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The best motorcycle jackets for men in 2017

An RST leather motorcycle racing jacket
RST Tractech Evo II Leather Motorcycle Jacket
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The whole point of riding a bike is that you get to wear a bad-ass motorcycle jacket. But even though looking awesome is obviously the most important point, there are other things to consider when you’re buying a new jacket.

If you should crash, it plays an important role in keeping all of your soft squishy bits intact and stopping your brittle bony bits from breaking. This one of the main differences between a proper motorcycle jacket and a flimsy biker-style fashion jacket, and is achieved in two ways.

Impact Protection

Firstly, there’s impact protection, which stops your elbows from shattering into a million tiny pieces when you get bounced onto the tarmac. This is provided by body armor inserts in the jacket’s shoulders and elbows. Some also feature padding or armor in the back to protect your spine from being hit.

To state the obvious, armor works by absorbing energy from an impact, so less energy is transferred to your body and the risk of broken bones is reduced. It’s important to pick a jacket with good quality armor, but how?

The Europeans have created a strict standard for motorcycle body armor and, while it’s not legally required in America, it is widely used and provides a good indication that the jacket you’re buying will protect you properly. Armor which meets this standard should protect you from broken bones at typical street speeds. There are two versions of the standard:

EN-1621-1 (also called CE Level 1) covers body armor intended for any part of the body except the spine, so for motorcycle jackets this standard is most relevant to shoulder and elbow armor.

EN-1621-2 (CE Level 2) is a tougher variant of the standard specifically for armor intended to cover the spine, which needs extra protection, so jackets with built in back protectors should meet this standard.

There is a good explanation here of the testing methods used to certify armor for these standards.

So, If you’re buying a motorcycle with body armor (and you should) look out for these standards – the jacket or its packaging should have these numbers displayed somewhere.  There’s no equivalent American rating system at present.

Does this mean that motorcycle jackets which don’t have these standards markings won’t offer enough protection? Not necessarily, but there’s simply no way to know. If you choose a jacket that does comply with these standards, then you can have a much higher level of confidence.

Abrasion Protection

The other thing you need to worry about when you get bounced off your bike at 70mph, is what happens to your body while it’s sliding and rolling down the tarmac. Without proper protective gear, big chunks of skin and flesh are going to get badly shredded.

This is why you need abrasion protection. Traditionally, leather has been a popular material for motorcycle jackets because it offers good abrasion resistance. But not all leather is created equal, and for any motorcycle gear it should be at least 1.2 millimetres thick in order to offer enough protection. Believe it or not, kangaroo leather is the best and strongest available, so a lot of manufacturers use that.
Leather is not very waterproof, once it gets wet it is heavy and uncomfortable to wear and takes forever to dry. You can treat leather jackets to improve their water-resistant, but this doesn’t always work very well. A better option is to wear a waterproof jacket or oversuit on top of leather when it’s raining.

The other disadvantage of leather jackets is that they are not great in very hot or cold weather. In the cold you can at least wear extra layers to warm up, but in hot weather leather can be very uncomfortable – especially if you’re stuck in slow moving traffic on top of a hot motorcycle engine.

There are a lot of options for man-made textiles instead of leather, with many of the big manufacturers using their own brand of special materials. These are usually waterproof, breathable and a lot more comfortable in warm weather.

The disadvantage of textile motorcycle jackets is that they often do not offer the same level of abrasion resistance as good quality leather. But the fact that they are much more practical and comfortable in different weather conditions means that this is a tradeoff many riders are willing to make.

Whatever material is used, it’s important that the different panels that make up the jacket are double-stitched so that it will hold together in a crash. Even the best leather will be useless if the seams tear apart due to weak stitching.

Jackets for all Seasons

Most motorcyclists won’t want to buy more than one jacket, so they need one which will work well in all seasons. If you frequently ride in the rain you should probably avoid leather, and pick a textile jacket with good waterproofing.

It’s also worth thinking about how the jacket’s cuffs work. If you ride in the rain, you want the cuffs to fit over the sleeve of your gloves so that the water runs off, instead of into the glove. Most good jackets feature zippers which allow the cuffs to be opened wide enough to fit over gloves, and often Velcro straps to help keep the jacket cuff sealed tight over the glove so that wind doesn’t get in.

