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I get the struggle.
We are only given two choices on our bikes: rocking a protective jacket that makes you look like you’re cosplaying an extra from a sci-fi movie, or opting for a stylish jacket that offers as much protection as a wet paper towel.
When you’re riding to a date or destination but would like to avoid sacrificing your precious skin to the asphalt gods, you end up looking like a “Power Ranger” (as one Redditor put it).
What’s the solution? Enter the world of motorcycle riding shirts and hoodies. These bad boys offer the perfect blend of style and protection, letting you roll up to that hot date or swanky destination without looking like you’re going to war. And the best part? They’re surprisingly wallet-friendly.
In this article, I’ll dish out my tips on what to look for in armored motorcycle riding shirts, then I’ll give you my recommendations, warn you about a common pitfall you’ll want to dodge, and reveal a secret tip that’ll let you wear literally anything on your ride without compromising protection. Spoiler alert: it involves armored motorcycle undershirts.
Here we go.
- What to Look for in a Motorcycle Riding Shirt
- Motorcycle Riding Shirts: Recommendations
- AVOID THIS MISTAKE: Armored Hoodies
- Wear Anything You Like with Armored Base Layers
What to Look for in a Motorcycle Riding Shirt
It’s unfortunately easy to screw up buying a motorcycle riding shirt. You just want to look casual and cool while saving your skin, but it’s easy to buy something that looks nice but doesn’t do a darn thing to save you in a crash.
There’s a bare minimum you should expect from a motorcycle riding shirt in terms of protection, or else you’re just buying an overpriced flannel.
I’m here to lay out those expectations for you, in the following categories:
Material: Full Body Abrasion Protection
This is where most purchases go wrong… many (even popular and highly rated!) motorcycle riding shirts offer very little protection from abrasion and slides.
You want a shirt made from Cordura, Kevlar, or Aramid throughout the entire garment – not just in the “slide zones.” This will be in the form of a liner – which is totally fine. Many of these materials degrade in sunlight, so reinforced liners are normal.
Beware of shirts which are just cotton, twill, or polyester – the popular and stylish Merlin Brody Utility Shirt comes to mind. This offers zero abrasion resistance. Sure it has armor, but what use is that armor when the material holding it together disintegrates a half second after you hit the pavement?
Also avoid riding shirts that only have abrasion-resistant materials in certain zones, like the Icon Upstate Flannel Riding Shirt. You need a shirt that’s tough all over, because crashes don’t exactly follow a script, as you may know.
Even the REAX Bridger, a Revzilla Staff Pick, only packs 100 GSM Kevlar, which falls way short of what you should have if you’re further than the driveway on your bike. Aim for 200+ GSM (7oz+) for true protection.
Armor: Budget For It
Lots of riding shirts sell without armor included, just mesh pockets for it. That’s fine, but you’ll need to include separately purchased armor in your budget as well. Don’t ride without armor – it’s providing a little more abrasion protection and a lot of impact protection that can save your arms, collar bones and ribs.
Ventilation: Match Your Climate
Consider the climate you’ll be riding in, and look for shirts with the right ventilation features. Zip vents at underarms or breast pockets, thick or thin material – choose wisely, my friends. Your comfort depends on it. One riding shirt below will even provide waterproofing for you.
Snap Down Everything
Anything that could flap around on a riding shirt – pockets, collars, etc – needs to snap down. Trust us, you don’t want your collar flapping around in the wind like an angry flag. Just trying it on at home cannot teach you just how annoying that will be out on the road.
Motorcycle Riding Shirts: Recommendations
Once upon a time I lived in New York City, so I might know a thing or two about style (though I will never return, so take that with a grain of salt). And I’ve put in the work (and skin cells) to tell the protective from the rejected in riding gear.
Before we jump into my top recommendations for armored motorcycle riding shirts, let’s set some expectations.
First off, let’s be real here: riding shirts are meant for urban, low-speed cruising, usually packing a CE A level certification at most. That means they’re good for slides up to 35mph. Don’t expect them to save your bacon in a high-speed crash or cross-country adventure.
And when it comes to weather resistance, well… let’s just say you’ll want to keep an eye on the forecast. Riding shirts aren’t typically built for winter chills (check out our winter jackets article for that) or designed to flow air like mesh summer jackets.
That being said, riding shirts work on and off the bike and keep your skin on your body instead of the pavement. Just remember: you get what you pay for. With motorcycle gear, build quality is everything, and it’s worth investing in the real deal.
Go ahead, compare our picks below to some cheap Amazon knockoff – you’ll see the difference in crucial details like stitching and fit. Trust us, your skin will thank you.
Here are my four recommendations for armored riding shirts.
Revit Tracer 2: All-Around Best (Mesh Too)
The Tracer 2 from REV’IT blends casual style with cutting-edge protection. Featuring an 11oz (350 GSM) Cordura denim outer shell, the Tracer 2 offers outstanding abrasion resistance without any of the scratchiness you might find in other textile gear. The CE level 1 Seesmart armor at the elbows and shoulders provides essential impact protection, and you can easily add a back protector to the rear pocket for complete coverage.
What sets the Tracer 2 apart is its subtle yet clever motorcycle-specific design. The button-up front conceals a full zipper, while buttons on the collar prevent it from flapping around at high speeds. And speaking of attention to detail, the bottom two buttons are covered in fabric to protect your tank from scratches.
Not only is the Tracer 2 perfect for casual rides, but it’s also available in a mesh version for warmer climates. If you’re searching for a riding shirt that’s as comfortable and stylish as it is strong, the REV’IT Tracer 2 Riding Shirt is the ultimate choice.
Note: Some customers have found this riding shirt to run small, so consider sizing up if you’re between sizes.
Scorpion EXO Covert Waxed Riding Shirt
The Scorpion EXO Covert Waxed Riding Shirt is for draftier and colder climates. This gem offers a 12oz waxed cotton exterior with a 165g Kevlar lining for abrasion resistance. That outer waxed layer is perfect for sealing out the wind and rain, and also gives you a nice patina over time. Waxed cotton is the Teflon of the motorcycle gear world: No cleaning necessary aside from a wipe down now and then.
This is a Revzilla Staff Pick, and it’s no wonder why – this shirt is casual outside without any compromises on safety. Even the seams look normal from the outside – but they hide reinforced stitching inside.
There’s even a flannel version of this shirt in many colors, but it doesn’t have that sweet waxed cotton for water and windproofing.
With both options you get the classic zipper with snaps covering it and snap-down collar.
This is the right riding shirt for colder climates, and you can wear it right into the restaurant, office, or even a hike.
Pando Moto Capo Cor 01 Riding Shirt
No more lumberjack flannels: It’s not just the black colorway that catches the eye on this Pando Moto shirt, but the subtle detailing, angled chest pockets, embroidered shoulder designs, and polished stud fasteners that make this gem stand out. And let’s not forget its heavy 12.5 oz cotton+Cordura construction, earning this shirt a CE EN 17092 Level A certification, meaning it can slide out at 35mph without any material giving way.
You get the standard main zipper closure with snaps over it and snap-down collar, plus a zippered inner pocket and zip vents under the arms for ventilation.
The Capo Cor 01 is a bit higher priced than the other options, but it comes with premium SAS-TEC TripleFlex CE Level 1 armor for your shoulders and elbows. Just make sure to add a back protector, and you’ll be ready to roll.
Two features that make this shirt stand out? Subtle zip vents under the arms for ventilation are pure genius, allowing you to stay cool even on a hot ride. Plus the tail on this shirt is extended, covering your lower back even in a tucked position.
So, if you’re looking for a riding garment that blends fashion and function right off the rack, the Pando Moto Capo Cor 01 is your go-to.
