You know that feeling when the temperature starts to drop, and you just can’t get enough of those crisp, chilly rides?
I know it well. Winter is one of my favorite times to ride: national parks empty out, drivers are more cautious, and the changing of the seasons means beautiful foliage.
However, cold weather riding is an absolute nightmare if you’re not prepared with the right gear. Forget about stuffing newspapers in your jacket or slipping latex gloves over your hands (seriously, these are commonly passed around hacks). Good gear will have you focusing on the road and not the weather. Feeling the cold is for that top-of-the-mountain stop, not when you’re tearing around mountain curves at 80mph.
Today, we’re focusing on winter motorcycle jackets, the unsung heroes of extending your riding season by a month, two, or even all winter long.
But what should you look for in a winter motorcycle jacket?
My personal checklist is: waterproof exterior (zippers too), insulated (preferably with a liner and a few windproof vents), and high visibility (winter is dark, duh). But those aren’t all as cut and dry as you’d think.
There’s a lot of bad advice going around out there, so I’m here to clarify.
First, we’ll go through a few of my top picks for winter motorcycle jackets, then I’ll dive in to what to look for in a winter motorcycle jacket, and finally give some advice and thoughts on layering.
Here we go!
- Scorpion EXO Optima Jacket – STAFF PICK
- Alpinestars Andes v3 Jacket
- The Perfect Winter Motorcycle Jacket: Klim Latitude
- What to Look For in a Winter Motorcycle Jacket?
- Motorcycle Balaclavas and Base Layers – Cheap and Effective
Scorpion EXO Optima Jacket – STAFF PICK
This first jacket is our best budget option and a Staff Pick over at Revzilla. Why?
Well for one, it’s shocking to see a waterproof laminate shell with waterproof zippers at this price point. Usually you only get a flimsy liner, leaving the outside of your jacket soaked and heavy. They also double-zippered the front zipper to prevent water from getting in there as well. Another feature you rarely see on jackets under $500.
So you’ll be dry, but will you be warm? With the included EverHeat thermal liner, absolutely. And if you need a little airflow, open the two waterproof vents on the upper chest and the two exhaust vents at the lower back. Problem solved.
You also have a choice of a high viz gray, yellow and black colorway as well. Superb for winter riding when you never know what fog or storm might roll in. You also get CE Level 1 armor included as well at the elbows and shoulders.
This jacket is a piece of quality workmanship that honestly should cost twice the price. Great deal. There’s good reason this is a Staff Pick at Revzilla.
Alpinestars Andes v3 Jacket
Our midrange pick for best winter motorcycle jacket won me over with the Alpinestars Drystar tech.
Everyone I speak to about Drystar and every forum I read cannot stop raving about Drystar’s ability to hold water at bay while still being breathable. Maybe only short of Gore-Tex. So from a waterproofing perspective, that outside shell will not let you down.
Now, let’s talk about warmth and comfort. The Andes v3 comes with a removable long-sleeve thermal liner. Should you need to let some heat out, the Direct Ventilation System keeps air flowing through zippered chest intakes and back exhaust ports. You’ll be both cozy and well-ventilated no matter where your adventures take you.
And if you take a tumble, the class A safety certification and reinforced elbow and lower arm areas mean this jacket can stand a long slide. You get elbow and shoulder armor included as well (no word on what CE Level it is) and a space for both back AND chest protectors (rare for any jacket).
This jacket doesn’t stand alone, however – it’s compatible with the Tech Air 5 airbag system (reviewed here) and connects via zipper to the Alpinestars Drystar pants as well.
And there’s a women’s cut too!
The Alpinestars Andes v3 Drystar Jacket will keep you going no matter the conditions – the perfect companion for all your riding escapades!
The Perfect Winter Motorcycle Jacket: Klim Latitude
Now we get to the cream of the crop. What makes this jacket so good? Full Gore-Tex exterior.
Gore Tex is unique because it’s both waterproof and breathable. Moisture from inside can escape so you don’t end up swimming in a soup of your own sweat, but the elements can’t get in. Nailing that balance is extremely hard to do, and Gore Tex are the absolute experts at it.
Even the stretchy underarm gussets are made of Gore-Tex. Unbeatable mobility with amazing weather protection. Speaking of protection, the 600D Cordura and goat leather on key slide zones provides unmatched protection. You also get D3O Level 1 armor in the elbows and shoulders as well as a D3O Viper CE Level 1 back pad too.
Visibility is not a problem either, with Scotchlite Carbon Black reflectors all over this jacket in every colorway.
Adjustments are easy, with multiple quick-adjust straps, zippered hip gussets, and a seamless underarm design for a perfect fit and excellent mobility. The adjustable cinch collar and soft leather cuff and collar trim make this jacket easy to wear.
If you’re searching for the ultimate touring and adventure jacket, the Klim Latitude is it.
With its stellar reputation and continuous improvements over five generations, the Klim Latitude Jacket has become the go-to choice for countless riders who crave a comfortable, reliable, and protective jacket.
What to Look For in a Winter Motorcycle Jacket?
You’re here to extend your riding season by a few months, and I respect that.
I know you don’t want to end up shivering like a wet dog or trying to fight off an army of angry bats (more on that later). If one of the picks above isn’t doing it for you, here’s what to look for in a winter motorcycle jacket.
