One of the more encouraging trends I have noticed lately is that more motorcyclists are now wearing dedicated riding jackets on Singapore roads. Despite the sweltering hot weather, bikers are increasingly aware of that you shouldn’t go on the road in thin tee-shirts and shorts, because you would never know when you’re going to get thrown off the bike.
Recently, a reader asked me where to buy riding jackets and what price they should pay, so I thought I might as well do a quick primer here. Apart from a helmet, a pair of gloves, knee guards, a motorcycle jacket is necessary for basic biker protection.
Why wear a motorcycle jacket?
Firstly, protection is the order of the day.
Try running your bare hand gently over the rough tarmac of our local roads. Then imagine the same hand hitting the tarmac at over 60kmh and sliding across it. Then imagine your entire body doing the same. I’ve seen photos of bikers who suffered massive abrasions and cuts when that happened, but I’m not going to post it here – you can search for those and gross yourself out.
A motorcycle jacket provides your upper body the critical protection against such slides, and you’d notice that it usually has more cloth/leather material on high-impact zones such as the shoulders and forearms. That’s where you’re most likely to hit the ground and slide in an accident.
And no, those tube sleeves we wear at riding school will not protect you from anything except a sunburn.
Most riding jackets offer additional protection with foam inserts at the shoulders and forearms. They don’t really reduce the impact force to your bones but they help plenty in reducing abrasions.
Second, a good jacket reduces your drag or wind resistance.
Notice how many bochap bikers wear cheap raincoats or jackets that puff up like a parachute when they ride. That actually slows down their bike somewhat. Other uncles wear their jackets the other way around but you get a lot of cloth flapping behind in strong winds.
Even if you don’t wear a raincoat wrongly, you’ll still have your shirt flapping away in the wind. The funniest sight is those guys on sportsbikes with their tee-shirt blown up high at the back, exposing not only their back, but sometimes their butt crack too.
A properly-sized riding jacket should not become a parachute but allows your body to cut through the air with ease. Many mesh jackets allow air to pass through so air is not trapped inside the jacket.
Riding jackets also protect your work clothes from dirt, bugs and killer bees.
You’d be surprised how dirty your work shirts can get when you ride on our roads, thanks to all the construction vehicles or flies that decide to smash into you.
Sidetrack: Beware of kamikaze bees that get into your riding path and they ALWAYS try to sting you out of rage and frustration. Even when I’ve worn a riding jacket, I’ve had bees hitting me right at the uncovered throat or neck (What are the chances right?) In those cases, don’t lose control of your bike no matter how much it hurts, and use your free hand to smash the bugger to death against your skin.
Finally, motorcycle jackets make you look more cool than your normal self, since they broaden your shoulders and these days are really made of nice shiny materials. If you want to look even better in your jacket, then read my free weight-loss book!
How to choose the right jacket for daily riding in this humidity
There are many different types of jackets available, and your choice boils down to a few criteria – material, fit, weight, air-flow, cutting and water-resistance. I’m not going to go into racing or touring jackets (if you are looking for either type, you already know what you want in a jacket!), but will talk about the best jackets for daily use.
It really boils down to synthetic textile or leather. Most of us will go for textile since it’s relatively easy to clean, easy to maintain, lightweight, and comes in many different colors and designs.
Leather offers great resistance to abrasion, but it is heavy, very hot, needs regular maintenance with leather cleaners, and will grow fungus/mold the minute you don’t wear it constantly but choose to keep it in a cupboard. However some less-sporty leather jackets, especially those new ones with soft protective inserts (shoulder and elbow), may not crease your work shirts as most textile jackets will do.
It doesn’t mean leather is not wearable in our weather. Look for perforated leather jackets (with breathing holes all over) that offer better airflow. It will feel damned hot in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it, and it just feels more soft and comfortable than a textile jacket.
I wear a Ducati Dainese perforated leather jacket almost daily and only wear my Dainese mesh jacket when the weather gets really hot.
