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THE 5 BEST MATERIALS FOR MOTORCYCLE JACKETS

A jacket's material can make all the difference in the world. It affects not only the style and feel, but more importantly, the level of protection you'll have when the unexpected happens on the road.

These days, bikers have an insane range of choices for their jackets. But while that's great for seasoned veterans, new riders might feel a bit out of their depth when it comes to choosing the right material. Understanding the differences in how they all work will bring you one step closer to finding that perfect jacket.

A biker's jacket is sacred. It should keep you armored but still reflect your individual style and personality.
Your jacket is a clear statement that you live life on the edge.
That you're a maverick who won't settle for the ordinary.

MaterialProsConsDurabilityBest For
LeatherSuperior impact and abrasion resistanc.
Lasts a long time.
Old school style
Unsuitable for hot weather
The fashion/fit isn't for everyone
Expensive
10-20 years or longer with proper careCold weather
Mild weather
Traditionalists
CottonLightweight with good airflow
Can be tailor-made to provide excellent water resistance
Provides the lowest level of protection
Feels stuffy in hot weather
Up to 10 yearsRiding in a downpour
Warm weather (but not too hot)
Casual riding
TextilesWide range of styles
Flexible and comfortable
Breathable
Stylish
Must be enforced with Dyneema, Kevlar or Cordura to give proper protectionBetween 5 to 10 years, depending on its additional materialsSummer riding
Mild weather
Everyday style

LEATHER AS A MATERIAL FOR RIDING GEAR

Leather is a classic look that will forever be ingrained in motorcycle culture. Made popular by the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando in Wild Ones, this iconic material is still worn by riders everywhere.

Leather is popular with bikers because it's a seriously tough material. Despite being one of the oldest materials, it provides better road protection than anything else. If safety is your number one priority, then leather will be right up your alley.

Another strength of leather jackets is their incredible durability. A good quality one can last between 10 to 20 years, or even a lifetime if maintained properly! It's certainly the best material for long-term cost effectiveness.While leather is extremely durable, it only lasts a long time with the proper care. You'll need to apply conditioner on the odd occasion to prevent dryness and cracking, and clean it regularly to maintain that nice shine.A drawback of leather jackets is they struggle in wet conditions. Leather repels water but is not water resistant, which sounds like a meaningless technicality, but you'll feel it out there on the road. If it does get wet, you'll need to air dry and treat it.Many people are surprised by how comfortable they find leather once they try it on. A high-quality leather jacket not only looks great but feels quite natural.

Keep in mind that leather is meant to be a tight fit. It requires a 'breaking in' period where it forms around your body, but eventually you'll have a perfect tailored fit. Leather is also a heavy material that can feel punishing in the summer heat.

THE BEST TYPE OF LEATHER FOR A MOTORCYCLE JACKET

Leather is an ultra-tough material offering amazing durability, but only if it's the real deal. Watch out for anything listed as faux or genuine leather, which means it's fake and won't protect you in a crash.

A high-quality leather jacket
will be at least 1.2mm thick to give proper impact and abrasion resistance. That thick outer layer will protect you from any hard, unplanned meetings with the ground by cushioning your bones.

FULL GRAIN LEATHER

In motorcycle jackets you'll see leather generally graded by two categories: full-grain and top-grain. Full-grain is the highest grade available with the best protection and durability.

Unlike top-grain, which is sanded to remove imperfections, full-grain leather keeps the entire grain intact.

man sitting in a field on a motorcycle

TEXTILE AS A MATERIAL FOR RIDING

Textile jackets have exploded onto the motorcycle scene for good reason. They're incredibly versatile and can be worn in a wide range of conditions. Textile gear is known for being stylish, practical, and lightweight.A huge strength of textiles is they can usually be worn year-round. Unlike their leather counterparts, they're light and can be adjusted to provide extra weather protection. In terms of style, you can easily find a great textile jacket that resembles everyday clothing - perfect for those weekend trips.

THE BEST TEXTILE MATERIALS FOR MOTORCYCLE JACKETS

Textile jackets are only as good as the material they're made with. This will determine the jacket's protective qualities, weight and overall style. You'll most likely have no idea what to make of these technical sounding names, so let's run through what each material brings to the table.

MOTORCYCLE JACKET WITH KEVLAR (Para-Aramid)

Textile jackets are only as good as the material they're made with. This will determine the jacket's protective qualities, weight and overall style. You'll most likely have no idea what to make of these technical sounding names, so let's run through what each material brings to the table.

MOTORCYCLE JACKET WITH CORDURA(Nylon 6,6)

Cordura is one of the most versatile fabrics in the game. It's lighter and costs less than Kevlar, while still providing high abrasion resistance and overall protection.Cordura is known for having great airflow and is often used to make suits for racetracks.

It has excellent water resistant properties, which makes it the perfect material for wet weather riding. Waterproof jackets like our Armored Puffer are often made with a Cordura outer shell.

Cordura doesn't provide the same level of protection as Kevlar or Dyneema, so make sure anything you grab is at least certified for safety and includes armor pockets.

MOTORCYCLE JACKET WITH DYNEEMA (UHMWPE)

Dyneema is the new kid on the block when it comes to high-tech fabrics. It quickly took the motorcycle industry by storm and has since been widely adopted for protective riding gear.

First developed in the 90s, this military grade fiber has been used to make bullet-proof vests, line space shuttles and even armor helicopters. It's no wonder that bikers want to ride with something that sounds straight out of a spy movie!

Dyneema boasts an impressive strength to weight ratio - it's 15x stronger than steel yet light enough to float on water. This combination of protection and comfort is what makes it ideal for motorcycle gear.

SA1NT has incorporated Dyneema into our Unbreakable Denim range to massive acclaim. Our Unbreakable Denim Jacket is a huge hit with riders, while the Denim Vest is a fantastic alternative for those who like to go against the grain.

MOTORCYCLE JACKET WITH MESH

Those hot summer days can take their toll on even the hardest of bikers, and mesh jackets are specifically designed to help you beat the heat. They're made by placing mesh panels (clusters of tiny holes) in strategic areas of the jacket to increase airflow while you ride.

While a mesh jacket will give you maximum breathability, there are a few catches. Because of its lightweight design, mesh has a significant drop-off in protection compared to leather or most textiles.

Mesh jackets are seasonal, so you'll only be wearing them in hot weather. That means you'll need a second jacket for winter, and quality riding jackets don't come cheap. Most mesh jackets also come in a 'race driver' style that won't be for everyone.

Check out our 18 Tips to Stay Cool on Hot Motorcycle Rides if you need some advice for summer riding.

man wearing black clothes standing in the desert with a bike

TYPES OF COTTON USED FOR MOTORCYCLE JACKETS

Cotton is a natural fabric that has a ton of applications. It's been adapted into several styles of riding jackets that we'll run through below. Cotton is known for being comfortable, versatile, and long-lasting.

A cotton motorcycle jacket is usually light and breathable. It's a highly adaptable material and provides excellent water resistance when layered with waterproof material.

While cotton is nice and light, it's less abrasion resistant than both leather and textiles. The material is also unsuitable for very hot and humid weather because it builds up heat. Cotton is also known to wrinkle and shrink with too much exposure to water.

DENIM JACKETS

Denim has an undeniable cool factor that's made it hugely popular with motorcyclists. It's a fashionable look that suits just about any condition, so you'll arrive anywhere you ride to in style.

Most denim jackets are comfortable, sturdy, and can be enhanced with materials like polyester for easier movement. Cotton motorcycle denim is usually layered with Kevlar which means it will absorb moisture and heat up, unlike textile denim made from Dyneema which has a cooling effect.

You'll find denim in a wide range of colors and patterns, which is perfect because no two riders are the same. Be aware that cotton denim can be thick and have low elasticity, so you might find it starts to feel uncomfortable during longer rides.

WAXED COTTON JACKETS

Waxed cotton is a retro style that's seen a recent comeback in popularity. It was originally made for sailors to repel wind and water, so it's ideal for mild weather protection but won't help you much in a heavy shower.

While it's a thin fabric, waxed cotton can be enhanced by additional layers and technical features like thermal liners. They vary a lot in terms of thickness so each will have a unique level of abrasion and tear resistance.

Being an organic fabric, waxed cotton develops a 'rugged' look over time and tends to age well. Unfortunately, you'll need to get it re-waxed once a year if you plan to maintain it.

OXFORD JACKETS

Oxford jackets are known for being hard and durable. They usually have high levels of abrasion and water resistance, as well as solid wind protection. Despite that toughness, many riders find oxford jackets to be light and thin.

While oxford jackets are known for their durability and keeping their shape over many years, the jacket's outer material will eventually show signs of age. This is purely aesthetic and won't affect the level of protection, but riding jackets are all about style so this may bother some people.

man sitting on a motorcycle and wearing a longsleeve sa1nt top

BOTTOM LINE: WHAT IS THE BEST MOTORCYCLE JACKET MATERIAL?

The perfect motorcycle jacket has to tick a lot of boxes. It needs to be tough enough to armor the boldest of risk takers, but without compromising a rider's comfort. If you're going to wear something for hundreds of hours, you'll want to be damn sure it feels good.

A riding jacket should capture the fierce energy and spirit of motorcycling. Every biker is an individual at heart, so grab something that reflects your personal brand and feels more like your second skin than a piece of protective gear.

Everyone has their own needs and preference, but we feel the Unbreakable Black Denim Jacket has the best overall qualities. Aside from its' insane levels of protection, the slick design is perfect for casual wear and goes with just about anything. It's a killer jacket from top to bottom.

If you're still undecided after all that, no problem! These things take time and shouldn't be rushed. We have a great guide on How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Jacket with plenty of info that wasn't covered here.

man standing with a black denim jacket

FAQs

WHICH FABRIC PROVIDES THE BEST PROTECTION FOR MOTORCYCLE RIDERS?

Leather provides the best abrasion resistance and overall protection for motorcycle riders - there's a reason why it's a classic. In saying that, the latest composite fibers are still impressive and the gap between the two has decreased over time.
Space-age denim made from Dyneema, for example, still gives riders unreal levels of crash protection. You'd be selling it short to call it a leather jacket substitute.
Cotton biking jackets generally have the lowest rated safety features compared to leather and textiles. You can always check the safety ratings of a jacket you're interested in, which should as a minimum be CE certified and include armor pockets.
For an explanation of safety ratings, we cover it in our article 6 Things You Need to Know When Buying a motorcycle Jacket.

WHAT FABRIC DO BIKERS USE?

Bikers use a variety of fabric when riding their motorbikes. The beauty of motorcycling is that every rider can express their individuality in their own way.
For some, this means throwing on a vintage leather jacket and tearing up the road like there's no tomorrow. For others, a casual denim jacket is all they need to kick their riding weekend off in style.
It's a cop-out but there really is no one stand-out material. As a motorcyclist, you have the freedom to choose the gear you feel at home with. It's going to take some time and research to figure out what that is, but sometimes it's as simple as following your heart.

WHAT ARE SOME HIGH VISIBILITY OPTIONS?

Let's face it, most drivers aren't looking out for oncoming motorcycles in their side mirrors. Bikers have always faced a lack of respect on the road, which we all know is because everyone else is just jealous.
In one case study, it was found that high-visibility clothing reduced accidents by 37%. By making yourself as clear and visible as possible, you're putting the odds in your favor of other drivers spotting you before they decide to do something stupid.
You won't have any issues finding a high-visibility motorcycle jacket, but the problem is they often look a bit tacky. Most jackets immediately lose their cool factor if they're reflective, but thankfully you can find plenty of ways around this issue.
The most popular method is to throw a high-vis vest on top of your riding jacket. It's an inexpensive, practical solution that can easily fit into the boot of your bike. In Victoria, learner bikers legally have to wear some form of high-visibility clothing, so double check your state's laws in any case.

ARE TEXTILE MOTORCYCLE JACKETS WARM?

Textiles are incredibly versatile, so you can find a motorcycle jacket that's suitable for just about any condition. Denim jackets keep you nice and warm without feeling like you're getting suffocated and can include extra jacket features like removable thermal liners to keep you extra toasty.
One step further would be a water-resistant option like our Armored Puffer Jacket. It has a water-shedding DWR coating, a waterproof/windproof internal membrane, and synthetic filling for warmth. An added bonus is that puffers go with just about everything.

DO YOU NEED TO WEAR BODY ARMOR ON A MOTORCYCLE?

Body armor is one of the most essential components of rider protection. Whether you're riding all day or just driving up to the shops, you should never get on a motorcycle without some armor.
When things go random on the road, your bones and joints are at serious risk of injury. You would never think to jump on your bike without a helmet, so does it make sense to keep the rest of your body safe as well?
A good biking jacket should always include armor pockets on the shoulders, elbows, and along the back. If it doesn't have any of these you should move on.
The latest armor technology is slim so it won't feel bulky underneath your jacket. D30 Ghost Armor has a lightweight design that's so comfortable you might even forget it's there. For a deeper dive, you can check out our detailed Guide to Motorcycle Armor.

WHICH JACKET IS BEST FOR BIKE RIDING?

As stated further above, we rate the Unbreakable Denim Jacket as the best overall jacket for bike riding. However, motorcyclists are a fiercely independent group who might choose to do things their own way.
Some riders buck the trend of jackets entirely and rock a Denim Moto Vest instead. Riding vests are great because they can be worn in any weather. Hot summer day? You'll be cool as a cucumber. Middle of winter? Layer some clothes underneath and you're good to go.
There's never been a more exciting time to own a motorcycle. The insane range of gear at our fingertips makes it easier than ever to strike that ultimate balance between chaos and control.

WHY CAN'T I JUST WEAR A THICK JACKET?

There's no substitute for real motorcycle gear. It's a cliché, but your clothing is the only thing between you and the road in a crash, so you want to be damn sure it's up to the job.
In an accident at 60km/h, a highly rated motorcycle jacket will protect you for 2.37 seconds while a casual hoodie lasts just 0.03 seconds before it bursts open according to the TAC. If you need further proof, feel free to read some crash stories from riders who walked away in one piece thanks to our gear.
Motorcyclists are risk-takers at heart, and the best riders can flirt with danger while still being masters of their own destiny. Riding gear is your way of taking the reins and staring chaos right in the eye.
Check out our range of Tough Motorcycle Jackets to find out best what suits your style.