Pick Your Own
Don’t like any of my recommendations? Use my tips above to find a riding shirt you like from Revzilla. While not everything on their site is up to the standards I’ve laid out, they’re a lot better than Amazon at cutting out the fake, junky products.
Plus, they have a sale filter.
AVOID THIS MISTAKE: Armored Hoodies
Okay, I promised you I’d let you in on a big mistake I see people making when it comes to riding shirts. And that mistake is…
Buying armored hoodies.
These rank as some of the dumbest motorcycle safety equipment I’ve ever seen. For one, hoodies are usually baggy. This is exactly what you don’t want in motorcycle equipment, since it will twist around on you in a crash.
That means if your hoodie also holds your armor, then in a crash… Poof, it’s gone. Rolled to the side, nowhere to be seen when you need it most.
Also, every riding hoodie I’ve seen uses standard cotton and polyester except on “impact zones”. But if a hoodie is meant to sit loose on your body, those impact zones won’t necessarily even sit over the places they’re meant to protect: just like the armor. So boom, you’re left with a standard hoodie protecting you.
But there is another option… armored base layers.
Wear Anything You Like with Armored Base Layers
Armored base layers are meant to be worn underneath other jackets or clothes and provide impact resistance and/or abrasion resistance.
Beware of armored base layers with no abrasion resistance: These are meant for off-road riding only, where abrasion isn’t much of a concern but impact is a big problem. On the road, these kinds of suits will do NOTHING to save your skin or bones, because the pads will just rip off as they grip the pavement.
What you want for street riding are armored base layers that provide both impact and abrasion resistance. If they’re made in Europe, that means you’ll want to see CE EN 17092 certification to level A, AA, or AAA.
What are some options?
Pando’s Shell is CE A level certified, while the Knox Urbane Pro MK2 is CE AA level certified, meaning it can handle crashes up to around 45mph without tearing and revealing skin. And they both include shoulder and elbow armor inside already. Back protector is sold separately for the Pando Shell, but CE Level 2 back protector is included in the Knox garment.
They’re meant to be worn on your skin, which means you can wear anything you want over them. The very thin mesh they’re made of allows plenty of airflow, so you won’t need to worry about getting hot in there.
Now you can wear anything you want over top: a cool fashion leather jacket, a flannel shirt, a hoodie or even a baseball longsleeve.
Of course there are downsides: you’ll have to strip down to take these off at stops, and many reviewers say the shirts ride up with just basic movement on the bike – so they might ride up in a crash as well, exposing your lower back and stomach. However, the Knox Urbane Pro does have belt loops to secure the shirt to your pants so it doesn’t ride up.
Can you wear an armored shirt without anything else?
As long as it provides abrasion resistance and impact resistance, yes. However, beware of armored shirts and base layers that are meant to go underneath abrasion-resistant jackets. Many of these are aimed at the offroad crowd. They look super protective, but they will tear apart in any road crash as soon as asphalt pulls on one of those pads.
What’s the best fabric for motorcycle protection?
Look for Kevlar, Aramid, Cordura, or genuine leather. All of these provide great abrasion resistance when properly sewn into a garment with high-strength stitching (like ballistic nylon).
Are motorcycle riding shirts suitable for summertime?
Absolutely! Many riding shirts are designed with ventilation features to keep you cool during those sizzling summer rides. Just make sure to choose a shirt with adequate airflow and moisture-wicking capabilities.
Should I get a motorcycle riding shirt or mesh jacket?
Riding shirts offer a more casual, fashionable look and can often be worn off the bike. They’re great for low-speed city rides, but may not provide the same level of protection as a dedicated mesh jacket. They also often lack ventilation, as part of nailing that casual look.
Mesh jackets, on the other hand, are designed for maximum airflow and protection, making them ideal for sweltering summer days. Some mesh jackets use weak materials, but many use high-denier Cordura and Kevlar throughout. They might not win any fashion contests, but they’ll keep you safe and cool on the road.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to your personal preferences, riding style, and priorities. Weigh the pros and cons, and choose the option that best suits your needs.