Some people like to wear bright neon jackets on the road (which I think looks over the top), but it really doesn’t matter what color your jacket is. It’s more important to have a brightly colored helmet that drivers can spot easily from a distance, and ensure your bike’s rear and front lights are working properly.
Most people get dark-colored jackets because light-colored ones get dirty REALLY fast. Obviously, many will choose a jacket with colors matching their own bike color scheme.
It may take you several jackets before you settle on the right fit for your riding style and body shape. Some people like their jackets snug, others like them loose. The most important thing is that it should not be loose enough to flap in the wind or so tight you can’t move your arms freely in a riding position.
Textile jackets don’t change in size over time, but leather jackets do stretch to fit your body better. So I usually buy a leather jacket one size smaller than the same design in textile form. It’s really tight at first, but after a few months, it stretches out to be just right (This does not apply to stiff leather racing jackets). The downside is that the leather jacket’s sleeves will also extend, which isn’t a good thing for me as my arms are not long.
Another thing that most people don’t check when they buy their jackets is the size of the sleeve cuff when it is secured or buttoned up. If you like to wear big watches, you’d better make sure the cuff isn’t too tight or you’ll always have to remove your watch before a ride.
Obviously we’d like the lightest possible jackets but do note that extremely light jackets tend to have very thin textile or mesh layers, which then negate the protective factor.
And oh, leather jackets are always heavy.
The jacket’s weight is also related to the amount of inserts (or armor) that a jacket has. Many jackets offer additional slots in the front and rear for crash protectors, which will in turn make the jacket heavier. I know I should be putting in my back protector insert into my jacket, but it just makes the jacket too heavy to lug around on a daily basis.
This is actually the most critical factor for most people.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen more mesh jacket models launched in Singapore as jacket makers realized they can’t keep selling jackets made for temperate weather here. The heat builds up fast, even in mesh jackets.
The more mesh material, the greater the airflow. However, I do believe too much mesh will reduce abrasion resistance too. Your mileage (or slide distance) may vary.
Also consider if the mesh jacket has a removable waterproof inner layer – I usually never use it as it kills the airflow and I use a raincoat anyway. So I don’t usually choose mesh jackets with inner liners (which tend to be pricier).
Cut (Or Style)
I think there are three major cutting styles for riding jackets – the loose, broad-shouldered American cut (Alpinestars, Rev-It), the slim and athletic European/Italian cut (Dainese), and the less-slim Japanese cut (Taichi, Komine)
Skinny bikers will look good in European and Japanese cuts, but should avoid the baggy American cut. Fat bikers will look good in any jacket as long as they get the size that they can fit in. Note that the snug Euro jackets tend to call out any beer belly very prominently.
BTW a well-fitted leather jacket makes you look like an X-Man.
For daily wear, water resistance is not high on my priority list as I will wear a Taichi Drymaster raincoat over the jacket if it rains. Long-distance tourers will wear Gore-tex water-resistant jackets but those tend to be thick and heavy.
Care for the jacket
Apart from keeping it clean, you should always try to put it on a clothes hanger whenever possible. This keeps the shape of the jacket, especially those with leather materials.
How much should I pay for a good jacket?
Riding jackets can cost anything from under $100 to above $800. Honestly, as long as it fits, has the right amounts of protection for high-impact zones, is not too heavy, has good air-flow and looks good…that’s all you need.
Pricing usually differs due to materials and branding, and as a good Singaporean, always shop around for the best deals and within your budget. Leather jackets can get ridiculously expensive, so wait for clearance sales if possible.
Where to buy in Singapore.
Some popular brands here. I like Dainese for its cut and quality, but the other brands are good too.
Dainese – Dainese Singapore
Taichi and Komine – Motoworld
You can also buy online from great sites like Revzilla but be aware that the fit may not be Asian-fit, and that shipping costs can kill you. I would visit Revzilla to check out the latest models and wait for the local stocks to arrive. It’s always critical to try on the jacket first no matter how much assurance the website gives you. For me, I know my exact Dainese size (46) so I don’t really worry about sizing issues if I do order online.
I also love the videos on Revzilla that show all the pertinent bits of any new gear. Here’s one to share.