If you often ride in very hot weather, conventional motorcycle jackets tend to get uncomfortably hot, so mesh jackets are a good compromise. These are made out of a man-made mesh textile that allows air to flow through whilst still providing a degree of abrasion resistance, as well as the usual armored padding on the shoulder and elbow joints.

If you ride all year round, through winter and summer, it’s a good idea to find a jacket with a removable lining that will provide extra insulation when you need it. Trying to keep cool in warm weather can be tough, but many jackets feature vents on the chest, arms and back which can be opened (usually with a zipper) to let air flow through.

Finally, make sure you pay attention to the collar of the jacket. If you need the jacket to keep you warm, then the collar should fit snugly around the neck so that heat doesn’t escape and cold air doesn’t blow in.

Popular Men’s Motorcycle Jacket Styles

Brown leather classic motorcycle jacket, Alpinestars
Alpinestars Brera Airflow Mens Leather Jacket
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Classic Leather Biker Jacket

Made popular in the fifties, this is what most people picture when they think of a motorcycle jacket. These days they’re more of a fashion statement than practical motorcycle gear, as they’ve been replaced by more modern designs and materials.

All the same, the classic style is hard to beat if you want to look good. Remember, make sure the jacket is constructed from good quality leather (at least 1.2mm thick) with double stitching. Avoid jackets which look the part but don’t offer any real protection.

 

Dainese leather racing style motorcycle jacket
Dainese D1 Racing Leather Jacket
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Motorcycle Racing Style Jacket

A more modern, sleeker looking variant on the classic biker jacket, this style has a sportier look. This type of jacket usually has more safety features and is more likely to include body armor inserts on the elbows and shoulders, as well as a spine protector.

Like the classic jacket, these are most likely to be made from leather so it’s important to choose a good quality one. Good leather offers better abrasion resistance than most other materials. This type of jacket is best suited to motorcyclists who only use their bikes for leisure in good weather. For commuters or tourers who need to ride in a all weathers, there are better options.

 

Rukka textile adventure motorcycle jacket
Rukka Orivesi  Mens Adventure Jacket
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Motorcycle Adventure Touring Jacket

Designed with comfort, convenience and weather protection as priorities, these jackets are designed for riders who spend all day on their bikes and have to cope with lots of different riding conditions.

They can also be great for commuters, but bear in mind that for the sake of comfort some touring jackets might not offer the best levels of crash protection. That said, many of them do feature CE rated armor and good abrasion resistance, so if you find the right one it should do the job well.

Touring jackets tend to feature lots of pockets for storing phones, maps, wallets and other bits and pieces because, if you’re riding on long journeys, you don’t want to rummage around in your bag every time you stop for a coffee break.

 

Joe Rocket textile motorcycle jacket
Joe Rocket Atomic 4.0 Men’s Riding Jacket
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Modern Textile Motorcycle Jacket

Built as a practical all-round jacket using modern design and materials. A good textile jacket will provide great crash protection as well as a reasonable level of weather-proofing so if you get caught in a downpour on the way to work you won’t get soaked.

They usually have removable linings and zippered air vents to help you stay cool in the summer months. Textile jackets often have safety features that you won’t find on their leather counterparts, such as high-visibility patches and reflective piping.

Although they might not look as cool as leather jackets to most people, modern textile jackets are great for everyday practicality and that makes them ideal for commuters who need to ride their bikes to work.

Conclusion

As with all motorcycle safety gear, don’t be tempted to cheap out and save yourself some money. That instant we all hope will never come, when something goes wrong and you feel yourself being thrown off your bike at speed, you’ll be glad of every last dollar you invested in your gear.

A motorcycle jacket is supposed to protect you from death or serious injury. So don’t buy a cheap jacket just because it looks good. Spend a little extra on one with the best protection you can afford.

And if you are unlucky enough to have an accident, always get your jacket checked out by a professional – if it looks damaged and you can’t get it safely repaired, then replace it with a new one.

Be safe.

Motorcycle Airbag Vest, Jacket and Suit Buyers Guide 2017

A front view of the Hit Air MLV-RC motorcycle air vest
RECOMMENDED: Hit Air MLV-RC Vest
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The greatest advance in rider safety gear in recent years has been the development of inflatable motorcycle airbag jackets, vests and suits. Based on the same airbag technology used in cars, these vests automatically and instantly inflate in the event of an accident, providing a cushion of air to protect you.

