Women's. Riding. Gear. If you're a woman rider, those three words have probably been the source of frustration, maybe even a little anger.
Yes, it can be hard to find gear that fits. And I know that wearing gear that matches your personal style and lifestyle is important. I totally get that. Finding gear that fits your body and your style is even harder and sometimes maybe impossible.
I may not be able to solve all your gear problems in one article, but I can provide some tips on how to narrow down choices and find what you’re looking for. I'm also going to give you some specific gear suggestions based on your body type. The good part is that women's gear has changed a lot since I started riding in 2003. Back then, the concept of women’s riding jeans, for example, was just a dream, as were GORE-TEX riding suits, gloves and boots or adventure-touring gear specifically made for women.
Step one: Three rules of fitment
Before jumping into the sizing aspect of women’s gear, I want to share three shopping rules that you should follow as you evaluate and try on gear to make sure you understand what to expect. These three steps could save you countless hours of figuring out why something does or doesn’t fit correctly.
- Your gear should always feel most comfortable while seated on your motorcycle, not when standing, walking around or sitting on a chair. So sit on your motorcycle (before you ride in it) in your gear to see if you made the right choice. If you walk around too long with all of your gear zipped up, you might talk yourself out of the perfect outfit because you’re putting too much emphasis on the standing position and not the riding one.
- Try on your gear in the way you will wear it the most. For example, if you bought a mesh jacket that comes with a light liner, but have no interest in using that liner, then take it out immediately and evaluate your comfort level that way.
- Snugness is going to be more than you might normally be comfortable with. Keep in mind that riding gear is safety equipment. In order for this safety equipment to work, it must stay in place on your body. Certainly, it should not feel "glued on," but it will fit more snugly than normal clothes.
With those tips in mind, now it’s time to get some numbers together. Namely, your measurements. Keep in mind that depending on your body type (for example, if you have a shorter or longer torso) where B and C might fall are going to vary, so don't worry if your measurement point doesn't match perfectly with the image below.
Step two: Measurements and body type
Whenever I help a woman rider online, I ask for these key measurements and information:
- Height: This helps you (and me) understand your proportions. If you are four feet, 11 inches tall with a 37-inch bust, that jacket will fit very differently than if you are five feet, six inches tall with a 37-inch bust.
- Bust: This is the fullest measurement, not your underbust or bra size.
- Beltline: This is your real waist, where you would button your jeans or pants.
- Hips or bottom: This is the fullest part around your butt. Depending on your body type, your hip bones may or may not be the fullest part. Chances are that if you have a fuller body type like pear or plus, you will be measuring it lower, around the bottom of your butt.
I know this is something you may not be used to doing, since we don’t normally measure ourselves when we go shopping. But for online shopping, knowing your physical measurements tells you everything you need to know about your shape and your proportions. If you're not sure about how to measure yourself, this video explains the process.
Based on those measurements, figure out which body type you fall into, because some gear fits better for certain body types. For example, if the difference between B and C is about eight to 10 inches (such as a 30-inch waist and 40 inches at the hips), you fall in the pear shape. If you are slender and all three measurements are similar, look at the petite or slim section below. If your measurements are bigger, look at the plus size or curvy section below. There are different options for different body shapes.
Finally, now that you have your measurements and understand your body type, consider any other fit issues you usually have. Is there a part of your body that seems to be the most challenging to fit? For example, I’m five feet, two inches tall and have a 28.5-inch inseam, so I have a very, very short waist for my height. Most shirts on me fall down almost to my knees. So I avoid most jackets that are three-quarter length (which means the jacket hem falls past your pant pockets) and prefer waist-length, sport-cut jackets.
Now we can start shopping!
Women's gear suggestions for pear shape
One of the most difficult challenges as a woman is when your top half is considerably smaller than your bottom half. For these women I recommend Rev'it pants because they’re available in short length up to size 42, so if you have up to a 41-inch to 42-inch hip measurement, they are fantastic. But they can be limiting if you need extra thigh space (more than about 20 to 21 inches per thigh).
Here are some products to check out if you fit in this body type.
For adventure-touring riding: The Rev'it! Horizon 2 jacket and pants, the Klim Artemis jacket and pants. The only challenge with the Artemis is if you have a very short inseam (less than 28 inches) you may have to mix the jacket with a different brand of pants.
Women's gear suggestions for petite and slim shapes
These choices are going to be the slimmest options everywhere, especially in the arms, legs and knees. The Italian companies (Dainese, Spidi and Alpinestars) will always give you the slimmest choices all around and a few companies like Rokker (Switzerland) also offer a very lean fit. You can easily shop within all of these brands and find plenty of choices in all riding lifestyles. Among the examples below, Rev'it! offers the most generous cut.
Women's gear suggestions for plus sizes and curvy body shape
The options below are jackets and pants I’ve personally experienced fitting women riders with. Many of these options can accommodate 45-inch to 50-inch busts, waists and hips. Some are also offered in plus sizes.
For city riding and cafe racer style: The Cortech Lolo jacket, Cortech Runaway jacket, Cortech LNX 2.0 jacket, Bull-it Tactical Slim Fit jeans, Bull-it Tactical Straight Fit jeans with full armor, and the Oxford Super Leggings. These three jeans and leggings are available in short and long sizes.
For sport riding and track use: This is the toughest category. If you are over a U.S. size 14, you will have to go custom. Some companies that provide custom race leathers are Vanson Leathers, Zooni Leathers and Comet Racing Leathers.
Other custom options include Dainese Custom Works, which you can buy directly through Dainese, Motoport, a California company specializing in sport-touring, touring and adventure gear, and Teiz Motorsports in Chicago, which specializes in long-distance touring and adventure-touring one-piece textile suits.
Since the major brands we carry may not meet everyone's needs, there are some smaller American companies that offer something different in terms of style or fit. A few examples are Gigi Montrose, Raven Rova, which specializes in a curvy to plus size sport-touring, adventure-touring leathers and textiles, Sportbike Chic, specializing in plus size riding jeans and women’s riding accessories, and Stellar Moto, which specializes in classic American, cafe-style denims, jumpsuits and leather jackets.
I know these suggestions won't fit every female body type and shape on the planet, but I hope these tips help take some of the frustration out the three words, women's riding gear.