Even small injuries can cost more than the total worth of your bike…and the garage you park it in. Some manufacturers use consumer ignorance to sell products that are very profitable but unsafe. Good gear can make all the difference. Here are a few tips on how to choose.
Nothing says irresponsible amateur “squid”, like riding with no protective clothing. So how do you choose the right gear? When you meet the pavement unexpectedly you want 4 things, impact protection, abrasion strength, tear strength and seam strength. Look for pliable dense foam padding inserts for impact protection. Don't be fooled by armor that is hard. Armor should absorb impact and the harder the armor the less impact it will absorb. Look for quality safety lock stitching; your gear is only as strong as the seams. A simple fall at 30mph can subject your clothing to more than 100 pounds of tearing force. Fabrics with similar thicknesses and feels can have vastly different protective characteristics.
In order to give it the proper motorcycle abrasion strength Kevlar must be woven together with other threads, like Dynatec and or Lycra, ei Schoeller's Keprotec. These are the only suits approved for road racing other than leather. Some gear manufacturers use small portions of pure Kevlar as a gimmick. Quality full suits of it can be found. This gear is lighter, offers greater protection and it breathes. It slides on pavement the same way as leather and dissipates friction heat better than leather. Due to its' innate toughness during construction and the fabrics limited availability it is not widely marketed so it will take a bit of looking to get one.
Many names are given to types of Polyester or Nylon to make it sound impressive. Only Cordura Nylon of 1000 Denier is suitable for motorcycle gear. Denier refers to the thickness of the fibers in the weave, higher denier means higher abrasion and tear strength. Be aware that due to cost, some makers coat their nylon with a layer of polyurethane that under heavy pavement friction can melt into your skin.
Leather has long been a good protective fabric. However, many variables can effect its' quality including, the type, age and diet of the animal it came from. Different methods used to clean, tan and dye the leather effect it as well. Unfortunately the best way to tell if the garment is made of good leather is to look at the price tag. Good leather costs more and that cost is passed on to the consumer. Leather should be worn snug because when leather folds it's tear strength lowers considerably. As an organic material leather dries out and looses it's flexibility over time. In fact each time leather gets wet and dries it can loose up to 20% of it's tear and abrasion strength. If a good leather conditioner is used it is still impossible to soften the inside of the leather properly unless the inner liner can be removed.
Tear and Abrasion Strength by the numbers
Product / Material
Pounds of force until fabric tears
Abrasion cycles until fabric fails
|CottonJeans||4.5 pounds to tear||50 cycles to failure|
|70 Denier Standard Nylon||4.5 pounds to tear||165 cycles to failure|
|500 Denier Polyester||8 pounds to tear||180 cycles to failure|
|200 Denier Standard Nylon||7.5 pounds to tear||275 cycles to failure|
|500 Denier Cordura||22 pounds to tear||710 cycles to failure|
|620 Denier Cordura||35 pounds to tear||1200 cycles to failure|
|NEW Competition Grade Leather||80-110 pounds to tear||1200-1700 cycles to failure|
|1000 Denier Cordura||110 pounds to tear||1780 cycles to failure|
|Air Mesh Kevlar||1260 pounds to tear||1800 cycles to failure|
|Stretch Kevlar Blend||420 pounds to tear||1800 cycles to failure|