A motorcycle specific jacket has four major functions… the first two are to save you from the perils of motorcycle crashes, the third is to keep you comfortable and last is to make you look like a badass.
Newsflash! Long sleeve shirts, hoodies and even fashion leather are not protective equipment and will do nothing to help prevent injuries even in the smallest crash. What it really comes down to is what you’re willing to risk and what consequences you’re willing to live with. Of course, what you chose to wear will be based off many different factors, and no two riders are exactly the same. As technologies advance, the possibilities become quite endless. The good news is that there is a jacket out there that fits every rider’s style, shape, size, protection and wallet.
Part 1 – abrasion resistance: Jackets should be made of specific materials, usually textile or leather, that act like a second skin while you’re sliding down the road during a crash. In regards to leather, the grade, thickness, dye process and animal it comes from will all help determine the amount of abrasion resistance offered. Textile is just as versatile for several reasons, including thread components, weave pattern and thickness, and number of layers. Each material is ideal for specific types of riding, weather, longevity, and style. Friction burns are not only painful, but they can also take weeks or months to heal and are very susceptible to infection and complication. However, abrasion resistance that will help prevent road rash is only half of a jacket’s purpose.
Part 2 – impact protection: Look for CE approved armor or other materials inserted in the jacket that provide impact protection. Street riders quite often meet with a fixed object (car, sign, guardrail, curb, tree, etc…) which causes internal trauma. In cases such as those, body impact protection can save your life. The jacket liner also serves a very important protective role, especially for riders who get caught in rain or unexpected cold weather. A liner will help protect you from hypothermia, which is easier for riders to catch than you might expect. If you ride in hot climates, keep ventilation in mind when trying anything on, and look for perforated leather or breathable textile. Remember, if it seems too hot to wear a jacket, just ask yourself if you’d rather sweat for an hour or bleed for a week.
How to make sure your jacket fits: Find out if it stays in place by pulling on the sleeves, the waist, the collar…. Chances are, if you can expose a large amount of your skin with a simple tug, the jacket is too big, and won’t offer the best protection in case of an accident. Also, check to see if the armor in the jacket stays put, an elbow pad won’t do much good if it slides around to your bicep. Just remember, your jacket should be snug, but not so tight that it becomes cumbersome… we’re riders, not models!
*Road rash, the most common form of injury among motorcyclists involved in accidents, is also known as a friction burn. A friction burn occurs when skin is scraped off by contact with a hard object, usually the road. Because road rash is caused by a hard surface and the heat that builds up between that surface and your skin, it is almost always both an abrasion and a heat burn. About 70% of road rash injuries are 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The temperature it takes to cause a third degree burn on an adult is 160 degrees Fahrenheit with less than 1 second of contact. Keep that number in mind the next time it’s “too hot” to wear your jacket when you ride.