Get that timeless look (and stay safe) with a leather motorbike jacket

Leather motorcycle jackets are the go-to option for many riders for a variety of reasons. They come in a whole range of styles, from sports jackets to retro jackets as well as touring jacket designs. Leather motorcycle jackets can also be casual and not scream ‘motorcyclist’ at the top of their voice, which can be useful if you’re on the bike but also, want to spend some time off it when you arrive at your destination or, indeed, en route.

Most importantly though, leather motorcycle jackets offer exceptional protection. Leather is one of the most abrasion-resistant materials available (hence why racing suits are made of leather) and is most likely to protect you in the event of an off that sees you sliding down the road.

They can also help create an image of you and your bike, from old-school racer to biker bad-boy. In fact, many non-motorcycling leather jackets have taken their cues from garments developed and used on the road – look at Marlon Brando’s jacket in The Wild One, for example.

Sporty leather jackets

Sports styled leather jackets tend be longer in the back and shorter in the front to prevent rucking when in the tucked position. There are usually a lot of options within this bracket of leather jackets. See our full list of sporty leather jackets.

The Tractech Evo 5 from RST has been updated and improved this year from the previous Evo 4. It has an abrasion-resistant cowhide leather construction as well as CE level 2 shoulder, elbow and back armour. That means it comes with the highest possible CE rating, AAA.
Armour Back, elbow, shoulder
CE rating AAA
Gender Uni-sex
Attachment zips Full attachment zip
Length Short
Material Leather
  • Highest possible CE rating, AAA
  • Abrasion resistant leather construction
  • 4-way stretch panels for better flexibility
  • Removeable mesh lining for better comfort
  • Soft leather race collar and rolled cuffs
  • Hard-wearing zips for durability
  • Coates bonded nylon triple stitched seams
  • Perforated leather for maximum airflow
  • Aerodynamic race hump for stability at speed
  • Full jacket to RST jeans connection zip
  • CE certified shoulder, elbow and back armour
  • External TPU slider for added protection

Tested by Dan Sutherland for one year and 1000 miles

Price: £322.49 (was £429.99)
'There’s no question this is an expensive jacket, but it’s high-quality, stuffed with comfy, supple D3O protection, and offers soft leather – plus a removable thermal lining for greater versatility. It also gets hard external shoulder protectors, and perforations for ventilation. It should come with a back protector for this price, though. It’s not a jacket for colder days without plenty of layers squeezed in underneath, but the cooling chill coming through the stretch panels of the arms is welcome in summer.'
  • Quality
    4.0
  • Value
    3.0
CE rating AA
Shoulder and elbow armour Level 1
  • High performance leather construction with safety stitching
  • Detachable thermal liner
  • Aramid fibre stretch panels
  • Perforated for ventilation
  • Short/full attachment zips
  • 3M reflective panels for better visibility
  • Provision for back and chest protection
  • Waist adjustment hook and loop straps
  • Integrated neoprene comfort cuff and collar edging
  • Shoulder and elbow external race cup sliders
  • Long and short connection zips for attaching to Richa jeans

Retro leather jackets

Retro kit tends to feature details like quilting and poppers, focusing on the old school look that is required to look the part on a retro bike. Take a look here at our selection of retro leather jackets.

Tried and tested by Richard Newland for three months and 2,150 miles

Price: £299.99 (was £339.99)
"There’s really nothing I can suggest to improve the Daytona 2 – beyond getting it up to the AAA CE rating to really deliver ultimate peace of mind. You’re getting a quality looking, quality feeling leather jacket that’s well lined, well spec’d, thoughtfully designed and well put together – with a decent AA CE safety rating – and all for a price that is entirely fair. It feels like it’ll last a decade, and I can’t imagine I’d be any less keen to wear it if it does."

Read Richard's full review here

Pros

  • Looks great
  • Works on almost any bike

Cons

  • AA rated not AAA
  • Overall
    4.0
  • Comfort
    5.0
  • Practicality
    4.0
  • Looks
    5.0
  • Quality
    4.0
  • Protection
    4.0
  • Value
    5.0

Tried and tested by Ben Clarke for two months and 4,000 miles

"I had two preconceptions about a retro ‘hipster’ biking kit; it’s expensive and you sacrifice safety. But with the Goldtop Bobber, I was completely wrong on both counts. While £429 is steep for a jacket, I’ve not seen anything on the market that holds a candle to the Bobber’s quality for less.

