Specialized motorcycle gear is great, but sometimes you just want to wear a regular shirt.
However, If you want to enjoy the thrill of riding without worrying about safety, then you need to wear the right gear.
To stay comfortable and stylish while still protecting myself while riding, I’ve found five of the best motorcycle riding shirts specifically designed to give you extra protection on your bike.
The Best Motorcycle Riding Shirts Reviewed
Merlin Axe Shirt
The Merlin Axe is a stylish flannel shirt with five different pattern options to complement your wardrobe. Even so, it’s close to a full motorcycle jacket with extensive protection throughout.
Beneath the flannel is a tough lining made of 100% Kevlar. Considering this fabric is usually used for bullet-proof vests, you know that it’s tough enough to prevent abrasion in case of a crash but lightweight enough that it’s comfortable and doesn’t overheat.
On top of this, there’s a mesh lining that improves air circulation. This means that the Merlin Axe isn’t just great for winter but fall and spring since it’s warm enough for cold mornings but stays comfortable as the day heats up.
If Kevlar weren’t protection enough, the shirt also has CE-approved shoulder and elbow armor, something you won’t even find in all motorcycle jackets. Plus, it’s removable, so you can take them out to improve range of motion, though I wouldn’t advise that. There’s also a pocket for back armor, but it’s not included.
I like the snap stud closures on the cuffs and chest pockets, which are a lot easier to manipulate than buttons or zippers if you need to grab paperwork out of a pocket quickly or take off the shirt when you get to work. That said, it’s worth noting that the cuffs are a bit narrow if you have particularly large wrists.
Finally, another thing that makes this shirt comparable to a riding jacket is the zipper that allows you to connect it to the pants.
This lets you ride at high speeds without the shirt riding up, which isn’t just uncomfortable but dangerous too since it exposes your torso in case of a crash and can get in the way of your movements.
- 100% Kevlar lining
- Cool mesh lining
- Shoulder and elbow armor
- Snap stud closures at cuffs and pockets
- Jacket-to-pants connecting zipper
- Tight cuffs
Icon Upstate Riding Shirt
The Icon Upstate Riding shirt is a great go-to if you want full-sleeve protection while riding in the summer. It’s lightweight and made entirely of textile mesh that allows full airflow to cool you down.
The mesh construction isn’t as protective as other options. However, Icon still made it as safe as they could by adding abrasion-resistant overlays in addition to D30 removable elbow, shoulder, and back protectors. Plus, there are reflective accents to keep you visible if it’s dark outside.
The main downside of the lightweight mesh design is the style. You can get it in black or green, but the patterns aren’t particularly creative or eye-catching.
However, it’s a good choice if utility is your primary concern. On top of two chest pockets, two zippered hand pockets make it useful not just when riding but walking around town as well.
- Lightweight mesh design
- Abrasion-resistant overlays
- Armor at elbows, shoulders, and back
- Reflective accents
- Chest and hand pockets
- Less protective
- Monotonous designs
REAX Fairmount Riding Shirt
The REAX Fairmount Riding Shirt is ideal if you regularly ride in bad weather. The primary features responsible for this are the snap-down collar, which prevents wind from chilling your neck, and the interior waterproof pocket perfect for holding your cell phone and essential papers.
The jacket is a cotton-polyester blend, which isn’t as safe or comfortable as other top-shelf models. Still, it includes a 100% polyester mesh lining that increases airflow and keeps you cool even if temperatures start to rise. Plus, the shirt does have a denim coating that improves abrasion resistance, though it increases the weight quite a bit.
The shirt is safe, though. It has CE Level 2 armor at the shoulders and elbows and even reflective detailing to keep you visible at night. There are also interior belt loops to connect the shirt to your pants to keep it from riding up and inhibiting your movements.
Lastly, I like how many pockets this shirt has. In addition to chest pockets with snap closures and even a pen hole, there are interior cargo pockets for carrying essential items with increased protection.
This is a great jacket for a commuter who has to carry plenty of things and never knows what weather conditions they’ll run into.
- Snap-down collar
- Mesh lining
- 12oz coated denim
- Shoulder and elbow armor
- Interior belt loops
- Lots of pockets, including interior waterproof pocket
- Basic cotton-polyester blend
Street & Steel Mission Moto Shirt
The Street & Steel Mission Moto Shirt is a great budget option that can provide you with motorcycle-specific protection without costing much more than a regular shirt or weighing you down with unnecessary features or fabric.
Specifically, it’s made from heavyweight cotton that’s strong and tear-resistant. Still, you’ll probably need an additional jacket on top.
The Mission Moto does have armor where it counts: in the shoulder and elbows. Plus, the same areas are reinforced with tough aramid fiber for extra abrasion protection. There’s even a back pad, which you can remove if you want to.
As for comfort, this shirt has a mesh lining that improves airflow. The cotton outer layer makes the shirt breathable and comfortable even as the weather gets warmer.
My main complaint with this shirt is that it’s baggy. Not so much that it doesn’t look good. In fact, with the three color options, it’s great for any wardrobe. Still, it really catches the wind when you’re riding, and there is, unfortunately, no pants connection.
However, Street & Mission did minimize how much it balloons up by adding a front zipper. This doesn’t interfere with the style, though, because they hid it behind the front snaps, making it easy to put on and take off.
