You’ve finally upgraded your old hand-me-down leather motorcycle race suit to a brand new one, but there’s just one problem – it feels a size too small! The tightness in the forearms, thighs, calves, and torso (especially the chest) is almost unbearable, making you wonder if you should just return it. But before you give up on the suit, consider that it might just need some breaking in.
After all, form, fit, and function are essential factors when it comes to selecting the right motorcycle gear, just like with the bike itself. So, how do you break in a motorcycle race suit and get it to fit comfortably without compromising its protective qualities?
To break in a motorcycle race suit, wear it around the house and while riding a motorcycle, repeatedly stretch the restrictive zones, soak it in water, and condition the leather to restore the essential oils for flexibility. The truth is, there is more to giving that cowhide, goatskin, or kangaroo leather a proper stretch than meets the eye, even when it comes to the best motorcycle racing suits.
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How Do You Break In A Motorcycle Race Suit?
Breaking in your motorcycle race suit is crucial for comfort, flexibility, and overall safety.
Motorcycle gear, especially leather suits, jackets, and pants, often come stiff and rigid when new. Breaking them in properly helps mold the gear to your body shape, making it more comfortable and allowing for better movement.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the do’s and don’ts you need to consider when breaking in your motorcycle race suit.
The 7 Essential Do’s of Breaking in Motorcycle Race Suits
1. Fit, Before All Else
The AGVSPORT Podium 1-Piece Leather Suit, which is available in a range of sizes: 38, 40, 42, 44, and 46 inches, all measured according to the US sizing standard.
One common newbie mistake that you should avoid, especially if you’re a rider who just got a racing suit before your first track day, is buying a size too small and expecting it to stretch significantly after the break-in period. Sadly enough, this hardly ever happens since good motorcycle leathers are thicker than 1mm with Young’s modulus of 51MPa, meaning they have very high resistance to stretching.
You can take accurate measurements of your body and consult size charts before making a purchase for a fitting race suit that will also break in easily. Or, even consider investing in a custom-sewn racing suit, which not only guarantees a perfect fit but also presents the opportunity to add airvests and custom graphics.
The AGVSPORT Custom Suit Configurator, which allows you to create a personalized suit, choosing between the Monza-RC (non-airvest) or Ascari-RC (with airvest) options. After designing your suit, you can easily save it to your computer and upload it to the server using the provided form.
Despite these options, it can still be challenging to understand the standard race motorcycle suit sizing chart, as measurements can vary between Euro and US sizing and individual manufacturers’ designs. To help you navigate this, we have included an international size chart for racing suits that provides measurements in inches, giving you a harmonized picture of the size you need in both European and US markets.
First, the equivalent upper body measurements:
International Size Chart for Racing Suits with Torso, Chest, Arm, and Neck Measurements in Inches
Size Torso (in.) Chest (in.) Arm (in.) Neck (in.)
48 21 39.25 22.5 19
50 21.75 41.25 23 19.5
52 22.5 43.25 23.5 20
54 23.25 45.25 24 20.5
56 24 47.25 24.5 21
58 24.75 49.25 25 21.5
60 25.5 51.25 25.5 22
And then the same sizes, but considering body measurements from the waist down:
International Size Chart for Racing Suits with Waist, Inseam, Hips, and Knee Measurements in Inches
Size Waist (in.) Inseam (in.) Hips (in.) Knee (in.)
48 35 29.25 40 18.5
50 35 29.75 42 19
52 39 30.25 44 19.5
54 41 30.75 46 20
56 43 31.25 48 20.5
58 45 31.75 50 21
60 47 32.25 52 21.5
As an expert in this field, I can tell you that gear that fits too loosely is unsafe in a crash. There’s a good reason why professional-grade “race-fit” gear is custom-made for riders and feels uncomfortably tight in some areas while appearing baggy in others, especially when not properly adjusted on the track.
On the other hand, if your gear fits poorly, it will not provide adequate protection in a crash as the armor can move around, seams can unravel, and loose fabric can get caught on the pavement, causing serious burns or making you tumble instead of smoothly sliding. Additionally, ill-fitting gear can create a “sailing effect” with excess fabric flapping in the wind, which increases frictional drag and reduces your performance on the track.
