If you’ve been following the recommended path for gearing up to start your lifetime riding adventures, you will already have the perfect helmet for your head. The next most important piece of gear is the one that keeps your torso safe, the ever-evolving and no-shortage-of-choices motorcycle jackets.
Leather jackets, if made properly and with motorcycle-grade leather, are the highest protection, and a requirement if you are going to be attending track days, riding at higher speeds, riding on roads that are made of chip seal, and/or all of the above. Leather tends to be less versatile in terms of cooling, riding seasons, and adaptability.
As well, your budget does enter into the equation. Many leather jackets cost well over $500, but not everyone has the bankroll for a $2500 race suit. With that in mind, we present to you our picks for the top 10 leather jackets under $500 for 2021. See also: the 10 best textile jackets under $500.
A Note on Sizing…
Sizing for jackets can vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. To simply the sizing, we will use the following descriptions:
Sport: Expect a tighter fit, precurved arms, and should feel comfortable in a tuck or three-quarters position
Touring: Designed to fit a little looser so that the rider can comfortably ride sitting upright in a standard posture, but tight enough to not be billowing or flapping in the wind
Cruiser: A relaxed fit that fits comfortably around the shoulders and waist, allowing for great reach forwards to the handlebars.
Tight fit is when the jacket will feel like it’s compressing you ever so slightly.
Moderate fit is where you have good range of motion, but may feel tight in some areas that are reinforced or designed for protection.
Loose fit is when the entire jacket feels loose in all areas of your torso without being too far from the body.
Classic cruiser styling with fantastic reviews from real riders and industry professionals alike. The style of the First Manufacturing Top Performer jacket is what will initially catch your eye, but the long list of features is what will really surprise you. Note: “generous” cut means extremely generous – size down one level (example: from Large to Medium) from your normal jacket/shirt size.
A leather chassis lends itself to the best abrasion resistance you can get and increased durability for everyday use. The shoulders, elbows, and kidneys are padded, but CE rated armor is not included, so you’ll need to upgrade if you want exceptional impact protection.
A mandarin style collar is comfortable for all-day wear and keeps you focused on the road ahead. A removable full sleeve liner is included, keeping you warm in cooler weather and allowing some versatility when the temps increase.
Most impressive when it comes to the First Manufacturing Top Performer Jacket is the plethora of 5 star reviews from riders and industry professionals alike. That speaks volumes and puts this jacket on our favorites list for Winter/Spring 2021.
The Merlin Odell Air jacket is a champion at adapting. It can transition from cool to warm weather thanks to venting and perforation, which provides generous airflow in the heat, and a thick thermal vest liner, which helps to battle the cold.
Besides protection from the weather, the Merlin Odell Air jacket has a full grain cowhide chassis that will stand up to the test of time and/or an unexpected spill. CE Level 1 shoulder and elbow armor are also included, but back armor will need to be purchased separately and added to complete the package. A pants-to-jacket zipper is also included.
Retro style can be found in the zippers and hardware, which help with the overall vintage look. This jacket is comfortable and allows room for movement on all types of bikes. It even made the staff pick list at Revzilla – score!
The original ICON Contra and Contra 2 jackets have been best-selling textile jackets for 10 years. Building on that success, the Contra 2 Perforated Leather jacket offers all the same features with the added benefits of a second skin. A strong full grain cowhide chassis covers all impact and abrasion zones. As always, ICON’s standard full suite of CE Level 1 D3O shoulder, elbow and back armor is also included. Max protection for the right price.
The Icon Contra 2 Perforated Leather Jacket features pre-curved arms and a ratchet waist closure, allowing for a more tailored fit. Ballistic textile is included in non-impact zones to add extra breathability and enhanced movement. Vents can be found in the front, back, and cuffs, as well as laser perforation throughout the jacket’s chassis. For cooler weather, a removable insulated liner is included.
Have you ever seen silver leather? Exactly. Also available in classic black or easy-on-the-eyes white. The leather is supple, there’s ample room in the chest, and the stretch panels allow for many body shapes to fit comfortably.
The Icon Overlord women’s leather jacket includes a full set of D30 impact armor for the elbows, shoulders, and back. All the armor can be removed so that the jacket is even more comfortable for wearing when not riding.