Wearable airbags have been around for a while but have only recently begun to see higher levels of adoption from riders. This is largely thanks to greater visibility of the safety devices in professional motorcycle racing. Several racers have credited airbags with helping them to survive high speed crashes with no serious injury. As with many motorcycle related innovations, once they were tested in the crucible of motorsport, airbag vests became more popular with road riders.

An inflated motorcycle air vest.
Inflated view of the Hit Air MLV-RC vest

With 4,000 motorcyclists killed every year on American roads, and 90,000 injured (according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) anything which can improve safety should be welcomed. According to a report from Research and Markets, global sales of airbag jackets are expected to increase by over 5 percent year on year between 2016 and 2020.

The report also points out that, at present, the relatively high price of these products are deterring many would-be customers. This is understandable, since even the entry level products cost close to $500. While there’s a clear safety benefit, that’s still a lot of money for many riders to spend on top of what they’ve already sunk into their other protective gear. It’s also worth noting that so far there had been little independent research into the effectiveness of these products, so motorcyclists might well wonder just how much additional safety they would provide.

There are three main types of motorcycle airbag products:

Airbag Vests – these harness-like devices are designed to fit over your current jacket. The main advantage is that you can use the vest with whatever jacket you choose, so you can use it with your summer or winter gear, and keep it when you buy a new jacket. The downside is that you have another item of gear to put on

Airbag Jackets – these are much the same as a standard motorcycle jacket, but with built-in airbags. The benefits are that all of the airbags are concealed from view, so the styling of the jacket isn’t affected, and you only have to put on a single item of gear rather than a separate jacket and vest.

Airbag Suits – full race-suits with integral airbags provide a high level of protection, at a price. Primarily designed for racers and track-day riders they are the most costly option but will give you the greatest chance of survival in a high-speed crash.

How do motorcycle airbags protect riders?

Although there are various designs, airbag vests, jackets and suits all offer approximately similar protection. They all feature a large airbag to cover the rider’s back and spine, another to cover the chest, and an inflatable collar around the neck. This last one obviously helps to guard the neck from direct impact, but also helps keep the head straight and prevents the helmet from compressing downwards onto the body. Some products feature additional airbags over the shoulders and legs.

The vest, jacket or suit is fitted with a small compressed air canister, and tethered to the bike with a lanyard. If you are thrown from your motorcycle, the lanyard activates the canister, which blasts air into the airbags. It takes milliseconds for the pockets to fill with air, so by the time you hit the ground or another vehicle you are cushioned from the impact.

But what if you forget to detach the tether before you get off your bike? Will it inflate as you walk away? No – the airbags will only activate if the tether is pulled with sufficient force, so simply walking away from the motorcycle won’t do it. You’d need to be thrown from the bike in order for it to work.

Some manufacturers, such as Dainese, don’t use a lanyard at all, but instead rely on electronic sensors to detect a crash and automatically inflate the airbags.

Motorcycle Airbag Manufacturers

The main players in this space fall into two categories . There are wearable airbag specialists, who often provide similar products for other markets such as horse-riding. These companies usually only offer vests.

Then there are the established motorcycle safety gear brands, who have added airbag products to their product lines. If you’re looking for airbag jackets, or race suits, these are the brands you need to be looking at.

Hit-Air

A front view of the Hit-Air EU6 Motorcycle Airbag Jacket
Hit-Air EU6 Ultimate Airbag Jacket
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Hit-Air is a Japanese company which began researching airbag-vests for motorcycle riders in the mid-nineties, finally launching its first product in 1999.  The company’s safety products are widely respected and this is reflected by the fact that emergency services around the world use them to provide protection for their motorcyclists.

As well as offering a range of vests and jackets with its own label, Hit Air supplies its equipment to other motorcycle safety gear manufacturers to sell under their brands. The jackets come in a range of different designs, including the sporty HS-5, to the adventure styled EU6, pictured here.

Helite

A French company founded in 2001 by an aviation entrepreneur who wanted to improve safety in the light aircraft industry, Helite quickly became one of the early leaders in the airbag vest business. The company now provides wearable airbag gear for skiing, aviation,  equestrian and motorcycling applications.

For motorcyclists, Helite offers an airbag vest (either high viz yellow or black) currently priced at $629, or a range of airbag jackets priced between $699 and $999. The company sells through a network of dealers across America, or you can buy directly through the online store.

Moto Air

A front view of the MotoAir R-970 motorcycle inflatable jacket
MotoAir R-970 Motorcycle Airbag Jacket
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A Chinese manufacturer which offers airbag vests and jackets for motorcycle and equestrian applications. The company has an official US importer, and its products can also be found on Amazon.

Compared to others in the market, Moto Air seems to be the budget option, with vests starting at under $400, and jackets for under $500.

While we’ve no reason to doubt the quality of these products, we should point out that Moto Air is the manufacturer we were least able to find good information about. When it comes to motorcycle safety gear, trust is important and the company would do itself a big favour by establishing a more professional web-presence with better quality information about its products and technology. Moto Air products come at a good price, but there are certainly some question marks hanging over the brand.

Dainese

The Dainese D-Air Race suit with air bags.
Dainese D-Air Misano Race Suit
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One of the most respected brands in the motorcycle safety gear market, Dainese is widely used among racers and serious motorcyclists. The company entered the airbag jacket market a couple of years ago with it’s D-Air system which, unlike other manufacturers, does not use a lanyard attached to the bike to detect a crash, but instead relies on electronic sensors.

This has the obvious advantage of not having to tether yourself to the bike, it does mean you’re depending electronic systems which need a battery that has to be kept fully charged.

At present, the only such product available in America is the high end Dainese D-Air Misano Perforated Race Suit, designed for racers, track day heroes and road riders with a lot of spare cash. The suit uses such advanced technology that Dainese will require customers to register with them in order to ensure that it is properly maintained and working correctly. Other D-Air products are available in international markets, but right now there’s no news about when American customers will be able to buy them. 

The best winter motorcycle boots for 2017

Nothing ruins a motorcycle ride more than cold wet feet, and as as the weather turns bleak you need a good pair of winter boots to keep your toes toasty.

Your fancy sports boots might look good in the summer, but at this time of year it’s more important to keep out the rain and cold. Here are our favorite winter motorcycle boots for 2017, to keep your feet warm and dry so you can ride all the way through winter.


Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex Weatherproof Motorcycle Touring Boots

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They’re not cheap, but if you want the ultimate weather and crash protection from a trusted brand, these boots are the best.  Alpinestars drew inspiration from its popular off-road boots to build a boot for road riders to cope with poor weather conditions. They’re made with a leather outer and Gore-Tex waterproof membrane.

All over impact protection will help you to stay in one piece in the event of a crash, but is also designed to keep the boot flexible it’s easy to operate the bike’s foot-controls.

Sidi Cobra Gore-Tex Touring Motorcycle Boot

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Although it might look like an ordinary sport-riding boot, this features a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and is designed to keep your feet warm and dry on long rides in poor weather.

As well as the usual toe, heel, ankle, and shin guards, this boot includes Sidi’s trademarked Achilles tendon protection.

Alpinestars Roam 2 Waterproof Boots

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A great sub-$200 winter boot from Alpinestars. The boot is designed with comfort as its main priority, offering the flexibility riders need to precise control of the gear and brake pedals.

This boot is constructed from leather, with a waterproof but breathable membrane and easy access velcro straps. Although it doesn’t offer the advanced protection features of some of the more expensive products, this is still a great, durable boot, ideal for commuters rather than speed-junkies.

Tour Master Vintage 2.0 Road

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If you’re on a budget, or simply looking for a more classic style boot, the Tour Master Vintage provides good winter protection at a low price. It’s constructed from tough leather with a waterproof membrane, and features an oil proof sole to help keep your feet from slipping on spills.

This is not a fashion boot – it’s the real deal,  well built and designed to protect riders if they should have an accident, with

The best winter motorcycle gloves for 2017

Temperatures are plunging, but you’ve still got to ride, right? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, and a good pair of winter gloves will make riding in the cold much more enjoyable.

Venture Heat – 12V Heated Gloves

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These are pretty much the ultimate winter gloves. They’re electrically heated to keep your hands nice and toasty, with three different heat settings, along with 3M Thinsulate material. They also feature carbon fiber knuckle protection so safety isn’t compromised.

The gloves are touch-screen compatible, so you can continue using your sat-nav or cellphone without taking them off.  Starting at $155 for the smallest size, they’re not cheap, but if you want the best gloves to keep you riding through the coldest months, these are worth the money.

 

Spidi NK-3 Street Bike Racing Glove

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Designed for the winter sports-touring rider, this glove provides cold weather protection with the flexibility needed by performance riders. The glove has a leather outer, with stretch panels to allow comfortable, responsive access to the handlebar controls. Insulation is provided by a fleece lining and H2OUT waterproof membrane.

If you’re the kind of rider who doesn’t let winter slow you down, this is the glove for you. Available in three size options, starting at $145.

 

IXS Men’s Arctic GTX Gloves

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A great value sub-$100 glove, made of goatskin and textile mix, with GORE-TEX membrane to get the cold rain out whilst staying breathable to avoid the uncomfortable sweatiness you get with some winter gloves.

A double suede panel on the palm allows flexibility and good grip. A flock patch on the thumb allows riders to wipe rain and dirt from the helmet visor. Reflective piping on the back of the gloves helps increase your visibility during the dark months. For the price, this is a good quality glove.

 

IXS Men’s Vail II Gloves

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Another excellent value winter glove from IXS. The outer shell is made from goatskin and textile mix, with inners consisting of a tri-fleece lining and soltoTex waterproof membrane.

The palm is leather, and there’s additional leather padding on the knuckles. For riding in the rain, there’s a rubber blade on the thumb to wipe your helmet visor clear.  Don’t be put off by the low price – IXS is a trusted brand and the gloves meet all the required safety standards.

 

Unbranded Budget Winter Gloves

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You never want to cheap-out when it comes to safety gear, but sometimes when you’re on a tight budget you just have to work with what you’ve got. These all-textile generic winter gloves should keep your hands warm and dry, and offer a basic level of crash protection.

If you can afford to spend more we’d recommend the IXS gloves, but if times are tough then these low-price alternatives will keep you riding in the cold. Just take it easy out there – winter is dangerous for bikers, and if you have to cut corners with your safety gear then you can at least use extra caution so you don’t have to test its crash-worthiness.

Hit-Air MX-7 inflatable motorcycle air-bag jacket review

Air-bag jackets have been the single biggest innovation in motorcycle safety over recent years. The idea is simple enough: the jacket contains a series of strategically positioned airbags which will instantly inflate if the rider gets thrown off the bike. These bags will cushion any impact and significantly reduce the chances of injury, particularly to your neck – which is something all riders worry about, due to the risk of paralysis.

Hit-Air is one of the best known manufacturers of air-bag jackets for motorcyclists, and the MX-7 is the company’s newest model. The jacket features an airbag which will fully inflate within a quarter of a second of impact, providing a cushion of air that covers the neck, upper and lower spine, hips and chest.

In addition to the airbag, the jacket also features conventional padded armour for the shoulders and elbows, as well as high visibility reflective detailing. The jacket comes with a special coiled wire which is used to attach it to the motorcycle – it’s designed to activate the airbag if the rider is thrown from the bike, but should not accidentally set it off if you simply forget to detach the wire at the end of your journey.

The jacket is designed to be reusable, the airbag can be easily repacked and replacement compressed air canisters are available at low cost. So if you have a low speed crash and the jacket is not damaged, you won’t need to discard it.

The Hit-Air system has been extensively tested by the Japan Automobile Research Institute and exceeds all international safety standards – the company also produces similar products which are used by police forces and emergency rescue services around the world.

Diagram of inflated airbag jacket protection
This is what the MX-7 airbag looks like when it’s fully inflated.

Obviously all motorcyclists have their own taste when it comes to the design of their gear, but we think the Hit-Air MX-7 looks stylish enough. There are a few color options, plain black, and black with with either red or green. Optional extras include chest and spine armor inserts and a breathable waterproof lining for extra weather protection.

This jacket will not make you completely invulnerable – but it certainly adds a welcome new level of protection over the standard gear that most riders wear. Priced at around $550, it’s not cheap, but if you’re unlucky enough to be involved in a crash, you’ll never regret investing in good quality safety gear. (If you’re looking for cheaper options, you might consider the previous generation Hit-Air “MX-6” model inflatable air vest.)

Product: Hit-Air MX-7 Inflatable Motorcycle Jacket
Our Rating: 5/5
Amazon Page: Hit-Air “MX-7” model inflatable air vest.