For a younger rider, you have the obvious advantage of growing into your leather racing suit as it ages and stretches. You can get more miles off a snug-fitting one provided you don’t have a crash. But as you grow, you may need to upgrade to a larger suit to maintain proper protection and performance on the track.
2. On With It Then, Wear Your Gear to Break It In
It’s as simple as it gets. The quickest way to break in a suit is to dare to be in it and in for it. A few hot track days will do the trick, but some hardcore enthusiasts will have you do full-body workouts in your new suit. Better still, wear it around the house going about your chores, or you could take it a step further and think outside the box by actually sleeping in it.
Yes, you read that right! If you’re up for the challenge, try sleeping in your leather motorcycle race suit. It’s a super dedicated approach, so you can reserve it for special occasions like a night out at a biker hangout.
Another trick we’ve seen over the years is to use some extra undergarments as under-armor so that there is room to spare when you take them off for the big day. That’s also how to break in a motorcycle helmet and leather boots, but before I digress. Yes, the bottom line is makers can’t custom fit every suit, so you kind of have to work it in yourself.
3. When Stretching Leather, Moisture Is a Frenemy
Careful! While moisture helps the leather to stretch a considerable amount, soaking it would also strip its natural essential oils that allow it to last around 20 years. Repeated wet and dry action can cause leather suits to dry out, shrink, crack, and peel. Think of that before jumping in the shower with your AGVSPORT Podium II Race Suit!
That being said, a high-quality racing suit can easily withstand a generous splash, allowing you to confidently ride in the rain or even utilize the age-old technique of wetting your leathers with warm water to facilitate movement and flexibility.
But there’s no need to rely solely on your body to break in the suit. With spare inner tubes, you can simply stuff them down the legs and arms of the suit, spritz it with warm water, and inflate the tubes to gently stretch out the leather. This can be done for as long as necessary, but remember to condition the leather afterward to restore its natural suppleness.
Wondering how to do that? Read on!
4. Dry and Condition Your Motorcycle Race Suit
Having used water moisture to stretch your leather, conditioning, and moisturizing with special formulations is your best hope for keeping your gains and preventing the leather from turning bone dry and brittle.
Most applications involve spraying down the suit, but you can also work in the ointment with a soft sponge. Also, sun your leathers whenever you can do so in the summer heat to soften them and allow oil to seep in. The result is supple and smooth leather with a sheen not drip in excess conditioner.
A word of caution, though, leather for a motorcycle racing suit could be kangaroo, cowhide, or goatskin derived, and each source has its own type of conditioner. Goat and lamb skins are softer and require lighter fashion lotions while cowhide and kangaroo require the heavier all-weather stuff. I would recommend a lanolin-based leather conditioner for goatskin suits. But all pro riders in your cell may swear by a different conditioner, so follow your suit maker’s instructions as well as directions on the specific conditioner. It will do!
5. Roll It
Try rolling your leather garments into a ball and spreading it out repeatedly for a couple of minutes. You can also hang it out to stretch with light dumbbell weights. I found these two techniques while scouring the interwebs as I often do to bring you the best tips and tricks. I haven’t tried them out personally, but I feel they make sense.
The only downside I can think of for this rolling method is the creases and perhaps cracks that might appear if you are overzealous. It’s nothing some tender love and care won’t fix down the road even by simply hanging with a proper padded hanger. A little creativity doesn’t hurt as long as you keep calm and be gentle.
CAUTION! The following two methods have the potential to damage leather and remove ink from patches, labels, and lettering.
I have never personally used either of these methods, so it’s crucial to weigh the risks carefully before attempting either of them:
6. Consider Rubbing Alcohol
Multi-purpose must-have: Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, the mild solution for leather care and disinfecting, killing odor-causing germs.
Rubbing alcohol has been a tried and true method for breaking in leather baseball gloves, and catchers have sworn by it for generations, including the Yankees star catcher, Rodriguez. Even in the days of the Wild West, ranchers and cowboys used this technique to get their gloves game-ready.