"With a maximum AAA safety rating and armour from renowned British firm Knox you can ride safely in the knowledge that you’ll be well protected in a crash.

"And along with this safety, you also get a thoroughly practical, well-thought-out and most of all stunningly beautiful piece of kit. It’s worth every penny of the asking price and I would spend my own money on one without a second thought."

Read Ben's full review here

Pros

  • Great looks
  • Comfortable
  • High quality
  • Maximum safety rating

Cons

  • Not the cheapest
  • Can get hot in extreme heat
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Value
    5.0

Tried and tested by Jim Blackstock

This leather jacket from Richa is a lovely piece of kit. Notwithstanding its protective abilities – CE-rated to AA and with a five-piece suite of Level-1 armour present and options to upgrade – it looks and feels fantastic on and off the bike.It fits beautifully, is warm when it’s chilly thanks to the thermal gilet but then cool when its warm, courtesy of ventilation and it is a pleasure to put on. In fact, it is so nice that it feels a shame to take it out on a motorcycle and get it covered in road grime and dead insects.

Read Jim's full review here

Pros

  • Superb fit
  • Comfortable and protective
  • Warm or cool as required

Cons

  • None so far
Construction Leather
CE Garment Rating AA
Armour D3O Shoulder, back and elbow
  • Airtech Control System (ACS) ventilation at key areas
  • Removable thermal lining
  • Five outside zipped pockets and four inside pockets
  • Internal mesh lining

Waterproof leather jackets

Waterproof leather jackets aren’t very common, with modern textile materials tending to be more effective at this job. Below are a few waterproof options that we found.

This retro leather jacket has removeable CE approved armour, thermal and waterproof lining. These aspects make it versatile. It also has neoprene trim on the collar and cuffs for comfort.
Armour Shoulder and elbow
Attachment Short and full zip attachments
Gender Uni-sex
CE rating AA
  • 1.2mm - 1.4mm performance leather outer
  • Full internal polyester liner
  • Keprotec stretch panels
  • Removeable CE approved armour
  • Removeable thermal lining
  • Removeable waterproof lining
  • Waterproof zipped venting to the chest, arms and lower back
  • Neoprene finish to collar and cuff
  • Nylon strips under zip to protect rider
  • Internal 6-inch and 360 zip for attaching to Weise jeans
  • Two external waist pockets with zip closure
  • Perforated for ventilation
  • Matching leather jeans available
  • Reflective piping for low light visibility
This breathable, windproof and waterproof leather jacket has elastic parts on the sides, bend of arm, armpit and back for better flexibility.
Armour Shoulder, back and elbow
Attachment zips Full attachment zips
CE rating A
Gender Uni-sex
  • Breathable, wind and waterproof
  • 3-layer perforated 0.7mm aniline laminate leather construction
  • Elastic parts on sides, bend of arm, armpit and back
  • Stretch panels above elbow and lower back
  • Removable inner lining with 60g insulation
  • Two water-resistant outer pockets
  • One waterproof internal pocket
  • Sleeve ends with stretch Gore-Tex inner sleeve and zips
  • Full connection zip for attachment of Rukka trousers

Leather jackets for women

We are seeing more and more ladies kit options available for female riders, with more flattering fits and designs. The cut of a ladies jacket will of course need to be different to that of a men’s jacket, allowing for a curvier torso.

Tried and tested by Emma Franklin for four months

"Made from full-grain leather and featuring a sporty cut with Level-1 internal protectors as well as external shoulder armour, the S-1 meets the highest AAA rating for abrasion protection.

At first, the thick cowhide leather comes as a bit of a shock after wearing soft, retro leather jackets which feel instantly comfortable. As a result, it took a full day of wear for the S-1 to 'break-in' and give a little, but after that, although the fit is still very snug and secure, l've found the jacket to be all-day comfortable.