Waterproofing: The Key to Staying Warm
Trust me, you need a waterproof jacket. Why? Well, water wicks away heat 25x faster than air, so even a light shower can freeze you solid on a ride. And I’m talking about laminate-style waterproofing, not some wimpy internal liner.
You want a jacket that truly doesn’t hold water (think Gore-Tex), so it’ll dry out while you’re resting. A normal windbreaker won’t cut it either – unless you enjoy the feeling of “a thousand bats on steroids flapping wings made of steel against your arms and torso in a barrage of anger for endless miles” (source: some wise redditor).
Insulation: Finding the Perfect Balance
When it comes to insulation, you need the right amount to keep you cozy, but not too much that you’re sweating bullets. Look for 100g to 125g if you can.
Don’t forget vents, either – even in winter, we all need some fresh air. So, look for a jacket that strikes the perfect balance between insulation and ventilation.
Protection: Safety First!
You’re still on two wheels, so protection is crucial. Look for a jacket with proper armor and padding in key areas like the shoulders, elbows, and back. Remember, safety first!
Do not go with a snowmobile suit for winter riding – these often lack the abrasion resistance needed on the road as well as the armor! Maybe, maybe if you’re only doing offroad in the snow – but even then, wear an armor suit underneath. Or better yet, an airbag.
Visibility: Shine Bright in the Dark
Winter conditions often mean poor visibility, so choose a jacket with high-viz elements to ensure you’re seen and safe in the gloomiest of weather.
Storage: Keep Your Stuff Dry
Waterproof pockets are essential – and I mean truly waterproof, with tape-seamed zippers. Nobody wants a soggy wallet or waterlogged phone!
Bonus Features: Liners, Zipper Connections, and High Viz
Some nice extras to consider include a thermal liner for added warmth, a zipper connection to pants (all the way around if possible), and a collar that cinches up to keep the cold and rain from coming down into your jacket (like Klim Latitude has).
Keep in mind that you’ll likely be looking at a lot of adventure jackets. There aren’t many sport jackets suitable for winter because, well, nobody’s racing in the snow. And steer clear of leather – even well-waterproofed leather can soak up water pretty quickly in heavy rain.
Once you’ve found your dream winter motorcycle jacket, don’t forget to invest in some quality base layers for added insulation and comfort. With the right gear, you’ll be ready to ride to the North Pole!
Speaking of base layers… let me give you a few tips on those as well.
Motorcycle Balaclavas and Base Layers – Cheap and Effective
A great outer layer doesn’t mean much if it’s drafty enough to suck all the warm air out from around your body. You’ll be freezing in no time.
That’s where balaclavas and base layers come in.
Balaclava – a Must for Winter Riding
You have zero excuse not to get a balaclava for winter riding. Anyone ever put an ice cube on the back of your neck on a hot day, sending a shock through your whole body?
There’s a good reason the neck is a preferred spot for this prank: you lose a ton of heat through your neck thanks to the giant blood vessels going up to your brain.
I know, stupid brain.
Your neck is uncovered while riding a motorcycle, stuck between the collar of your jacket and the bottom of your helmet. That’s the heat loss problem a balaclava solves.
A balaclava might be the single most valuable piece of clothing for retaining heat while riding a motorcycle (assuming you’re not riding naked or helmetless).
Pick up this Smartwool balaclava on Amazon. It’s the best money can buy. YES MERINO WOOL IS EXPENSIVE – let me explain why it’s also INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT in the next section.
Base Layers – Go For Merino Wool
A good base layer keeps you dry by moving sweat and moisture away from your body. Why spend a pretty penny on Merino wool vs polyester?
Merino wool has excellent heat-trapping qualities, but it’s also quick-wicking, quick-drying, and maintains its shape even when wet, thanks to its natural lanolin content. Plus, it doesn’t feel wet until it’s 60% saturated! Invest in one now and stay warm later.
Here’s a great merino wool base layer for motorcycling on Amazon. It’s worth noting you should not put wool in the dryer! You will end up with a baby’s shirt.
Socks, Leggings, Gloves, and Heated Gear
A full winter gear setup should include great wool socks (Smartwool is the tip top), leggings, and winter motorcycle gloves.
There’s also a wide range of heated motorcycle gear and grips from brands like Gerbing and Tourmaster, but that’s a topic for another article. This gear often plugs into your bike for power and can make all the difference on a long and cold ride.
Can I wear a leather motorcycle jacket in winter?
Wearing a leather jacket in winter isn’t the best idea, as it’ll absorb water, get heavy, and leave you shivering. Instead, opt for an insulated and waterproof textile jacket to keep you warm and dry.
Can I ride my motorcycle in the winter?
Riding in snow and below-freezing temperatures is a no-go unless you’re an expert with a winter-ready bike. For cold weather riding, take it easy for the first few miles to let your tires warm up, as cold rubber doesn’t grip well. Make sure you’re dressed for the conditions with an insulated and waterproof jacket, gloves, and pants. Stay visible with high-visibility gear, like the reflective jackets we mentioned here, as winter weather is often darker and foggier.
Are Gore-Tex motorcycle jackets worth it?
Absolutely! Gore-Tex jackets are a game-changer because they’re both waterproof and breathable. This means sweat can escape, so you don’t get damp and clammy inside, while external moisture stays out. If a jacket was merely waterproof, you’d feel like you were wearing a plastic sheet and get sticky and hot in no time. So, investing in a Gore-Tex motorcycle jacket is definitely worth it for comfortable winter rides.
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