When the thrilling anticipation of straddling your motorcycle takes center stage—a lifestyle rather than a mere activity—thoughts instinctively turn to safeguarding essentials. A certified helmet rightfully takes precedence, closely trailed by the quintessential riding jacket. In my case, it’s not just any jacket, but one fortified with armor—especially crucial for those sporadic adrenaline surges at the California Superbike School or Sandy Hook Speedway. The allure of racing, it seems, never truly fades.
Even if a flat track race or cross-country camping escapade isn’t looming on your immediate horizon, every rider craves the assurance of the “best motorcycle jacket,” whose definition has evolved significantly. From Marlon Brando’s iconic greaser look in the Hollywood classic ‘The Wild One,’ sporting the first-ever motorcycle jacket (aptly named the Perfecto) made for Harley Davidson in 1928 by Schott NYC, to Ewan McGregor’s globe-trotting adventures clad in Belstaff for his ‘Long Way’ series.
Beyond aesthetics, the discerning modern rider seeks impact-absorbing armor intertwined with abrasion-resistant materials and weather protection—wind-proofing, waterproofing, and effective ventilation. Each facet contributes to a comprehensive protective gear ensemble. Yet, within the expansive realm of stylish and comfortable options, navigating the maze of safety considerations and finding the perfect fit can be daunting.
Worry not! With a wealth of knowledge drawn from nearly 50 years of immersive motorcycling experience—both as a rider and a designer of motorcycle gear—allow me to guide you through my curated selection of the best motorcycle jackets with armor, where safety meets style, and the road becomes a canvas for the most exhilarating journeys.
Jacket Model Category Type of Armor Get Yours
AGVSPORT Ascari Best Overall SmoothWays Amazon
Klim Induction Best Multi-Season D3O RevZilla | Motardinn | Amazon
Alpinestars T-GP Plus R V3 Air Best Racing/Sports Nucleon Flex Plus RevZilla | Motardinn | Amazon
REV'IT! Eclipse 2 Best Summer Seesmart RevZilla | CycleGear
Scorpion EXO Optima Best Commuter Exo-Tec RevZilla | Amazon
Before I delve into the detailed reviews of each armored motorcycle jacket and explain why I consider them the best today, I will highlight the factors that influenced my selection process.
Essential Considerations for Selecting the Best Motorcycle Jacket with Armor
Made with precision, a motorcycle jacket stands as a purposeful shield against impact and abrasion during unforeseen accidents. It also provides versatile defense against wind, hail, rain, and sunburn, as well as the debris that you and I often encounter on the road. But our primary focus today is on integrating armor for enhanced protection, and so, the following factors are what I consider the most important for this specialized application:
Type of Armor
Among the numerous armor brands available, I will focus on four that I am particularly familiar with: Powertector, Knox, D3O, and SmoothWays. Powertector armor, usually in black, offers minimal breathability with few holes. It is moderately flexible, soft, but noticeable when worn. Knox, typically in yellow, shares similarities with Powertector but is slightly heavier, making it the heaviest among the armors I’ve experienced. Its flexibility is enhanced by bendable slit patterns, though they can be a bit sharp.
D3O, usually in orange and black, stands out for being thinner and lighter than both Powertector and Knox. It is significantly more flexible, featuring fabric on the back to maintain structural integrity. Wearing D3O shoulder armors is almost imperceptible, and the mesh pattern enhances breathability. But the new Level 2 Soft Armor from SmoothWays appears to be a promising choice, offering improved protection and greater flexibility than D3O. It also exhibits better resilience to freezing and heating cycles.
Choosing armor depends on personal preferences and the specific demands of use.
Strategic Armor Placement
The best motorcycle jacket distinguishes itself by incorporating built-in armor or, at the very least, providing designated pockets to house protective elements. These critical areas typically encompass the elbows, spine, and shoulders, ensuring a holistic shield against potential impacts.