The 1.2mm to 1.4 mm cowhide leather offers all of the abrasion protection that a rider will need as well as durability to last for years of riding. Pre-curved arms help with rider fatigue, and strategic venting locations fight the heat.
For women looking for an extremely comfortable and supple leather jacket that fits most female body types, the Icon Overlord is a great choice. And with all of the armor included, the $320.00 purchase price is more than reasonable for this quality piece of gear.
When it comes to sport/track leathers under $400, this might very well be the only track-specific leather jacket (and matching pant option) at this price for both men and women. Track-ready leather for $300 is nearly unheard of and immediately contributes to the exceptional value of the Cortech Apex V1 jacket.
CE Level 1 impact protection is reasonable in the shoulders and elbows, but back protection does not come standard and must be purchased separately. Hard TPU on shoulders and elbows encourage a slide, rather than a tumble and/or ripping of seams in impact zones.
A full-circumference zipper for connecting to pants creates 360-degree torso protection in case of a slide and is even required at most tracks. At $299 (before optional back protector), the Cortech Apex V1 is the best value for a track-level leather jacket.
The chameleon of the list, the REV’IT! Ignition 3 jacket can adapt to different temperatures and weather while still providing protection. The jacket features a full grain cowhide chassis where it counts, and mesh in non-impact areas. Seeflex CE level 2 armor is stitched to the outer shell of the jacket in the shoulders and elbows, keeping it in place in case of a fall. A back protector or internal armor will need to be purchased separately to complete the impact protection package.
The REV’IT! Ignition 3 Jacket also comes with both a removable thermal liner and removable waterproof liner. Basically a go-anywhere, do-anything leather jacket – just don’t forget to bring all the extra liners with you when you roll out for the weekend.
The Lolo is comfortable, generous, and curvy. The plus sizes are even more generous and are perfect for cruising and touring riding positions. Zippered gussets in the waist allow for even more hip room if needed.
The Lolo features standard thickness full-grain leather which offers exceptional abrasion resistance. CE level 2 armor in the elbows and shoulders offer great impact protection, but you’ll have to purchase a quality back protector separately. Protection from the elements is limited, and there’s no reflectivity on this already dark jacket, so keep that in mind when riding at night.
The extended sizing, beautiful supple leather, zippered waist flare gussets, and full set of impact protection make this one of the most accessible leather jackets for plus-sized women on the market.
Finding a leather jacket that fits and offers fantastic protection for curvier women can be a struggle. Not only does this jacket offer high-quality full grain leather for the best abrasion resistance and a thermal vest liner for warmth in colder weather, it also comes standard with CE level 2 armor in the back, elbows, and shoulders.
Going above and beyond, Wind and Throttle (distributor) and MotoGirl (maker) teamed up to create a custom version of this jacket to accommodate the larger arms of our friend, the female strongman competitor, who happens to love riding as much as she loves picking up heavy things. A great fit is half the battle when it comes to the best in safety.
Even without the custom fitting, the jacket will offer feature-hugging protection that every woman truly deserves regardless of size, making the price tag on the MotoGirl Valerie jacket unbeatable.
The Dainese Razon is a high-quality leather jacket for under $500 (every cent counts!). The chassis is built from the infamous track-spec Tutu cowhide leather, which is both butter-soft and extremely protective. CE certified composite protectors are included in the elbows and shoulders.
Without the typical Dainese race aesthetic, it’s what we like to call a “sleeper.” It could be worn by any rider on any bike without a second thought. The Dainese Razon also includes a removable thermal liner for cooler weather, and integrated chest vents to help battle the heat. This jacket is quite dark, so keep that in mind when riding at night.
The foundation of the ICON Hypersport 2 jacket is extremely strong and durable 1.2mm – 1.4mm TrackSpec leather. Like all ICON jackets, it comes standard with a full suite of D3O CE Level 1 armor in the shoulders, elbows and back. For comfort, the Hypersport 2 has flex zones in critical areas like biceps and behind the shoulders to maximize dexterity. To battle warm weather, the jacket features chest vents. There’s a pants-to-jacket connection zipper which allows the jacket to be converted to a 2-piece suit when connecting to the Hypersport 2 Pants.
Reflective printing helps you be seen at night, and a microfleece-lined collar adds that last magical touch that proves this jacket was created by riders for riders. If you like these features but want something even more race-oriented, try the Hypersport 2 Prime jacket.