Ride With Confidence in the Best Leather Motorcycle Jacket
Besides style, we give you the details to look for when you’re shopping for a riding jacket.
Life can change in an instant, and the right leather motorcycle jacket once meant the difference between my husband living and dying.
It was a typical Florida summer day when he stopped at a stop sign. Another rider trying to show off slammed into the back of him doing 90 miles per hour. My husband’s bike went sliding across the pavement, while he was ejected into the air 175 feet only to then land and slide to a stop. He ended up with severe road rash covering 25 percent of his body. Now, what does this have to do with his jacket, you ask? Half of that road rash was where his jacket should have protected him. You could say that his injuries would have been a lot worse without the jacket, but I maintain that Joe Rocket’s low-quality gear failed him with a jacket that immediately disintegrated into shreds of nothingness. While the jacket protected him enough to keep him alive, it didn’t protect him enough to prevent serious injury.
I know you want to look cool and make a style statement in your jacket. However, take a lesson from your fellow rider and check out these jackets that combine looks with actual protection.
Best Overall: Alpinestars GP Plus R V3 Rideknit Leather Jacket
Value: Icon Contra 2
Honorable Mention: Dainese Sport Pro Perforated Leather Jacket
Best Three Season: Rev'It Ignition 3 Women's Jacket
Race-Track Ready: Dainese Sport Pro Perforated Leather Jacket
When curating this list of the best leather motorcycle jackets, I focused on well-known brands that have a proven track record of quality construction and performance. Any jackets sold by unknown or obscure brands, made from faux leather, or not specifically for riding were not considered. Don’t trust your life to a jacket that isn’t meant to save it. I looked for jackets that were popular with riders and had plenty of positive feedback from those who put the jacket through the test of actual use. I specifically looked for people who could speak to the durability and protective qualities during a fall.
Jackets aren’t all about safety, though, so I looked for jackets with a unique style and comfort features. After all, you should actually want to wear the jacket for it to ever make it from the closet to the road. Because of this, I included jackets for different riding styles. One jacket won’t work for all of us. For example, women hate the linebacker look when jackets have bulky shoulders. Some jackets work better for the tall and slender, while others are better suited for those with some bulk. In accordance with The Drive’s methodology, my goal was to find the best leather jackets that you will actually want to wear.
Best Leather Motorcycle Jacket Reviews & Recommendations
Best OverallAlpinestars GP Plus R V3 Rideknit Leather Jacket
This basic all-around good jacket is a bit of an investment but is perfect for the casual sportbike rider. The quality materials and durable construction will help it to last through many years and miles of riding. It has a sporty race-inspired look but comes with all of the creature comforts you could want. The outer shell is premium bovine leather for durable abrasion resistance with knitted stretch panels for flexibility and use of the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 Airbag System. A nice touch is the extra-long back panel because no one likes seeing your crack hanging out of your jeans. Plus, nothing makes you feel colder on a winter day than cool air hitting your lower back. You also get a decent amount of protection with this jacket thanks to the Level 1 Nucleon Flex Plus armor on the shoulder and elbows and back protector pocket.
It should be no surprise that you sacrifice safety when you buy a jacket that’s constructed from textile and leather. However, Alpinestars does its best to minimize this by placing the textile panels in low-impact areas like under the arms. Additionally, you’d assume that textile panels would be cooler and allow more airflow, but this isn’t the case.
- Brand: Alpinestars
- Ride Style: Sport
- Armor: Armor sold separately
- Tech-Air 5 compatible
- Pre-curved sleeves
- Inner comfort liner
- Premium bovine leather
- Not as much airflow as perforated jackets
- Rideknit sacrifices protection
Best ValueIcon Contra 2
The Contra 2 from Icon proves you don’t have to spend a lot to have a decent jacket. This durable leather and textile jacket comes in a perforated and non-perforated version. Both versions come with a removable insulated liner that helps keep you warm during cold weather riding. You’ll find that this jacket has a looser fit but still has a sport cut with pre-curved arms. If you prefer a tighter fit, you can use the simple ratchet adjusters on the arms and side to snug it up. It also offers plenty of protection with D30 armor in the back, elbows, and shoulders.
The biggest complaint I have about this jacket is that the armor could be better. The D30 armor is protective, but it’s also decade-old technology, and manufacturers have developed lighter and thinner armor. Additionally, if you live in a humid climate, be careful where and how you store your jacket. I had the original version of this jacket, and the D30 armor disintegrated into a rubbery gooey mess despite keeping it in my bedroom closet. The best bet is to buy the jacket and replace the armor with an upgraded set.
- Brand: Icon
- Ride Style: Touring
- Armor: D3O removable back, elbow and shoulder impact protectors
- Pre-curved arms
- Removable insulated liner
- Textile and leather construction
- Not a full liner
- Included armor could be better
Honorable MentionDainese Sport Pro Perforated Leather Jacket
Dainese has worked hard to develop a reputation for high quality, and they’ve cultivated a strong fanbase because of it. Their jackets are expensive, but you’ll get 1.2-millimeter perforated cowhide leather that’s standard on a jacket in this price range. The aluminum shoulder plates give better slide abrasion resistance than lower-quality plastic versions. Similar to other jackets on this list, there are S1 bielastic fabric textile inserts on the arms and sides with water repellant and Cordura polyamide treatments. For ventilation, there are perforations throughout the leather, two zippered vents on the front and back, and a nanofeel liner with a silver ion treatment.
For the price of this jacket, I would have expected it to come with a better armor setup, additional comfort touches, and more innovative features. While there are pockets on the back and chest, you have to buy those separately. Then the elbows only have composite protectors. Then there’s the styling, or should I say lack thereof. You’re just a walking billboard with no stylistic design except large, high contrast, ugly logos on the chest, back, arms, and shoulders. Dainese sure wants people to see their brand from any angle.
- Brand: Dianese
- Ride Style: Sport Pro
- Armor: Pro Armor inserts at shoulders
- 1.2-millimeter cowhide jacket
- Interchangeable aluminum shoulder plates
- S1 bielastic fabric
- Large ugly logo on chest
- Composite elbow protectors
Best Three SeasonRev'It Ignition 3 Women's Jacket
The Ignition jacket has been such a hit with women riders that this is the third edition of the jacket. It’s not surprising, given it’s the perfect combo of protection and flattering fit. The latest version has some impressive improvements, including the addition of Seeflex CE level 2 armor. You’ll appreciate the same Dynax mesh and Monaco performance cowhide construction. It comes with two liners, one thermal and one waterproof, making it suitable for all riding conditions and the only jacket you’ll ever need. The outer shell is fully perforated for superior ventilation that will keep you cool in the summer. Thankfully, it has adjustment tabs, straps, and panels to give you custom fit over your curves to make the regular touring cut of the jacket both flattering and comfortable.
The downfall of this jacket is something that plagues most women’s clothing—a lack of pockets. It has slit, document, and inner pockets. This is nowhere near the storage capacity that men get in their jackets. The fit through the shoulders also tends to be tight, which can restrict your movement while riding.
- Brand: REV'IT!
- Ride Style: Touring
- Armor: CE level 2 armor
- Monaco performance cowhide
- Wax polyester 600D
- Detachable thermal body warmer
- Stretch panels
- Tight fit in the shoulders
- Lacks pockets
Race-Track ReadyDainese Sport Pro Perforated Leather Jacket
The Dainese Super Speed 3 is essentially the top half of a race suit and is perfect for those who are getting their elbows down or aspire to. It’s made from D-Skin 2.0 full-grain cow leather, which along with stretch fabric around the collarbone and arms, keeps it flexible and durable. There are CE level-2 protectors at the elbows and shoulders along with replaceable aluminum plates on the shoulders and seamless aluminum plates on the elbows. There are compartments for double chest protectors and a G2 back protector (sold separately). You can zip this model to the Super Speed 3 leather pants for even more protection.
There’s a Nanofeel liner inside, which has been treated with silver ions. This gives the liner anti-bacterial and anti-odor properties, keeping the jacket smelling better for longer. This model is perforated, and there are vents on the sides, which you’ll be thankful for when the sun’s out. This iteration has a longer back that’s intended to offer more protection. There are two outer pockets and one inner pocket. The only issue I have with this model is that it’s one of the priciest options on the market, especially when you consider that it doesn’t come with a back protector.
- Brand: Dianese
- Ride Style: Super Speed 3
- Armor: CE level-2 shoulder and elbow protectors
- D-Skin 2.0 full grain leather
- Nanofeel liner
- Plenty of flexibility
- No back protector included
For one of the best leather motorcycle jackets to protect you and enhance your style, consider the Alpinestars GP Plus R V3 Rideknit Leather Jacket with its premium leather construction and impressive protective qualities.
An affordable alternative is the Icon Contra 2 Perforated Leather Jacket with its removable liner and durable construction.
What to Consider When Buying Leather Motorcycle Jacket
When buying a leather motorcycle jacket, it needs to look good, feel good, and effectively protect you. This means considering features that affect all of these functions, like leather quality, ride style, venting, liners, armor level, and construction. When you slip into your new leather jacket, it should feel comfortable and like a second layer of skin. It shouldn’t restrict your movement or feel heavy on your body.
Leather Motorcycle Jacket Key Features
Higher-quality leather is lighter, softer, more comfortable, and stronger. As a general rule, the cheaper the jacket, the lower-quality the leather. Buying a jacket with better quality leather will last longer and protect you better. Synthetic or faux leather is commonly used to make cheap gear. While it can provide better protection than not wearing a jacket at all, it can’t compare to genuine leather. Cowhide is the most commonly used because it offers a respectable amount of protection for the price. K-leather made from kangaroos is frequently used to construct expensive leather gear. It’s lighter and thinner than cowhide without sacrificing performance. Goat leather is the softest and most supple because of the natural presence of lanolin. There are also full-grain and top-grain leather grades. Full-grain is the most protective and strongest. Top grain is thinner and looks nicer but isn’t quite as strong as full-grain.
Because leather can get hot, you want to look for a leather jacket that has adequate venting. Typically these will either be mesh inserts or zippered vents that you can open and close. High-end jackets can also have perforated panels that allow for ventilation without sacrificing protection the way a mesh panel does. However, mesh vents feel cooler while riding. Look for the vents to be located on the front chest, arms, and back. This will create a flow of air through the jacket. Some leather jackets also have a mesh liner that is supposed to aid air circulation around the body inside of the jacket
Lower-quality jackets won’t have a liner, or if they do, it won’t be removable. This will be fine until you wear your jacket on a hot day and sweat a lot. Then you’ll have to get your jacket professionally cleaned. Higher-quality jackets have a removable liner for easier care at home. Having a removable liner is nice because it makes your jacket more versatile to wear throughout the year in a broader range of riding temperatures. Thermal liners keep you warmer in the cold, while waterproof liners help keep you dry when it rains.
Buy a leather jacket that’s designed for the climate you intend to ride in. Leather is inherently warmer, so you’ll need a jacket that’s accommodating. Wearing a winter leather jacket in the heat of summer is a fast way to experience heat stroke and can prematurely end your riding day.
While you want to look good wearing your jacket, it also needs to be functional for your riding style. Narrow down your search to the type of bike you ride. Cruiser-style jackets have a generous cut for a roomy fit in the shoulders and arms with a longer torso length. Sport bike jackets have a torso that’s shorter in the front and longer in the back and articulated arms that follow the natural curve of the arm when in a riding position. MotoGP style jackets are like sport jackets on steroids. These jackets fit tight like a second skin and have aggressively curved arms, speed humps, metal plates, and hard sliders. Cafe-style jackets have a retro look with room in the shoulders and a shorter torso that bridges the gap between cruiser and sport jackets.
