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Why is textiles better than leather?

Another motorcycle season has passed and it’s time to analyze what it was like, what to prepare for next. I took out my outfit and remembered choosing my first motorcycle jacket. Then, in principle, I wanted a leather jacket, like all true bikers, because … just because that’s the way it is. Young green. I thought about it. Indeed, many people choose leather equipment because of the usual stereotype that a motorcyclist should wear leather.

Where did it come from? Yes, as well as a helmet-helmet – when there was no such advanced production of equipment, they survived as best they could. Remember the “watermelon crust” helmet, did you see what was inside it? And when it was considered a good defense.

At the dawn of the motorcycle world, there were no such advanced materials as Kevlar, Cordura and other membrane developments that were able to protect against moisture, wind and control thermoregulation between the body and the environment. Leather was a traditional material, the legends of which passed from father to son.

So it turns out that the first reason that prompts people to look at leather models first is hidden in a banal stereotype and not wanting to evaluate the entire lineup. After all, grandfathers bequeathed that there is nothing better than skin … but even earlier, people believed that the earth was flat, and witches were burned at the stake, someone is still being treated with plantain … and progress, meanwhile, does not stand still. People are becoming more humane and choose protection that is not related to the slaughter of animals.

What else is more profitable than leather equipment today?

Wear resistance

The first thing that fans of leather equipment will remember is motorcycle overalls for circuit racing. Already someone who, and motorcycle riders wipe the asphalt more often than others, so their protection is one of the most wear-resistant. Many people say: “Since the motorcycle suit is leather and is designed for falling on the track, then all leather equipment is good.” But. Let’s take an objective look at modern overalls.

Yes, they are leather, but apart from leather there is a huge number of additions, about which not everyone remembers. What about the synthetic inserts where the most wear is? Synthetic leather is starting to be used everywhere to replace those places that often rub in. Yes, they are not in every model now, but they are no longer a rarity. If you make a jumpsuit entirely of eco-leather with Kevlar, then the price of such equipment will become indecently expensive even against the background of not small amounts of circuit races. Maybe that’s why natural leather has not yet been taken out of use? However, many teams are already considering faux leather overalls for the future. What about elasticated inserts? Yes, that “accordion” on the knees, elbows and lower back … also neoprene cuffs, we add built-in protection here, as well as sliders … it turns out that the leather in the overalls is not the most important thing that saves the pilot at the moment of a fall.

An important role is played by the leather itself, its processing, type and its thickness. Leather is beneficial for overalls for its elasticity and softness, because textiles are coarser in structure, and leather has been used to make clothes for centuries. But this does not mean that textiles are worse. Modern motorcycle suits for circuit racing are a work of technical art. They are so good not because they contain leather, but because today it is a symbiosis of different materials, the ratio of which is the personal development of a particular brand.

To compare the ratio of materials, an example from the manual of one of the unpretentious urban leather overalls.


The Faculty of Engineering and Mathematics at Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences tested samples of materials used in the manufacture of motorcycle equipment in such a way that the contact of the sample with an abrasive surface resembles the intense friction of a rounded part, such as an elbow, shoulder or knee. This is logical, because it is on the joints, as on the anchor points, that the equipment is washed most often. The initial datasheet that the experts collected looks like this:

According to analytical data, cowhide and kangaroo leather have lower tensile and abrasion resistance, while cordura must withstand higher loads. Immediately I announce the continuation of the article, we will talk about Cordura separately.

MotoCAP has tested both textile and leather apparel to develop the world’s first safety rating for protection materials. They were extremely dissatisfied with the results of the tests, as they expected better performance. For example, kangaroo skin in their test was weaker than cow skin, which caused confusion on the part of the testers. Since their data turned out to be contradictory regarding the indicators of individual materials, the question of an unambiguous choice is still open, because their tissue samples were tested on special machines in laboratories and research continues.

Some motorcyclists have expressed concern that textiles melt from friction while sliding and may even cause burns to the motorcyclist. I will not lie, testing by the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences showed that some combinations of synthetic fibers can produce a melting effect, but they did not indicate in their studies what material could be seen in this. Here we are talking more about the impurities that they love to add to equipment replicas. It is proved that Kevlar, for example, does not burn, does not melt and does not smolder – one of the reasons why it is used in many models in places that are especially vulnerable when dropped by abrasion.

Ease of use

We have all heard that the skin is capricious in its care and if you do not follow it, then it takes revenge without a twinge of conscience in different ways: it loses its shape, properties and, as a result, the meaning of its use. I had dubious impressions from the first leather jacket. At first, I could not help thinking that I was wearing the skin of an animal that once existed, thought, felt … When it came time for expeditions in the off-season … it turned out that a leather jacket was not at all an option. And in sub-zero temperatures, she also dubs. The issue of changing to textiles came naturally.

In search of a decent solution, I turned to companies that develop equipment for military personnel and tourists traveling in extreme conditions. What resources are they using? If leather were such an advanced material, then our military and tourists would wear only it, but in the outfit in the cold there is already winstopper, gortex and fleece. And the guys in uniform have the familiar Kevlar and Cordura. Thus, textiles ousted leather almost everywhere, did not expel it only from the hearts of conservatives loyal to their convictions.

Mercantile question

There is bound to be someone who decides that all of the above is hidden advertising and an attempt to sell more textiles. But no. There are people who, even in the 21st century, believe that the earth is flat. Choosing between textiles and leather is everyone’s personal business. It’s just that if your choice in the direction of leather is imposed by the concept “it has always been this way”, then there is a reason to try on textiles for comparison. Leather gear is more of a way of life and thinking. Textiles are a more affordable and flexible format that allows you to choose many more combinations of combinations from which the expected result is built.

In terms of price-quality ratio – textiles are cheaper, but not worse. I liked the conclusion of MotoCAP: if after the fall your own skin is still on you, then the equipment worked well.

Otherwise, you can conduct your own experiment and check what is more comfortable to ride in, I hope you will not have to compare in the fall.

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