There’s four elements to choosing the best motorcycle jacket: materials, armour, fit and visibility. Independent experts in Europe test motorbike apparel to determine which items earn CE approval. CE-approved jackets offer the best crash protection around. CE2-level approval offers even more protection than CE1.
Choose leather or textiles
The construction of jackets varies significantly. Jackets made from layers of different synthetic textiles can provide abrasion protection that is as good as high-grade leather. However, jackets made from a single layer of fabric can’t protect against abrasion. In contrast, leather and textile jackets that have earned CE EN13595 approval last for 4+ seconds when sliding across a road.
Look for reinforced stitching
Joins and stitched seams can burst on impact or when sliding over asphalt. The fewer seams in the jacket, the better. Injury risk areas (back, elbows, shoulders, arms, outside wrists) need 2-3 rows of stitching, with at least one row of stitching guarded by a layer of material. Feel through the material to check there are no gaps between the layers of leather/textiles. Avoid stretch or mesh panels in high impact areas.
Keep impact points clear
Smart designs respect our vulnerable points – spine, elbows, shoulders, arms and outer wrists – by keeping these free of zips, buttons, buckles, studs, straps or fastenings. Heavy-duty zips covered with a flap of material on both sides prevent contact with the body or the road in a crash. Wrist straps on the inside of your wrists keep sleeves in position, especially during a crash.
Add body armour
The spine, elbows and shoulders deserve extra shields on road and off-road. The fit of body armour is critical. Built-in armour comes with some jackets. Buy impact protectors separately if the built-in protectors don’t fit snugly - armour that’s too big will simply slip off. Motorbike and scooter armour comes in plastic, moulded rubber and dual density foam. High standard armour has CE EN1621 approval.
Sized for you and your bike
A jacket that doesn’t suit your shape or riding position is a niggling distraction. Judge the fit by sitting in your riding position for several minutes, wearing typical clothes underneath. The jacket should be snug at the wrists and across the arms. Make sure it covers your hips, unless you’re buying a suit that zips together. Baggy gear will leak warm air in cold weather and potentially expose your skin and body in a crash.
Colours and layers
Mixing reflective or light colours with dark colours makes it easier for drivers to see you in bad light and at night. Also, lighter colours are cooler in hot weather. Once you’ve chosen a jacket and armour based on materials and fit, consider extra layers under and over the jacket to insulate against the cold, wind and wet. Textile jackets offer more waterproofing and ventilation than leathers.
Choices in off-road jackets
The best off-road jerseys accommodate the style of off-road armour that suits your type of riding. The jersey fabrics and mesh help keep you cool. However, these jerseys aren’t designed to protect skin if it hits the road. If you’ve got a dual-purpose bike, keep aside an on road jacket with abrasion protection for the ride home (like the one here).
Full body motorbike suits
One piece racing suits offer an all-in-one leather solution with built in armour. The same CE-approved standards apply (CE EN 1621 for armour and EN 13595 for the apparel). Lightweight undersuits can make riding more comfortable in hot or cold weather. Be honest with yourself about the practicality of a full body race suit. Suits consisting of pants and jackets that zip together may be more convenient.
A jacket is an investment that enhances the riding experience. Look for proven materials, armour, fit and visibility. The best jackets are marked CE EN 13595. They offer protection on your back, shoulders and elbows, which are most vulnerable to sliding and hitting objects at speed. Body armour is a critical investment for on road and off road riding and is marked CE EN 1621.
01 Prioritise abrasion protection
Enjoy today’s choices between thick, high grade leather and synthetic textiles layered together to withstand sliding along asphalt. Beware lower grade leather or materials that are thin and poorly constructed.
02 Buying off road gear
Look for gear specific to motocross or enduro that fits you well. Chest armour and neck braces are a priority. Abrasion resistant jerseys improve your comfort and temperature control.
03 Finding women’s jackets
Choices are still limited, but avoid buying a man’s jacket if it compromises protection around your shoulders and hips. Facebook groups for female bike or scooter riders share tips on stockists and styles.
04 Choose well-crafted materials
The best jackets will conceal fasteners and zips so they can’t snag on the road or penetrate the body in a crash. The fewer joins and seams, the better.
05 Hand pick your armour
Armour (impact protectors) must fit like a glove or they’ll slip off under pressure. Start with a spine protector, elbow protectors and shoulder protectors. Consider kidney belts for longer rides.
06 Use colour
The less black on your jacket, the more likely others on the road will see you coming. Mixing white/Hi Viz piping or logos with bright colour panels helps. Light colours are cooler in summer too.
07 Test the fit
The fit needs to suit your riding position. Make sure you can move comfortably on your bike, use all controls, make signals and turn to look behind you. The jacket and body armour should stay in position when using the controls.
08 The summer dilemma
Many jackets are designed for three seasons (autumn, winter, spring). Consider investing in a jacket specifically for riding in warm weather. Jackets for summer come in light colours with extra vents and mesh panels under the arms. Ultimately, if it’s too hot to wear gear, it’s too hot to ride.