But when it comes to breaking in a motorcycle race suit, rubbing alcohol may not be the most practical solution. The downside is that it evaporates quickly, which means you would need a significant amount of it to drench your entire suit and still have enough time to put it on. We recommend saving the alcohol for problem areas like the crotch, knees, shoulders, and neck where it doubles as a deodorant.
You can easily and cheaply find rubbing alcohol in your neighborhood. But if you have some extra dollars to spare, you may want to consider purchasing one of these recommended rubbing alcohol options online.
Pro Tip: When using any of these rubbing alcohols, lower the concentration to 50% to prevent damage to your leather. For even greater caution, consider diluting the rubbing alcohol further to 25% by mixing it with water. Use a small cotton ball or the tip of a washcloth to apply.
7. As a Last Resort, Try Abrasive Techniques
Gray and yellow nylon abrasive pads: To break in your leather motorcycle suit, gently rub its surface.
Sweat it out or drench it in water, nothing is as invasive as wearing leather down with abrasives. I’m not talking 60 grit coarse sandpaper (that would be insane), more like taking steel wool or nylon abrasive pad to soothe problem areas, which are typically also high-wear zones like elbows, shoulders, and around seams. You still have to ride in it between scrubs to achieve meaningful improvements.
And if you don’t mind the slight discoloration, have a great deal of patience and elbow grease, you should get through it in a couple of days.
The 7 Essential Don’ts of Breaking in Motorcycle Race Suits
A stop sign post to remind riders not to destroy their gear in the name of breaking it in. Knowing the limits of what you can do to stretch leather is important so as not to compromise the garments’ protective properties.
Racing suits are built for endurance and sheer strength so breaking one in can be a pretty daunting task. A few hours in and you might feel like you are not getting any results with the mild methods above. It’s no wonder that a few erroneous sources on the web suggest that you throw the following harsh treatments at the new suit. But violence is rarely the answer!
So, we strongly advise against doing any of the following to your race suit:
- Don’t apply harsh cleaners and reagents not formulated for use on leather garments
- Don’t throw your race suit in a washing machine or dryer (ouch!)
- Don’t use a mechanical rotating brush to abrade your leather suit
- Don’t clamp down and stretch your leather with ratchet straps
- Don’t drench your leather with excessive water or cleaner
- Don’t apply too much conditioner or cleaning product to clog the stitching and perforations
- Don’t perforate your own leather, it’s impossible to determine how many holes or what sizes are still safe.
Don’t overdo any of the Dos we gave above. If it’s all not working, you may have a fitment issue after all! But again,
Just How Tight Should Motorcycle Leathers Be?, And When Is It Time To Call It Quits?
Even persistence has its limits, so if none of the methods listed above seem to work, then you may be having a fit issue. Unfortunately, you may have to replace the suit with a larger-sized one that fits. I can’t stress enough the importance of picking the best fit race suit for your weight and stature from this list:
FAQs — I Have the Answers!
Q: How Do You Break in Race Leathers?
To break in race leather leathers, put them on and exercise in them by doing repetitive stretches. The leather will adapt to your natural figure and body movements and with continued use, break in.
Q: How Do You Break in a New Motorcycle Jacket?
To break in a new motorcycle jacket, you can ride in it through rain, or roll it up into a ball and then stretch it out repeatedly until it loosens up. Just staying in the jacket even when not riding and doing stretching movements will help it break faster.
Q: How Should a Motorcycle Suit Fit?
A race suit needs to be snug. Not too tight that it inhibits the rider’s natural movements to control the bike but also not too loose that it causes the sailing effect or grabs on the pavement in case of a fall. racing leathers should essentially “fit like a glove”.
Q: How to Soften Motorcycle Leathers?
To soften motorcycle leathers, apply essential oils formulated for conditioning leathers or simply use commonly available oils such as mink and coconut oils. Sunning the leather for a couple of minutes ahead of time will help open up pores so the oils seep right in.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations: