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A Quest for a Motorcycle Jacket: Tired of Complaining – But Why Is It So Hard?

One woman’s quest for a motorcycle jacket across the Americas

For decades, female riders around the planet have voiced their frustration that no suitable gear for women is available and that they have to put up with ill-fitting clothes designed for their male counterparts. And now, where are we standing today? The industry is changing, and finally, a sigh of relief is felt throughout the community. If you look online, we never had so many choices regarding riding gear made to fit the female body.

A Quest for a Motorcycle Jacket

So how come that I, a woman in her best years with fairly average physical proportions and willing to splash some cash, am now riding across the Americas with nothing more than a protector shirt and a recreational rain jacket instead of a motorcycle jacket?

It all started when I had to finally admit that my old motorcycle jacket had had it after being my loyal travel companion for some years. I had six weeks before leaving Europe and starting my trip in California. That surely should be plenty of time to find something suitable. Well, it turned out it wasn’t.

None of the local shops stocked ADV gear for women; to their defence, there was a good choice for road gear available, but nothing that would equip me adequately for my upcoming adventure. I was left with ordering apparel online, which we all know is not easy. I placed an order for a motorcycle jacket and pants in two sizes, first in Germany and then from a different manufacturer in Italy. Unfortunately, both times the gear didn’t fit me. All of this took time and my departure date was nearly upon me. But why worry: in a few days, I would set off to America, the motherland of adventure riding with plenty of brands to choose from. Or so I thought.

A Quest for a Motorcycle Jacket

It turned out that the States, or more precisely, California wasn’t the woman adventure rider retail paradise I imagined. My desperate odyssey to find a motorcycle jacket for my trip began: I discovered that none of the major stores in either LA or San Francisco had much women’s gear in stock. I also dropped in to some smaller retailers along the way. I even prowled Craigslist and Facebook for second-hand stuff. Everywhere we arrived, I checked Google for shopping options. And every time a very attentive shop assistant was asked about women’s ADV gear, they pointed out politely that they could order me anything desired within a few days.

That startled me. Isn’t the point of a retail store that you can go in, touch things, try them on and if they are to your liking buy them on the spot? Money and goods exchange owners. Right? Why would anybody go into a store to order things that can also be ordered very comfortably from the couch at home? Where is the advantage?

My partner Pete never had that problem, however. He needed a few things and it was literally in and out for him with full shopping bags and a big smile on his face. Which was only wiped away when he saw my very real struggle to get gear. And at that point I wasn’t even choosy. I got more and more desperate during my hunt: I would have bought any jacket that fitted and would meet at least some of my requirements.

A Quest for a Motorcycle Jacket

Sure, I am not local, and maybe missed that one store that has it all for the female riders’ needs. So I turned to Facebook: where can you buy a suitable jacket in the area, I asked? But besides a few suggestions that I had already tried, everybody said the best is to order online. How is that the best? You can’t try the products on, you have to wait and on top of that, you will have to spend more money on returns and often on shipping as well. Plus, wait even longer to see your funds being refunded back into your account if the items are returned.

So where are we standing today? Yes, choices are available, but why haven’t the retailers jumped on them yet? Is it too great of a risk to stock women’s gear? Can’t they find safe solutions? For example, why not stock only every second size in a model so the female shopper can at least have a look at the products and get a better feeling for the sizing as well, and then order the respective size through the shop?

I am sure every woman rider is tired of complaining. Why does it have to be so difficult? However, as long as you can’t walk into a shop and find a good selection to try on, we should complain. Give the retailers feedback. Don’t accept lame apologies and explanations why the women’s section of their shop only is the size of a hotel closet. If they want your money, they should stock what is relevant to you.

motorcycle jacket: women's riding gear

Me, I haven’t given up yet, but we are in Mexico now, which makes my endeavour even harder. My next attempt will be a shop in Mexico City in a few weeks, which might have the right size for me in the model from the Italian manufacturer. So fingers crossed!

