If you want to look the part, leather motorcycle jackets are the way forward.
Not only are they stylish, warm and comfortable, but leather is also extremely abrasion-resistant. So if you come off, you know you’re protected.
OK, so it doesn’t fair well in a heavy downpour but most are capable of withstanding a 20-minute shower without letting in any water. That is, of course, assuming it isn’t ventilated (lots of tiny holes are punched into the leather in certain areas).
If you choose a jacket with ventilation, you’ll stay a little cooler in hot weather. Of course, the best jackets are CE approved and leathers are no exception to this. Read on to find out what you need to look out for when buying a leather jacket and take a look at some of our favourites.
What is CE approval and what do I need to look out for?
CE approval or CE certified means the item of clothing conforms with the European standard for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Since 2018, all motorcycle clothing must adhere to these standards.
Clothing made before this date may have stated they were CE approved but only for certain parts of the garment, for example, protective armour. Now, the entire garment must be tested.
There are a couple of standards that your motorcycle clothing can be tested to. Either EN17092 or EN13595.
It’s important to understand that you don’t have to wear kit that is tested to this standard. You can ride in a T-shirt for example and that doesn’t have CE approval.
However if you motorcycle clothing from a retailer it is classed as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and therefore requires CE approval.
For motorcycle jackets (and trousers, jeans and leather suits) the standard is the same. Either EN13595 (this is the old standard) and the levels are Level 1 or 2. Or it’s tested to the new standard EN17092. The new standard has ratings from AAA (the best) to C. Any ‘A’ rating means it has been tested to an impact and abrasion standard. If it is B-rated it provides the same level of abrasion protection as an A rated garment but without impact protection and anything C rated designates it has been designed to hold impact protection. The minimum you want is an A rated garment.
By purchasing a CE approved jacket, you can be confident the tear strength of the leather, any other materials, abrasion resistance and seam strengths are safe if you have an accident.
Our review criteria
We’ve set strict criteria for this leather jacket buying guide because with 100s of jackets on the market, we can afford to be picky.
- Every jacket in this review has to feature CE -approved armour
- They have to at least have a pocket for you to be able to insert back armour
- They have to have at least one pocket
- They have to feature wrist adjustment
- Bonus points for waist adjustment
- Bonus points for a removable thermal lining
There are a lot of jackets on our longlist but we boiled this down to the best leather jackets for all types of bikers.
How to choose the right jacket
1. Jacket Style: casual vs. sport
Leather jackets come in two main styles, casual and sport. Casual jackets look good on any road bike and suit every biker.
If you choose one with added vents, you’ll be sure to remain cool in summer. Sport jackets are suitable for high-speed racing and track days. The arms are usually pre-curved to reduce fatigue and some are fitted with race humps. This makes them uncomfortable off the track.
2. Getting the right fit
There are 3 main types of fit for leather jackets:
Touring (American/regular): Suitable for those with a wider build as there is more room in the shoulders, waist and chest.
Slim (European/sport cut): Suitable for slim builds. These jackets are tapered and have a tighter fit.
Race fit: Designed with pre-curved arms and more stability – perfect for racers.
To get the right jacket size, follow these steps:
Chest: Wrap a tape measure around your chest and breath normally. Do not add any extra inches if you want to fit a back protector. Jackets will compensate for this without you needing to.
Arms: Check the size guide on your jacket, if the measurements are in the 20” range, you will need to measure from the top of your arm, down to your wrist. If they are within the 30” range, measure from the centre of the back of your neck to your wrist.
Waist: Sometimes you don’t need this as most jackets are adjustable but if so, measure around your waist, about 1 inch up from your belly button.
4. Home testing
So you’ve ordered your jacket and now it’s home. Before you go out riding, test your jacket by moving around as you would off your bike. Take the time to sit on your bike in your jacket and get a feel. This way, if you aren’t comfortable, you can exchange it for a different size.
Leather Jackets: Our Top Picks
Below are our two top picks and we’ve also chosen a great budget option and showed you the most expensive one on the market, so you can easily compare the features, design, materials and build quality of some of the best biker jackets available.
Full-grain leather, D3O armour, well priced
Very similar in spec to the Raptor Evo 2, which won the RiDE Recommended award. The Nitros is cheaper and personally I prefer the grey logo rather than the brash white one on the Raptor Evo 2. The Nitros features a cowhide construction with neoprene collar insert. With armour in the elbows and shoulders and an optional pocket for a back protector, this jacket has got you covered. Additional zips allow for the attachment of trousers while four pockets (two internal and two external) are all you need.
