Why do Motorcyclists wear Leather?


Motorcyclist in leather jacket poses on chopper

Motorcyclists know that the right gear can make all the difference between a soft slide or a broken bone, road rash, or even death after a crash. But what makes leather the first choice for most motorcyclists? And why do almost all motorcyclists swear by leather?

Protection & Style are the main reasons that motorcyclists wear leather. Leather offers an extra layer of defense if the rider should crash, helping prevent broken bones and road rash. Leather also looks so dam cool on a motorcyclist while they cruise down that highway.

Let’s break down why leather is clearly the best choice for motorcyclists, what are the pros and cons of leather, and if there are any other materials that show promise to perform as well as leather.

Why Leather is so good at Protecting Motorcyclists in crashes

Leather is a natural material that offers a unique combination of stretchiness and durability. It is this uniqueness that makes it so great at protecting motorcyclists in a crash, despite being a relatively thin material. Leather has an amazing amount of giving which is necessary to absorb the energy from a crash. This means that if you fall off your motorcycle wearing leather pants as opposed to jeans, chances are you’ll slide much further as leather can stretch up to 8% of its initial length without tearing!

The thicker areas of leather offer more resistance during a fall or impact, making sure that no matter how hard the surface rocks underneath the rider’s body weight, they won’t feel any of it. Motorcycle riders know that sometimes the ground can feel like a brick wall, and as such, it would be wise to wear as much protection as possible.

Leather Vs Other Materials

Leather Vs. Vegan Leather for Protecting Motorcyclists

If we know leather is one of if not the best materials for taking a slide off your motorcycle; how does vegan leather compare?

Artificial leather, vegan leather, or faux leather is actually a really great vegan alternative to animal leather. It is more commonly used in moto shoes, boots, and gloves than jackets and pants. But there are still some good options around. Vegan leather is actually more cost-efficient and though it is not genuine leather, it still provides good abrasion resistance for motorcyclists.

Leather Vs. Textile for Protecting Motorcyclists

When considering the purchase of protective wear for motorcycling, we essentially have two materials to choose from: leather and textiles. Textile material usually comprises a ‘shell’ and a ‘liner’. The shell is the outermost layer that travels away from the rider in the event of an accident; it’s designed to absorb impact forces and protect against penetration by sharp objects. The liner, meanwhile, is located close to the body (underneath the shell), where it performs such tasks as wicking moisture away from the skin. Sometimes this membrane will be supplemented with an insulating element for extra comfort.

The primary benefit of leather is its abrasion resistance; because even when punctured it tends not to tear like textile does (in the event of an accident). As well as this, leather is waterproof (for a certain amount of time); it stretches (without losing its protective qualities) and is comfortable to wear. It may even make you look like part of a well-oiled machine – if not one about to barrel roll down Mount Tamborine.

The flipside, however, is that leather does not breathe very well and in hot climates can become unbearably hot and unpleasant. Also, it costs more than textile materials and requires more care in order to maintain the integrity of the material when not under extreme stress.

Leather won’t stretch as much as textiles, which is a good thing because the desired level of protection doesn’t change from crash to crash, but one’s position on the bike does. So if you’re riding behind someone and have your arms stretched out for an hour, that’ll be different from when you’re hunched over into a tank-slapper at speed. The break-in period helps conditions leather so that it can move with the rider without restricting movement or causing harm.

Leather as a cultural icon for motorcyclists

Wearing a leather jacket or motorcycle overalls is as much of a statement as it is practical. In the same way that skiers wear bright-colored jackets and “ski-pant” combinations to make them visible on the slopes, motorcyclists have adopted this safety measure for bikes by wearing highly visible clothing but taking it a step further with vibrant colors and decorative features.

Leather has been adopted so strongly by motorcyclists because of its cultural significance. And let’s face it: It looks awesome!

Benefits of Leather other than Protection

Leaving aside crash protection, leather has a number of other benefits that make it a favorable material for motorcyclists. For one thing, it always looks incredible in photographs. Those images of the metal beasts colliding into each other with no regard for their riders? You can bet they’re wearing leathers. Or at least some

Leather is a very durable material that can withstand most weather conditions. It does really well in the cold and can be opened up to be breathable in the hot.

Leather has a certain waterproof quality to it that keeps you somewhat dryer in a light shower than other materials. Fully waterproofed leather can be a lot more expensive though!

Leather also has the ability to keep it looking clean and tidy no matter how much sand, grime, or muck gets thrown onto the material. There is something about it that just looks good, even if it is dirty.

The pros and cons of Leather

Pros:

  • Offers an extra layer of defense if the rider should crash, helping prevent broken bones and road rash.
  • Won’t stretch as much as textiles, meaning that whatever level of protection is desired stays consistent with any crash.
  • The break-in period helps to mold it into a form that doesn’t restrict movement or cause harm.
  • There’s something about wearing a jacket made of fine hides- something intrinsic and almost spiritual – that connects motorcyclists back to their earliest roots.

Cons:

  • More expensive than other material options for jackets, such as textile blends.
  • Easier to damage than textiles since leather will wear easier during a crash.
  • Has a longer break-in period, which can be hard for some who do not have patience.
  • Maybe less protective if the jacket is not broken in properly and the individual crashes while wearing it.
  • More expensive than other material options for jackets, such as textile blends.
  • Easier to damage than textiles since leather will wear easier during a crash.
  • Has a longer break-in period, which can be hard for some who do not have patience.
  • Maybe less protective if the jacket is not broken in properly and the individual crashes while wearing it.

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