If my memory serves me right, I recall Dainese making history by introducing the first-ever back protector in 1979—a noteworthy milestone that coincidentally aligns with my initiation into importing AGV helmets to America just a year prior (but I digress!). Inspired by the resilient intricacies of a lobster shell, Dainese ingeniously employed rigid interlocking plates, redefining the very essence of protective innovation.
CE Level 1 vs. CE Level 2
Understanding the difference between CE Level 1 and CE Level 2 certification for motorcycle jacket armor is crucial. Certified motorcycle armor is tested and approved, with each model receiving either Level 1 or Level 2 CE standards from independent test laboratories. Notably, Level 2 certification offers superior impact protection compared to Level 1.
To identify the certified level, look for a pictogram of a motorcycle with a “1” or “2” near the supplied pad. The number represents the approved CE Level. Older motorcycle armor may lack the motorcyclist pictogram.
Examining associated codes is also essential. In a code like EN1621-2:2021, the numbers following “EN” denote the protection level, with “1621” indicating suitability for motorcycle use. The subsequent code, such as “-2,” reveals the area of defense, with “-1” for general use and “-2” for rear protection.
I always go for the functionality. Anything with CE Level 2 body armor should be good for protection, capable of absorbing up to 12 Kn of transmission force.
Hard or Soft Armor
Impact armor exhibits a soft characteristic when moved slowly, allowing for comfortable mobility, and turns hard during a crash, albeit with varying degrees of flexibility. The primary functions of this armor are to either increase the surface area over which energy is dispersed (thereby reducing point-force) or extend the duration over which energy is transferred (thus reducing peak force). Hard armor achieves the former, while soft armor accomplishes the latter.
Advanced soft armors, such as Sas-tec and D3O, attempt to strike a balance by extending the impact duration up to a certain threshold. Without this hardening effect upon impact, these pads would be impractically thick, resembling pillows. Exceptional armors go a step further by dissipating energy as heat through the stretching of the elastomer, as seen in materials like Astrosorb or Sorbothane.
Leather vs. Textile Mastery
When it comes to armored motorcycle jackets, the great debate between leather and textile unfolds. The epitome of textile jackets lies in their triple-layered design, incorporating a waterproof membrane and cushioning. This makes them versatile for riding in a myriad of climates, perfect for days that swing from scorching hot afternoons to freezing cold mornings. In such unpredictable conditions, a textile jacket with detachable inner thermal layers proves invaluable, offering both adaptability and a feather-light feel, weighing no more than a mere couple of tens of grams.
Now, envision a summer ride amidst heat and humidity. The prospect of donning a substantial leather jacket may not evoke enthusiasm, as it risks stifling the rider and adhering uncomfortably to moist skin, thereby depriving them of the refreshing breeze. But you needn’t despair.
Before dismissing the allure of leather entirely, you must consider a perforated leather jacket—a testament to innovation finesse that integrates the inherent tear-resistant and safety attributes of leather with the airy comfort associated with textile or mesh jackets. It transcends the realms of compromise, ushering in a fusion that not only meets but elevates the expectations of riders seeking a refined and versatile material experience on the open road.
For street riding, I prefer soft armor as hard armor can be worn through the protective layer of the jacket easily (examples include Sas-tec and Forcefield NeT). On the other hand, for off-road riding, hard armor is my superior choice, as there is a possibility of subsequent impacts occurring at a slower rate, making it challenging for soft armor to stiffen up effectively.
Armor Pad Thickness
When considering armor pad thickness, it’s crucial to delve into specific types, as each brand introduces variations in thickness. For instance, Powertector’s shoulder armor boasts a substantial thickness of 13mm. Despite its industry-leading 7mm thickness, A-XOC armor surprises by providing above-average protection, particularly excelling as hyper-slim motorcycle armor. It stands out for its comfort during casual riding, flexibility, and malleability. But a trade-off exists, as it tends to have poor durability.
