Our sponsor and benefactor Biker Leather Ltd has begun offering discount motorcycle leather three piece sets in the form of a rebate at the conclusion of every happy transaction. All of their premium motorcycle leather sets are being offered at around 10% off when you buy the full jacket, chap, and vest three piece set.
You just got yourself a brand new leather motorcycle jacket and a pair of chaps. You’re looking cool and shiny cruising down a mountain road, when all of a sudden the sky breaks loose all over your spanking clean leather. Ruined? I think not, if you had the foresight to prepare for the unexpected.
While all serious bikers know of the valuable protection afforded by good quality motorcycle leather, the fact of the matter is that riding motorcycles is an outdoor recreation, and as such, the leather we wear is going to be exposed to the elements. An unexpected rain storm on a crisp autumn day, a roadside mud bath from a clueless SUV, oil, grease and gasoline, even scruff marks from close encounters of the road all take a toll on your leather motorcycle gear.
Maintaining the Leather
You have a couple of options for motorcycle leather care when it comes to weather and stains:
There are a number of leather conditioners that purport to render your leather stain and moisture resistant, whether it be a motorcycle jacket, sofa, or leather car seat. Simply apply the conditioner and watch your leather get even darker (should lighten back up over time). It will be much more resistant to spills, smudges and rain, but definitely not “water proof”.
Keep it Dry
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why not look into some quality motorcycle rain gear? Don’t let your leather get wet in the first place, and you’ll save yourself a lot of worry and work.
Whether you splurged for a top of the line naked leather set, went for the more affordable top grain, or just got some really cheap splits, there are precautions you can take to help ensure that your leathers last a reasonable lifetime.
Here’s a top ten list to help with some more leather maintenance issues: 10 Tips To Help Your Motorcycle Leather Last Longer. Heed the Boyz advice, take care of your leathers and they will return the favor.
Biker Leather Ltd has recently initiated a comprehensive interactive comment script directly on the product page. The comment script, developed by Commentics, adds a new element of interaction to the website, similar to what we have on the blog.
We see several advantages of allowing our website visitors to provide input on an item without leaving that products page, like not having to navigate to the contact page just to ask a question.
Many of our visitors that are interested in an item naturally have a question or two that they would like to ask before they decide to commit to a purchase. What we have found over and over is that most of those questions are universal, everybody would like to know that! Questions about sizing or availability of a product come up all the time. We can now answer your question right on the page, so the next person interested in that item is already a better informed consumer. Its a no brainer!
Here’s a novel concept: Design a fully electric motorcycle that gets 200 miles to a charge, goes 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds, tops out at 120 mph, and takes the force of a baby elephant to tip it over.
That’s exactly what Lit Motors has been doing with its C-1 self-balancing electric motorcycle, billed as the ultimate urban driving solution.
Based in San Francisco Ca, Lit Motors CTO Daniel Kim and his team have developed a prototype of the C-1 and plan to have it on the market by 2014.
The C-1 looks more like something out of the Jetsons than a motorcycle. It is fully enclosed (optional convertible or moon roof) in a steel unibody chassis with reinforced doors, and includes multiple airbags and a safety belt.
But the real kicker is the gyro technology. Two electronically controlled gyroscopes putting out over 1,300 ft-lb of torque keep the C-1 balanced at a stop, and although it will skid, it won’t tip or roll over, even in a collision.
Since it is classified as a motorcycle, C-1 riders will reap all the advantages, with its enclosed nature allowing you not to rely soley on your clothing for safety gear. Lane splitting, riding two abreast, utilizing the HOV lane and motorcycle parking spots combine with the economy and cleanliness of an electric vehicle, to offer the big city commuter big savings in both time and money.
In fact, the C-1 is aimed primarily at big city dwellers as a more efficient way to get around, and to those who commute to the city, with some estimates of time spent in traffic reduced by 50%. Another theory claims that if 10% of automobile drivers in California would switch to motorcycles, traffic congestion would drop by 40%.
