How Should a Motorcycle Jacket Fit For Safety and Comfort?

Updated:

Published:

Getting a well-fitting motorcycle jacket is essential for being comfortable on your bike and enjoying the ride. More importantly, it’s necessary to keep you as safe as possible in case of an accident.

At 6’3” with an 80-inch wingspan, I know how difficult this can be. However, if you follow the advice below, getting a motorcycle jacket that maximizes both comfort and safety will be much easier.

Taking Your Measurements

If you want a motorcycle that fits correctly, the first step is taking your measurements.

The most important measurements you need are chest and arms if you’re a man, plus waist if you’re a woman.

Occasionally, some men’s jackets also fit by waist, and there are other measurements you may see on size charts like back length.

Chest

Chest measurement

This one is the most straightforward. Wrap the tape measure around your chest at its largest part, going under the armpits. If you’re a woman, this includes your breasts.

Arm Length

arm length

To measure your arm length, stand up straight with your arms at your side. Then run the measure from the top of your shoulder and down the outside of your arm to your wrist.

This measurement is much easier if you have someone help you.

Waist

waist measurement

To measure your waist, wrap the tape measure around your torso right at the level of your belly button. The tape should be right at the top of your hip bones.

Make sure to keep it parallel to the floor, or you’ll get a longer measurement than you should.

With these measurements, you can use the manufacturer’s size chart to find the right size for that specific jacket model.

However, you may often find that while your chest size is a large, your arm length is an XL (my particular curse). This is why checking the following aspects of the fit is so important.

Jacket Length

Alpinestars Viper v2 Air Jacket
Always double-check jacket length.

Jacket length is where most new riders make mistakes when picking out their first motorcycle jacket.

Motorcycle jackets run much shorter than average jackets, and for good reason. You don’t want it getting caught under your butt, bunching against your legs, catching the wind and riding up, or anything else that would hinder your movement.

A well-fitting motorcycle jacket should come down to the same level as your belt when standing. It should just barely rest against your thighs without bunching up and getting in the way when sitting on the bike. 

Jacket Tightness

Jacket tightness is one of the hardest things to get right about your jacket fit. You have to find the Goldilocks jacket that’s not too tight or too loose, but juuuust right.

In general, you probably do want a tighter motorcycle jacket than you’d typically buy for any other type of jacket.

A loose jacket means it will flap around and can get in the way of your movements. It can also catch the wind, which slows you down and, more importantly, is dangerous because it exposes skin in case of an accident.

That said, your jacket can’t be too tight, or you won’t be able to move adequately for control and comfort. When you try on a jacket, move your arms in front of you to make sure you have a decent range of motion.

A good rule of thumb to remember for jacket fitting: You shouldn’t be able to put on or take the jacket off by pulling it over your head. You should have to unzip it.

Sleeves

While you’re riding a motorcycle, your arms are out in front of you. As a result, the sleeves need to be flexible enough to allow for movement while still being tight enough to keep your skin protected in case of a crash. 

For this reason, I recommend that you prioritize sleeve fit over torso fit if you’re having trouble finding a jacket that matches both perfectly because you’re a long drink of water like myself.

Test out the jacket by moving your arms out in front of you, making sure the jacket isn’t too tight to control the motorcycle but still secure enough to protect your arms down to your gloves.

Certain jackets have features that make the sleeves fit better, which means you can get better sizing overall. These include flaps and flexible material at the elbows and shoulders.

Collar

You don’t want to choke yourself, but the collar of your jacket should be tight. Otherwise, it will catch the wind, causing drag and causing the jacket to expand with air like a balloon.

To help with this, make sure the zipper goes as close to the top of the collar as possible or that there is some other collar fastener like buttons.

Adjustability

It’s much easier to get the right fit if your motorcycle jacket is adjustable. Many jackets have adjustable straps or zippers at the waist, wrists, and sometimes even elbows or shoulders. 

Finding an adjustable jacket can be your saving grace if you have an uncommon body type. Try these first, adjusting them wherever you don’t conform to the standard size to see if you can get a good fit.

Style

Lastly, you want to consider the style of your motorcycle jacket: American, European, or Race.

American

American jackets are looser, especially at the arms, giving you more comfort and range of motion on touring bikes, customs, and those big American choppers that just scream USA.

Sometimes referred to as “regular” or “touring” jackets, these are better for long tours where you’re sitting in a relaxed position with the arms further extended.

First Manufacturing Top Performer Jacket

This First Manufacturing Top Performer Jacket has a looser "American" cut.

European

European fits are a bit tighter and sportier. They’re more suitable for sports bikes where you’re angled more towards the handlebars.

REV'IT! Wind 2 Jacket

The REV'IT! Wind 2 Jacket has a sleeker "European" cut.

Race

Race fits are, of course, for racing. They’re the tightest and often have pre-curved arms conducive to the full-tuck riding position that racers employ.

Alpinestars T-GP Plus R v3 Air

The Alpinestars T-GP Plus R v3 Air Jacket has pre-curved sleeves for racing.

Regardless of which style you choose, make sure it fits correctly based on all the above principles. This way, you’ll be as safe and comfortable as possible while riding.

Further Reading

Read more about motorcycle jackets: