Riders who prioritize protection and abrasion resistance may consider investing in a race suit, whether for track use (where it may be mandatory) or weekend canyon rides after a long week of work or school. But regardless of the activity, you may find yourself pondering the age-old question: just how long are racing suits good for?
Motorcycle racing suits are good for 15-20 years or even longer with proper care, and their durability depends on how frequently you use them and maintain them through cleaning and conditioning. Also known as motorcycle leathers, race leathers, or road-racing leathers, they’re typically made of kangaroo skin, a material that is more supple, resistant, and flexible than normal cowhide. It’s also lighter, making a difference for riders in MotoGP.
Alternatively, you can find race leathers made of cow leather, which is durable, accessible, relatively thicker, and offers good value for money. Cow leather is also versatile in its applications.
The 2 Main Factors That Determine How Long Motorcycle Leathers Last
We’ll explore these factors in greater detail and explain how you can get the most out of your motorcycle leathers for as long as possible.
1. How Often You Clean and Condition Your Race Suit
A racing suit, along with a few cleaning products, is ready for a thorough cleaning and conditioning, which should typically be done once, or at most, twice a year.
In my experience, a good motorcycle suit uses leather that is thicker than 1mm, with the ideal range being 1.2-1.4mm. And unlike textiles and cotton, which may last 5-10 years, a well-maintained race leather can serve you for decades, depending on how often you use it and how well you maintain it. For optimal maintenance and longevity, I recommend deep cleaning and conditioning your racing suit once or twice a year.
Top Picks: Best Motorcycle Leather Cleaners and Conditioners
Best Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Size (Ounces) Average Rating Availability
Leather Honey 8.45 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Chemical Guys Kit 6.9 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Colourlock Aniline Care Cream 1 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Lexol Leather Kit 16.9 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
MiracleWipes® for Leather 30 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Skidmore's Biker Edition Cream 6 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Renapur Natural Cleaner Spray 8.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Obenauf's Heavy-Duty LP Preservative 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Weiman 3 in 1 Deep Cream 8 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Nikwax Restorer 10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Cottonelle Freshfeel Flushable Wipes 42 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
An assortment of leather cleaning and restoration products. Conditioning motorcycle racing leathers is a crucial maintenance routine that not only extends their lifespan but also helps to break them in when they’re new.
Now, with the right list of products to maintain your suit, if you’re unsure about how to effectively clean and care for your motorcycle leathers, read on!
5 Essential Steps for Cleaning and Caring for Your Motorcycle Leathers
Here is my step-by-step guide on how to clean and condition motorcycle race suits:
1. Take Out the Lining and Clean It
The inside of the black leather motorcycle suit showing a mesh lining.
Race-fit leathers often have inner linings that make them easier to put on and take off. These linings are typically made of mesh and other soft synthetic materials like polyester, satin, or nylon that absorb sweat and oils, which protects the leather and inhibits bacterial growth, keeping the inside of your racing suit odor-free. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, you can simply pop the lining in the washing machine. Once you have this out of the way, it’s time to focus on cleaning your actual leathers. But make sure you have also removed all the armor, if it is removable too.
Taking out armor from back pockets before washing the garment.
2. Remove the Most Obvious Grime and Debris
The exterior surfaces of motorcycle suits normally get bugs, exhaust fumes, burnout rubber, and all manner of gunk thrown at them. And these are the most visible chunks and patches which may be what prompts you to clean your leathers in the first place.
A white microfiber cloth with cleaning and conditioning products on the backing.
For this step, you’ll need a fine microfiber cloth and a leather-specific cleaner like Lexol Leather Cleaner or Renapur Natural Cleaner Spray, which comes in a smaller, easy-to-carry pack. The Weiman 3 in 1 Deep Leather Conditioner Cream package includes a microfiber cloth. While cleaning, be careful not to put so much elbow grease into it as the bugs may be baked into the suit, and debris that managed to pierce the protective polyurethane layer may further damage the suit if you do.
Thankfully, the best leather cleaners contain surfactants that reduce the surface tension of oils and other dirt, making them easy to wipe to wipe off. Steer clear of traditional soap and water buckets as they can deteriorate the internal structure of the leather.
Alternatively, you can use MiracleWipes® or Weiman wipes for a quick and effective cleaning method to remove dirt from your suit. They’re especially convenient when you’re on the go and don’t have the time or space to carry bottles of leather cleaning and conditioning products with you. The best wipes contain non-alcoholic and non-petroleum water-based solutions that can clean and condition leather without damaging it.
Extracting a wipe from Armor All® Leather Wipes pack.
To apply leather wipes, pull out a sheet and methodically work the product into the leather surface in circular motions until it spreads evenly over the entire panel. In the first pass, you might not be able to remove all of the dirt, and that’s fine; you can go back and take care of the stubborn stains in the next step.
Cleaning the seams of the arms delicately, taking care not to apply too much force. For optimal results, repeat the process several times.
Be more cautious around the seams, joints, shoulders, and knees where the suit is likely to get a battering from the elements. Once you’re done with the first cleaning, you can move on to detailed cleaning and conditioning.