On the other hand, the D3O Ghost L2 armor takes a different approach by cleverly concealing the thickness of its pads through a tapered perimeter. All D3O Ghost L2 armored pads measure 12mm, a design choice that allows for flexibility and malleability.
From a personal perspective, I would never opt for armor below 5mm in thickness, a decision rooted in prioritizing an optimal balance between comfort and flexibility, aiming to ensure a satisfactory level of protection across various riding scenarios.
My motorcycle jacket with armor must be of adequate length, aligning perfectly with my beltline while standing and gracefully covering my thighs in a riding position. It should snugly hug my body, striking a balance between being neither too loose nor too tight.
Top 5 Best Motorcycle Jackets With Armor
|Type of Armor
|Alpinestars T-GP Plus R V3 Air
|Nucleon Flex Plus
|REV’IT! Eclipse 2
|Scorpion EXO Optima
I get it—there’s no do-it-all motorcycle jacket that caters to every riding style, and the market inundates us with an endless array of choices. But in my reviews, I’m committed to recommending only the armored jackets I’ve personally used. I firmly believe in delivering suggestions rooted in firsthand experience, placing a premium on sharing my insights rather than relying on hearsay. My ultimate goal is to ensure that you reap the fullest advantage of my expertise. Here’s my take:
1. AGVSPORT Ascari: Best Overall
The AGVSPORT’s Ascari leather jacket stands as a pinnacle offering from this renowned gear powerhouse, representing the epitome of armored riding jackets. Positioned as the highest echelon within their lineup, it is closely rivaled by the Aragon model.
Notably, it features CE-certified EN 1621-Level 2 Smoothways soft armor — the only CE Level 2 choice in my lineup — carefully placed in the shoulders, elbows, and back.
One thing that truly resonates with me about soft armor is its comfort and flexibility. It moves and bends effortlessly with the natural flow of your body. A notable advantage, especially when compared to the rigidity of hard armor.
Designed for the discerning rider, the Ascari boasts a 75g thermal layer—though redundant for summer rides—ensuring superior ventilation and perforations that maintain coolness without compromising durability.
The jacket also addresses practicality with larger inner pockets strategically positioned to safeguard personal items and media attachments from unexpected downpours.
The appeal of the AGVSPORT Ascari extends beyond its functional features. The jacket’s build quality is exemplified by the use of Mil-spec Nylon 3-ply bonded thread, celebrated for its longevity and reliability—a sentiment echoed by riders across the spectrum.
Furthermore, the inclusion of trusted YKK zippers and AGVSPORT’s Advanced Safety Stitching Construction (ASSC) instills confidence in the product’s performance, making it a choice for those who prioritize both form and function.
2. Klim Induction: Best Multi-Season
Diving into the world of motorcycle gear, the buzz about modern premium mesh jackets with armor was hard to ignore. It wasn’t until I found myself carving through the twists and turns of the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap—a stretch that boasts 318 curves in just 11 miles—that I decided to throw on the Klim Induction Jacket.
Launched in 2021, this revamped piece of motorcycle art didn’t just meet my expectations; it blew them out of the water, setting a new bar for gear with its killer combo of airflow and rock-solid durability.
Advanced Construction for Ultimate Ventilation
Hold it up, and you’ll see what I mean. The Klim Induction is like 70% Karbonite Mesh and 30% 500D Cordura magic, strategically placed on the essentials, including shoulders, elbows, bottom hem, and cuffs. When the sun cranks up the heat, that Karbonite™ Mesh Chassis does a dance with the wind, keeping me cool even when the asphalt feels like a frying pan.
Breathable Stretch Material
But it’s not just about looking cool; it’s about feeling free. The Induction Jacket incorporates this breathable stretch material in all the right places—sides, shoulders, biceps, and forearms. Unrestricted movement? Check. Ready for those long summer rides? Absolutely.
Safety is always a priority, right? The Induction Jacket gets it. With 3M™ Scotchlite™ reflective material and biomotion recognition, it’s not just about being seen; it’s about riding with that extra layer of confidence, day or night.
