Zip Up in the Best Motorcycle Jackets You Can Buy

It’s time you upgraded that entry-level jacket to one of the best motorcycle jackets.

byRobert Bacon| UPDATED Oct 25, 2022 4:49 PM
Zip Up in the Best Motorcycle Jackets You Can Buy
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“Dress for the slide, not the ride” is a phrase that’s been uttered by motorcyclists for decades. But I’d argue no one says it more than motorcycle instructors, the people whose job it is to keep riders like you and me safe. It’s no coincidence that these are also the people I’ve seen wearing some of the most protective jackets on the market. The right motorcycle jacket inspires the confidence to hunt apex after apex, throw a leg over when dark clouds loom, or hit the road when the sun is beating down. Get the best jacket for the occasion, and give yourself the confidence to tackle any adventure.

Summary List

Best Overall: Klim Latitude Jacket

Best Women's Jacket: Icon Contra 2

Our Methodology

Buying your first motorcycle jacket feels like an overwhelming experience as you consider style, size, and features. Once you ride for a while, you develop a much better understanding of what you’re looking for in a motorcycle jacket. I can tell you that from my personal experience, I have developed a collection of jackets to suit the particular types of riding I plan to do. 

My broad personal experience with various types of motorcycle jackets helped me to analyze each jacket option for its best qualities. When choosing this list of the best motorcycle jackets, I considered more than just the basics of size. I wanted to create a comprehensive list that addressed beginners and experienced riders, warm and cold weather riders, and riders on a variety of bike styles. 
I used the construction material, features, and rider’s reported experiences to narrow down the list to the best motorcycle jackets. That way, I stayed true to The Drive’s methodology of finding the best products for motorcycle enthusiasts.

Best Motorcycle Jacket Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Ride Style: Touring
  • Construction Material: Textile
  • Included Armor: Shoulder, elbow, and back

Pros

  • Laminated Gore-Tex
  • 840D Cordura
  • Goat leather
  • Four-season jacket

Cons

  • No CE Level 2 armor
  • No thermal lining

When choosing the best overall jacket on the market, I needed to consider a model that will cover you in most situations, and that’s what the Klim Latitude Jacket does. This four-season riding jacket is the perfect partner for any commuter or sports tourer. It uses a laminated Gore-Tex two-layer shell, which is completely waterproof and breathable. If temperatures rise, you can use the direct-to-body vents to cool down. This model features 840D Cordura in high-abrasion and wear zones, which ensures this jacket is built to last. Some high-impact zones are made from full-grain goat leather, which provides even more resistance.

There’s CE Level 1 D30 armor at the elbows, shoulders, and back. If I could add CE Level 2 armor all round and a removable thermal liner, it would be difficult to fault this model. But at this price, what's on offer is very fair. This is the third generation of this jacket and one of the biggest improvements is the comfortable fleece color that features a tab back feature for improved ventilation. It has five external pockets, four zippered internal pockets, and one secret internal pocket.

Best Motorcycle Jacket Value
Scorpion EXO Optima Jacket

Specs

  • Ride Style: Adventure/Touring
  • Construction Material: Laminate fabric
  • Included Armor: Shoulder and elbow

Pros

  • Fully seam-sealed waterproof
  • Direct Core Ventilation
  • Exo-Tec CE rated armor
  • Removable EverHeat thermal liner

Cons

  • Zipper hits your neck
  • Slender arms

Scorpion’s EXO Optima proves you don't have to spend a fortune to stay warm and dry when riding in winter weather. The entire jacket’s construction is seam-sealed with laminated fabric to make it completely waterproof, and the double zippers give you extra protection from the elements. The removable EverHeat liner will help your body retain its natural heat so that you can stay warm but not too warm. For protection, there’s CE-rated armor on the shoulders and elbows and a foam back pad. Let’s be real — you’ll want to replace the armor if you want real protection.

The biggest problem with this jacket is that the zipper hits you right on the neck. There’s no protection from it, so it’s best to not zip it up all of the way. The arms are also slender, so you’ll want to size up if you have some bulky arms.

Specs

  • Ride Style: Sport
  • Construction Material: Textile/Mesh
  • Included Armor: Shoulder and elbows

Pros

  • Sport fit
  • Poly-fabric stretch inserts
  • Extended mesh panels
  • 3D mesh collar

Cons

  • Small zipper that’s hard to work in gloves
  • European sizing

Alpinestars’ T-GP full textile jacket comes in two options, a summer jacket that’s breathable and a warmer three-season version for colder weather riding. This is a good casual everyday riding and beginner’s jacket with soft instead of hard shoulder sliders and more flexible internal armor to give you better freedom of movement. These changes make the jacket way more comfortable than hard armored jackets. A nice subtle feature is the full stretch fabrics to make this jacket versatile for a variety of riding positions. Another nice feature is the comfort material on the inside, so it’ll feel really nice

One drawback of this jacket is the small zipper that’s frustrating to operate when you’re wearing gloves. The sizing is accurate but runs small and is slim through the torso. You’ll also want to add a back protector.