Seriously impressive jacket, not super expensive
Made from a hard-wearing cowhide outer layer a nano feel internal liner with silver ion treatment for added comfort; this leather jacket is one of our favourites. Including an S1 bi-elastic fabric for enhanced flexibility and an adjustable waist, you can achieve a great fit while still having room to move when you need to. The safety features of this jacket are up there with the best and include external aluminium shoulder impact armour, CE certified shoulder and elbow protection with the option to add G1 or G2 back inserts and a double chest protector leaving you fully protected. The Racing 4 has plenty of zipped pockets for small items and specialist air vents on the chest and back to prevent overheating. You can really notice the Dainese quality when compared to similar brands. It costs a bit but it will last a life time.
The best cheap leather motorcycle jacket
You need to spend around £250 to get a good quality leather motorcycle jacket.
I appreciate this isn’t so cheap that you don’t have to think about it – but the problem with buying sub-£150 leather jackets is that often they’re not well made, often with lesser quality zips and stitching. They don’t have decent armour and they are bulky, heavy or just uncomfortable.
This RST Sabre CE jacket retails for £279.99 but you can get it for around £260 through the link above. It’s a lot of jacket for the money.
The most expensive leather motorcycle jackets
At the ridiculously expensive end of the scale are leather jackets that feature airbags. These can cost upwards of £1300 which is a serious amount of cash. My first motorbike cost less than that!
Aside from the jackets that come supplied with an airbag, you’re looking at over £500 for a top-end bit of kit. Yes, that’s a lot of money but the difference in materials used, the workmanship, the weight and features are all far superior to a cheaper jacket.
That’s not to say a pricier jacket is always better but if you go to your local motorcycle clothing retailer and compare a cheap jacket to a high-end one, you’ll clearly feel the difference.
Some examples of quality – but pricey – leather jackets are:
Alpinestars Atem V4 – £600+
Dainese Super Speed 4 – £650+
Rev’It Quantum 2 Leather Jacket – £500+
Anatomy of a quality leather motorcycle jacket
Leather There are loads of different leathers to choose but cowhide tends to be the best. Choose a leather that is at least 1.3mm thick for the right level of protection.
Armour Make sure the armour is CE approved. Armour can be removable or fixed, some can be repositioned if you’re shorter or taller than most. It should be comfortable and moulded well to your shape.
Stitching The quality of stitching is important so your jacket can take a hit if you fall. Most jackets are double or triple stitched in impact areas. Make sure the jacket has no broken stitching and it is quite close together for strength.
Additional extras Once you’ve got the main points down, you need to consider the right shape. A jacket with strong zip closures, soft neck and quality lining will add comfort during your ride. Added vents and stretch panels will also make your life easier and reduce fatigue while riding. If you’re investing in a pair of trousers, choose a jacket with a hidden trouser zip can be helpful, that way, they won’t fall down.
If your jacket comes with removable armour you can always upgrade it for aftermarket stuff which is more protective and often far more comfortable.
Treat your leather jacket with leather conditioner the day you get it and do it once every 6 months if you can. It takes 20 minutes and will add years of use to it.
A removable thermal lining means you can wear your leather jacket through three seasons rather than just one.
Improve your protection and comfort
Leather jackets are great as they offer solid protection from both the elements and in the event of a crash.
Your jacket should come with CE approved armour in the shoulders and elbows. Some jackets also have back armour and some also have chest armour.
However, most of the time this armour is built with protection in mind and not comfort. A chunky leather jacket and clunky armour can make your jacket feel bulky but you can improve your comfort and safety with upgrade armour.
One of the best options on the market is D3O. The firm produce body armour for a wide range of pursuits and their latest armour, called Ghost, is super flexible.
You can read more about the D30 Ghost protection here.
If you’ve ever experimented with custard in science classes, you may remember that if you hit the surface of custard with a sudden force, it acts like a solid and disperses the impact over its surface. Once the impact has stopped, it returns to its liquid form. If you drop something slowly into the custard, it sinks in.
In the same way, D30 protectors are soft and mailable until they receive an impact where they firm up an absorb the impact. They are a great alternative to other more solid protectors and when I replaced the standard armour in my jacket for D3O, I noticed the improvement immediately.
Motorcycle Jackets FAQs
Can I buy a Valentino Rossi replica jacket?
Dainese no longer make a jacket-version of Valentino Rossi’s race leathers but they do a rather smart ‘Rossi inspired’ jacket featuring the VR46 logo, you can see it here: VR46 Dainese Jacket.
Do gloves go over or under the jacket sleeves?
If you’re wearing a leather jacket it’s best to wear your gloves over the leathers as they will offer more protection. Some racing gloves have hard plastic (TPU) cuffs which are impossible to tuck under the sleeves of your leather jacket, so if you’re a ‘gloves in’ kind of rider you don’t want to buy a pair with hard-wrist protection.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this review of the best motorcycle leather jackets.
European Handbook on Good Safety Practice for Motorcyclists:
ec.europa.eu – rosa_handbook_equip_en.pdf