Old-school wardrobe: Best retro motorbike kit as chosen bt MCN

Best Retro Motorcycle Gear
Best Retro Motorcycle Gear

There is a definite retro vibe going on in motorcycling right now. All the big manufacturers – and a fair few of the smaller ones as well – have retro machines in their line-up. It’s an interesting concept – mix old-school styling and nostalgia with modern technology and safety so you get bikes that, for example, have fuel-injection throttle bodies that are deliberately designed to look like carburettors or liquid-cooled engines with fins manufactured into the engine case to look like old air-cooled motors.

That combination of retro styling combined with modern performance and safety carries across to the clothing that looks just right on this kind of motorcycle. You wouldn’t go out for a relaxed sunny ride on a 1970s-inspired naked in a set of racing leathers or on a cruiser in adventure textiles. So you need the right clothing that will keep you safe.

When it comes to jackets, you’re probably talking a leather or a waxed-cotton style garment and there is no reason why you can’t have style and class with top-level safety and performance in either. Similarly, when it comes to trousers, it’s likely jeans or leather pants and as you would with any jackets or trousers, look for CE ratings overall as well as the specification of armour and where it is; jackets should always be elbows and shoulders with at least a pocket for a back protector and trousers with knee armour as a minimum and ideally, hips as well.

Related: Best leather motorcycle jackets

When you’re looking at helmets, the first choice is open or full-face. Many prefer the wind-in-the-hair (more like bugs-in-the-teeth) feeling of an open-face while others prefer the added protection of a full-face. Either way, there’s something for everyone and they should be at least ECE22.05 or 22.06 specification and if possible, some be SHARP star-rated too.

Boots and gloves also need to be up to spec so again, look for CE ratings, with as many ‘2’ ratings as possible; 1 is a basic pass and 2 indicates a higher level of protection.

You can't grab your retro handlebars in textile kit and these short leather gloves from Weise will look just the part. Made from goat leather, they feature TPU knuckle armour on the fingers with abrasion-resistant leather over the top. They have a second layer of Chamude leather on the palm for gripping the bike and they are fastened with Velcro-secured cuffs. Externally-stitched seams mean they should be plenty comfortable as you ride.

Price: £269.07

We make no apologies for including the Spada Wyatt jacket again; it's a seriously impressive bit of kit. The jacket gets a CE rating of AAA, the highest available and it comes with a five-piece suite of CE Level-2 armour. On paper, you can't get more protective than that and in use, it's formed in cowhide, has a removable lining and is both waterproof and breathable. Its styling is pure classic and this is enhanced with the quilted panels on the shoulders and the contrasting stripes across the upper arms. Seal of Approval - We've tested this product and have found it performs well

This leather jacket has a distinct feminine cut to it (and is clearly named after famed aviator Emilia Earhart) and is formed in 1.1-1.3mm thick cowhide with diamond quilting detail on the shoulders and arms. It features a removable thermal liner and vintage-style YKK zips for the main closure as well as side gussets and cuffs. It also comes with CE armour in the shoulders, elbows and back and will look great on any retro or cruiser motorcycle.

The Glamster from Shoei harks back to the heady days of 1970s and 1980s GP racing, with the familiar huge visor aperture and narrow chin-bar but uses modern design techniques and materials to ensure that protection is bang up-to-date. The shell is formed in multi-fibre composite layers for strength and lightness while a range of cheekpads are available to ensure a perfect fit. The lining is removable and there is a Pinlock anti-fog insert included.

These retro-style jeans from Resurgence offer classic styling and look and feel with top-rated protection. They are CE rated to AAA level, thanks to 80% coverage of Pekev abrasion-resistant reinforcement and come with CE Level-1 D3O Ghost armour in the knees and the hips. At just 5mm thick, it offers exceptional comfort and protection and the knee armour is adjustable to make sure it is located in just the right position. The Selvedge denim allows the legs to be turned up with a smooth finish or left natural.

Rrp: £58.99

Price: 56.75

Formed in perforated Nubuck leather, these summer gloves should keep the hands nice and cool thanks to the ventilation holes built in to the leather. There is a double layer of leather in the palm for increased abrasion resistance and grip on the bike's controls while there is knuckle protection under the outer skin of leather. Available in brown or black, the latter has touchscreen-compatible fingertips for operating smartphones, for example.

