Just like burgers need fries, a beautiful cruiser motorcycle needs a perfect jacket to pair.
But before you go grab any old piece of leather or denim off the rack, let me stop you.
What you know about cruiser motorcycle jackets is probably completely wrong.
You might think you can’t have protection with comfort: wrong.
You might think you can’t get armor without bulk: wrong.
You might think a decent ‘real’ motorcycle jacket will go over your budget without even looking the part: wrong.
You can have a badass, trim, comfortable cruiser jacket that doesn’t even look or feel like a motorcycle jacket, without breaking the $300 mark. And it will protect you in a highway slide far more than the thickest leather jackets in any department store.
Let me explain.
- Why Normal Jackets are NOT Protective
- Quick Verdict on Best Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
- Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets: What to Look For
- The Best Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
- Where to Buy Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
Why Normal Jackets are NOT Protective
You can skip this part if you get the need for a purpose-built motorcycle jacket already. For those who don’t know: here’s the hard truth.
Motorcycle jackets are not protective only because of the materials used. They are also protective because of the seams and construction in the jacket, which take years of experience and testing (and super tough thread) to get right.
A normal fashion leather jacket will have at best double-stitched seams, using basic cotton thread. Those seams are not designed for the intense force of a motorcycle crash. They will burst like a balloon meeting a pin the moment you hit the asphalt. Your jacket could be made of titanium, but without strong seams, it’ll peel off and leave your skin to take the slide.
Besides the construction, not all leather or denim is equal. Fashion leather jackets might pass a thickness test, but they’re built to go to the bar in; not to slide on asphalt at 80mph. That means there’s no need for the maker to spend extra getting durable and tough leather. In fact, lighter is better – more comfortable and cheaper.
That all said, looks are still important in a cruiser motorcycle jacket. The good thing is looks need not be sacrificed in order to gain protection. You can have a great look, perfect fit and high-strength protection in a cruiser jacket.
Here’s what you’re looking for when shopping.
Quick Verdict on Best Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
Can’t wait? Alright here’s what I have for you.
- Street & Steel Drifter Jacket – Why? It looks like a thick leather shirt but it moves like a motorcycle jacket, with shoulder gussets, cool mesh lining and CE Level 2 armor throughout. Similar options listed below in the full review.
- First Manufacturing Raider Jacket – Why? It’s a beautiful leather exterior hiding lots of pockets and vents. Many similar variants listed below in the full review.
Muscle Bike Sporty:
- Joe Rocket Sector Jacket – Why? Form fitting and adjustable without the banana suit adventure rider ATGATT look. All leather with subtle stretch panels and CE Level 2 armor.
Hot Weather Riding:
- REV’IT Tracer Air 2 – Why? What looks like a work shirt is actually Cordura mesh that flows air like you’re wearing nothing at all.
- Helite Leather Airbag Jacket – Why? Because airbags are 50x as protective as traditional motorcycle jacket armor. Nuff said.
- Street & Steel Runaway – Why? It’s the most tailored to the female figure of any motorcycle jacket on the market… with high-waisted adjusters and relief zippers at the lower back. In case it’s not your style, we have five other picks down there for you…
Now let’s get into what to look for in a cruiser motorcycle jacket. Then, the detailed reviews of each of those jackets.
Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets: What to Look For
I’ll be honest; looks are top priority when riding a cruiser. Especially if you’ve lived the rough life to earn the patches of your standard MC member, a little slide is a piece of cake.
So when you’re looking for a cruiser jacket, this first item is key…
Jackets that Don’t Look Like Motorcycle Jackets
You don’t want to look like some ATGATT nerd on your flamed-out Road Glide, and I get that. But I also think you’d rather drop $5,000 putting a Stage IV big bore kit on your Road Glide than on collar bone and rib surgery. If you ride around in one of the jackets I’m going to recommend below, your chances of getting that Stage IV kit go way up.
No hi-viz banana suits, only classic looks with maybe a bit of reflective piping to make sure idiots see you on the ride home from the bar.
I also will throw out any jacket with bulky armor that sticks out. The only thing sticking out should be real muscle.
Comfortable On and Off the Bike
You should be able to wear your motorcycle jacket like a normal jacket. Hang out at the bar in it without feeling like you’re wearing a halloween costume. And let’s be honest, this contributes to the cool factor as well; if you wear your jacket on and off the bike, you don’t look like one of those ATGATT nerds (even if you are one).
Some jackets I’ll recommend below are so comfortable you might mistake them for a normal jacket in your closet and wear them even when you’re not going for a ride.
Not Too Hot
Lots of cruiser jackets are leather, and for good reason. Leather is tough, it’s badass, and it lasts. However, a thick leather jacket in the summer can mean needing to stop every 20 minutes to wash yourself in a gas station bathroom.
Stay out of those cesspools (pee in the woods) and get a jacket with nicely integrated vents, grommets at the underarms, and a mesh lining that allows air to flow around you below the leather.
Thick, Real Leather or Reinforced Textile
If you want leather, you’re looking for 1.2 mm or higher thickness. Since you nor I can judge leather quality, stick to reputable brands.
For textile jackets, you want a strong thread weaved in. Regular denim doesn’t hold up in a crash – just ask RyanF9. So you want aramid, Cordura, Kevlar or some other super-tough fabric weaved into at least the slide areas.
Armor that Disappears
Just a few years ago, armor in motorcycle jackets always added bulk – making anything protective both uncomfortable and ugly. Many cruiser jackets still lack armor completely because apparently the manufacturers haven’t heard of D3O Ghost, Seesmart, and SAS-TEC…
These armors are so light, thin, breathable and flexible that many riders comment that they forget the armor is even there. Look at the reviews for the D3O Ghost armor – you’ll see “invisible” and “comfortable” more times than you can count.
And these are viscoelastic armors that are CE Level 1 rated, not foam pads that protect you from a bump on the bartop.
If the jacket you’re looking at doesn’t include armor, at least make sure it has pockets for it at the back, shoulders and elbows. You can pick up thin armor from Revzilla – look for D3O Ghost, Seesmart, and SAS-TEC Flex – all will have thin CE Level 1 rated armor that will fit in just about any jacket.
Fitting for Your Riding Style
The last thing to note is you want a jacket that will fit your riding style – sounds obvious, right?
Don’t just get a thick leather jacket because someone on Reddit said “it’s great for cruisers bro” when 90% of your riding is around town in Florida. Whether you’re riding around town wanting to look casual, going for weekend trips and need something tough, or just trying to stay cool in 90% humidity, I will have an option down below for you.
The Best Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
Let me break this down for you in a few categories.
I’ll start with casual picks – think Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy – then move onto classic leather jackets. Then I’ll give you a sporty option for those slamming a Triumph Rocket 3R down the Autobahn, and finally a couple summer and hot weather options. Finally I’ll round it out with by far the safest option, and a few for the ladies.
The Best Casual Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
This is for those of you that want to look like you’re not wearing a jacket, but don’t want to pony up for hospital bills. The winner is from Street & Steel; an amazing, high value in-house brand at Revzilla.
The Street & Steel Drifter Jacket checks every box for a great casual cruiser jacket. First of all, it doesn’t look like a motorcycle jacket at all. It’s a nice matte leather that will patina over time. However, it’s definitely made for motorcycling: with shoulder gussets to make any riding position (even hanging on apes) effortless, loops to connect to jeans, and CE Level 2 armor at shoulders and elbows – the best money can buy. You even get a concealed carry pocket for any sticky situations.
A mesh lining keeps air flowing when it’s hot, and there’s a removable hooded liner included for when temperatures drop. For slightly different styles in denim, check out the Lane Splitter and Anarchy. Each one features an easy-access back panel that makes it simple to sew patches on.
If you need any more convincing, read the rave reviews. People love this jacket.
