Here’s Why Motorcycle Riders Wear Leather

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Whether you’re a seasoned motorcycle rider, just starting to ride, or are simply observant, you may have noticed that a lot of motorcycle riders wear leather. Some wear a lot of it no matter what season it is.

A lot of people assume it’s just the culture of motorcycle riders and that’s simply what they wear. There’s actually a lot more behind the reasons why motorcyclists wear it that most may not realize.

So, why do motorcycle riders wear leather? The main reason motorcycle riders wear leather is for protection. Leather has proven to provide better protection than regular clothes while riding a motorcycle. Motorcyclists wear leather jackets, vests, and chaps to protect the vital parts of their body in the case of an accident or crash.

So while wearing leather during a motorcycle ride can make you look cool, the basis is for safety. Over time, motorcyclists have added a few aspects to leather riding, so aside from safety and looking cool, there are other functionalities wearing leather can provide.

The Safety Of Wearing Leather

It’s easy when someone says “leather jacket” to automatically think about the typical motorcycle rider who is wearing all leather on their Harley Davidson with high handle bars and a long pony tail. Maybe there’s a bandanna somewhere in there too.

While that all may be true, more and more motorcyclists are following suit with the whole leather thing. It’s not just Harley Davidson riders who wear leather. It’s also the hipster cafe racer rider or the doctor who rides a sporster.

As time goes on, studies continue to show that the less protection you wear while riding a motorcycle increases your chances of severe injuries. And people are beginning to notice. Stores are now beginning to sell different types of leather apparel, especially jackets, that fit different types of personalities.

Leather protection has been used for thousands of years. Native Americans were quick to find out the protective properties of leather and often wore it as protection from cuts and bruises. Those in the medieval times also wore leather armor for similar reasons.

In the case of an accident, leather does a much better job at protecting your skin than most other materials. It makes sense though, leather is made from animal skin which is already tougher than human skin.

Obviously, leather will not give you 100% coverage in the case of a crash, but those first few seconds of impact or sliding will be covered by the leather which makes a whole lot of difference for your hide.

Leather also provides protection from the elements. When properly made, leather jackets and chops are water proof so if you were to find yourself in the middle of a rain storm during your ride, your leather will protect you.

Leather can be worn any time of the year. Leather provides essential warmth during a cold winter ride. Special leather jackets, vests, and chops are made specifically to be worn in the summer; quality ones are made with a ventilation system so you won’t have to worry about getting too hot.

Do Leather Vests Really Provide Protection?

Now that we’ve covered that leather is mostly worn as a form of protection, you may be asking yourself why motorcyclists wear leather vests. How can a vest be a form of protection when it’s not really covering anything?

Leather vests can actually still provide some protection in the case of a crash. Leather vests usually still cover some vital body parts and will prevent some road rash on both the back and the torso.

While some might find it pointless to wear a vest while riding instead of a whole jacket, some riders don’t want to wear a whole jacket because it’s uncomfortable but still want some protection while they’re riding. A leather vest is a good middle ground and it’s at least some form of protection.

Other Functionalities Of Leather For Motorcyclists

Aside from the protection leather gives to motorcyclists, there are actually a lot of other uses to wearing leather while riding a motorcycle. Leather wearing has become a huge part of the riding culture and it has evolved to make riding a little easier.

Many motorcyclists use their leather jackets as an opportunity to display something special to them. Such things may include club colors or military patches. Others may choose to have the name of their loved one embroidered on the back of the jacket or even wear a certain color of dyed leather to represent something special to them.

For example, some bikers may choose to wear pink leather jackets to show their support for breast cancer awareness usually because a loved one has been impacted by it.

Many leather jackets, vests, and chaps have durable pockets that can be used for various things. Some pockets even have special zippers on them to keep any moisture out or prevent wind from blowing anything out from inside.

This can be quite helpful if you don’t have much space on your motorcycle to store registration, wallet, cell phone, etc. For more creative places to store registration on a motorcycle, see my article by clicking here.

Alternatives To Leather

There are many who don’t love the idea of wearing leather because of the effect it has on the environment, the cruelty it is against animals, or they don’t plain don’t like the feel of leather and it’s heaviness. Luckily there are plenty of alternatives that can give just as good of protection as leather would.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are “manufactured” leather jackets and chops, however these don’t provide near the protection real leather does. People often mistake that real leather and fake leather have the same properties and provide the same protection. Fake leather will do nothing for you if you wear it on a motorcycle and crash.

There are a lot of textile jackets and pants specifically made for motorcyclists and their safety. This material is frequently referred to as “ballistic nylon.” It provides almost as much protection as leather would and can also has excellent ventilation for the days it’s hot and you’re out riding.

Many may wonder which of the materials is the best to wear while riding a motorcycle. Both types of materials serve the same purpose and will essentially provide the needed protection in the case of an accident. It all just really depends on your style, what you’re comfortable with, and what you feel will keep your the safest.

Other Protective Gear You Should Wear

Unfortunately, wearing a leather jacket and chops will not give you the full coverage you need while riding a motorcycle. There are several other items you need to wear to ensure your safety that can greatly prevent major injuries.

Obviously, the most essential thing you can wear while riding a motorcycle is a helmet (click here to see the helmet I recommend in my list of suggested gear). Head injuries are not anything you should risk, so always wear a helmet even if you’re just going for a ride down the street. An accident can happen in a split second and a ride down the road as a lot of seconds. stated that “because serious head injury is common among fatally injured motorcyclists, helmet use is important. Helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.”

Wearing gloves are also an essential part of motorcycle safety. It is a natural reaction for humans when they fall down to automatically use their hands to protect other vital parts of their body. If you find yourself in a crash or accident on your motorcycle, your hands will get tore up because of that natural reaction. Gloves can greatly help protect your hands in this case.

Wearing the right riding boots are also important to have as a motorcyclist (click here to see the riding boots I recommend in my list of suggested gear). They need to be shoes that cover the ankles. This will also greatly reduce the risk of injury to your feet and ankles as well as provide protection from the motorcycle, it’s hot pipes, and any rocks or debris the tires shoot up from the road.

Related Questions

Why do bikers call their vests “cuts”? Bikers often refer to their leather or denim vests they wear while riding as “cuts” because the vests were usually originally a full jacket and were cut into a vest. These are often worn over their original clothing, such as full leather jackets, so the badges they have on their vests are easily seen.

Why do motorcycles have whips? The main reasons why motorcycle riders hang a whip from their handlebars are to quickly identify what motorcycle club the rider is from, as a self defense mechanism, to help other motorists see them easier, in memory of lost friends or family, as a look to the past, or purely for aesthetics. See my article here for more information.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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