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I am so happy you’ve ended up here.
It’s time to cut the crap (mostly) – this article is not about looking cool on your iron steed or sportbike.
It’s about saving your skin from road rash and sepsis.
It’s about saving your bones from cracking on the pavement.
But it’s also about saving you from heat exhaustion and saving you money.
The reality is you can be just about as safe on a motorcycle in a $300 jacket as you can in a $2,800 race suit. What matters is not just CE safety ratings and armor, but also fabric denier and fit.
In this article I’ll tell you everything you need to know to select the most safe jacket for you and your riding style. And I’ll give you a couple recommendations in several different categories – whether you’re adventuring across the desert or cruising through fall foliage in Canada.
Together, we’ll find a jacket that exceeds your need for safety without compromising on comfort or budget.
And I’ll share a secret about motorcycle jacket safety.
Let’s get to it.
- What Makes a Motorcycle Jacket Safe?
- Premium Safest Motorcycle Jackets
- Affordable Safest Motorcycle Jackets
What Makes a Motorcycle Jacket Safe?
Let’s get straight to the point. You’re here for safety, but motorcycle gear manufacturers (and many scammers) are experts at confusing us with fancy product names and BS certifications.
So like Jesus throwing the money changers out of the temple, I am here to throw out those who wish to overcharge you for sham products.
There are four main safety factors I look at in a jacket? Abrasion resistance, impact resistance, fit, and visibility.
Sound boring? I know. I will try to make it as fun as I can, so here we go.
Abrasion Resistance: No One Wants Road Rash
A good motorcycle jacket stays between you and the pavement, all the way through a slide.
Turns out “super strong” and “nano-structured slide fibers” don’t mean a darn thing. Because we have a MEASUREMENT for abrasion resistance:
Denier is our measure for abrasion resistance. You’ll see it stated as a number in the hundreds followed by a D, like 450D.
For example, 400D might last just one second at 30mph. Yikes! You definitely want something beefier than that. 750D Cordura fabric (which uses Kevlar, the bulletproof stuff) will stand a few seconds at highway speeds, which is plenty for most road riders.
Then there’s leather. You can easily get 1000D+ with regular old cow leather. Leather often isn’t measured in denier, however, but in thickness. Motorcycle jacket leather should be at least 1mm thick all around, with ‘race weight’ starting around 1.3-1.4mm. A fashion leather jacket will often be less than 1mm thick. Even if it’s over 1mm thick, the seams of a normal leather jacket are not designed to withstand the high shear forces from a motorcycle crash.
Which is all to say do not wear your non-motorcycle leather jacket on your bike. You’re basically wearing a t-shirt’s worth of protection.
That’s abrasion resistance – then we have impact resistance.
Impact Resistance: Softening the Blow
Nobody wants to go tumbling down the highway. Alas, it happens all too often when we choose to put a rocket and two wheels between our legs.
And that can lead to hard impacts.
Motorcycle jackets absorb impacts with armor, which is designed to distribute force across a wide area.
Ever laid on a nail bed? Same idea. One nail is gonna HURT, but a nail bed means your weight is distributed across many nails, so no pain. Or at least less pain.
Motorcycle jacket armor comes in three varieties:
- Foam (read: utter crap): Transfers almost all forces to your body
- CE Level 1: Transfers maximum of 18 kN to your body through the armor (for back and chest) or 35 kN for limbs.
- CE Level 2: Transfers maximum of 9 kN to your body through the armor (for back and chest) or 20 kN for limbs.
With CE Level 2 armor, you can drop a hammer on your hand and barely feel it. That said, a human knee breaks at around 8.5 kN of direct force, so even some CE Level 2 armor won’t be enough to save you in some impacts.
Are you ready for that secret I mentioned earlier?
You can now buy protection that’s 50x as effective as motorcycle armor.
What is that protection? Motorcycle airbags.
Airbags are so effective because they absorb force rather than distribute it. Absorption is 50x as effective as distribution, so an airbag is like wearing 50 back protectors.
And that protection lies hidden away, barely noticeable until right before you hit the ground! Genius.
Several of my picks below include airbags because they are so damn protective that anyone who doesn’t put them front and center when talking motorcycle jackets is cheating you.
I need to make an aside here about CE Ratings:
There’s a widely used CE rating standard for motorcycle gear, including jackets. Since 2018 they’ve upped their game, not only rating armor but also rating full garments under the EN 17092 standard.
Some jackets now include a full CE rating that rates their abrasion and impact resistance in one simple letter. CE ratings range from AAA (highest) to AA, A, B, and C (lowest). A and up are both abrasion and impact resistant, with AAA being race-ready and A being good for street riding. B garments are only rated for abrasion resistance, and C jackets are just frames for holding impact protectors. Use B and C garments together, or just get an A or up!
On to fit. Source: Eagle Leather
Fit: Snug as a Bug
A well-fitting jacket is a safe jacket. Too loose, and it might ride up during a crash (yikes!). Make sure your jacket fits snugly and comfortably in your riding position, whether you’re a laid-back highway cruiser or a tucked-up speed demon.
Fit is just as important as all the other safety bits on a jacket. Grab a race suit that’s CE Class AAA but is far too loose on you? That will protect you less than a well-fitting Class A jacket, every time.
Many street and adventure-touring jackets have plenty of adjusters to get that right fit no matter the layers you’re wearing or how much you ate for lunch.
Visibility: You’re Not There if You’re Not Seen
Being visible on the road is key, my friends. Look for jackets with bright colors, reflective materials, or eye-catching accents to stand out in traffic.
And you don’t have to look like a crossing guard. Lots of jackets these days come with neat reflective piping that stands out in the dark but blends in when it isn’t needed.
Picking a Jacket
I can’t emphasize this enough: read reviews. The best judge of a motorcycle jacket isn’t the rating on the tag, it’s real experiences from real riders. Search Reddit, Revzilla, and Amazon to see what other riders think of a jacket.
You know what though? I already did that research in order to make the recommendations below.
Skip all that time on your phone, pick from the list below, and get back on your bike.
First, I’ll go through the safest motorcycle jackets, full stop – because even a $2,800 race suit is cheaper than a skin graft. Not to mention less painful!
Then, I’ll walk through the safest jackets that are affordable for any rider – because I’d rather you wear something than nothing!
Premium Safest Motorcycle Jackets
Okay, so you’d rather spend some dough now than even more at the hospital down the road? Here’s what you should pick up.
I’ve focused my reviews on the safety aspects of each jacket: materials and denier, armor ratings, airbags, fit and adjustability, construction quality, and visibility. I’ve thrown in a few women’s options as well.
|Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Perforated Race Suit||Racing||Men’s: Revzilla|
|Klim Carlsbad||Touring and Adventure||Revzilla, Amazon|
|Helite Leather Airbag Jacket||Cruiser and Cafe||Revzilla|
|Helite Free-Air Mesh Airbag Jacket||Summer Heat||Revzilla|
The Speed Demon: Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Perforated Race Suit
Introducing the superhero of race suits: the Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Perforated Race Suit. This bad boy comes with an integrated airbag that knows when you’re about to crash and deploys to make you super buff – like wearing 50 back protectors. Your neck is instantly supported and stabilized, and your shoulder, chest, and back get the protection they deserve.
The leather is unbelievably thick too, at 2mm. That’s a good 50% thicker than most race suits, and means high speed slides are no match for this suit.
Even the little details are right on this suit, down to the knee, elbow, and shoulder sliders that are integrated without exposed stitching.
Everything is pre-curved with stretch panels in just the right places for you to hunch over your liter bike and touch knees in the corners. Trust me, a good fitting race suit feels like you’re wearing nothing at all!
Sure, it’s more expensive than your average jacket and pants. But after the first crash, it pays for itself (as one Revzilla reviewer put it). Tested in MotoGP for years before it was available to us mere mortals, this suit is quality and protection squared.
A must for anyone hitting a track day, or even if you enjoy twisties on the weekend.
The Touring Titan: Klim Carlsbad Jacket
If I was stuck out in the Sahara desert on a way-too-big BMW GS, I’d want to be wearing the Klim Carlsbad.
Why? Well for one, remember that CE rating I mentioned earlier? This jacket is CE AA approved under the new EN 17092 standard, which means it’s practically ready for the racetrack. The super tough FPL400 fabric with 630D Cordura on the common slide zones certainly help. You also get viscoelastic plastic D3O armor that’s CE Level 2 rated not only in the shoulders and elbows, but in the back protector as well.
So slides and impacts are covered well. What about visibility?
Check. Scotchlite reflective materials are used throughout, meaning the jacket has a standard look until light reflects off it at night.
Beyond those safety features, you could take the Carlsbad through a tsunami and come out dry and unscathed. Gore-Tex exterior for the wet and vents at the forearms, chest and back for the heat.