Also worth a mention are the REV’IT Tracer and Worker Overshirts. Both include CE Level 1 Seesmart armor that you’ll forget is even there, a casual fit, some reflectors on the back and a loop for connecting to jeans.
The Best Classic Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
These choices are for the cruiser boys on a Heritage Softail, Triumph Bobber or Indian Chief. Absolute timeless classics.
The best classic cruiser jacket is the First Manufacturing Raider Jacket – a natural leather jacket that will wear in over time. The leather is 1.2mm cowhide throughout, and is cut with chest pockets that double as vents and vents at the back.
The ventilation is unique on this jacket, and it all fits in subtly. Shoulder gussets are also smoothly incorporated into the lines of this jacket to give you movement and comfort no matter where your bars sit. And with the Raider, you get an incredible 16 pockets hidden within the jacket – and two for concealed carry plus ammo. Nice touch.
If this look isn’t right for you, First Manufacturing has a few more jackets that each take that same strong leather base and mix it in different styles. Check out the Top Performer (Revzilla, Amazon), Commuter (Revzilla, Amazon), and Crusader (Revzilla, Amazon) as well.
The only thing to note about these jackets is you’ll need to buy elbow, shoulder, and back armor to slide into the armor pockets included in this jacket. Pick what you like best – I recommend D3O Ghost, SAS-TEC Flex (available on Amazon) or Seesmart.
Pick up the First Manufacturing Raider and get back out on your bike.
The Best Sporty Cruiser Motorcycle Jacket
If you’re popping wheelies on a Sportster or just trying to stay in your lane on a legendary muscle bike like the Yamaha VMAX or Triumph Rocket 3R, you want something that hugs a bit more than most cruiser jackets.
The Joe Rocket Sector Jacket bucks the trend of loose-fitting cruiser jackets without losing the look. This jacket has 1.2mm cowhide all around, with dark stretch panels in key areas to allow the jacket to hug you tight without holding you back. Hidden adjustments at the sleeves, wrists and waist also allow you to tailor and tighten the fit while you’re on the road, then loosen it when you’re not.
Those stretch panels, plus front and back zip vents, also moves a lot of air through this jacket to keep you cool. For high-speed impacts you have CE Level 2 armor in the elbows and shoulders included, though you will have to put your own back protector in the pocket at the back.
The Joe Rocket Sector is a great choice for cruisers that like to race, and it comes in tall sizing to boot.
The Best Summer Cruiser Motorcycle Jacket
How to look cool on a cruiser in hot temperatures? Instead of leaving the jacket at home, pick up something like what I have for you below.
Want to move a lot of air without wearing a t-shirt? Pick up the REV’IT Tracer Air 2. Just like the Tracer I mentioned earlier in the casual jackets section, the Tracer Air looks like any button down shirt while hiding light and flexible CE Level 1 armor at the shoulders and elbows.
What sets this shirt apart from the standard Tracer is the mesh shell. Rather than thick denim, that perforation flows a ton of air without looking like you’re wearing a soccer net on your chest. REV’IT threw in a couple nice bells & whistles too with a loop and zipper to connect to riding pants, triple stitching and laminated reflection throughout.
Available in black, brown, and camo grey. This shirt runs small, so size up.
The Safest Cruiser Motorcycle Jacket
There’s one quick way to make a motorcycle jacket 50x safer than the next best option: including an airbag. That’s exactly what Helite did with this classic leather jacket.
The Helite Leather Airbag jacket is just what it seems – a high-quality 1.3mm leather shell complete with armor all around and a full-torso airbag that deploys the instant anything goes wrong.
Why pick up this jacket instead of adding an airbag to another? For one, putting an airbag under another leather jacket puts you at risk of hurting yourself or the jacket – since you don’t know how that jacket will respond to a sudden expansion underneath. If it holds strong, it might crush you. If it gives out, well there goes your nice jacket.
So adding an airbag means putting it on top of your jacket, which ruins your look.
