Here’s How To Buy A Motorcycle Jacket
Your jacket is the heart of your motorcycle outfit. So let’s get it right.
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Motorcyclists notice bad jackets. We notice how they don’t keep us warm enough when the sun goes down, or how eventually the rain seeps through at the shoulders before making a puddle around our torso. We notice which flaps and adjusters open when we twist the wrist, and most of all, we notice jackets that don’t stand up to the test of time. When you buy a motorcycle jacket, the best thing you can hope for is that it’s so good that you don’t notice it at all.
After a helmet, a motorcycle jacket is probably going to take the brunt of the impact in an accident. Now, I like my limbs—I'm very attached to my legs—and you should too, so to say it’s important to buy a jacket that fits is an understatement. A jacket that fits poorly won't protect you in the right places if/when the time comes.
When you know what you’re looking for, buying a jacket isn’t particularly difficult. But, if you don’t understand how to find your size or even what features are important to you, getting the right model can seem like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded, hoping for the bullseye. I have bought plenty of jackets in my nearly two decades of riding motorcycles and made the mistakes, so you won’t have to. All you need is a soft measuring tape and a friend to help you measure.
Step 1: What Type of Riding You Do
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Pick a type of jacket that matches the type of riding you do. For example, if you mainly carve canyons on a Yamaha R6, get a sports jacket. A sports jacket, with its pre-curved arms and armor, is going to make you feel secure when you’re hanging off on a twisty road. But if you like to get dusty on a Ducati Desert X, get an adventure jacket. An adventure jacket will give you the space you need to move around when tackling tight, technical trails or covering countless cross-country miles.
Here are some examples of the different jacket types that you can choose from: adventure/touring, sport, cafe, cruiser, summer, winter, waterproof, and four-season.
Step 2: The Weather Conditions You Ride In
Once you decide what type of jacket suits your riding best, you’ll need to pick a model in that niche that’ll stand up to the weather you encounter. For example, if you’re only going to ride during the summer on hot days, you'll need a summer jacket. Now, this can still be an adventure, sports, or cafe-style jacket, but it needs to be a warm-weather variant.
How your jacket will fare in different weather conditions all comes down to the materials it's made from and the different liners included. If you want a model that’s waterproof, look for one with a laminated Gore-Tex exterior. Likewise, if you need a jacket that’ll keep you cool on hot summer rides, it needs to be made from breathable mesh.
Step 3: Features You Require
When I’m looking for a new motorcycle jacket, I make a list of features that serve as the bare minimum the model needs to have. The features I look for vary depending on the style of jacket I want and what type of riding I'll do in it.
If I want a three- or four-season jacket, then a removable thermal liner is a must-have. Whereas if I need a jacket to endure a monsoon season, It'll need to have a Gore-Tex shell, or a removable waterproof liner at the very minimum. And if I'm getting a jacket to protect me while I drag knees in the canyons, I look for pre-curved arms, stretch fabric, and a zip to connect to my riding pants are a must.
Step 4: Safety You Need
Again, when I’m buying a jacket, I decide what my minimum safety requirements are. Most jackets come with CE level 1 shoulder and elbow protection, and some come with a back protector. If you’re like me, back protectors aren’t optional, so if a back protector isn’t included in the sale, I consider it to be a necessary extra purchase.
Not all jackets have pockets for chest armor, but if you’re getting a sports jacket, I’d recommend getting one with these pockets and filling them. Just having armor isn’t enough to protect you, however, because if your jacket doesn’t fit correctly, the armor is almost useless. So ensuring that you get the right size is just as important as loading the jacket with high-quality armor.
Find Your Fit
Once you’ve narrowed down the style you want and the features and safety requirements you need, you should have a relatively small selection of jackets facing you. Now, you need to make sure that the one you pick is the perfect fit.
Step 1: Measure Chest
Once you’ve narrowed down the motorcycle jacket you want, using all the steps I’ve listed above, it’s time to make sure it fits. And the first thing we measure is your chest. This is easiest with a friend’s help. Using a soft measuring tape, measure around your chest and keep the tape level across your back. Breathe normally, not taking any abnormally deep breaths or holding your breath. Back protectors rarely affect the fit of a jacket so much that you need to size up, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this.
Now you can compare your chest measurements to those listed on the manufacturer’s website.
Step 2: Measure Arm Length
You need to measure the length of your arms rather than the width of your bicep. To measure your arms, you’ll need a soft measuring tape again, and the help of a friend would make things much easier. The manufacturer’s arm measurements will either be listed in the 20-inch range or the 30-inch range; How you measure your arms will depend on what range is used.
If the manufacturer uses the 20-inch range, measure from your shoulder, down past your elbow, and stop at your wrist. If the manufacturer uses the 30-inch range, you’ll need to start measuring from your spine at the base of your neck, run down your shoulder and elbow, and finish at the wrist, just like before.
Some jackets, particularly sporty jackets, are designed to be worn with gauntlet gloves, meaning the sleeves will be shorter than a regular street jacket.
Step 3: Measure Torso
The third measurement you need is the width of your torso, otherwise known as your waist measurement. This isn’t to be confused with the measurement of your pants, and it’s taken about one inch above your belly button. Again you’ll need a soft measuring tape and ensure that the tape is even all the way around the front and back of your waist.
You should be able to find waist measurements on any manufacturer’s website. I’d consider the waist measurement to be the least important of the three measurements. There’s usually plenty of adjustability around the waist, so If the chest and arms are right, but the waist is too loose, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Step 4: Check for Size Irregularities
Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult for manufacturers to keep sizing consistent throughout different models and iterations of jackets. So, although you can look up the manufacturer’s sizing chart and compare your measurements to it, it won't always equate to a perfect fit.
Before buying any motorcycle jacket, look at reviews online to see if buyers report that it runs smaller or larger than usual and use that to guide your decision.
Step 5: Check Fit Before You Ride
Generally speaking, you can’t return a jacket if you’ve ridden in it. So, once your new jacket has arrived, get on your bike and see how it feels to move around in. This is a lot easier if you can put your motorcycle up on a center or paddock stand. Move like you generally do while riding, and if the jacket feels good, keep it. Otherwise, send it back and get a different size.
And that’s it. If you’ve followed these steps, you should have a jacket that suits all your needs and fits perfectly. Congratulations.
If you want a video to follow along while you choose your next motorcycle jacket, check out this explainer from RevZilla.