Best Leather Motorcycle Jacket
Scorpion EXO 1909 Leather Jacket

Specs

  • Ride Style: Touring
  • Construction Material: Leather
  • Included Armor: Shoulder and elbow

Pros

  • Soft distressed leather
  • Leather overlays at elbows
  • Removable EverHeat jacket liner
  • Perforated panels

Cons

  • Leather fades
  • Liner can fray

This jacket from Scorpion oozes cool with its retro styling and tasteful details. The soft leather is already distressed, making this jacket look like you’ve owned it for years, despite just pulling it out of the box. Unlike the jackets of old, this one comes with perforations to keep you cool, and armor to keep your body intact. The reinforcement overlays are nice to protect your elbows from road rash and the EverHeat removable liner is perfect for when you want to wear your leather on a colder day, because we all know the wind chill factor is real.

One potential issue with this jacket is that the leather fades. However, you’re buying a distressed jacket, so the fading should be a welcomed part of ownership. The liner lacks a bit of quality, so the fabric can begin to fray in places.

Best Summer Motorcycle Jacket
REV'IT! Eclipse Jacket

Specs

  • Ride Style: Touring
  • Construction Material: Mesh/polyester 600D
  • Included Armor: Shoulder and elbows

Pros

  • Knox Flexiform CE protection
  • 600D polyester
  • Adjustment straps
  • Ventilation panels

Cons

  • Weak Velcro
  • Sizing runs small

This touring jacket is going to change your summer riding experience with its impressive amount of ventilation panels. It comes in six color options, which is double and triple the number of design options other jackets typically have. With CE Level 1 armor in the shoulders and elbows, this is a great beginner jacket at an affordable price point, and the adjustable straps will help you create a customized fit.

The drawback of this jacket is that the sizing runs small, however, this is debatable depending on the size of your midsection. The Velcro tabs are weak, causing them to open in the wind. While the 600D is abrasion resistant, it isn’t the latest technology or the best on the market. However, it’ll keep you safe and it’s affordable.

Best Women’s Motorcycle Jacket
Icon Contra 2 Women's Jacket

Specs

  • Ride Style: Sport
  • Construction Material: Textile and mesh
  • Included Armor: Shoulders, elbows, and back

Pros

  • Woman-specific fit
  • Removable insulated liner
  • Pre-curved arms
  • Ballistic nylon paneling

Cons

  • Not ideal for curvy women
  • Flexible zipper

As a woman, it’s a struggle to buy gear. You want to be safe, but you also want to look good. This sport jacket from Icon hits every cylinder as it not only looks good but is also protective. Sport riders will appreciate the pre-curved arms that follow your natural body positioning while on your bike. The massive mesh panels are made from ballistic nylon to give you plenty of airflow through the chassis without sacrificing abrasion resistance. A removable lightweight liner means you can continue to wear this jacket when temperatures drop. The nicest thing about this jacket is the flattering shape it gives you; no linebacker shoulders here. Use the straps on the arms and waist to cinch the jacket down and prevent billowing in the wind.

The biggest problem with this jacket is that it isn’t ideal for curvier ladies, so those who are well endowed or have hips may find this jacket confining in certain, ahem, areas. You can size up to ease this. The zipper on the front also feels flexible, but that doesn’t mean it’s weak or not durable.

Our Verdict on the Best Motorcycle Jacket

Our top pick for the best motorcycle jacket is the Dainese Super Speed Textile Jacket with its combination of comfort and protective features. 

For a more affordable option, the Scorpion EXO Optima Jacket has an impressive amount of waterproofing and armor. 

Consider Secondhand

When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place we look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools, or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service all while saving you money. It also has the benefit of you not having to cut open an Amazon box inside an Amazon box with bubble wrapped around the part.

If those options above don’t have what you need, your local salvage yard is great for car parts, while swap meets are a great resource you should absolutely tap. Just Google either and head on down.  

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips for finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner. 

  •  Look for signs of the jacket being in an accident, such as impact fractures, torn textile, and scrape marks. 
  • Be wary of old jackets. While leather has a long useful life, the stitching grows weak over time. Textiles and armor also degrade over time, making them less protective as they age. 

What to Consider When Buying a Motorcycle Jacket

Buying a motorcycle jacket is an investment, so don’t just pick the one that you think looks cool. Measure yourself, consider your bike, and where you live. Then narrow down your options to the best jacket that you can afford that will meet all of these requirements. It helps to try a few different styles and brands before committing to one that you see online. Once you buy your jacket, put it on and sit on your bike in the riding position for a while. 