The Helite Leather jacket is also an insanely good deal. You see, the cheapest decent airbag is $700. Take that cost off the Helite Leather jacket, and it’s in the same price range as similar offerings from First Manufacturing, REV’IT and Street & Steel. Except the Helite jacket comes with Knox armor at the shoulders and elbows AND a CE Level 2 Sas-Tec back protector. That’s easily $150 of free armor thrown in.
Add up the mesh vents at the armpits and thermal liner, and this jacket is the safest cruiser jacket money can buy – and the best deal.
The Best Women’s Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
Usually women are forgotten in the motorcycle gear world. However, with cruiser jackets, there are too many choices.
Want something casual? Pop a back protector into the Terence Women’s Jacket and men will bow when you enter the room. Want a standout classic leather jacket? Try the First Manufacturing Electra – the chest, back, and sleeve vents keep you cool, the gusseted shoulders keep you mobile, and the ribbed details keep turning heads. The Street & Steel Athena is a similarly great fit for women that’s also a Staff Pick by the ladies at Revzilla.
Always annoyed with the fit of even women’s motorcycle jackets? Pick up the Street & Steel Runaway, which tailors fit to even the most voluptuous hourglass with high-waisted adjustments and relief zippers at the lower back to allow the jacket to billow out a bit. And you get a full length hoodie inside of a waxed cotton finish that resists wind and rain. Toss in the CE Level 2 shoulder and elbow armor and…. You haven’t bought it yet? Just look at the price – all that for less than half what your man is going to spend on his jacket.
Where to Buy Cruiser Motorcycle Jackets
I know you deal-hunters have a hundred Amazon tabs open right now.
Don’t. Do. It.
There’s a boatload of scammers over there selling fake leather junk with shoddy construction and passing it off as a protective leather motorcycle jacket for a great price. Skip it – even if you don’t crash in one of these, they’re often poor quality – you’re gonna buy a new jacket in a few months anyway.
If you do buy from Amazon, make sure you’re getting a legitimate product – like one you can find on…
Revzilla. Revzilla is it (in the USA). They vet products before they list them, their customer reviews are super helpful, and their customer service team will help you with style, features, and fitting. You’re much better off spending a bit more to get something you know will be great from Revzilla than taking your chances with Amazon. Plus, Revzilla carries several standout in-house brands like REAX and Street & Steel that offer great looking and protective gear for much lower cost than comparable brand names.
You might also want to look at REV’IT, Icon, and Joe Rocket for great deals on protective, comfortable, and mean-looking cruiser gear.
Before one of you throws a beer bottle in my direction, I have to mention the absolute classic and legendary leathers from Schott and Vanson. The reason I don’t recommend these is because I believe you’re overpaying.
Think of buying a motorcycle jacket like buying a watch: all you need is something that looks good and tells the time. You can get that in a Citizen or Seiko at a fraction of the price of a Rolex, and the only people who will know are those pricks that lean in and look at the label.
And Schott doesn’t even put armor or armor pockets in their jackets, so they’re less safe than the cheaper options. Buy something that works and that you love; forget the name on the label.
Are Harley Davidson brand jackets good?
Harley Davidson motorcycle jackets in my experience are high quality, but you can find similar quality jackets for a lot less without the Harley mark. They’re also often lacking any decent armor, so you’ll want to factor in adding that as well.
How protective are leather vests for motorcycling?
Leather vests for motorcycling barely do anything in a crash – so don’t wear them as safety gear. Yes, a vest might prevent some road rash on your torso, but it’s usually elbows and shoulders that take the brunt of a slide – and those will be totally exposed with a vest.
How do I stay cool in a leather motorcycle jacket?
Leather is traditionally a very warm material, but motorcycle jacket makers often build jackets to accommodate for hotter temperatures too. Look for mesh lining – it doesn’t sound like it would be much help, but those linings do allow hot air to escape and cooler air to cycle in. Also look for vents. You’ll often find grommets or mesh at the underarms to pull air there, and sometimes strategically placed vents at the front and back to pull cool air through the jacket. Those help massively on a hot day.
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