What’s a good answer to the question, “why do you own six motorcycles?”
“Because I can’t afford seven”.
Ask any rider, and they’ll tell you their dream garage would house at least 8 to 12 different motorcycles dedicated for different types of riding, plus a couple of project bikes to tinker with during the off-season. It’s the same with motorcycle gear: in an ideal world, we’d have different sets of protective jackets, pants, riding suits, and motorcycle jeans we could use for different weather, terrain, or riding style.
However, most of us live in the real world, and our garages usually house just one motorcycle and one set of protective gear. If you’re just starting out as a beginner rider, you’ll want gear that will work for most conditions, most temperatures, and most riding styles. Somewhere along the way, you may realize that although you’ve gotten your motorcycle license on a street bike, you’d rather transition to motocross machines. Or, perhaps, you bought a scooter for commuting initially, but now feel like riding a café racer. We’re all for experimenting with different bikes and styles and finding what you truly enjoy! When it comes to gear, however, the main debate usually centers around leather vs textile. While there are many different options out there, leather or textile is what you’ll need to decide about first and then build your setup from there.
To help you out, we put together this ultimate gear guide for beginners discussing whether you should go for leather or textile motorcycle riding gear.
Regardless of whether you’re new to motorcycles or have been riding for decades, one thing remains the same: you want the best protection you can get. As they say, it’s not a matter of “if” you’ll come off, it’s a matter of “when”. You want to be protected as best as humanly possible, right?
So, when it comes to safety, should you opt for a leather or textile motorcycle jacket?
On the one hand, leather still offers better protection than textiles – to a degree. While protective textile fabrics such as Cordura, Dyneema, and Kevlar have come a long way, leather will still be more abrasion and impact-resistant than textile. However, it’s important to note that this mostly applies to higher speeds. If you’re headed for the racetrack, by all means, opt for leather motorcycle gear – just make sure the leather is at least 1.2mm thick.
If you’re into urban riding, commuting, or adventure motorcycling, on the other hand, textiles will be a better bet. Here’s why.
Textile is a more versatile fabric than leather. While some leather jackets, as an example, may have inner layers for cold weather riding or perforated outer shells for the hotter temperatures, generally, textile jackets will be more comfortable for all four seasons. This is because Cordura jackets tend to have several vents you can adjust as needed, and they typically have a GoreTex or similar outer shell making the jacket waterproof or water-resistant. Because of this, textile motorcycle gear can be used year-round, whereas leather feels and looks good but comes up short when it comes to versatility.
In addition, textile gear will always be easier to clean. In most cases, all you need to do is take the armor out and toss the jacket and pants into a washing machine. With leather, however, the cleaning will be a lot more involved if you want it to remain soft and supple. At the same time, if looked after properly, leather can last for decades, whereas textile will wear faster.
When it comes to beginner motorcycle gear, the cost is usually a pretty big factor. If you’ve just spent a good chunk of change on your riding lessons, a motorcycle, and a helmet, chances are, your gear budget isn’t massive, and that’s understandable.
Cost-wise, textile gear will typically be cheaper than leather motorcycle riding gear. Because you’re just starting out, you need to think about whether you want to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on gear that you may one day want to change completely. For a lot of riders, things change as they progress in their motorcycling journey. Some start off on small dirt bikes and later transition to sports bikes, while others get tired of pavement and begin looking into adventure motorcycling. As a newbie, you may change your riding style, your bike, and your priorities several times before you find that perfect motorcycle and the type of riding you love. Once you know exactly what you want, you can get very specific and nerdy about your motorcycle gear. For now, however, opt for something that will work on most bikes, protect you well, and keep you warm and toasty during the colder months but allow for decent ventilation in the summer.
Last but not least, you want to look good while riding your motorcycle. Undeniably, leather does have that timeless, iconic look, and if that’s your thing, we get it. However, well-designed, Kevlar-lined denim can look just as badass and just as stylish, especially keeping in mind the ethical and environmental issues surrounding leatherwear.
At the same time, there’s no good reason not to combine the best of the two worlds. Leather jackets work great with Kevlar jeans, regardless of what bike you’re riding. Alternatively, you can go for a minimalist look and only add a touch of leather here and there, for example, opt for leather gloves or leather riding boots instead of jackets and pants.
At the end of the day, the decision, the comfort, and the look are all about your personal preferences. Regardless of whether you choose leather or textile, we just want you to be as comfortable and safe as possible out there – and have a ridiculous amount of fun in the process!
Need more gear tips? Check out this blog post for inspiration.