3. Thoroughly Clean the Suit
Next, you’ll want to do a more meticulous cleaning to get rid of all the stickier grime. Use a dedicated leather cleaner kit such as the Chemical Guys Cleaner & Conditioner Kit, which is compatible with most leathers as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. This process may take at least an hour or so, depending on the level of dirt buildup.
Dispensing a small quantity of cleaning liquid onto a white microfiber cloth.
To clean, apply a small amount of the leather cleaner to a soft microfiber cloth and gently rub the product into the fabric using circular motions. Use persistence when working each area, taking care not to apply excessive pressure. And like before, work your way around the garment panel-by-panel to ensure that you don’t miss any spots. A word of caution, don’t overuse the cleaner as this may leave streaks, particularly along the stitched areas of the suit. Plus, use even less product on perforated areas to avoid causing the leather to swell and degrade.
While cleaning the back with the clean side, flip the microfiber cloth over to the dirty side to avoid spreading dirt and grime.
Repeat the cleaning process on any problem areas until you’re satisfied with the results. Once you’ve finished cleaning, move on to the next step, which involves nourishing your leathers.
Rinsing the microfiber cloth in warm water, not hot, to eliminate dirt and grime before reusing it for cleaning.
4. Condition Your Leather
After letting it dry completely for about 24 hours, you’ll need to replenish its essential oils, as regular leather cleaners can remove not only dirt and grime but also some of these oils that keep your leather supple and durable. To do this, you’ll require Leather Honey Conditioner or Skidmore’s Biker Edition Cream, both of which have rejuvenating properties that are beneficial to leather after a deep clean.
Applying the conditioner by continuously spraying it onto a blue sponge.
A good conditioner polishes leather items to provide a characteristic sheen and softness, while others, like Nikwax Restorer, also contain waxes that seal pores to increase waterproofness. Once again, remember the “less is more” principle and apply just a small amount of conditioner to a wide area of the garment, as directed on the label.
Conditioning the shoulder seams using the blue sponge saturated with conditioner.
5. Air Dry Your Race Suit
Phew! You’re almost done; all that is left to do is to let the garment air dry in a cool place, ready for the next track day or spirited touring ride. This allows the leather to fully absorb the nourishing properties of the conditioner and prevent it from drying out and cracking. Ideally, hang your race suit in a cool, well-ventilated space without touching any walls or other clothing.
A pack of flushable moist alcohol-free wipes.
Pro Tip: Perform a deep clean and conditioning once or twice a year. For regular care, opt for motorcycle-specific Muc-Off Leather Wipes or normal wipes like Cottonelle FreshFeel Flushable. If it’s good enough for your skin, it’s good enough for your leathers!
How Not to Clean Motorcycle Leathers
In your quest to find the best way to care for your racing suit, you may have come across dubious blogs that suggest really horrible ways to clean leather. Here are the top three unbelievable things you should not do when cleaning your leather items. These methods will surely ruin your motorcycle leather suits.
- Don’t Put Your Leather Race Suits in the Washing Machine: I can’t think of a quicker way to degrade leather from its core fibers than by using harsh cleaning products in washing machines and the rough tumbling motions that pull the stitching apart, rendering the suit weak and useless in a crash.
- Don’t Power Wash Your Motorcycle Suit: Regardless of how dirty you and your motorcycle are after a ride, don’t use a high-pressure water jet on your gear. The force of the water can rip through the protective layers of the leather and seep water into the fabric, causing it to swell and later dry out and crack.
- Don’t Use Household Detergents on Motorcycle Leather: Another common mistake is to use normal cleaning solutions for household and other clothing on racing leathers. These products are mostly harsh and not beneficial to your leather garment restoration efforts.
Having covered the first factor and discussed how to get the most out of your motorcycle race suit, it’s time to turn our attention to the next factor.
2. How Often You Use Your Racing Suit
How long your racing suit lasts also depends on how often you use it! The more frequently you participate in track days, the sooner you may need to replace your suit due to constant exposure to heat, sweat, wind, and unavoidable scuffs and bruises as you move around on and off the saddle. You’re also growing. That being said, leather ages better than most other fabrics, and a good race suit requires regular exercise to remain soft and functional. So, leaving your suit unused for many months may not extend its lifespan but instead harm it.
Phew! Now that we have extensively covered the two factors that affect the longevity of a motorcycle racing suit, what should you do when your trusted gear no longer keeps up with your racing needs?
The Best Time to Replace Your Motorcycle Leathers
Despite being 27 years old, Michael Parrotte is still using a set of leather racing gear at Sandy Hook Speedway as of summer 2022.
So, once again, we ask: how long are racing suits good for? Well, with proper care, motorcycle leathers are durable, but nothing lasts forever. Here are some signs that indicate you need to replace your motorcycle race suit:
Compromised Armor and Pockets
For newer suits, armor is swappable, and you can get new ones. But if you have an older suit and begin to notice that the armor is no longer rigid and slides out of place, then it may be time for a suit upgrade. This is because armor that cannot hold under normal use is not something you can depend on in the event of a crash.
