How do I measure myself for a motorcycle jacket, pants, suit?

(related link: How do I measure the size of a motorcycle suit, jacket or pants that I have?)

We give a lot of fit advice on our site about how every style fits. We do this because nearly every style of jacket or pants fits a bit different (some fit a LOT different unfortunately). When we give sizing advice, we will relate the jacket sizes to a chest and belly measurement, and for pants we use waist and inseam measurements. So to be able for you to use that advice, you need to know how YOU measure up. The most reliable way to choose a size in new gear is to measure yourself in some key areas, and use the sizing advice we offer for each product. As a backup or a way of double checking, you can measure some gear that you already own which fits you well.

How to Measure Your Chest and Belly

1) Start by wearing clothes of a weight you think you’ll be wearing when you use the gear you want to buy. If it is a summer jacket, you’ll probably measure over a tee shirt. If you are buying a jacket for winter, you’ll measure over heavier clothing… maybe even a heated vest. If you are buying a sport race jacket, you might even put on a back protector you plan to use underneath.

2) To measure, you’ll ideally use a cloth measuring tape. If you don’t have one, then grab something flexible and non-stretch instead… a long belt, a non-stretch piece of rope, an extension cord, etc. and you can use that along with a regular tape measure or yard stick.

3) Ask a friend or enemy to help. Stand naturally, and ask the helper to put the tape around the fullest part of your chest, just under the arms, and pull the tape around the front. Don’t pull it tight, just barely take up the slack and get your reading. While this is going on, don’t puff up your chest or collapse your chest… just stand normally.

4) Now do the same thing on your belly, right around the fullest part, which is typically just above the navel and over the love handles. Again, don’t suck it in, or stick it out unnaturally… just relax.

Using Chest and Belly Measurements to Choose a Motorcycle Jacket Size

On our site, we describe the fit of each size jacket in terms of chest and belly size. Choosing a good size is primarily determined by your chest measurement. Some jackets are sold in chest sizes, and other are sold in “alpha” sizes like Small, Medium, Large, etc. But either way, you can use a chest measurement to pick a size because we tell you in our sizing advice what the max chest is for each size of jacket regardless of how they are sold. The idea is to pick the smallest size that will accommodate your chest, but no bigger.

Belly size: For some of us (like me), it is important to check to see that the belly size in a jacket you pick is going to be big enough in that area as well. Jackets are cut for the average person. And for most, the jacket will taper in size from the chest down to a smaller size in the lower part of the torso around your belly. Some people call the amount of the taper the “drop”. An average jacket has a “drop” of about 4” from chest to belly. A touring style jacket might only taper about 2”, and an aggressive sport leather jacket could drop as much as 8”. On the site, we give you an estimate of chest and belly for every size. So once you pick the ideal size jacket based on your chest, check to make sure the belly of the jacket is big enough for your belly. If you have a significant belly, you may find that a larger size will be required. If you find yourself going up more than one size to fit your belly, then you might want to consider a style with less of a drop so that you don’t have to oversize the chest, shoulders, etc to get a good fit on your lower torso.

For those that don’t have a belly, the fit of the lower part of the jacket will probably be fine. If the belly/waist area of the jacket is a bit bigger than you are, the fit can be customized with adjustment straps at the waist (most jackets have this feature). If you have an athletic build, you may want to look at more sporty jackets that have a “drop” that more closely matches your own measurements, say 4” or more.

How to Measure Your Waist and Inseam for Pants

Measuring your waist for motorcycle pants is a bit different than measuring for jeans. Street clothes, like jeans and slacks, ride lower on most men’s waist. Most motorcycle pants ride a bit higher on your waist, up around your navel, so when you measure your waist for motorcycle pants, you’ll want to measure yourself up higher, just below the navel. The exception to this is armored motorcycle jeans that will fit more like regular jeans, in which case you can measure a bit lower down.

To measure, the same advice applies to measuring for pants as with jackets…. 1) measure over the clothes you’d be wearing underneath; 2) Use a cloth tape or alternate material; 3) stand naturally while somebody takes the measurements… don’t suck in or push out… just stand there.

Inseam: Inseam is the measurement from the crotch seam in pants to the end of the leg. Pick a GOOD friend to help. Grab the end of the tape and lightly hold it right where the seams of your pants come together just below the bottom of the zipper (the spot where all four seams collide). Then your friend can lightly pull the tape snug to the point where you want the bottom of your pants to end. For most, this will be about the floor if you are bare foot or to the top of the sole of your shoe. You’ll find the inseam measurement you get will probably be the same size as what you normally purchase in jeans. When you wear pants on a bike, you’d be in a sitting position, maybe even a crouch if you have a sport bike, and pants tend to ride up when sitting or crouching, so you’ll want to err on the side of longer rather than shorter when checking the inseam.

Using Waist and Inseam Measurements to Choose Motorcycle Pants

No magic here folks… you’ll be looking for a size that fits your waist as closely as possible. Different people have more or less tolerance for how tight they wear their pants, so you’ll have to be the judge. Some pants are offered in varying inseam lengths and others aren’t. Hopefully the pants you want will have a standard inseam that will work for you. Altering inseam sizes on motorcycle pants is typically a pain and you’ll want to avoid that option if possible. If the pants are much too long or short for you, it is likely the the position of the knee armor will be wrong too which may need to be moved and there are typically zippers, snaps, etc at the pant end that also become a problem for an alteration, so alterations are not advisable.

Since motorcycle pants fit a bit higher on the waist, those with a bigger belly might face some challenges keeping the pants up. If that is your situation, I have a few suggestions…. 1) there are lots of armored jeans you can wear lower on your waist and use a belt, 2) you can buy pants that have a connection zipper to a jacket,so when you wear the pants, the jacket can help hold them up, 3) use clip on suspenders. Personally, I love suspenders for this purpose as opposed to wearing tight pants and/or a tight belt… UGH!

Other tips:

Sleeve length is HARD to quantify for motorcycle jackets. There are a couple issues that make accurate measuring problematic. Many jackets have pre-curved sleeves so your measurements for sleeve length will vary greatly by which “track” you use over the shoulder and down the arm… lower below the armor, on the side, up higher, so two different people never get the same numbers. Also, there is the issue of armor thickness, which will add inches to a sleeve measurement that doesn’t translate to the length of your bare arm. My best advice is this: most jackets will work for most people. Sleeve length is sometimes less important because many people wear gloves that will cover sleeve ends anyway, and motorcycle jackets are often cut short anyway because you don’t want any excessive sleeve length past the elbow when riding. If you commonly have to buy tall clothing, then look for jackets and pants with a tall size selection, because regular jackets will likely be too short. These almost universally add 1 1/2 to 2 inches to the sleeve and torso length.

We have search functions on our site that will show you all the products that come in tall, shorts, etc. Look for the “Hard to Fit” link just below the search box.

Paul, 03-14-14