The riding jacket protects the body in the event of a crash by providing padding in the kidney area and preventing injury and abrasions from sliding on rough surfaces.
A jacket should be roomy enough to stretch your arms and shoulders and wear warm clothing under, but not so roomy as to be billowy in the wind. Riding clothing should also be visible to other vehicles on the road. Since the upper body is the most visible on a motorcycle, the jacket should be clearly visible to approaching vehicles. This can be accomplished by purchasing a bright color jacket, one with reflective strips, or by sewing a patch that is brightly colored on the jacket.
Most riders have summer and winter jackets. Summer jackets are usually vented or perforated (have small pin holes throughout) in order to let air pass through while still providing protection. Winter jackets usually have a sewn in or zip out lining to provide extra warmth. Some manufacturers make an all-weather jacket that you zip out the lining in the summer and zip open vents. A jacket with front and back vents seem to work the best for overall comfort and ventilation.
Pants need to be thick and durable enough so that if you go down, the fabric will protect and endure the abrasive effect of the pavement. The pants should fit properly and not be loose and flowing as they can catch on the bike or be a distraction while riding.
Jeans are popular riding pants and are viewed as the traditional low cost "easy rider" garb, but they are not waterproof and do not provide as much protection as other alternatives. Manufacturers are producing jeans with kevlar threads to make them more durable and also with armor and protective inserts (see link below). Chaps are a kind of leather leg apron, that are worn over your riding pants, and offer front leg protection only.
Leather and textile pants, such as kevlar or cordura, provide more protection than just jeans alone or jeans with chaps. Textile, jeans, and leather pants are all available with armor and reinforcements which provide even more added protection.
Another alternative is a one piece riding suit. The good thing about a one-piece is that it you go down, there is no jacket to slide up and expose skin. These are usually made of leather with built in armor and are mainly used for racing.
The pros of leather is that it looks great and provides the most protection against abrasion. Leather also has a better chance of being usable after a spill. Most textiles need to be replaced. If it rains, leather is not waterproof but will likely keep you dry for awhile. If leather gets completely soaked, it can transfer dye to your clothing or skin. Leather can be hot on a warm, sunny day, but alternatively, can keep you warm on a cold, dreary day. Leather is an effective wind barrier. You can also purchase leather in a variety of bright colors but black is the most prevalent.
The pros of textiles, such as kevlar or cordura is that they are rain and wind resistant. Textiles are not as hot and not as heavy as leather. They do not dye your clothing or skin if they get wet. If they are padded or armored, they offer almost as much protection as leather. Most of them are washable under certain conditions. If you are in a spill, it is likely but not for certain you will have to replace.
Riding clothing is as much about personal choice as it is about cost, availability, and style. Buy the best and most comfortable you can afford.
Until next week, ride on!