Not crazy for leather? Motorcycle apparel made with modern synthetic fabrics, such as Cordura and Kevlar, offers adequate crash and slide protection for many riders, as well as a few other advantages. For example, synthetic apparel provides fashion as well as function. It's often stylish and brightly colored with reflector strips to enhance visibility. In addition, the fabrics are lighter in weight and have a zip-out lining to adapt to climate changes. Special airflow fabrics keep you cool when the sun's hot.
Speaking of weather, many synthetics are water-resistant, which eliminates the need for special rain gear. And most are machine-washable, saving you a trip to the dry cleaner. Be sure to check the garment label for washing instructions, because some detergents can damage the waterproof qualities. Riders can wear synthetic suits over regular clothes, so if you use your motorcycle to commute to the office, changing is easy. On the down side, synthetics won't last as long as leather and don't wear as wel, either. Fabric colors can also fade, giving you a washed-out look.
Although definitely not recommended, you often see motorcycle riders wearing denim. The ubiquitous material offers little protection and isn't resistant to the abrasive forces in an accident. If you get caught in the rain, denim takes a long time to dry.
If you do insist on wearing denim, there are a couple ways to increase your protection. Leather chaps worn over your jeans will help, although open areas are still at risk for injury. Kevlar-lined jeans offer better protection. They come in a variety of styles and offer a comfortable fit, with the lining specifically positioned to keep skin safe in the event of a crash.
As with pants and jackets, leather reigns as the best material for gloves. If the thickness of leather gloves compromises your "feel," try some made with kangaroo skin. The ultra-thin hide provides phenomenal protection and feedback.
While leather motorcycle apparel offers riders the best protection against abrasion, other materials can do the job, too. As with any important purchase, do your research and be sure to make safety and protection key factors in your apparel-buying decision.
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- Editors of Motorcyclist Magazine. "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles." Penguin Group. 2008
- Flames on My Tank. "Protective Clothing." (May 12, 2011) http://www.flamesonmytank.co.za/Clobber.htm
- Schmitt, Genevieve. "Apparel Review: Kevlar Lined Jeans with Amazing Style." Nov. 1, 2010. (May 14, 2011) http://www.womenridersnow.com/pages/APPAREL_REVIEW_Kevlar_Lined_Jeans_with_Amazing_Style.aspx