Leather jackets have long been considered an essential part of any motorcyclist’s wardrobe. It’s as much a badge of membership to an exclusive club as anything. Leather not only looks good but is ideal for motorcyclists because of its protective qualities.
Leather Jacket Protection / Leather Jackets for Motorcyclists
When it comes to motorcycle jackets, leather is in a class of its own. It is far and away from the most popular choice when it comes to motorcycle jackets for both men and women.
Leather has always been recognized for its protective qualities. From at least the Middle Ages, leather was used as a form of armor by the European armies of the time. On the American continent, the Native Americans recognized the benefits of leather and used it as protection against cuts and bruises.
The first-time leather was used as a motorcycle jacket was back in 1928 when Irving Schott created a jacket made of heavy horsehide with a zip up front and a belt at the waist. It was an instant hit. But it was Marlon Brandon in the 1950s and the film Wild One that made the leather jacket iconic.
Modern Leather Motorcycle Jackets
Modern leather jackets aren’t hugely different from those worn 50 years ago. They have had some personality injected into them so that riders can choose a style that fits their personality. The reasons for leather haven’t changed either, leather has abrasion-resistant and fire-resistant qualities making them ideal for a motorcyclist.
Now, no product is going to protect you 100% if you hit the pavement, but it makes a huge difference when it’s the leather rubbing up rough and not your skin. The modern jacket has built padding into the shoulders and elbows to add extra protection over the areas that are most likely to meet the ground in the event of a spill.
Modern leather jackets are a whole lot lighter and less restrictive than those that have gone before them. This helps accommodate the long hours on the bike and gives the rider some flexibility.
If a leather jacket is to perform at optimal levels when it comes to safety, it’s important it’s the correct fit. To lose and the danger is it will ride up and leave you unprotected in the event of an accident and too tight and it is just plain uncomfortable. Getting the right fit means it’s essential you try before you buy.
Leather vests are popular among some motorcyclists and while they do offer some protection against injury to the torso, the arms do not so much. The arms are likely to come in contact with the ground whenever you take a tumble so riding without suitable protection over your arms leaves you somewhat behind the eight ball in the safety stakes.
While a leather vest isn’t ideal, it does provide some protection, and for those that are never going to wear a jacket anyway, something is always better than nothing.
Leather vs. Other Textiles
Leather motorcycle jackets are commonly made from cowhide, goat hide, or kangaroo hide. The cowhide is the most economical, offering an excellent level of protection with its abrasion resistance. It’s hard to find another jacket that offers the same levels of protection in this price range.
Textile jackets, on the other hand, come with good ventilation, and removable layers, and offer protection against all four seasons. The price of a textile jacket varies, but as with most things, you typically pay for quality.
If versatility is what you’re after a textile jacket may fit the bill, but it’s important to remember it does not have the same protective qualities that leather does and you may be selling yourself short on the safety side of things. The impact resistance falls short of leather and many textile jackets do not come with armor. Unfortunately, it’s a trade-off between versatility and leaning more heavily toward safety.
Other Reasons for Wearing a Leather Jacket on a Motorcycle
Safety aside, there are some other compelling reasons to wear a leather jacket on a motorcycle:
It Looks Cool
If you ask the Fonz, he’ll tell you straight, leather jackets make you look cool. A fashionable and styled leather jacket will always turn heads. If you want to look cool, go with a leather jacket, you won’t be disappointed.
Let’s be honest, there’s never enough space for everything you need on your motorcycle. Therefore, a leather jacket is a good addition to any motorcyclist’s wardrobe – the pockets. A good leather motorcycle jacket has plenty of pockets, providing plenty of additional storage space when you’re on the bike.
Most motorcycle jackets have a selection of internal, external, and even sleeve pockets to choose from, and best of all the pockets pretty much always have zippers on them.
Protects in Bad Weather
Leather’s not totally waterproof, but it does provide decent protection if you get caught out in bad weather. If getting caught out in bad weather is a regular thing because of where you love, you might consider a real lambskin leather jacket that provides more than sufficient protection against sudden rain showers. The only downside is the price tag can be a little on the high side.
Those not familiar with leather products might raise an eyebrow on these ones, but leather is comfortable. When you’re on a long trip, a nice warm leather jacket can be the most comfortable thing ever, especially when the weather is cold and frosty. Aim for a heavy-duty jacket with a nice soft lining for maximum comfort. If you’re from an area that’s more known for its winters than its summers, you might look for a fur-lined one.
Keeps You Flexible
How does a motorcycle jacket keep you flexible, you ask. This is especially important for those longer journeys, where a good motorcycle jacket will help keep your flexibility balanced on the bike. A lightweight jacket with moisture absorbing, soft lining is ideal, although this does depend on the weather.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative Government, educational and nonprofit organizations:
About the author:
Michael Parrotte was the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, and a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.
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