What type of jacket should I buy: leather or textile? That’s a question we get asked a lot here at Competition Accessories, so we decided to make a little video to help explain the differences, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of leather motorcycle jackets and textile motorcycle jackets. We even through in a perforated leather jacket and a mesh motorcycle jacket for good measure, so we have all the seasons covered. The easy answer, if you have plenty of money to spend, is buy a different jacket for each mood, bike, road (or track), and weather condition that you plan on riding. While that may sound crazy to some people, many motorcyclists who have a long history of riding have built up exactly that type of gear collection (you know who you are). I’m right there with you, guilty as charged. And that is because all motorcycle gear is a compromise of one type or another. Where you might be giving up some protection in extreme situations you might be gaining all day comfort, so no one piece of gear is perfect for all roads and all riders–at least that gear hasn’t been invented yet.
Let’s start with the leather jacket option. Obviously picking a jacket can be a very personal choice–and getting a jacket that suits your style, matches your bike, and is comfortable for where you are riding is key. Leather jackets are available in a very wide variety of styles. From a classic biker jacket from the 50’s, vintage designs, or full on road race level jackets, there’s a leather jacket for just about everyone. What leather does very, very well, is protect you from road rash. While textile materials have really come a long way, leather is still king when it comes to sliding down the pavement. Sport leather jackets will also be more fitted to your body, keeping your armor in place better and resisting riding up and exposing your body in a crash. Most leather jackets hold up so well in a crash that they may be ready to keep right on riding–albeit with a few extra scuffs. For cold weather riding, leather jackets with a fully sleeved quilted liner and no perforation can be quite comfortable. The one vulnerable area they usually have is the zipper–unless there is a flap of leather over or behind the zipper, cold air can blast right through. In wet weather leather can end up leaving you soaking wet, although there are certain leather treatments and oils you can use to mitigate this. If you are looking for a jacket to wear in hot weather and want leather, perforation is your friend. These tiny holes in the leather will flow plenty of air, keeping you comfortable–as long as you are moving. Remember that black attracts heat, so while it looks cool, it’s usually pretty hot on a summer day (especially when you are stopped).
Textile and mesh motorcycle jackets, on the other hand, can be very versatile. Mesh obviously flows a ton of air, and is lighter in weight than leather. While almost all of the textile and mesh jackets that we sell have armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back, the outer shell is typically a 1 and done deal. Meaning, if you crash, the jacket should protect you, but it will be torn up and will need to be replaced. Keep in mind that there are different grades of materials to look for, especially over the impact areas. Some jackets are reinforced very well, while others are much lighter in weight and will not survive a higher speed crash as well. The biggest advantage to textile gear is the availability of waterproof options. A waterproof jacket can keep you very warm and comfortable in cold weather, and also keeps you dry if the skies open up. Zippered vents can help keep you comfortable in warmer weather, too. Lastly, textile and mesh jackets are typically less expensive to buy than leather, making them a very popular option.
So which should you buy? Well, as you may have guessed, that all depends. If you intend on riding at higher speeds, or simply prefer the classic look, then go with leather. However, if you are on a more limited budget, or need to be protected in a variety of weather conditions, then textile may be the best way for you to go. We hope this jacket buying guide has been helpful. As always, if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact us!