Asking yourself the question, “what is the best motorcycle rain jacket” normally happens just after you have arrived somewhere soaking wet.
There are fewer, more miserable feelings than that moment when you realise the rain has made it through your jacket and you can feel the cold water soaking into your clothes.
I’ll be avoiding camper vans on the North Coast 500 in Scotland in a couple of weeks and every time I look at the weather forecast, it is either raining, about to rain or has just rained.
Consequently, I have a keen interest in knowing which is the best motorcycle rain jacket on the market. Search the internet or walk into a motorcycle dealer, and you are confronted with rack after rack of options.
Ask other riders, and naturally, they will all tell you what they bought is best. Then there is the long list of industry terms such as Gore-Tex, Sinagua, Cordura and a host of other ways in which each jacket will claim that it is the best motorcycle rain jacket available.
So here is what I have learned after getting soaked through on a couple of occasions.
Do I want an Armoured Motorcycle Rain Jacket?
Any decent motorcycle jacket is going to come with armour. The armour you are looking for will be listed as “CE Approved”.
The letters “CE” are the abbreviation of the French phrase “Conformité Européene” which literally means “European Conformity”. The Approved bit after the CE is important because the words Tested and Certified can also appear and are both worthless.
Tested means it has been through the testing process, and that is all. It might have failed the test. Certified is a little better, yet the armour might be certified as utter junk.
CE Approved armour is the label you are looking for and ideally, you want CE Approved Level 2. If it is CE Approved armour it will have this label.
1. This indicates it is protective equipment for motorcyclists (ISO 7000-2618)
2. This is the Category and type of protection
3. Low temperature impact test (-10 ° C) validated
4. High temperature (+40 ° C) impact test validated
5. Performance level (1 or 2)
Laminate Vs Liner
Some motorcycle rain jackets repel water and others have an integral waterproof liner.
Laminate jackets are normally the ones that will repel water. The outer material of the jacket, while also being hard-wearing will not allow water to pass through to the layers below.
Jackets with liners, such as the Sinaqua one in my trusty RST Jacket have an integral waterproof liner (or layer) below the hard-wearing outer layer. You can’t see or feel the liner, it is part of the jacket.
Ignoring design and colour schemes, laminate and liner jackets will look and feel pretty much the same. They will both come with options for internal thermal linings you can take out in summer; air vents; an array of different pockets in which to hide your keys; and options for adjusting the fit.
The big differences are cost, durability, and prolonged time in the rain.
Laminate Motorcycle Rain Jackets
Before Oxford launched their Mondial range of motorcycle jackets, laminate jackets commanded eye-watering prices.
The big plus for laminate motorcycle jackets is that you are prepared regardless of what the weather does.
I don’t own a laminated jacket – more on this later – but I have ridden in some of the most biblical levels of rain using Oxford’s laminated motorcycle Mondial trousers.
A five hour soaking across France and Holland and the slightly shorter three-hour deluge to the ferry at Portsmouth are the two rides that come immediately to mind.
On both occasions, I stayed dry. The laminated trousers performed exactly as advertised and laminated jackets work the same way.
Liner Motorcycle Rain Jackets
Motorcycle jackets that use a waterproof liner are much more common and typically are more cost-effectively priced.
The fourth generation of the RST Alpha jacket that I use most days costs – as I write this – less than £100, so I’ll assume it is about to be phased out. I’ve had mine four if not five years and it is still as good as ever.
So what is the difference?
To know whether laminate or liner makes for the best motorcycle rain jacket depends on a couple of different things.
Long rides in the rain wearing a liner based jacket can result in the outer material becoming soaked. The liner stops the water getting to you, but when the outer layer of the jacket is soaked, the jacket becomes heavier and colder. The cold isn’t only caused by the outer material being rain-soaked. As you ride, the evaporation caused by the wind further chills the jacket.
Laminate jackets typically cost more, and if the outer fabric gets a tear or hole worn in it, that is the waterproofing pretty much screwed for that part of the jacket.
I fixed a small hole in my RST Alpha – a result of me low siding in the snow – with a glue gun. The Sinaqua liner was undamaged so all I was doing was sealing the outer material.
I should point out that this method of fixing their jackets isn’t supported or approved by RST.
And the Best Motorcycle Rain Jacket is …
Neither of them. Here is how you buy the best motorcycle rain jacket.
Most importantly, a motorcycle jacket should be comfortable when it is entirely “buttoned-up”. You are going to wear this jacket a lot, so it needs to be a good fit. Not so tight it restricts your movement. Not so lose it lets in the rain.
Second, ensure you can fit CE Approved armour in the shoulders, elbows and back. Most reputable jacket manufacturers supply their jackets with shoulder and elbow armour, just remember to add a CE Level 2 Approved back protector.
There are two types of back protector, those that insert into the lining in the back of the jacket or the full-size version you wear, and then put the jacket on over it. I prefer the full-size version and so went up a jacket size when I bought my RST Alpha.
Next on the list comes ensuring the jacket is at least showerproof. If it is a waterproof laminate or Sinaqua style liner jacket, you have that covered.
Then decide whether you would like a removable inner thermal liner. If you ride all year, this is almost a compulsory requirement.
And finally, having done all of that, add an Oxford Rain Seal All Weather Over Jacket to your shopping cart.
These are the best motorcycle rain jackets. They are quite simply awesome.
They pack down small enough to go in a medium-sized tail tidy or tank bag, are 101% fully waterproof, and the colour helps you to stand out – Very useful when car drivers are struggling to see through the rain on their windscreens.
They cost less than the average tank of petrol, take no time to dry and even offer extra warmth when the temperate drops.
And so while everyone else is wondering if Alpinestars is better than, RST, Rukka, Weise or Rev’it, you can be out riding the bike, even if it is raining.