Types of Motorcycle Jacket 

Leather

The traditional material for motorcycle jackets is leather as it’s durable and protective. However, not all leather is the same, and it’s worth investing in higher-quality leather. You’ll see the jacket described as top grain and with a thickness. This is telling you the quality of the leather. The thicker the leather, the more protective it will be. A thicker leather is also heavier and hotter. Full-grain is the best, then top grain, followed by split and genuine grades. Synthetic, faux, and vegan leather are not the same and are not as durable. The drawback of leather is that it can be really hot. You can combat this by looking for a jacket with perforation. 

Textile

A textile is by far the most popular jacket material these days. Thanks to modern technology, you can buy a jacket that’s stylish and protective. Look for a textile jacket that has protective materials either layered or woven into the fibers. Kevlar is a popular one. Some jackets will also come with waterproofing, such as a Gore-Tex layer. 

Many textile jackets come with multiple layers to make them multi-season. This is a nice feature because you can add or remove layers as needed to always stay comfortable. You’ll find textile jackets for every riding style. They also come in a wide range of colors and designs, making it easier to express your personal style or match your jacket to your other gear. 

Mesh

A mesh jacket will give you the highest level of breathability. As someone who lives in Florida, these jackets are a lifesaver when the average summer temperatures are in the 90s with 80 percent humidity. However, while they are ideal for preventing heat stroke, they aren’t the most protective. While manufacturers have developed abrasion-resistant mesh, it can’t compare to leather and textile. If you decide you want a mesh jacket, look for one with a removable liner and a full set of armor. This will give you better protection at the impact points. It’s also smart to choose one with a waterproof pocket to protect your devices. 

Motorcycle Jacket Key Features

Ride Style

Your ride style is about more than just having a jacket that matches the taste and aesthetic. It’s about having a jacket that’s so comfortable you forget about it when you are in a riding position. You shouldn’t be pulling on it and constantly adjusting it at every red light. For example, touring and adventure jackets are longer in the torso because you sit more upright. Sport jackets are short in the front and extra long in the back. This prevents the jacket from bunching up on your tank and lower back exposure. The shoulder on a touring jacket should have accordion or stretch panels to accommodate a more raised arm position. While sport jackets have articulated arms to match the curve of your arm while riding. Both of these reduce body fatigue. 

Protective Elements 

On a basic level, your jacket should come with some armor. Shoulder and elbow armor are pretty standard these days. You may also see back and chest armor included, or at least the pockets for you to add later. The construction material should be abrasion resistant with reinforcement at impact points. 

Typically, this will be an extra layer of leather or abrasion-resistant textile material. You’ll also see some high-end jackets with external sliders made of aluminum, which is a lightweight yet incredibly strong metal that can withstand impacts and abrasions from the road. Pay attention to the stitching of the jacket, because without it, the jacket won’t stay together and all of the protective features will be useless. High-quality jackets are double- or triple-stitched. 

Climate 

Where you ride is just as important as what you ride. My summertime breathable jacket for Florida leaves me shivering, damp, and cold when I ride the Blue Ridge. I have to either put in the insulated liner or switch to my warmer jacket. My Florida winter jacket keeps me toasty, but would be no match for climates that experience snow or extremely cold temperatures. I’ve tried multi-season jackets and they are OK, but not great. It’s comparable to an all-season tire; they do the job but don't excel at anything. I much prefer owning multiple jackets that are specifically designed for where and when I ride.

Motorcycle Jacket Pricing 

Expect to spend at least $100 for a basic protective jacket. Beginners should buy an entry-level jacket in this price range while they figure out what they like to ride and if they want to keep riding. More experienced riders can upgrade to a $200 to $400 jacket as they settle into their ride style and learn what they want out of their jacket. Experienced and serious riders who rack the miles will want to invest in a jacket that’s $400 and over. These are specialty jackets and high-quality pieces of gear that are built to last and perform. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Do you really need a motorcycle jacket?

A: Do you enjoy your skin? Are you averse to skin grafts and multi-hundred-thousand-dollar doctor bills? Yes, you need a motorcycle jacket. Not only does it protect you in the event of a crash, but it also protects you while you’re riding. Your jacket protects you from the elements and airborne road debris. Plus it gives you pockets, which are convenient for carrying your stuff.

Q: Why are motorcycle jackets so expensive?

A: They are expensive because you aren’t buying a fashion piece; you’re buying a piece of safety gear. You’re paying for the research and development that went into the production of that jacket. You’re also paying for all of the innovative materials and extra bits that go into the jacket. Think of it this way — that $500 for the jacket is way cheaper than a hospital bill or funeral service. 

Q: What is CE armor?

A: CE refers to the armor being CE-certified, which stands for Conformité Européene. The only time you’re required to wear CE-rated gear is when you’re on a track. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear it when casually riding. There’s Level 1 and 2 armor, with Level 2 offering you better impact protection.

Q: How do I know what size motorcycle jacket to buy?

A: If there’s a local motorcycle gear shop that stocks the jacket you’re interested in, go and try it on. Otherwise, read through the reviews and see if buyers say it fits true to size, is too tight, or is too loose.