What makes a motorcycle jacket?
To me, its always been a combination of fit, style, and the materials used that will ultimately make or break a new piece of gear. It's easy to get lost in the bevy of options set before you, So for today lets hone in on one aspect of the recipe for a great moto jacket: the materials. Each of these materials have their own set of strengths and possible drawbacks so they aren't ranked in any particular order, lets dive in!
#1 Full Grain Leather
We've talked about the importance of using full grain leather in one of my other posts on how we craft our leather gear. Leather is generally considered to be the gold standard for motorcycle gear, and the price often reflects that. A good jacket will use leather thicker than 1mm, 1.2-1.4mm in thickness is usually the sweet spot. It'll be thin enough to move around in but will allow for road protection and durability.
Another perk is how leather ages. Over time and with proper care, a good leather jacket will age like fine wine. It will wear like no other material due to the fact it is of a 100% organic source and not a synthetic material. A good leather jacket comes to life when you need it most, eventually learning your movements and conforming to your lifestyle. If you're looking for an all around stellar performer, that can also be used as a day-to-day fashion piece, a leather jacket might be the right choice for you. Check out our collection of Handcrafted Leathers.
#2 Para-Aramid (AKA Kevlar)
Another popular choice for motorcycle gear is Para-Aramid, or better known by its commercial name "Kevlar", produced by Dupont, Inc. Kevlar is a synthetic thread that is woven into all sorts of fabrics to greatly strengthen its tear and abrasion resistance. Its also used by Firefighters because of its high resistance to heat, roughly 800 degrees Fahrenheit. A motorcycle slide can generate a good amount of heat from the friction involved when coming in contact with the road, so the heat resistant properties along with the extreme strength the fibers offer make it an appeasing choice for motorcycle or rugged outerwear.
Because of Kevlar's rigid fibers,100% raw Kevlar is generally very stiff and offers no stretch, so it is often mixed in with other fibers such as elastane and cotton to create stretch properties that will wear much more comfortably.
Watch this cool YouTube video made by The Science Channel on testing Kevlar fibers:
#3 Nylon 6,6 (AKA Cordura)
Cordura is a tough material originally made for military use, it is woven with qualifying nylon 6,6 fibers by Invista, Inc. Due to its molecular structure, Cordura fabric maintains excellent heat resistant and strength properties. It's not to be confused with regular nylon fabric, while it is of the same family, Nylon 6,6 is a much stronger version of Nylon. Many companies use Cordura to make full motorcycle suits meant to be worn on the racetrack, it certainly gives leather a run for its money because its breathable, lightweight, and cheaper.
Weight to weight though, leather wins out as far as abrasion resistance and strength, but when the weather is un-bearably hot, Cordura is a great fabric for motorcycling when applied correctly. Due to its basket weave, Cordura is very breathable and light making it especially useful in hot climates.
Cordura generally comes in a few weight classes, 500D and 1000D are the most common. 1000 Denier Cordura is the heaviest weight and is the only weight we use when making our Cordura lined moto jackets. When it comes to abrasion resistance, you're going to want the toughest weight available between you and the road. Check out the visual below provided by the makers of Cordura:
CORDURA® Classic Fabric
- Military-grade filament fiber
- Excellent abrasion and tear resistance
- Air jet textured for high abrasion resistance
- Stylish versatility
#4 UHMWPE (AKA Dyneema)
UHMWPE stands for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. It's one of the newest "space age" fabrics out there, and a company by the name of Dyneema is one of the leading manufacturers. No doubt you've heard of it, as it boasts a tensile strength 15 times stronger than steel yet is flexible enough to be woven into many different fabrics. Dyneema denim is one of the most popular products out there for motorcycling and outdoor apparel use. It's strength relies on its extreme durability and abrasion resistance when woven correctly and enough if it is used in the fabric (look for fabrics that are comprised of 50% Dyneema or more for the best protection). Unlike Kevlar or even Cordura, Dyneema's heat resistant properties are generally lower (at a melting point of 266 degrees Fahrenheit), when compared to the numbers the former fabrics put out. Even so, when used correctly and in the right conditions, Dyneema is an excellent material for motorcycle riders. I have first hand experience working with this fabric, and it really does live up to the hype. It is very hard to cut and fights you at every turn when you're trying to cut/sew it, which is a good thing when it comes to road protection, ripping or cutting it with precision with anything other than a razor sharp cutting tool is essentially impossible!
Checkout the video below of Berto Industria Tessile, testing out their Dyneema infused Denim via a drag test:
#5 Waxed Cotton
Last but not least is Waxed Cotton, one of the oldest materials (besides leather) listed here. Its been tried and true since the mid-19th century where European sailors used it to waterproof their clothes and sails. Many years later its been introduced into the motorcycle and fashion industries for its ability to handle tough weather situations. It'll keep you dry during a downpour while providing adequate wind protection to help you not lose warmth. Not all waxed cotton is the same however, and various weights are available that provide a varying degree of slide protection if you are using it as a motorcycle jacket. When making our Waxed Moto Jacket Collection, we use a double layer system of waxed cotton on the outside and 1000D Cordura (see above) for enhanced slide protection. if you're going to get a motorcycle jacket that is not double layered, look for weights higher than 17oz. The thickness of a single layered waxed cotton jacket is your first defense against the road, as thicker fabric allows for more wax to be added, the jacket will be heavier and more sturdy. When it comes to weather protection, waxed cotton is the way to go, its been tested throughout the centuries and always comes out on top!
Wrapping it up!
Whatever your preference or end use is, the above materials have been thoroughly put to the test, thanks to the many scientist, engineers, and enthusiasts who have poured countless hours into discovering and testing these materials. Props and a huge thank you to all of them!