Jacket

The riding jacket separates the pro’s from the bro’s

Without a good riding jacket, you can be cold, wet, wind-burnt, sun-burned and injured. The riding jacket separates the pro’s from the bro’s, the riders from the sunny-siders. A jacket is your most expensive gear, but after the helmet, is the most important for safety. It costs the most because it must be

  1. Protective: Rip proof, absorbs damage, protection pads.
  2. Warm: Good insulation, internal winter wool insert.
  3. Waterproof: Pocket flap seals, closed wrists and collar, zip overlays.
  4. Ventilated: Breathable material, back vents, underarm vents.
  5. Wearable: Not too heavy, stays clean, adjustable waist, nice design.
  6. A carryall: Wallet pocket, map pockets, side pockets, inside pockets.

A motorcycle jacket has no hood, as the helmet keeps the head dry.

Protective

There are types of jacket material:

  1. Leather
  2. Polyvinyl or nylon
  3. Synthetic

If you can afford a quality synthetic jacket get one - they are worth it.

Leather protects as skin does, by absorbing an attack

Leather motor-cycle jackets can be heavy, bulky and not entirely waterproof (the leather jacket one wears to a club is not a motor-cycle jacket). Leather tends to be expensive, but is warm, and does one thing well – protect you if you fall. Leather protects as skin does, by absorbing an attack. If you hit the pavement, the jacket rips but you don’t – it takes the hurt for you. The gravel bits stick in the jacket, not your skin, which is good.

Polyvinyl is fully waterproof and tough

Polyvinyl is the cheaper alternative to leather. Originally designed for road-side workers, rain suits often come in glaring colors, like yellow or orange. Polyvinyl is fully waterproof and tough, but it can rip in the wind, doesn’t absorb damage in a fall, isn’t that warm, and doesn’t “breathe”, so in summer can act like an incubator. Wearing a woolly jumper under a heavy vinyl jacket is a cheap way to add warmth and improve fall protection.

Synthetic jackets are expensive, but worth it.

Synthetic jackets aim to be the ideal motor-cycle solution. They breathe, are fully waterproof, are warm, and give as much protection as leather. They are made of a Kevlar like material, similar to that used in bullet proof vests, and have protective pad inserts at important “hit points” like the elbows. The clincher is they have great pockets to carry all sorts of stuff. Synthetic jackets are expensive, but worth it.

Waterproof

The more joints (zips and pockets) a jacket has, the more places it can leak

You find out if you are waterproof or not when it rains heavily and you have some distance to travel. You feel a damp spot, beginning at the front where the rain hits, that slowly spreads. For jackets, the fabric may be waterproof, but leakage occurs at the joints, especially the main front zip or button up. The more joints (zips and pockets) a jacket has, the more places it can leak. Good jackets have a waterproof flap system that combines zips, Velcro or metal clips to ensure joints don’t leak, e.g. at the neck and wrists. The neck needs a button up Chinese collar, to cover and seal it. Wrists need Velcro straps, to close them, and stop water entering.

Warm

A good jacket insulates you from wind chill

When riding at speed, the air flow has a wind chill effect. When you ride at high speeds in cold weather, it is much colder, and can easily be below zero. A good jacket insulates you from wind chill. Good jackets have an extra inner lining of wool or other warm material, both for the body and sleeves. They are usually attached by an inner zip, and so can be removed in the summer when it is hot.

Ventilated

On a hot day you can be wet from sweat not rain

Ventilation is how well a jacket handles warm weather. A jacket needs to “breathe”, or let air in and out. A vinyl raincoat is impermeable to water, but also to air. This is a problem because the body generates water as perspiration. Vinyl keeps outside water (like rain) out, but it also keeps inside water (perspiration) in. On a hot day you can be wet from sweat not rain. A good jacket keep rain out, but still breathes. It also needs zip vents to allow airflow, at the back or sides, where rain does not come in.

Wearable

A wearable motorcycle jacket is one that still looks good when you get off the bike

Fashion leather jackets are wearable, but neither warm nor waterproof on a motorcycle, as they have open fronts and collars. It is hard to get riding functionality and wearability in a single jacket. A wearable motorcycle jacket is one that still looks good when you get off the bike. One requirement is that it is not too heavy or bulky. Jackets that make you look like a polar explorer are not “cool”.

Synthetic jackets look the best. They have a fitted look, and come in various design colors and styles. A justification for their cost is it is like getting two jackets for the price of one. A bonus is that their material does not fade - even after years, they look as new.

A carryall

A motorcycle jacket needs waterproof pockets, including:

  1. Wallet pocket: In the old days getting out your wallet was a major undertaking. A zipped breast pocket that sits outside the main front zip means you can pull out your wallet without unbuttoning the jacket.
  2. Front map pockets: These can hold a large flat object, like a map, and are very deep. A top flap allows you to dig into them, but to get at the map requires opening a side zip or Velcro rip. Usually on both sides.
  3. Side pockets: Usually zipped with a Velcro flap, and can hold small items like toll booth coinage or tire gauge. Usually on both sides.
  4. Inside Pockets: Have to open the jacket to get at these pockets, but they are useful to keep things really safe and dry, like for example your license or insurance.

A carryall jacket carries the things you may need on a bike, from lip chap to map. It keeps them dry if it rains, yet lets you get at them quickly without getting off the bike and undoing luggage. You can’t have too many pockets on a motorcycle jacket.