Price: 189.99 (was £199.99)


These leather boots from TCX are subtle and classically styled, with lace-up front but with a zip the full height of the boot on the inside of the ankle to make getting them on and off as easy as possible. There's a waterproof lining inside the leather upper with protective toe and heel cups and a protective panel on the outside of the ankle. They feature a Vibram-style sole for performance on as well as off the bike.

There can't be much more retro than a waxed-cotton riding jacket and this version from Richa, available in green or black, is formed in Milleraine waxed cotton which is both waterproof and allows the body to breathe. It is CE approved and comes with CE armour in the shoulders and elbows and has a pocket for a back protector. There is a removable thermal liner for chilly rides and it features four pockets on the front in a classic design that evokes memories of old-school military clothing.

This open-face helmet from HJC looks like a leather flying cap but this hides thoroughly modern technology. The shell is formed in Kevlar and fibreglass composite weave and the helmet itself has been designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to provide an excellent fit and comfort. The interior features a SilverCool moisture-wicking layer to keep the head cool and various pads on the lining, including the crown and cheekpads. It also has a pull-down visor to protect the eyes and is available in this brown as well as black, orange and black and flames.

Price: 129.99 (was £159.99)


Unless you knew, you'd never guess these boots were properly CE rated motorcycle boots. The distressed leather upper looks fantastic and hides an Air-tech lining to help keep the feet cool. The front laces help to tailor the fit while the side zip makes it easier to get them on and off. There's D3O protection to the toes and ankle and the leather-look sole is finished in a high-grip rubber panel. And currently discounted too...

OK, so the second generation of Knox's armoured shirt isn't that retro but it's here for a reason; it is all the protection you need built in to one super-cool garment that can be worn under any non-motorcycle clothing. Overall, it is AA CE rated and comes with Knox's Microlock Level-1 armour in the shoulders and elbows and a Level-2 back protector and there's a pocket for chest armour too.

Its body is formed in mesh for incredible cooling and while it can easily be work on its own for protection on hot days, it can also be worn under an outer garment, such as a non-motorcycle waxed cotton jacket, shirt or a hoodie so you can choose your outer layers for style with this providing you with protection.

Just like a leather jacket is an essential for a retro look and feel, so is a pair of riding jeans and these from Oxford use a single-layer design constructed from Armourlite fabric, a combination of denim and aramid fibres to achieve a CE rating of AAA along with the triple-stitched construction.

They are available in slim or straight cuts, with three leg lengths to get the knee armour in the right place as well as in three finishes. They comes with Level-2 armour in the knees and hips and the classic western-style design is timeless. Long enough for a cheeky little turn-up at the bottom too.

These short gloves from Dainese are available in black or brown and will complete any retro look and feel. They are also available in both men's and women's versions and feature pre-curved fingers for comfort and are formed in goatskin leather with a double-layered palm for grip and abrasion resistance.

They feature soft padding over the knuckles and the back of the hand, as well as down the fingers and on the heel of the palm and the open design will mean they keep the hands cool on warm, summer rides.

A retro bike demands a retro helmet and an open-face is the iconic lid to go with a cruiser, cafu00e9 racer or classic. This one from Italian manufacturer Premier uses a composite shell with aramid fibres for strength and low weight and has a liner that uses multiple densities of foam for comfort and protection.

It has a handy drop-down sun visor for eye protection though of course, a pair of cool shades or goggles will also work. Finally, it comes in this faux-patina finish that should look great on any retro.
Price: 229.99 (was £279.99)


This classic-styled jacket is cut for ladies and is made from 12oz waxed cotton, forming part of Merlin's Heritage line. In addition to the waxed cotton, it uses a Reissa waterproof and breathable membrane and a full thermal liner which is removable, leaving a tartan lining.

It uses brass buttons and fastenings for an authentic feel while the Level-1 D3O armour in the shoulders and elbows and the back-protector pocket offer modern protection. Overall it’s CE A rated and comes with a hoop to connect to riding jeans.
Price: 94.98 (was £119.99


Sometimes, you don't want a full jacket but you do want protection, so something like Oxford's Kickback 2 shirt is just the job. It's designed to look like a traditional lumberjack shirt but the poppers hide a zip and there are belt loops to connect it to riding trousers.

There is Kevlar built into the material to provide protection and it comes with Level-1 armour in the shoulders and elbows. Perfect if you sleep all night and you work all day.

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