- Great value
- Tough cotton material
- Shoulder and elbow armor
- Mesh lining
- Front zipper behind snaps
- Baggy fit
- No pants connection
- Only one chest pocket
Scorpion EXO Covert Flannel Shirt
The Scorpion EXO Covert shirt is another good option for protection and style without draining your wallet. In fact, it’s my favorite motorcycle shirt as far as appearance goes, with five different pattern options and a modern flannel design that makes you look unique without being flashy.
At the same time, it’s safe too. Despite its low price, it has a thick Kevlar lining that can withstand high-speed abrasion. Of course, part of the low price is that, while the shirt does have pockets for elbow, shoulder, and back armor, it’s not included. You’ll have to buy it separately.
The shirt is not excessively thick, but I’d still recommend it primarily for winter riding or fall riding in cold climates. Rather than a mesh lining like other shirts, it has a quilted polyester lining that keeps you warm even with the high winds of riding.
Storage is good on this shirt. There are two chest pockets and an internal pocket. The chest pockets close with snaps for easy access. The shirt front does the same, though it has a zipper beneath the snaps for added security and keeping the wind out of the shirt, making it suitable for cold weather.
- Stylish look
- Kevlar lining
- Quilted lining
- Chest pockets plus internal pocket
- Front zipper behind snaps
- Armor not included
- Short sleeves
- Gets hot
Protection and Safety
What’s great about getting a motorcycle riding shirt over just a regular long-sleeve shirt is that you get features specifically designed for riding, such as:
Most manufacturers design their shirts with specifically tough and abrasion-resistant fabric. The best of these is Kevlar, a synthetic fiber developed by DuPont to replace steel in car tires. Nowadays, it’s best known for its use in bullet-proof vests.
It’s strong enough to help minimize injury from sliding across the ground in a high-speed crash. Nevertheless, it’s lightweight, comfortable, and won’t overheat.
Not all shirts include a Kevlar lining. Some merely use more heavy-duty cotton or polyester blends that resist tearing. This isn’t as protective as Kevlar, but it’s still superior to an ordinary shirt.
Like most motorcycle jackets, riding shirts often include armor. You should look for this, especially at the elbows and shoulders, which usually hit the ground first and are the most prone to injury. Some even include back armor, which can help protect the skin around your spine.
Even if the shirt you’re looking at doesn’t include armor, see if it has pockets for them. In this case, you can buy and add the armor as you need it.
One thing that makes motorcycles more dangerous than cars is that they’re less visible to other drivers on the road. This is especially true at night or in dim light. To improve visibility, look for a riding shirt that has reflective detailing.
When you’re riding, you need protection for your entire torso. Unfortunately, it can be hot in the summer months. Even in fall and spring, a long-sleeve shirt can be comfortable in the morning or evening, but you can find yourself overheating when the temperature rises during the day.
To make a jacket more comfortable for a wider range of temperatures, manufacturers usually include a mesh lining that lets air pass through. This is a big plus.
That said, if you live in a cold climate or need a shirt specifically for the winter, a mesh lining will only make you colder. Instead, you want a thick, quilted lining and other features like a closed collar that will keep the wind out.
Connections and Closures
Regular shirts don’t put a lot of emphasis on how you close them up. Usually, they just have simple buttons.
However, on a motorcycle, a button design means that air and wind easily enter the shirt. This can be cold and dangerous because it inflates the shirt like a balloon, causing air resistance and interference with your movements. As a result, motorcycle riding shirts usually have other kinds of connections like:
The easiest way for a shirt to close up tight and secure is with zippers. The problem with zippers is that they can scratch your bike’s paint. Plus, they’re not the most stylish looking.
Most riding shirts solve this by hiding the zippers under flaps that close with other methods like buttons or snaps. This maintains the classic shirt look and also prevents zipper scratches.
While snaps don’t solve the airflow problem, they’re arguably better than buttons because they’re easier to manage.
If you don’t plan on wearing the shirt all day, snaps make it a lot easier to put on and take off. Snaps on pockets mean you can more easily get to whatever’s inside. In general, I’d suggest a shirt with snapped flaps covering an internal zipper.
Internal loops are an alternative to zippers for attaching your shirt to your pants. In many ways, they’re superior to zippers because they provide consistent attachment around the entire circumference of the jacket.
By connecting your shirt to your pants, you help prevent wind from entering it from the bottom. This is better for temperature regulation and comfort. Plus, it’s safer because a shirt that rides up exposes your torso to abrasion if you crash and could get in the way of your movements.
Motorcycle riding shirts vary a lot in the number of pockets they have. Most have at least one or two chest pockets, but you’ll need more if you plan on carrying a lot with you.
You should specifically look for internal pockets. You can keep fragile devices like your cell phone there, where they’ll be better protected in an accident. Some even have waterproof interior pockets.
My favorite setup is to keep documents like my license in an easy-to-reach chest pocket closed with a snap. Then I keep my phone in a waterproof internal pocket.
You should choose a motorcycle riding shirt based on your average shirt size and measurements. It should also fit a little differently than an ordinary shirt.
First of all, it should be a bit tighter and more streamlined. A baggy shirt will catch the air and at least cause considerable wind resistance. It might also ride up, which is dangerous and cold in the winter.
Furthermore, it should be a bit shorter than a standard shirt, just reaching the waist of your pants. A longer shirt may get stuck under your thighs while riding or restrict your movements.
A motorcycle-riding shirt is a great way to complement your safety gear without sacrificing style or comfort.