However, I also try to make my peace with the situation to enjoy my trip. A lot of things on long-haul travels are a matter of improvisation, and if I find no other way, I will have to live with my protector shirt and rain jacket. Who knows: I might become the first female rider who crosses Central America without a motorcycle jacket!

Words: Franziska Jenetzky

Images: Peter Domhill

Are you struggling to find fitting gear? Let us know in the comments below!

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Rather Be Riding 2018 August 13 at 2:04 PM

I absolutely am struggling to find well fitting ADV gear.

Pants and boots are my biggest challenge as I have a 28” inseam and size 5 feet. I am on the search for good waterproof / mid weight gear that is versatile for road and trail. I want functionality without feeling like I’m wearing an extra 30lbs of gear on my body.

Franziska 2018 August 22 at 4:53 PM

I know your frustration. Sounds like a mission impossible. Let me know when and where you find some! Good luck.

Tom Meyer 2018 August 16 at 2:24 PM

Full disclosure: I’m a dude. But I’ve struggled with the same issues since I have the physique of a muscular broomstick, and I’ve shopped for my woman rider friend, so I totally get your excellent points.

But here’s the solution I came up with… armored undergarments. There are some great mesh shirts (stretchy) that have all the usual armor as well as chest protectors. Cool, discrete and you can wear anything from a tank top under them or a rain jacket, sweatshirt or three piece suit over them. The same can be found in long pants and shorts. I recently bought a pair of Bowtex Kevlar Long Johns that have sewn-in pockets for knee and hip protectors. Now I can ride in my white 501 Levi’s. yay.
Good luck on your ride and gear search.

Franziska 2018 August 22 at 4:58 PM

Not a bad suggestion, Tom. I kind of do the same with my Protector-Shirt at the moment. Problem is if you ride road you want something on top with a high abrasion resistance level.

Linda 2019 April 17 at 4:57 AM

I’ve returned numerous pants and jackets bought online, some claiming to be “women’s” none fit well enough to keep. I’ve looked high and low and live in Southern California where I’d think there is a large enough market to stock women’s high end gear that fit normal sized women but haven’t found it.
So I’ve hit the internet again and just ordered the Klim Artemis women’s jacket and pants. It looked
Promising …it scheduled to arrive tommorrow I’ll keep my fingures crossed.

Cathy 2019 June 26 at 5:53 PM

Hear hear! I’m so tired of it I want to make my own, or start my own company for this need! And there’s usually only pink, purple or sometimes turquoise offered (plus obligatory black, which gets pretty hot in southern AZ).

Marcie 2019 July 14 at 2:57 PM

Yes! I’m in the same boat right now….been “shopping” online for a month (which is near impossible for clothing) and not finding anything near my measurements and really don’t want to waste time ordering and sending back 5 times! So frustrating 🙁

Renee 2019 July 28 at 5:33 PM

Agree x10! For my first year of riding, I wore a man’s jacket which is passable for my smaller upper body, but after the waist I am typical female, and wish there were extra coverage. My compromise is a less expensive but very adjustable women’s mesh jacket. I added better armor. Extras for weather and protection are – thermal layer, scarf or fleece neck wrap, and a high quality seam taped ski jacket for colder and wetter weather. Has been my go-to for 3 years. I am not yet riding in outback extremes, but commuting 300 days a year on backroads/freeway mix in SF Bay area. Which is in and of itself a daily adventure. I would love to see component systems where you could build your own…oh and trying on in a store would be heaven. I cruise through the women’s section in my local stores in about 30 seconds, not much to stop for on way to oil, lube, filters and pads. I think they market mostly to female passengers.

Sarah 2019 July 30 at 6:32 PM

I bought the Firstgear Kilimanjaro Women’s Jacket this past spring and it’s been great. I was a little worried it would be too warm in the summer, but the vents are fantastic and I’m comfortable riding in the low 80s. I’m a average-curvy gal with an “ample” chest (34DDD) and the Kilimanjaro fits true-to-size (medium). I am struggling to find pants, however.


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