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The Guide to Off-road Jackets

>> Ashley Benson

If you ride off-road, you probably already know that street motorcycle jackets have little use when you venture off the asphalt. An off-road motorcycle jacket is made to have special perks and properties that make it perfect for adventuring past the pavement and into the dirt. When buying your jacket for the off-road terrain, you'll be a tad bit less worried about how your jacket will handle if it comes in contact with asphalt than how well it's going to keep the terrain and weather out of unpleasant places. Sure, most off- road riders have a tendency to find themselves biting the dust more often, but the intensity of their crashes tend to be far less extreme and off-road riders have a lot more specialized protection for those crashes that are tough on the body.

Wearing for the Weather

The main reason to wear a jacket when riding off-road is purely to keep the rider comfortable in uncomfortable conditions. If the weather is perfect, many off-road riders won't bother wearing a jacket. Often, other off-road gear such as jerseys are the only thing a rider will need to throw on his back. And since a lot of off-road riding is done during the summer, a jacket would only make you more uncomfortable.

But when the weather isn't as willing to play nice, many riders won't let it get in the way of their extracurricular activities so instead of calling it quits, they throw on a jacket like the Klim Revolt Pullover and keep riding. It's important, therefore, for off-road jackets to be capable of keeping a rider dry and warm in bad conditions. This means that the type of material used to make the jacket should be water proof but still light weight. A good material to keep an eye out for while shopping for your off-road jacket is one made of nylon, polyester or Goretex with a polyurethane coating.

Any area where water may try to seep in should also be paid close attention to. Zippers and seams should be properly sealed or the jacket just won't do its job. This doesn't only matter for the main zipper but for any zippers on the jacket. Many off-road jackets have vents in order to keep you cool when it isn't raining but should be able to zip close and not let in water if it is. Pockets on jackets also come in handy for storing extra parts, tools or gear that you may want to take with you. If you intend to keep these things in your pocket as you ride and keep water out if it's raining, these pockets should also be able to zipper close. Zippers have never been as important as they are on a motorcycle jacket.


The most popular form of protection for off-road riders is body armor. The frequency and types of falls are very different on an off-road vehicle than on a street bike. This means that riders need a more specialized type of protection. Riders will wear individual armor pieces such as chest protectors, like this Troy Lee Designs CP 5900 Chest Protector, and knee guards rather than just a jacket.

Of course, off-road motorcycle jackets still have a bit of extra protection than riding without one. Just like street motorcycle jackets, these jackets add a little padding in certain areas and often times have the plastic armor inserts to protect the high impact parts. If you're particularly worried about safety, you can choose to wear a jacket for the extra piece of mind. Many riders subscribe to the idea that the more armor they have keeping their parts and pieces in top condition, the better. And, depending on where you ride, you might find a good jacket to be the perfect weapon against rogue branches and high bushes.


Because of the strenuous nature of riding off-road, you want your jacket to be something that you can wear comfortably. Jackets can often cause a rider to lose mobility and having the correctly fitted jacket can eliminate this problem. If a jacket is too big, the extra fabric will get in the way. If the jacket is too small, it will constrict your movement and limit your range of motion.

Often time, people buy a jacket in the store and wonder why it doesn't seem to fit correctly once they're on their bike. When you try on a jacket, make sure to remember that you'll be wearing it in the position that you ride your bike in, which can be a bit different than if you're just standing upright.

A lot of off-road jackets will also have a nice fluffy layer of fleece around the neckline and cuffs. Hidden under the waterproof layer of fabric, this layer is meant to keep you warmer as well as make your jacket that extra bit more comfortable. It may seem like such a little detail, but this extra fleece can really help to make your jacket more pleasant to wear.

A jacket for off-road riding must have ways to cool off just as much as it should keep you warm in gloomy weather. Off-road riding can require a lot of energy and will make a rider exert quite a bit of effort. This means that heat will also need to escape from the jacket. The Klim Traverse Jacket is perfect for this. Built in vents allow you to regulate how much heat stays in or is let out depending on how hot or cold you may be. We also like the off-road jackets that have zippers around the arms which can be undone to turn the jacket into a vest. This feature is particularly useful if you prefer to wear a jacket for the extra protection but need to stay cool.

Packable Jackets

It's not raining. Actually, the weather is quite nice. But the weather person claims there are supposed to be some showers throughout the day. You hate wearing a jacket while you ride off-road but you don't want to take the chance of getting very far from your loading spot and getting stranded in the rain. What do you do?

Many off-road riders have found the uses of always carrying around a portable jacket such as this Klim Stow Away Jacket when they ride no matter the weather. Maybe you've been caught by surprise by some bad weather and been unprepared before or you just don't want to take that chance. Either way, a portable jacket is an extremely lightweight windbreaker type jacket that you can easily pack with you just in case. These jackets aren't particularly helpful in a torrential downpour but will give you enough protection from unaccounted for rain or cold fronts long enough to get back to your launch spot and gear up for the change in conditions.

It doesn't matter how hardcore of a rider you are, being cold and wet while riding sucks. Off-road jackets are perfect for keeping you riding even if Mother Nature isn't feeling up to giving you sunshine. After all, riding is what it's all about.

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