Adventure jackets are all about utility, and the Carlsbad is no exception with an almost absurd 14 pockets: 8 outside and 6 inside, plus an emergency info card pocket. Carry a first aid kit, flares, a couple lights, maybe a small dog to keep you company. There’s room for it all.
And what about fit? This jacket fits like a glove thanks to adjustment straps on the hem and arms, as well as a zippered cuff making it easy to seal the jacket under or over a pair of gloves.
For anything off the beaten path, you need the Klim Carlsbad.
Psst… want to ball out a little more than the Carlsbad? Check out the Klim Adventure Rally and Klim Badlands. Both feature even better materials to flex to different climates.
The Cruiser King (and Queen): Helite Leather Airbag Jacket
There’s only one choice for cafe and cruiser riders when it comes to safety: Leather.
You’re gonna look badass and there’s just nothing you or I can do about it. This is the life you chose.
But unfortunately many jackets made for you, like the legendary Schott 118 Perfecto and Schott 141 Cafe Racer, miss the boat on impact protection. Sure they have quality leather and strong construction, but you’re gonna spend a grand to get zero impact protection on your elbows and shoulders?
Enter the Helite Leather Airbag Jacket.
On top of nearly race-thick 1.3mm leather in black or brown, you get an airbag that triggers when you crash. Should you accidentally trigger the airbag (like you drop your bike), it takes two minutes to swap in a new CO2 canister.
I thought the airbag would be enough, but the nuts at Helite apparently want you to walk away from a T-bone like Superman. For that they included CE Level 2 elbow and shoulder armor plus a CE Level 2 SAS-TEC back protector!
I haven’t covered fit and comfort! While leather is as breathable as outer space, Helite put mesh vents in the armpits to cool you off quick. The European cut of this jacket also fits riders more snugly, with broad shoulders that slim down towards the waist. And there’s a women’s cut too.
Style and protection are not mutually exclusive – the Helite Leather Airbag jacket nails both.
The Summer Rider: Helite Free-Air Mesh Airbag Jacket
Leather too hot for you? Let me guess: you live in hot and muggy Florida, and you’re looking at mesh jackets which will shred faster than parmesan cheese.
Safety doesn’t have to go out the window in the summer heat.
Here’s your ticket to safety without the sweat: the Helite Free-Air Mesh Airbag Jacket.
Similar to Helite Leather Airbag jacket, you get an integrated airbag inside this jacket that deploys automatically in a crash, saving your skin and bones. CE Level 1 armor comes in the shoulder and elbows, with CE Level 2 SAS-TEC back protector.
What about the mesh that shreds like parmesan?
This isn’t cheesecloth, it’s 600D Cordura mesh that can withstand a highway slide without exposing your skin. And heat-stroked summer drivers will spot you too with the reflective piping in this jacket and the option for high viz yellow accents.
Stay breezy and not cheezy with the Helite Free-Air Mesh Airbag Jacket.
That’s it for the premium picks. On to more affordable pastures.
Affordable Safest Motorcycle Jackets
Not everyone has $600+ to spend on a jacket today.
That said, spending $600+ might save you tens of thousands on hospital bills, not to mention agony…
I would rather you ride in something than nothing, so here are my picks for the safest affordable jackets on the market.
|Alpinestars GP Plus R v3 Airflow Jacket||Racing||Revzilla, Amazon|
|Scorpion EXO Yosemite Hi-Viz Jacket||Touring and Adventure||Revzilla, Amazon|
|Scorpion EXO 1909 Vintage Leather Jacket||Cruiser and Cafe||Revzilla, Amazon|
|Bilt Nomad Air Jacket||Summer Heat||Revzilla|
The Budget Racer: Alpinestars GP Plus R v3 Airflow Jacket
This is a racing jacket you don’t need to sell a kidney for, but will still protect those precious organs.
A good racing jacket boils down to being able to slide for days, with decent impact protection to boot (even in the chest). The Alpinestars GP Plus R v3 Airflow Jacket delivers all that while defying the laws of thriftiness.
With race-thickness 1.3mm leather, CE Level 1 armor in the shoulder and elbow, and slots for back and chest protectors, you’re wearing an armored suit that a medieval knight would envy.
The tapered race fit and perforated leather ensure that you’re always comfortable and cool as a cucumber on the track.
And hey, there’s a women’s version too: the Alpinestars Stella T-GP Plus R v3 Jacket. Who needs a trust fund when you’ve got this budget racer?