Weakened or Broken Fasteners
Racing suits should have some closure mechanisms and adjustments to fasten them for a tight fit. Loose gear offers minimal protection as it grabs on pavement, creating hot points, and causing you to tumble excessively rather than slide in a crash. Velcro, zippers, and buttons on gear can only be repaired so many times, so it might force you to get new leathers.
Damaged in a Crash
Josh Herrin, rider number 46 and MotoAmerica Supersport Champion, falls on his back after a highside collision, showcasing the importance of racing suit armor. But frequent falls can diminish its effectiveness.
Should you come off the bike and scratch your suit, leaving it with visible tears and gouges, then it might be the opportune moment to replace it. A future crash is likely to impact the same locations, and you cannot expect compromised garments to protect you as before.
Don’t get me wrong, stained leather has a cool vintage feel to it, but discoloration is a sign of fatigue for racing suits. All motorcycle leathers eventually get to this stage despite years of routine maintenance, and by then, it’s beyond saving; you may need a replacement. Discoloration can be the result of other causes like harsh detergent bleaching, so do factor in the age of the garment.
Unless it’s perforated, leather can keep out a considerable amount of water. But when leathers start to let moisture inside while you ride, it may be a sign that they are cracked and damaged. If water is leaking inside, then it’s surely being absorbed into the leather’s own internal fibril structure, causing it to swell and later dry out and crack.
When any of the above happens to your racing suit, it’s probably high time to get a new kit. And I cannot stress enough the importance of picking the best-fit race suit for your weight and stature from the list below:
Top Picks: Best Motorcycle Race Suits
Best Racing Suit Size in Inches Average Rating Availability
AGVSPORT Monza 40-54 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Alpinestars Racing Absolute 36-54 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Rev’It Quantum 44-60 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ RevZilla ➤
Cortech Adrenaline GP 36-54 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Dainese Misano 2 D-Air 40-60 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ RevZilla ➤
Sedici Corsa 48-60 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ RevZilla ➤
Joe Rocket Speedmaster 7.0 38-56 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amazon ➤
Racer closet goals featuring an impressive collection of racing suits that includes the AGVSPORT Monza-R Custom Suit, expertly fitted with state-of-the-art titanium armor and CE-approved EN1621 Level 2 soft-armor for ultimate protection in the shoulders, back, elbows, and knee/shin.
The AGVSPORT Monza and Dainese Misano 2 D-Air stand out among other highly rated options, including the Alpinestars Racing Absolute, Sedici Corsa, Rev’It Quantum, Joe Rocket Speedmaster 7.0, and Cortech Adrenaline GP. Their advanced technology and excellent protection make them top choices for motorcycle race suits in 2023.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Q: What Is the Lifespan of a Motorcycle Jacket?
Your leather motorcycle jacket, similar to racing suits, should last for more than 20 years with proper care. Meanwhile, motorcycle jackets made from materials like nylon 6,6 or similar textiles generally have a lifespan of around 5 to 10 years.
Q: How Often Should You Replace Motorcycle Leathers?
Replace your motorcycle leathers when they’ve been exposed to a crash or show signs of cracks, tears, holes, stiffness, and discoloration. In general, you should replace your leather gear when its ability to provide adequate weather and crash protection becomes questionable.
Q: Does Motorcycle Armor Expire?
Yes, motorcycle armor should be replaced after 5-7 years of use because its quality deteriorates over time. The materials typically used in riding armor, such as plastic, rubber, and foam, can be weakened by sunlight, cleaning agents, gasoline, and other chemicals, reducing their impact mitigation capabilities. Hard plastic armor lasts longer than memory foam or gel armor.
Q: How Do You Store a Leather Motorcycle Suit?
To store a leather motorcycle suit, clean and condition it before hanging it on a sturdy hanger in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight. Be sure to use a strong hanger that supports the suit at the shoulders to avoid folds and creases. And if you choose to use a garment bag, make sure it’s breathable.
Q: How Long Does Leather Last in Storage?
Good quality leather can last for decades under the right storage conditions of a cool and dry environment, away from sunlight and humidity. But when exposed to dampness, sunlight, or heat, leather can degrade, becoming moldy, dried out, and discolored over time.
Q: How Do You Clean a Motorcycle Racing Suit?
To clean a motorcycle racing suit, first, remove the liner and armor as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Then, gently wipe down the suit with a fine cloth and a leather-specific cleaning solution. If there are stubborn stains, repeat the process until you are satisfied. Afterward, apply a suitable leather conditioner and let the suit dry completely for 24 hours. Finally, store the suit in a dry and well-ventilated space away from sunlight, heat, and humidity.
Q: What Are MotoGP Suits Made Of?
MotoGP racing suits are mainly made from kangaroo leather, which is more supple, resistant, flexible, and lighter than normal cowhide. The suits also feature stretch fabric and Kevlar reinforcements. Kevlar adds strength and puncture resistance to high-impact zones, while stretch fabrics such as Spandex allow for flexibility in the race-fit suit, enabling racers to move around while riding.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and non-profit organizations: