zipper, so a small patch of material in front or back of a zipper will help keep wind penetration to a minimum. Also, check outer pockets to see if they are waterproof. This is always a bonus.

FAMMZ FT16 Storage Capacity Back FAMMZ FT16 Storage Capacity Back

Extras Gusseting or expansion panels above the elbows or behind the shoulders make the reach to the bars more comfortable. Look for stretch panels, belts or adjustments at the waist to tailor fit-one size 40 jacket does not fit all size 40 bodies. Heavy-duty front zippers (with easily accessed pulls) are essential. We prefer collars with adjustable closures rather than snap-closed necks, which can push on your throat.

Types of Leather

There are four primary types of leather. Here's a quick rundown of the four grades.

Split Leather is made from the lower layers of a hide that have been split away from the upper (or grain) layers. Split leather doesn't provide as much protection as full-grain leather, and is typically used as suede.

Suede is split leather that has been buffed and brushed to create a fuzzy, soft surface. Suede looks good but won't help you much in a get-off.

Top Grain or Corrected Grain leather has been sanded to remove scars and imperfections and then is sprayed for a uniform look. Top grain is a step up from split leather or suede, but is not the same quality as full-grain or naked leather. But a top grain jacket with a thickness of at least 1.2mm makes this type of leather a good choice.

Full-Grain or Naked Leather is the best you can get for your buck. It is made from the finest hides with only a transparent dye added. The natural full-grain surface will wear better than other leather and develops a natural patina. This sheen only enhances the look of the jacket over time. This type of leather is the highest riding grade which ultimately also makes it the most expensive.

Buying and Care Tips for Leather Jackets:

Good leather should be at least 1mm thick. When buying a leather motorcycle jacket, check the seams and stitching on the hems and lapels and in the areas that will see a lot of movement. You can weatherproof your leather with neat's-foot oil or another conditioner to keep your jacket supple and looking good.