If you’re hitting the track, at least pick this jacket up. Or do yourself a favor and get a full race suit.
A race suit pays for itself after just one crash.
The Thrifty Tourer: Scorpion EXO Yosemite Hi-Viz
Okay, you quit your job and sold everything to ride around the world. But after you picked up that gleaming Ducati Multistrada and an Arai lid, you don’t have much left to cover the rest of your body.
You need the Scorpion EXO Yosemite Hi-Viz jacket.
So bright you’ll be seen from outer space as you cross barren deserts, this jacket definitely checks the “visibility” box.
But this blinding beacon of budget beauty also packs stellar 1680D nylon in common fall zones. That means when you slide out in some cattle dung, you don’t need the prayers of the local village shaman to ward off the impending sepsis. You won’t have a scratch on you!
Toss in CE Level 2 armor at the shoulders and elbows, and you’ve got a deal that’s sweeter than grandma’s apple pie. Oh, and let’s not forget the mesh ventilation panels that zip closed, full-length arm vents, and two liners: one waterproof, one thermal.
With waist adjusters right around the stomach, it’s perfect for the ladies as well.
Roam free with a couple bucks left over for gas and beef jerky.
The Frugal Cruiser: Scorpion EXO 1909 Vintage Leather Jacket
Is your spirit animal a leather-clad Marlon Brando, but your bank account says “nah, not today”?
Thankfully there are a lot of cows out there, and you can have quality leather without being a movie star.
I give you the Scorpion EXO 1909 Vintage Leather Jacket.
You can slide out all day in this retro wonder thanks to race-thickness cowhide (1.2 – 1.4mm) with sneaky hidden stitching. Bones called to thank you because this jacket has SAS-TEC CE Level 2 armor at the elbows and shoulders.
This jacket bridges the gap between your wallet and your inner rebel.
Feel like you’re riding through the Swiss Alps on even the hottest days thanks to perforated leather and vents on the upper arms. And those zipper cuffs? They’re smoother than a baby’s bottom. No tacky velcro wrist loops for you.
The only thing better than the price? People love the striking look of this jacket and its soft, distressed leather. It fits right and comfortably from the first wear.
Now go laugh at someone who spend $1,000 on a Schott that’s half as protective!
The Budget Summer Rider: Bilt Nomad Air
You already spent too much putting an Akrapovic exhaust on your MT-09, and now you don’t have enough for a Helite Free-Air Mesh Airbag Jacket. But the drivers in Miami are nuts (thanks New York snowbirds), and you need to wear something out in the heat.
The Bilt Nomad Air was built for you.
This jacket combines leather where you need it – on the arms – with mesh where you don’t. And this isn’t cheese mesh; it’s 750D mesh that can handle a slide that would make Olympic skaters jealous. With CE Level 1 armor at the shoulders and elbows, and a pocket for a back protector, you’re safe from those aforementioned idiot drivers as well.
Toss in stretch panels for a snug fit and a full-sleeve thermal liner? My finger is hovering over the buy button.
So go ahead, connect it to your riding pants with included belt loops and ride off into the sunset without a care in the world.
Congratulations, you made it to the end. I wish I had cake for you, but this is a website, so you get FAQs instead.
Are leather motorcycle jackets safer?
Yes, if the leather is thick enough (over 1mm) and the jacket is well-constructed with double or triple stitching at all seams. Leather has a very high denier (abrasion resistance) by nature, but its safety for motorcycling depends on how the leather is treated and how the garment is constructed. This is why a fashion leather jacket cannot be worn as a motorcycle jacket.
What is the best fabric for motorcycle protection?
Leather at race thickness (1.4mm or above) is one of the best choices for motorcycle gear, however some textiles like Kevlar and Cordura provide just as much protection. Look for the denier of the fabric – for instance, some jackets use very tough 1680D nylon that’s equivalent to many leathers. What’s most important is finding the right balance of durability, comfort, and breathability for your riding style. And remember, even the most indestructible fabric is useless without proper armor and construction.
What style of motorcycle is safest?
Picking the safest motorcycle style is like picking the best flavor of ice cream – it’s all about personal preference. In general, touring and adventure bikes tend to have a more upright riding position, making it easier to keep an eye on traffic (and avoid pesky potholes). On the other hand, sportbikes have more aggressive riding positions and twitchier throttles that take longer to master. Ultimately, the safest motorcycle style is the one you feel most comfortable and confident riding. And hey, who says you can’t have two scoops of ice cream?