Talking protection, you’ll appreciate the D3O® CE Level 1 vented armor in the elbows and shoulders, plus a D3O® Viper CE Level 1 back pad—basically, it’s like having a superhero suit on two wheels. My confidence level? Through the roof!
Practical Storage and Convenience
I like it for being practical, too. Two zippered hand pockets, an internal chest pocket, and a forearm ID stat card pocket—these little touches made life on the road way more convenient.
Unparalleled Comfort in Warm Weather
And let’s talk comfort. A low-profile collar, adjustable Velcro cuffs, quick-adjust forearm straps, and a moisture-wicking breathable mesh liner—all these goodies mean you stay comfy, especially when the mercury rises.
Certified to the nines with a CE AA rating and meeting EN 17092-3 standards, the Klim Induction Jacket is a sweet spot where cooling airflow, unyielding durability, and certified protection all come together for a ride that’s not just confident but downright enjoyable.
3. Alpinestars T-GP Plus R V3 Air: Best Racing/Sports
The V3 Air transcends the ordinary, taking your sportbike experience to new heights while continuing the legacy of its predecessor, the V2.
Unparalleled Comfort in Every Size
I wear a 42 regular and can attest that the T-GP Plus R V3’s size range from 48 to 64 provides an inclusive and enchanting experience from the instant you put it on. It transcends the realm of typical protective gear, transforming into a second skin on the road.
The poly-fabric main shell, with its exceptional durability and abrasion resistance, is complemented by the class-leading Nucleon Flex Plus protection.
A Mesh Marvel
Visualize a large mesh panel adorning the chest, back, and arms, inviting the wind to dance through every fiber. This jacket prioritizes not only protection but also the exhilarating feeling of cool air embracing you as the throttle opens wide.
Precisely constructed from 600 Denier polyester with a double polyurethane coating, it ensures added protection without compromising breathability.
Designing for Performance
The T-GP Plus R V3 goes beyond the basics, incorporating design elements that cater to the demands of high-performance riding. Enhanced abrasion resistance is achieved through reinforced shoulders with an additional layer of armor. A large stretch panel on the shoulder and underarm guarantees a snug fit, enhancing both comfort and performance.
The secure closure system, combining hook and loop waist and cuff closures with a semi-automatic zipper, ensures a personalized and secure fit.
Details That Matter
Alpinestars pays particular attention to details, making the T-GP Plus R V3 a standout choice. The low-profile collar with a soft lining prioritizes rider comfort during extended rides. Ample storage options, including two front zippered pockets, an inner waterproof document pocket, and two inner pockets on the liner, cater to your practical needs.
Strategically placed upper-side vents maximize airflow, keeping you cool when the intensity rises. Reflective details add an extra layer of safety, ensuring visibility even in low-light conditions.
Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the T-GP Plus R V3 conforms to and exceeds European standards for rider safety. With a CE Category II PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 – A Class certification, it stands as a testament to its adherence to European statutory law. The jacket comes equipped with CE Level 1 EN1621-1:2012 Nucleon Flex Plus Shoulder and Elbow Protectors, offering standard protection. Additionally, you have the option to upgrade to a CE Level 2 EN1621-2:2014 Nucleon Back Protector for enhanced safety.
The inclusion of Level 1 Nucleon Flex Plus armor on shoulders and elbows, with further upgrade options for chest and back protectors, emphasizes a comprehensive commitment to rider protection. The GP Lite shoulders with dynamic friction shield exemplify how style and safety effortlessly coexist.
4. REV’IT! Eclipse 2: Best Summer
The REV’IT! Eclipse 2 Jacket builds on the success of its predecessor, Eclipse, already renowned as a top choice for a lightweight summer jacket with exceptional airflow. This latest iteration takes customer experiences and feedback into account, elevating the design to new heights.
With massive mesh panels ensuring optimal breathability, CE-certified armor providing confidence on the road, and a host of thoughtful features, the Eclipse 2 is a summer riding essential.
Lightweight and Breathable Construction
Crafted from abrasion-resistant 600-denier polyester, the Eclipse 2 Jacket maintains durability without compromising on comfort. The mesh lining, coupled with polyester mesh panels strategically placed at the front, back, and inner arms, guarantees unrivaled airflow. This jacket is engineered to keep you cool during scorching summer rides, providing an immersive and comfortable experience.
Confidence in Protection
Safety takes center stage with the Eclipse 2 Jacket. CE Level 1 elbow and shoulder armor (SEESMART) comes standard, ensuring crucial impact protection. Additionally, the jacket is equipped with a pocket for the SEESOFT CE Level 2 back protector (sold separately), allowing riders to enhance their safety arsenal.
With a CE approval to EN17092 as a Class A garment, REV’IT! Underscores its commitment to meeting and exceeding industry standards.
Tailored for Comfort and Style
Embracing a slim/tapered European cut, the Eclipse 2 Jacket not only prioritizes functionality but also exudes style. Adjustment tabs at the cuffs, upper arms, and waist offer a personalized fit, ensuring comfort without compromising the jacket’s sleek silhouette.
The inclusion of a wind catcher behind the front zipper further enhances the rider’s comfort by minimizing wind intrusion during high-speed rides.
Practical Design Elements
The Eclipse 2 doesn’t just focus on aesthetics and protection—it considers the practical needs of riders. Featuring an inner pocket and two slit pockets on the front, it provides ample storage for essentials. The inclusion of a jeans loop and V-flap at the cuff adds to the jacket’s versatility, allowing smooth integration with riding pants and contributing to an overall cohesive look.
Complete the Set
For riders seeking a comprehensive gear solution, the Eclipse 2 pairs with matching pants, completing a stylish and protective ensemble. REV’IT! extends its commitment to rider satisfaction by offering a range of gear that works in tandem for a cohesive riding experience.
5. Scorpion EXO Optima: Best Commuter
The armored Scorpion Optima motorcycle jacket emerges as my commuter’s dream, delivering affordability, waterproofing, ample ventilation, and a removable thermal liner. Designed for daily riders, this jacket not only meets but exceeds my expectations. And this is how:
Constructed from lightweight, breathable, waterproof laminated textile fabric, the Optima sets itself apart by eliminating the need for bulky, uncomfortable waterproof liners. The laminated fabric, coupled with sealed seams, ensures a superior level of water resistance.
Whether commuting on foggy mornings or facing inclement weather, the Optima’s rubber-lined zippers provide a hassle-free solution, allowing riders to focus on the road ahead.
Ventilation for Every Ride
I tested the Optima’s ventilation system on Southern California’s heat wave on my Ninja 400, and it emerged victorious. Two sizable chest vents and two rear exhaust vents create a refreshing airflow, offering relief during hot rides.
Practicality meets convenience with ample storage options. The Optima boasts two external hip pockets, a waterproof Napoleon wallet pocket, two Velcro-sealed pouches, and a media pocket with a headphone wire cutout.
Whether it’s your essentials or gadgets, the Optima ensures you’re well-equipped on the go.
Safety at the Core
The Optima doesn’t compromise on safety. CE Level 1-rated armor in the shoulders and elbows provides confidence on the road. For those seeking an extra layer of protection, CE Level 2 replacements are available for a reasonable $26.95 per set.
While a foam back protector is included, my advice is that you consider the upgrade to the CE Level 2 protector, available at $44.95.
Attention to Detail
Sturdy YKK zippers and a fleece-lined collar with a button snap, preventing chaffing, showcase Scorpion’s commitment to quality. But there’s room for improvement in the internal padding. A bit more padding in the joint areas would elevate the comfort level, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable riding experience.
I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!
Michael’s Summary and Conclusion
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations:
- National Institutes of Health
- The George Institute for Global Health
- Scorpion USA