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Motorcycle Leather: A Purchasing Guide for Leather Motorcycle Apparel
When pondering the purchase of motorcycle leathers, there are several issues that one must consider. While one would think that style would be first and foremost, in actuality, it is the protection that a good set of motorcycle leathers affords the skin that is of the utmost priority for any serious biker. Leather has over the years been proven to be the best material for motorcycle clothing, due to its resistance to tear, its natural warmth, and its acting as a first layer of defense by coming between the biker and the rough asphalt road. Leather has often literally saved the skin of many bikers.
Types of Leather
To fully understand the types of leather available, one must first know the term “grain”. The grain is simply the epidermis, or outer layer of the animal’s skin. While imperfections such as cuts, scars, and scratches will exist, the grain in its natural state has the best fiber strength, and therefore the best durability. The grain also has natural breathability, resulting in greater comfort to the wearer.
Finished Split Leather
The middle or lower section of a hide that has been split into two or more thicknesses. A polymer coating is applied and embossed to mimic grain leather. Finished splits should only be used in low stress applications because they basically have no grain. If the polymer coating is left out it is often used to make suede. Not considered to be riding grade, but can look good nevertheless.
Top grain leather has been sanded to remove scars and imperfections, then sprayed or pasted for a uniform look. The smooth side is where the hair and the natural grain used to be. Top grain is not the same quality as full grain or naked leather, but thicknesses of 1.2-3mm make this type of leather a very strong and durable riding grade material.
Full-Grain and Naked Leather
Full-Grain leather is made from the finest hides, and has not been sanded to remove imperfections. Only the hair has been removed. In the case of Naked Leather, where nothing other than the dye is added; this very soft leather requires no breaking in period. Hides are typically 2mm thick, and must be hand picked for uniformity. The natural full-grain naked leather will wear better than other leather, and will actually improve over the years. This type of leather is the ultimate riding grade; the most sought after, and consequently, the most expensive.
Now that we know what type of leather we want, we must understand the fact that leather is hot, and understand the options that we have for the climate we live in. For winter biking, a jacket with side laces and a belt will allow you to adjust the jacket to fit snugly against the upper body. Of course, being able to fully zip up only adds to your protection from the wind. You can also wear a leather vest underneath your motorcycle jacket for extra warmth. For hot summer days, a leather jacket with air vents allows the air to circulate underneath the jacket and around your body. For an all year round jacket, consider one with a zip or snap out insulated lining.