Are Flannels Good For Motorcycle Riding?

Motorcycle riding has long been associated with leather jackets and heavy-duty gear. However, in recent years, a new trend has been gaining traction among riders: the use of flannel shirts. This shift isn't just about fashion; it's a practical choice that combines comfort, style, and, surprisingly, safety.

In this article, we'll explore why flannels have become a popular choice for motorcycle enthusiasts, delving into their benefits, safety considerations, and the innovative armored options now available.

The Appeal of Flannels for Motorcycle Riders

  1. Comfort and Versatility: Flannels offer a level of comfort that's hard to match with traditional motorcycle gear. The soft, brushed fabric feels gentle against the skin, allowing for extended wear without discomfort. Unlike leather jackets that can be stiff and restrictive, flannels provide a full range of motion, crucial for controlling your bike effectively.

Moreover, biker flannels are incredibly versatile. They can be worn as an outer layer in mild weather or as a mid-layer under a jacket in colder conditions. This adaptability makes them suitable for various riding conditions and seasons.

  1. Temperature Regulation: One of the key advantages of flannels is their excellent temperature regulation properties. The natural fibers (typically cotton or wool) used in flannels are breathable, allowing air to circulate and helping to prevent overheating during rides. At the same time, the fabric's structure provides insulation, keeping riders warm in cooler weather.

This temperature management is particularly beneficial for long-distance riders who may encounter varying weather conditions. The ability to stay comfortable throughout the ride can significantly enhance the overall experience and reduce fatigue.

  1. Durability: Quality flannels shirts are known for their durability. The tight weave of the fabric makes it resistant to wear and tear, a crucial factor for motorcycle gear. While they may not offer the same level of abrasion resistance as leather, modern high-quality flannels can withstand the rigors of regular riding surprisingly well.

Many motorcycle-specific flannels are now made with reinforced stitching and higher-quality fabrics to enhance their durability further. This means they can withstand the stress of regular use and exposure to the elements, making them a long-lasting addition to a rider's wardrobe.

  1. Style and Casual Appeal: Let's face it: style matters to many riders. Flannels offer a more casual, relaxed look compared to traditional motorcycle gear. This aesthetic appeal allows riders to seamlessly transition from the road to social settings without looking out of place.

The variety of colors and patterns available in flannels also allows riders to express their personal style. From classic red and black checks to more subdued solid colors, there's a flannel to suit every taste.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to specialized motorcycle jackets, flannels are generally more affordable. This makes them an attractive option for new riders or those on a budget. The versatility of flannels also adds to their value, as they can be worn both on and off the bike.

Safety Considerations

While comfort and style are important, safety remains the paramount concern for any motorcycle rider. It's crucial to understand both the limitations and potential of flannels in this regard.

  1. Abrasion Resistance: Traditional flannels, while durable for everyday wear, don't offer the same level of abrasion resistance as leather or specialized synthetic materials. In the event of a slide, a standard flannel may not provide adequate protection against road rash.

However, this limitation has led to innovations in the motorcycle apparel industry, which we'll explore in the next section.

  1. Weather Protection: Flannels offer moderate protection against wind and light rain, but they're not waterproof. In severe weather conditions, riders should consider additional protective layers or gear.
  2. Visibility: Many of these shirts come in dark colors or patterns, which may reduce visibility on the road. Riders opting for flannels should consider adding reflective elements to their gear or choosing flannels with built-in reflective features for increased visibility.

Armored Flannels: The Best of Both Worlds

Recognizing the appeal of flannels and the need for safety, motorcycle gear manufacturers have developed a game-changing solution: armored flannels. These innovative garments combine the comfort and style of traditional flannels with the protection of modern motorcycle gear.

  1. Integrated Armor: Armored flannels typically include removable or built-in armor at key impact zones, such as the elbows, shoulders, and back. This armor is usually made from advanced materials like D3O, which is flexible for comfort but hardens upon impact to absorb and disperse energy.

The inclusion of armor significantly enhances the protective capabilities of the flannel, addressing one of the main safety concerns of traditional flannels.

  1. Abrasion-Resistant Materials: Many armored flannels incorporate abrasion-resistant materials in their construction. This can include Kevlar lining in high-impact areas or the use of fabrics like Cordura, which offers excellent tear and abrasion resistance while maintaining a fabric-like appearance and feel.
  2. Retention Systems: To ensure that the armor stays in place during a crash, quality armored flannels feature robust retention systems. This might include secure pockets for removable armor or strategically placed seams and reinforcements for built-in protectors.
  3. Safety Certifications: Reputable manufacturers ensure their armored flannels meet or exceed safety standards. Look for certifications like CE approval for the armor and the garment as a whole. These certifications provide assurance that the flannel has been tested and approved for motorcycle use.
  4. Enhanced Visibility Features: Many armored flannels incorporate reflective elements or high-visibility colors into their design. These features can be subtle, maintaining the biker flannel's casual look while significantly improving the rider's visibility on the road.
  5. Weather Resistance: Some armored flannels come with additional weather-resistant features, such as water-repellent treatments or windproof membranes. These enhancements extend the versatility of the armored flannel shirt, making it suitable for a wider range of riding conditions.

Choosing the Right Flannel for Motorcycle Riding

When selecting a flannel for motorcycle riding, consider the following factors:

  1. Intended Use: Are you planning on using the flannel for short city rides or long-distance touring? Your riding style and typical conditions should influence your choice.
  2. Safety Features: If safety is a top priority (as it should be), opt for an armored flannel from a reputable manufacturer. Ensure it meets relevant safety standards.
  3. Fit: A proper fit is crucial for both comfort and safety. The flannel should be snug enough to keep armor in place but not so tight as to restrict movement.
  4. Material: Look for durable, abrasion-resistant materials. For non-armored flannels, thicker, higher-quality fabrics will offer better protection.
  5. Visibility: Consider flannels with reflective elements or pair your flannel with high-visibility accessories.
  6. Layering Potential: Choose a flannel that works well as part of a layering system for versatility in different weather conditions.


Flannels have earned their place in the world of motorcycle gear, offering a compelling blend of comfort, style, and, with recent innovations, safety. While traditional flannels may have limitations in terms of protection, the advent of armored flannels has addressed many of these concerns, providing riders with a versatile option that doesn't compromise on safety.

As with any motorcycle gear, the key is to make an informed choice based on your specific needs and riding conditions. Whether you opt for a traditional flannel for casual rides or invest in an armored version for added protection, the humble flannel shirt has proven itself to be more than just a fashion statement in the motorcycling world.

Ultimately, the best gear is the gear that you'll wear consistently. If the comfort and style of a flannel motivate you to gear up every time you ride, then it's a valuable addition to your motorcycling wardrobe. Just remember to always prioritize safety and choose gear that offers appropriate protection for your riding style and conditions.


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