How Are Motorcycle Jackets Supposed To Fit?

So you’ve bought your first motorcycle – congratulations! Now comes the fun part: picking out all that sweet gear. You’ll want a helmet, of course, and a good pair of gloves and riding boots. You’ll also need a jacket – and no, your dad’s old leather bomber jacket won’t cut it. Motorcycle jackets are made specifically with the rigors of riding in mind, and provide another layer of safety and security should you go down. A quality motorcycle jacket is imperative, in other words – but only if fits correctly.

With the variety of motorcycle jackets on the market – and each one fitting a little differently – it may be difficult to determine what is a proper fit. It’s almost like tailoring a suit: you want that just-right fit, but until you talk to a tailor, good luck finding it off the rack.

We wanted to clear the air on how a motorcycle jacket should fit, so we’ve done the research, read reviews, and ultimately came up with a pretty good idea on how these coats should fit. First off, however, let’s explain why you should want a motorcycle jacket at all.

Benefits of a Motorcycle Jacket

A motorcycle jacket doesn’t just look cool. Behind the seams and under the fabric lies a specially-constructed shell that is built to withstand sudden impacts – such as, say, dropping low at 50 or 60 mph. Any heavy fabric will help you keep your skin intact in such an accident, but motorcycle jackets go the extra mile with extra reinforcement. They often feature armor plating that protects joints, wrists, shoulders, and even the spine and lower neck.1

Motorcycle jackets bundle this protection into a jacket that can be worn in all seasons. The material of today’s jackets isn’t just leather, either. Many on the market feature synthetic materials that are more lightweight and breathable than traditional jackets. They’re more versatile, too – just add in a thermal insert for winter or leave it in the wardrobe during the summer.

Proper Fitment of a Motorcycle Jacket

Tailor fitting your jacket

Image courtesy of Pexels

There are three main types of motorcycle jackets – something we talk about more in-depth here – but all three should fit at least somewhat snug. Bagginess only means less protection, both from the elements and riding conditions as well as from an accident.2

The least snug option is known as the American fit, which leaves a bit more room around the torso and shoulders. A European-style slim-fit jacket will carve a more sculpted figure. For the serious riders, race jackets have not an inch of space to spare, going so far as to have pre-curved arms. We’d shy away from race jackets for casual use, but the looser American fit or the more tapered slim fit is more personal preference than anything else.

Once you’ve determined which cut feels the best, it’s time to ensure you get the right size. Again, even the most relaxed cut feels snug, so bear that in mind going forward. To get the best-fitting size, you’ll need your torso measurements.3 For this reason, it might help to go shopping in person, where a knowledgeable sales rep should be able to size you properly. If that isn’t an option, it’s worth getting a tailor’s tape measure and determining the length of your arms, the length of your torso, and the girth of your chest.

Unlike regular leather jackets, motorcycle jackets are designed to be worn in a seated posture, because you don’t ride your motorcycle standing up. For that reason, expect a bit more length in the torso and a bit more give with the underarms.

Because fitment can vary between brands and price points, we recommend keeping an eye on the details of the jackets for which you’re shopping. Every motorcycle jacket manufacturer should have a sizing chart on their websites that suggest which size corresponds to your measurements. Use that as a guide when determining which size to get.

Trying on a Motorcycle Jacket

You’ll want to try on any jacket you’re considering before purchase. If you’re ordering online, try it on before going for a ride. Most companies probably won’t want to take back a bug-splattered jacket.

When you first put on your jacket, walk around and get a sense of how it fits. Is it too snug? Too loose? Is the armor staying in place and covering the body parts it’s supposed to protect? Right away you’ll know if it fits well or not.

Now sit down, preferably on a motorcycle. Reach out your arms. Now how does the jacket feel? Is it riding up in the back? Do the sleeves feel like they are being pulled too taut? Are they also riding up? Again, you want a comfortable fit that protects you fully – and the jacket won’t do that if it’s riding up in any way. If you answer yes to any of those questions, put it back on the rack and keep shopping.

As always, you get what you pay for. A pricier jacket from a more reputable brand is more likely to be cut more precisely and fit more snugly – something that will be spotted immediately upon trying it on. And if you’re wondering about the best motorcycle jackets, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Check out our list of the best motorcycle jackets on the market.

Parting Thoughts

Perfect Fit Motorcycle jacket

Image courtesy of Pexels

Your motorcycle jacket needs to be snug, though there is some leeway in exactly how form-fitting it is. You’ll want full coverage of your wrists and lower back even when seated and leaning forward. If it’s an armored jacket, the armor should fully cover the body parts that are advertised as being protected. If you can, get your arm and torso measurements before shopping and always try on any jacket you’re considering. And don’t ever settle for something that doesn’t feel quite right – if you end up in an accident, you’ll come to regret it.

Follow those tips and you should end up with a well-fitting motorcycle jacket that will be as flattering as it is protective.

Article Sources

Ride Digest uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Tim, CE Level 1 & Level 2 Motorcycle Armor Explained. Motorgearexpert.com. Accessed 24 Sept 2021.
  2. Can you tell me something about CE/European ratings for back protectors and other armor? Motorcyclegear.com Accessed 24 Sept 2021.
  3. How to take measurements for a men’s suit. lanieri.com. Published 31 Mar 2020. Accessed 28 Sept 2021.