Buying Motorcycle Gear can be one of the most frustrating parts of riding a motorcycle, especially considering that a fully geared rider is likely wearing anywhere from $500 (on the low end) to $2500+ (on the high end) worth of gear. With various materials, multiple popular brands and a wide range of prices, it’s hard to choose the best buys for your money.
And while it’s tempting to hop on your bike and just go, riding without gear is a decision that could end up costing much more than the gear itself (medical bills, lost wages, etc.). While the chances of accidents happening are low, if you are in an accident on a bike, basic street clothes won’t hold up when you’re sliding across asphalt or rocks. “All gear, all the time” is the best motto to have if you want to be riding your bike for a long time to come.
Since gear can make or break your riding experience, we’ve put together the basics of the leather vs. textiles vs. Kevlar debate to show you what each material is best known for, as well as its pros and cons when out on the roads. Keep in mind that there are several factors you should consider when buying riding gear. These are:
- The types of roads or trails you like to ride on the most
- The weather conditions you ride in the most
- Your budget for the gear
When trying on motorcycle gear, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure it fits snug. If the armor moves around too much it won’t protect you. If you can move your elbow armor off your elbow easily. Do you think it will stay in place in a crash?
- Make sure the pants and jacket zip together. Jackets move out of position when sliding.
- Get perforated or breathable gear. It is easier to warm up (heated liner) than to cool down.
Since motorcycles showed up on race tracks and popular culture in the movies, leather has become the iconic material of motorcycle gear. There’s a good reason for it, too: leather is extremely abrasion resistant and protects your skin well from harsh conditions like wind and light rain.
Pros: highly abrasion resistant, holds up in high heat situations, provides a better fit than textiles, can often be reused after an accident, and protects you from harsh weather conditions (sun, wind, etc.)
Cons: difficult to waterproof, can be uncomfortable in hot climates, tends to be the most expensive material for gear, not always suitable for off-road riding, and harder to wash.
Synthetic textiles are typically made of ballistic nylon and can also be an excellent choice for both street and off-road riding.
Pros: abrasion resistant, less bulky than leather, easy to waterproof, typically cheaper than leather, washable, often comes with thermal liners for cold weather riding, well vented for comfortable riding in warm temperatures, and protects you from most harsh weather conditions (sun, wind, etc.)
Cons: tends to have less of a stylish appearance than leather (function over form), often doesn’t fit as well as leather gear, and is not as abrasion resistant as leather
Kevlar (in riding jeans)
Kevlar is often found in riding gear that looks just like street clothes, such as jeans. Because of this, Kevlar is a stylish option that can be found at a reasonable price, and it offers better protection than just riding in street clothes alone.
Pros: somewhat abrasion resistant, can look like “regular” street jeans (form over function), less bulky than leather or textile, cheaper than leather or textile, washable, and protects you from some harsh weather conditions (sun, light wind, etc.)
Cons: not as abrasion resistant as leather or textile, Kevlar is often only placed at impact points in Kevlar gear, not easy to waterproof
Regardless of the type of gear you choose to buy and wear, remember—as long as you’re wearing gear, you have a much better chance of walking away from an accident with minimal damage. If the odds don’t bother you and you still prefer to wear street clothes while riding, consider wearing leather gloves, motorcycle boots and a full-faced helmet at minimum, these are typically the first impact points in a motorcycle accident.