A Guide to Motorcycle Jackets

There is perhaps nothing more iconic in motorcycle lore than the leather jacket. Countless movies have featured a character who rides a motorcycle and dons the infamous jacket with the ultimate air of cool. However, if you are newer to riding, you may not realize that the motorcycle jacket has a purpose beyond just fashion. This item of clothing is actually an extremely important piece of safety gear in your riding arsenal. 

One of the most common injuries for motorcycle riders who get into an accident or are thrown from their bike is road rash. Wearing the right jacket can help protect your skin and tissues from serious abrasion damage. Read on below to learn what to look for when selecting a jacket for riding. 


Even in the modern age when new, advanced textiles have been developed, leather still has its place in keeping riders safe on the road. In fact, there is a reason why it has withstood the test of time and is arguably still the safest material out there for motorcycle riders. Leather is a unique material in that it is a natural product. Since it is made from animal hides, no two pieces are the same, and weights and thicknesses are approximate. 

If leather is truly not your thing or you choose not to wear or purchase animal products in your daily life, there are a few vegan and synthetic options out there, as well. If you choose to go this route, make sure you are selecting a jacket made specifically for motorcycle riding. Regular jackets that are described as faux leather, leather-look, or PVC will not cut it, as they are designed for style and will not provide adequate resistance against abrasion. 

Leather resists wind very well and can keep you warm in colder temperatures. In the summer, you may be tempted to forgo the jacket and just ride in a t-shirt. Unfortunately, lightweight clothing will allow the sweat to evaporate off your body too quickly, causing you to sweat more and become dehydrated or more overheated. However, leather can actually also keep you cooler in warmer weather by preventing this dehydration and being surprisingly breathable. Some jackets made for motorcycles have vents built in that you can open to supply some cross-ventilation to your torso and underarms. 

Instead, look for a synthetic or textile blend that is weaved with ballistic nylon or Kevlar. These types of materials are hardy and will provide resistance against friction and tearing, although they still burn through easier than leather. Synthetics are also more lightweight and easier to clean, but they tend not to last as long as leather does. 

One area where synthetics might do better is weatherproofing. While leather repels water well, long-term saturation can damage the material if not properly cared for. Leather must be treated to hold up more effectively in the elements, but it will only ever be water-resistant, while some synthetics can be designed to be waterproof. 

Thickness and Durability 

The simple rule of thumb to consider when rating the protectiveness of a motorcycle jacket is that thicker is better. Thickness means weight, and the heavier the leather, the better its ability to resist abrasion. Motorcycle jackets can come in a few different weight categories. 

Lightweight jackets usually come in a thickness of about 1 mm thick and weigh around 2.5 oz. Although this is the least protective of jacket weights, it is still far better than a regular shirt or non-riding jacket, and it provide good resistance against abrasion during a slow slide. A midweight or general-purpose weight of leather jacket is around 1.2 mm thick, or weighing about 3 oz. This may seem like a minor increase in thickness, but that small amount makes for a lot more abrasion resistance when it comes to it. 

The safest leather jacket is a heavyweight model. This type is the jacket of choice for professionals and racers, who may be more likely to wipe out at higher speeds, as well as anyone who wants a little extra insurance on the road. This type of jacket typically is at least 1.4 mm thick and weighs in at around 3.5 oz or more. It will protect the wearer for the longest slide times of any of the weights and can help absorb heat from friction to prevents road burns. However, other factors, such as construction, stitching, the tanning process, and the finish, also contribute to the durability and protectiveness of the jacket. 

Construction and Fastenings 

Leather components are usually attached together by stitching, so it is important that you find a jacket with sturdy and quality stitching. The ideal would be a jacket with seams that are overlayed or have triple stitching. The standard rule of thumb is 11-14 stitches for every 5 cm. For maximum safety, look for a jacket with the fewest seams possible. Ideally, the seams should be inside the jacket to limit abrasion contact and surface wear. 

Test the seam quality by pulling them apart. If the thread stretches or the holes where the stitching goes through become larger, the leather is inferior quality. You should also look for a jacket that is made with fewer separate panels, as uniform pieces are more likely to hold up during impact. Some manufacturers will use offcuts to make smaller panels rather than larger cuts to bring the price down. Remember that safety and quality are worth paying more for, and a well-made leather jacket could last you most of your riding career. 

Again, while leather is not waterproof, there are many steps the manufacturer can take to ensure the jacket is more weather-resistant. Leather treated with weatherproofing material or lined with Gore-Tex can go a long way, as can tapered seams and sealed liners. Zippered vents can be opened on warmer rides, but all zippers on the jacket should have a flap for coverage from wind and rain. 

Fitting Your Jacket 

Remember that your motorcycle jacket needs to fit as a piece of protective gear, so prioritize function over fashion. If you get into an accident, it is vital that your jacket stays in place, so make sure that any jacket you try on does not fit too loosely, ride up, or is tight enough to create pinched spots that could burst on impact. 

Try jackets on with the normal clothing you would wear under it, and keep in mind that if you choose leather, it will wear in over time and adapt to fit better to your body shape. If the jacket has built-in armor, make sure it lines up with the proper contact points on your body and that it stays in place when you move around. 


Wearing the right gear is the best way that you can be proactive in protecting yourself in the event you are involved in a wreck. Hopefully, this will never happen to you, but if it does, you will never regret having worn the proper protective equipment. If you were the victim of a motorcycle accident and think you could be entitled to compensation for your damages, contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz to be put in touch directly with a real attorney. You have no obligation to continue with our services after the first consultation.

Recent Posts