Extremely solidly built, the quality of the S-1 is impressive. It feels like a proper protective garment thanks to the way it's been stitched and also the inclusion of double-layered leather at key impact areas, such as the elbows. The only slight disappointment is the absence of a back protector element although you can add a Level-2 insert for an extra £29.99 if you so wish.

With abrasion-resistant four-way stretch panels under the arms and concertinaed leather at the flanks combined with Velcro waist adjusters, this jacket allows plenty of movement and as a result doesn't feel restrictive. It's been designed to be worn with jeans meaning that it finishes just over the hips, and also features a neoprene-mounted full-circumference connection zip. Inside, there's a zip-out thermal gilet which is fairly thin but does just enough to keep off the early morning chill from the smattering of ventilation holes on the chest area. The S-1 is lined with a mesh fabric which helps with comfort on very warm days."

Pair with RST S-1 CE Sport trousers to make a suit.

Pros

  • AAA rated protection
  • Sports styling
  • Great price

Cons

  • Needs a bit of breaking in
  • Back protector not included
  • Quality
    5.0
  • Value
    5.0
Construction Hard-wearing leather and 4 way stretch material
CE Garment Rating AAA
Armour Shoulder and elbow
  • Fixed quick dry mesh lining
  • Removable thermal liner
  • Pocket for optional back protector
  • Perforated leather for airflow
  • Available as a two piece suit as part of the S-1 Range

Tried and tested by Emma Franklin for 12 months and 6,000 miles

This buffalo leather jacket combines retro looks with a sporty twist, thanks to its detachable
cotton hood which fixes to the collar via poppers. The AA-rated Toulon 2 is my go-to jacket for dry spring and summer days, and even after considerable wear, it's still looking and performing as good as new. It comes with a full complement of D30 Level-1 soft armour in the back, elbows and shoulders that feel comfy and don't add too much bulk. Inside there's a detachable thermal gilet to help keep the chill away from your core on cooler days, but I have to admit to riding without it most of the time. I found the fit to be pretty much true to size, although you will need to go a size up if you're
planning on wearing multiple layers underneath

Available in sizes UK 8-20, and in mens' cut, too.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Quality
    4.0
  • Value
    4.0
Construction Buffalo leather
CE rating AA
Armour Level 1 back, shoulder and elbows
  • Detachable liner
  • Detachable hood
  • Handwarmer pockets
This leather jacket is specifically designed for women and it has a hard wearing construction. There is a removable thermal waistcoat and internal breathable mesh lining for added comfort as well as CE certified SAS-TEC 3D shoulder and elbow armour. There is a pocket for the addition of a back protector adn hook and loop attachment for chest protection. Held clip in technology allows for the addition of other Held products.
Armour Shoulder and elbow
CE rating A
Gender Women's
  • Soft cowhide leather construction
  • TFL Cool System heat reflective treatment
  • Breathable mesh inner lining with 3D mesh at back
  • Removable thermal waistcoat
  • Stretch panels at shoulders and elbows
  • Held clip-in technology for attachment of different liners
  • CE approved SAS-TEC 3D shoulder and elbow protectors
  • Pocket for back protector insert

What to look for in a leather motorcycle jacket

In practical terms, modern leather will look cool, should protect you from at least a slide and a tumble and can even help keep you warm and dry. It will feature armour like any motorcycling jacket – at the shoulders and elbows and if it doesn’t come with one, should have a pocket for an optional back protector and possibly chest protection too. These will have a of level 1 or the higher-specification and more impact-absorbent Level-2 so check.

The jacket itself should also be CE rated, with a B, A, AA or AAA rating, AAA being the most abrasion-resistant and with the most secure construction. You could also look for a removable thermal liner to help keep you warm on a chilly ride and a degree of water-resistance may also be present though not as effective as a proper waterproof textile, for example. If it looks like rain, then grab yourself a set of throw-over waterproofs, as we looked at recently.

We’ve pulled together a selection of the different types of leather jacket available, covering sporty, retro, waterproof and those designed for women.

About the author: After qualifying as a mechanical engineer, Jim Blackstock began working on magazines in the early 1990s. He remains passionate about product testing to ensure readers know what products offer good value and why. He relishes torrential rain to see if riding kit keeps water out and an hour or two to tinker on a project bike in his workshop.

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