Most modern leather sport jackets come with armor. However, armor is less common in cruiser and cafe-style jackets. CE-approved armor is the best, with CE Level 1 being more protective than CE Level 2. Some jackets come with D30 armor, which is a protective impact material but also older technology at this point. You can replace it with something thinner, lighter, and more protective. Look for Kevlar, metal, or carbon fiber armor on the shoulders, elbows, and spine for the best protection. If your jacket doesn't come with this armor, it should have pockets for adding it after purchasing. Jackets meant for racing have the most protection with external sliders at impact points.
For sheer convenience, your jacket should have pockets. Thankfully, unless you are buying a track jacket, it’s highly likely your jacket will have at least one pocket. For the most functionality, there should be two hand pockets on the outside that are zippered. Then there should be at least one pocket on the inside for more protection and security. Some jackets have a waterproof pocket for technology. Others have a connected channel for your earbud wire. A Napoleon pocket is also nice because it’s easy to access and protected.
The zippers on your jacket can be made from either plastic or metal. Both can be low or high-quality. Look for a zipper with secure teeth that easily lock together to tell the difference. The zipper should smoothly glide up and down without coming off the track. High-quality jackets come with a flap that covers the zipper. This prevents wind and water from getting into the jacket through the zipper. A protective cover at the top of the zipper track is an extra nice feature that covers the slider, keeps it secure, and prevents it from rubbing on your skin.
Leather jackets are typically either black or brown. This makes them not as visible as mesh jackets. Some manufacturers combat this by adding reflective piping or other accents. These reflective accents should be on the chest, back, and outside arms for the most visibility. When a car’s headlights shine in your direction, it will bounce off this accenting and catch the driver’s eye. Another approach is to accent the jacket with bright colors. This is helpful but not as good for visibility at night as reflective material.
A comfortable jacket is one that you can wear all day while riding and still feel good when you get off. Check the collar and wrists for a comfortable lining made of neoprene, fleece, or another soft material. The bottom of the zipper should have a protective cover to prevent it from digging into you or damaging your bike. There should be accordion panels, gusseting, or flex panels in the shoulders to make movement easier. Sport bike arms should have some articulation to reduce stress on the arms while riding. Velcro straps on the wrists secure the sleeves and make wearing your jacket with gloves easier.
Leather Motorcycle Jacket Pricing
If you are looking for an entry-level jacket that provides a basic level of protection, then expect to spend $100 to $300. These jackets won’t have top-quality leather or many of the features that more expensive jackets have. If you are ready to spend money on a mid-range jacket, expect to spend $300 to $650 for your jacket. The jackets use protective quality leather and have varying combinations of features like a removable liner, plentiful pockets, and adjustable ventilation. The majority of jackets in this range come with armor. Jackets priced from $650 to $1,000 and above are top-quality jackets that have the best construction out of the highest quality leather. The jackets have innovative technology and features like electronic systems, wind tunnel contouring, and airbags.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: How do I wash a leather motorcycle jacket?
A: It is best to clean it by rinsing the material with warm water or using a wet towel mixed with soap. Use gentle soap and always condition the leather afterward to re-add the moisture the soap stripped from the leather. You can also take it to a dry cleaner and have a professional clean it. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer to see the best way to clean the leather properly so you don't ruin it.
Q: How do I size a motorcycle jacket?
A: Always follow the manufacturer’s product-specific size chart for accurate size selection. Consider whether the jacket is American or European cut. Use a soft tape measure to wrap around your body and get your chest, waist, and sleeve length measurements. Sleeves may be measured from the shoulder point or from the spine. Pay attention to this to get an accurate measurement. If you plan to put a back protector in your jacket, consider adding a quarter to a half inch to accommodate it.
Q: How thick should motorcycle leather be?
A: The leather should be a minimum of 1.4 millimeters thick to make it durable enough to absorb the heat from the friction of impact and be durable enough to withstand the abrasion. The thicker the leather is, the stiffer and heavier the jacket will be.
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: Do textile or leather jackets offer more protection?
A: Generally speaking, a leather jacket will offer more abrasion resistance than its textile counterpart. But, the armor in a jacket is the main determining factor when it comes to protection.