Today we take great pride to introduce a special contributor:
Josh Dirnfeld of Rubberside Down – Motorsport Clothing.
Choosing the right riding jacket.
As the owner of Rubber Side Down Motorsport Clothing, I get one question asked of me more frequently than any other. The question is this; “Which is better, a textile jacket or a leather jacket“.
Obviously there is no short answer to this question. Therefore, in the following editorial, I will try to shed some light on this topic in as straightforward a manner as possible. My goal here is to help you with your decision when the time comes for you to buy your next, or first, riding jacket.
When choosing your motorcycle jacket your decision will be almost always
be between synthetic or leather.
If you use your bike often, travel at reasonable speeds and live in a hot climate, it would be wise to invest in a textile jacket with some sort of an air flow system. This is a synthetic jacket made of a mesh-type fabric that allows air to penetrate through the jacket and onto the riders body. Most, although not all of these jackets, also have textile, or “Cordura” ( a ballistic nylon ) panels on them. In recent years these panels have been designed to cover the mesh when weather dictates. Textile riding jackets usually have good protective armor and offer good crash and slide protection. Cordura is offered in different thicknesses, with the thickest being the most abrasion and tear resistant. The number before the “D” (short for Denier) , ie. 600 D is a unit of measurement which denotes the thickness of the nylon used to construct the jacket. The higher the number, the thicker the ballistic nylon thread used.
In areas where the weather is predominantly warmer, the textile gear is easier to ride in. Leather, however, offers the best protection, is the most abrasion resistant and is verall safest as far as protection is concerned. Keep in mind we are talking about motorcycle leather here. This is generally between 1.1 to 1.4 mm in thickness.
Leather also works great when the weather cools down, as leather cuts the wind beautifully. It is a good idea however, to carry a rain suit in your luggage when riding in a leather jacket, as the wind chill factor can be significant and a leather jacket offers less water resistance as an all season Cordura jacket. It is also considerably more difficult to completely waterproof leather riding gear, although it can be done to a significant degree.
For those a little unsure as to which material is best suited for them, textile vs leather, hopefully the following pros and cons list will help.
- Can last a lifetime if cared for properly.
- The abrasion resistance in a slide far surpasses that of a textile jacket.
- Are often less expensive than a “high end ” synthetic jacket.
- Leather jackets are generally cut to fit tighter than synthetic jackets.
The leather is designed to act as a “second skin” when and if one does
come off the bike. The looser the leather, the greater the chance it will bunch-up and catch on the pavement during a fall or a slide. This can throw the rider into a tumble rather than a slide. Ideally you want to slide in a leather jacket and not tumble.
- Leather jackets have a history, tradition and style which are hard to beat.
Think,* Marlon Brando.*
- Sport bike leather jackets as well as touring and cruiser jackets have very
effective body armor sewn into, or placed inside a pocket on the jacket
- Leather jackets can often be worn as a regular jacket when not riding, due
to the large variety of available styles.
- Leather jackets do not show dirt nearly as easily as textile.
- Leather is usually heavier in weight than their synthetic counterparts.
- It is not as waterproof as a good textile (cordura) jacket, and perhaps not the best choice if most of your riding will be touring, unless you are certain you will not be encountering any wet weather.
- Many leather jackets are fashion jackets and should *NEVER* be worn for motorcycling. The leather used in these jackets is very thin and will shred easily in a fall. People must understand that all leather is not created equal.
- At first, leather jackets feel heavier and more restrictive than textile jackets. This feeling soon disappears once the jacket is broken in and stretched to conform to the natural body contours of the rider. The leather jacket then becomes extremely comfortable.
- Leather jackets are traditionally shorter in length than textile jackets.
- In cold weather, a leather jacket is generally not as warm as a synthetic jacket with a winter lining.
Synthetic (Cordura) jackets
- Often brightly colored with reflective striping. ( this is becoming much more common on leather jackets these days )
- Often 100% waterproof, textile jackets are an excellent choice for touring.
- Most Cordura jackets come with a zip out lining to cope with extremes in weather, again making it a good choice for touring or year round riding. Bear in mind however that quality leather riding jackets often come with zip out quilted liners. These liners are similar to those found in the textile jackets, although other weather proofing membranes found in textile clothing may be missing in the leather jacket.
- For hot days there are special ‘airflow’ fabrics such as mesh, that allow the moving air to penetrate through the textile jacket to keep the rider cool.
- Textile jackets are lighter in weight and longer in length.
- The synthetic materials do not last as long as leather, and the styling becomes dated much sooner. Cordura, or textile jackets begin to look “grubby” sooner and the color tends to fade faster than leather.
- The abrasion resistance of textile garments is considerably less than leather, yet they do stand up to abrasion quite well.
- Textile jackets are often more expensive than their leather counterparts.
- The ‘airflow’ fabric mentioned above offers no waterproofing qualities. Recently, jacket manufacturers have incorporated Cordura panels into the jacket which offers the rider the ability to cover up the airflow mesh fabric if the weather turns nasty.
- Cordura jackets are not generally worn as regular clothing, except in extreme weather conditions.
- Cleaning textile jackets can prove to be difficult, as the exterior layer of
weather proofing can be damaged. There are, however, some excellent products on the market these days to deal with the waterproofing issue if your jacket is not already fully waterproof. One of these products is called Nickwax.
In summary, the final decision as to what to buy is obviously yours and only you can make it. However, if you consider all the variables above when buying your riding jacket, chances are you will buy a jacket best suited to your own riding needs and be happy with your purchase.
Josh Dirnfeld (owner)
RUBBER SIDE DOWN