Motorcycle gear is expensive. These four jackets are especially so. Ranging from $550 to $1,700, these jackets, I imagine, will elicit some exclamations of outrage in the comments section. So be it. If you can’t use the internet to vent your frustration about costly outerwear, what good is it?
Granted, there are a lot more practical things $1,700 will buy, though fans of Nikolai Gogol will recognize fatal obsession with a pricey coat is not without precedent.
Some of you might think it’s a bit profligate to spend this much coin on motorcycle gear, or that it makes the wearer come across as a bit too pretentious. Pass me the decanter of cognac and a stogie, then we can talk pretentious. Even the priciest motorcycle jacket loses its air of pretentiousness when it’s covered in bug guts.
Each of these jackets prioritizes a certain element, like design, style, or protection, that sets them apart from more budget-minded options. Regardless of their niche, one trait they all share is quality. Whether it’s manifested in buttery soft leather, next-gen levels of protection, a smoothly operating zipper, or a beautiful plaid lining, these jackets go the extra mile to exhibit their premium quality.
I’m definitely not going to bring out the old cliché “you get what you pay for,” because there are plenty of less expensive jackets out there that do the job admirably. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t space in the market for high-end pieces. By designing to a higher price point, makers are freed up to perfectly execute their objectives. Rather than making a product to appeal to a broader audience, it can hone in on specific goals to satisfy a more specific demographic.
Some riders are willing to pay more for improved fit, a certain style, the latest advancement in protection, or a product from a smaller company. I’ll admit, I’m one of them; though I only paid for one of these jackets, truth be told.
There are a ton of high-end jackets out there, but here are a few I’ve been wearing recently.
From a design standpoint, the Aether Rally jacket ($550) is one of my current favorites. It has a rugged look that blends off-the-bike-appropriate style and on-the-bike functionality. Its relatively slim cut, light weight, and lack of excessive branding set it apart. It’s what I want every textile jacket to look like. But looks aren’t the most important thing.
Its flannel lining, waterproof shell, and generous back and pit vents make it a great three-season commuter jacket. I’ve worn it in 100-degree heat in the desert and the vents did a nice job of passing air through the jacket. I’ve also worn it in a serious deluge in Spain and was really impressed that rain only came in at the collar. I love that its three-layer nylon shell obviates the need for an internal rain lining. Good design, if it doesn’t function as intended isn’t, well, good design. The Rally’s design is good.
The Rally also has some great details. Typical of Aether jackets, the front placket’s rubber-coated snaps have thumb loops that make buttoning up easy, even with gloves on. It also has two hand-warmer pockets lined with flannel and topped off with waterproof zippers.
Its breadth of functionality and its understated looks make it one of the first jackets I reach for. Aether designates the Rally as a “commuter jacket,” and I think it’s pretty top-notch for that purpose, especially if you’re a style-conscious kind of rider. Aether wasn’t able to give me a denier rating on the three-layer nylon shell, but it did conduct Taber Abrasion Resistance tests on the fabric. Aether claims the material remained unchanged after 3,000 cycles, which unless my research is way off, is right around as abrasion resistant as leather. That’s hard to believe, frankly, so I’m not going to claim it as gospel (for the record, I’m doubting my own research here, not necessarily Aether’s claims).
While the jacket accommodates CE Level 1 D3O armor, the back protector pocket is too short, only fitting one that comes down to about the middle of the back. Still, if you’re commuting in hot weather or rain, the Rally is worth a look.
When I reviewed the M1 jacket last year, I praised it for its timeless design and its quality materials and craftsmanship. I’ve got thousands of miles on the thing and it’s wearing in nicely. Whenever I clean the bug guts off, its great-smelling, buttery-soft leather even makes my wife want to nuzzle up to it/me.
For a “basic” black leather motorcycle jacket, it ticks all the boxes. Full disclosure: I received the other jackets in this story for free. As a gear junkie, that’s a major perk of my job. But I bought the M1 jacket with my own money before I started this bike-writing gig. In fact, I was an out-of-work farmer when I bought it, which meant that a dollar felt like 10 dollars to me. It was worth it.
With a full suite of CE Level 1 SAS TEC or D3O armor (not included) and 1.2mm leather—thicker than many style-conscious jackets from the major gear brands—the M1 doesn’t sacrifice too much protection for the sake of good looks. Perforation on the inner arms and well-placed accordion stretch panels ensure rider comfort on the bike.
As an aside, I recently met the owner of Pagnol at a trackday at SoCal’s Chuckwalla. Super nice guy. It always feels good to support nice folks, especially when they make some great products.
I’ve already discussed what I love about the Robinson jacket, but if you’re in the market for a waxed-cotton jacket, it’s hard to beat. The mix of waxed cotton, red plaid, and black leather make it one good-looking jacket to drape over your chair at the local coffee shop. Note the emphasis on “local”…and “coffee shop.” That’s my kind of subtle way of suggesting this jacket’s purpose. That’s not necessarily disparaging of the jacket (or the ride-to-the-coffee-shop rider), by the way.
Union Garage baked in some added protection with leather panels at the shoulders and elbows (it also features CE Level 1 D3O armor), but there’s no getting around the fact that waxed cotton isn’t as protective as ballistic Cordura, for example. If you’re riding your Bonneville around town, however, the Robinson looks so right.
Handmade in Massachusetts by Vanson, the quality is unmatched, even if the abrasion resistance isn’t. No one’s going to buy a Bonnie just because it goes with their cool jacket (I hope), but if any jacket could make a case for such blatant superficiality, I guess it’d be the Robinson. But still. Please, no one do that.
For 1,700 bucks, you don’t so much wear this jacket as it wears you. But who can complain when it feels this good?
This jacket wears its heart on its sleeve. That little flashing light on the sleeve—just like on the race suits you see on your favorite MotoGP rider—means there’s an airbag inside. For more information about Dainese’s airbag tech, click here.
On the whole, the Misano offers everything you’d expect from a premium, sport riding jacket from Dainese: great snug fit, quality materials, and thoughtful design (with a lot of logos). In addition to the airbag, the Misano has an incorporated back protector, internal shoulder protection with external titanium plates, and composite elbow protectors. I don’t mind the additional heft and bulk of the airbag; my biggest problem is that if I wear any other jacket, I feel guilty. With the Misano in my closet, why would I wear something less protective? Thanks, Dainese, for feeding my guilt complex.
Since giving in to my guilt complex is what I do, the Misano has become my go-to fair-weather riding jacket. And it’s great.
Dainese’s leather has a distinctive pleasant aroma, which has made my gear closet smell like Valentino Rossi’s trophy room (I imagine). And the beefy armor makes me look like I spend a lot of time at the gym (I don’t). Mostly, in the back of my mind I like knowing that I’m protected by top-quality leather, race-level armor, and a sci-fi airbag designed by really smart people.
As amazing as airbag technology is, it’s clear it’s still early days. While early adopters are willing to pay a lot to have it now, no doubt the cost will come down in years to come. Another downside? With Dainese, airbags can’t be purchased separately and then switched between jackets. If you want a Dainese Cyclone Gore-Tex touring jacket and a Misano sport riding jacket, that means you’re getting two airbags. Hopefully, that will change in future generations. When it comes to protection, being an early adopter probably isn’t such a bad idea though.
That said, given that the way people crash on the road is less predictable than on the racetrack, some may be justified in thinking the efficacy of airbags isn’t a sure bet for road riders. If that’s the case, I, for one, am happy to hedge my bets when it comes to safety.
It’s almost a shame to hide these four beautiful jackets away in a closet when you’re off the bike. I guess I’ll just have to bring my glass of cognac to the closet.