So the big question is will the public buy it? With over 250 preorders at 24 grand a pop, that’s a start. Now if they can get some of that other 10% to buy in maybe they’ll have something there.
Check out the Lit Motors C-1 video on our google+ page.
For motorcycle riders, lane splitting (the practice of riding between two lanes of traffic going in the same direction) opens up a whole new safety zone, fraught with a whole new set of hazards. A way of life in Europe and Asia splitting lanes is just the way it is, providing welcome relief to congested traffic centers around the world.
In the U.S. the only state where lane splitting is legal is California, and then only if done in a “safe and prudent” manner. Still, in a recent survey only 53% of drivers realized the practice was legal, indicating a lack of awareness that may contribute to some hostility towards motorcycle riders on their part.
Top Grain Leather
Contrary to the way it sounds, top grain is the second best quality leather found on the market. Sometimes called corrected leather, it is taken from the top of the hide, thus preserving the grain to a certain extent.
However, because the life of a cow or buffalo can sometimes be environmentally harsh, the top few millimeters are sanded down to hide any blemishes that might be there like scars from barbed wire, brandings, insect bites, coyote bites, well, you get the picture.
A finish coat is then sprayed or plastered onto the hide giving it a stiff, sort of plastic look. In the case of corrected leather, as with splits, a pattern is stamped on the finish to mimic the natural grain.
Top grain leather motorcycle gear is the most common leather found, and is perfectly suitable for riding grade leather. Because of the way it is finished it is resistant to stains (as long as the finish remains intact) but it does requires a breaking in period before it becomes pliable and soft to the touch. This breaking in period can be expedited at the tannery by a process called soft milling.
Without embellishment, naked leather has nothing added to the hide other than the dye. The hides are hand-picked for uniformity and lack of blemishes, accounting for less than 10% of the world’s leather supply. Only the best hides are used to produce true naked leather motorcycle apparel.
The terms naked and full grain leather are sometimes used interchangeably, however full grain implies that the entire hide is used, a practice common in the furniture industry. A cow can be thick skinned, up to 5 or 6 mm thick! That would be a very heavy jacket, so both top grain and naked leather often have the bottom split off to achieve the desired thickness.
Because it is the least processed, naked leather is soft, supple, and pliable from the beginning and does not require a breaking in period. Over time it will develop a patina giving it a warm comfortable worn in look. Needless to say, naked leather is the most expensive grade, and can reach well into the $500 range for a jacket at a well branded retail store.
Riding Grade Leather – the Thicker the Better
True riding grade leather motorcycle apparel is most commonly made from top grain or naked buffalo or cowhide (or Kangaroo if you can get it). The next question is how thick should it be? From a protection standpoint, the thicker the better, however, the choice is yours. Top grain buffalo and cowhide leather typically start around 1.2 millimeters thick, with the real heavy naked leather jackets reaching up to 1.6 mm.
The climate you live in may be the determining factor for you, but if you stay within the 1.2-6 mm range, you will have found a perfectly good riding grade set of leathers.
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When an animal’s skin becomes leather, i.e. the decay process has been stopped, there are a number of ways it can be finished that are suitable for a variety of uses. A single hide can be split into several hides of different thicknesses, which is but one factor in determining the riding grade of the material.
Leather can be buffed with abrasives to create a very soft and pliable material we call suede, or you can add some coats of urethane to make some shiny patent leather shoes. None of these methods would be considered riding grade.
The most important thing to remember at this point is that leather gets its strength, durability, pliability and breathability from the outer skin, the epidermis of the animal, commonly referred to in the leather apparel industry as the “grain”.
In the motorcycle leather clothing industry there are typically three grades of leather (buffalo or cowhide) that are prevalent throughout.
Starting at the bottom, split leather, or splits, are made from the bottom part of the hide. Remember one hide can be split at least twice to produce the desired thickness. Split leather has a smooth surface quite suitable for stamping or embossing. Alternatively, splits are also used to produce suede.
Keep in mind that being from the bottom part of the hide, split leather has no grain. Split leather motorcycle jackets, chaps, pants and vests will typically have a pattern embossed on them to mimic the natural grain of the animal.
Splits are thin and lightweight, probably making them more appealing in warmer climates, but don’t count on them for any kind of protection in a road slide. They are the cheapest grade offered to bikers, so just be sure you know what you’re getting into. Split leather, for our purposes, is not considered to be riding grade, and therefore should not be purchased as motorcycle safety gear.
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For lack of a more all inclusive term for our purposes, the following group of animal skins I have classified as simply riding grade.
In the late 1920’s, with the Industrial revolution in full swing and when manufacturing was actually done in the U.S., a company named Schott NYC came out with the first jacket specifically designed for the comfort, convenience, and protection of the motorcycle enthusiast. The Perfecto had all the characteristics of what we know today as the traditional or classic style motorcycle jacket. The material of choice, and thus the first true “riding grade” leather, was horsehide.
Today, most commercial leather tanning and garment manufacturing is done in Pakistan, India, and more recently, China. While they are indeed experts in the manufacturing of all kinds of leather, Buffalo and Cowhide have emerged as the predominant leathers that have been determined to be strong enough and thick enough to protect a biker’s skin from a bad case of road rash.
This is not to say that’s your only choice. I hear the Aussies are making some jackets out of kangaroo, and I’m sure somebody has taken a slide down a sand dune in a nice camel skin jacket, I just haven’t seen any testing on how they would hold up on an asphalt surface, and they aren’t really commercially produced in mass quantities anyway.
With the determining factors for riding grade leather being thickness and strength, both buffalo and cowhide in their most natural state meet the criteria. But how do they compare?
Riding grade biker leather should be at least 1 millimeter thick; indeed most quality motorcycle jackets and chaps range from 1.2mm up to 1.6mm. Cowhide is thicker than buffalo hide naturally, but thickness can and often is altered in the tanning process.
The strength of the leather (resistance to tearing) is determined by the outer skin, the epidermis if you will, which is referred to in the industry as the “grain”. Once again, after much stress testing, cowhide wins out.
The Bottom Line
Clearly, cowhide is the superior leather for both strength and durability, yet buffalo is quite adequate in terms of protection and esthetics. Once again, it’s your choice. Buffalo is (or should be) less expensive than cowhide. If you run across some “soft leather” as mentioned previously, that should be cheaper than buffalo.
But! Riding grade leather is not solely determined the type of animal skin used. How the hides are finished is also a major consideration to take into account.
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A nice pair of Python boots might be a great compliment to your snazzy riding attire, but would you really want a snakeskin motorcycle jacket or chap? There are many terms you might run across that tend to classify certain animals into broad groups of leather: soft, lightweight, premium, exotic, ultra, etc.
Here we attempt to identify these more common terms and their animals, and to editorialize a bit as to what they might be useful for from a Bikers point of view.
This one should be obvious. Like I said before, all animals have a skin, and not just mammals! Fishskin? Yes, shark, manta ray, stingray, dolphin (mahi-mahi very pretty!) all are capable of becoming genuine leather. Reptiles such as alligators, crocs, iguana, any kind of lizard skin all are pretty exotic if you ask me. Dinosaurs (chicken?) well, maybe not.
So what are they good for? Nothing wrong with a good pair of properly reinforced crocodile boots, or any other exotic skin for that matter. Just make sure the leather is used as nature intended: to cover a sturdy skeleton.
Bikers like their leather and have created a whole niche out of what used to be called a waistcoat. An Anaconda Biker Vest would be an interesting topic of conversation in any biker bar (yea, I caught it myself). A great way to meet chicks!
We at Biker Leather Ltd believe that an informed consumer will eventually become a happy customer. To that end, we would like to attempt to clarify some of the terms and nomenclature related to the motorcycle leather clothing industry that one might typically find strewn across the vast wilderness of the Internet.
While not manufacturers of leather motorcycle apparel ourselves, after more than eight years of selling top quality biker leather around the globe, we have done the research for you. Now we’re going to lay it all out in detail!
For a more succinct list of some of the terms we in particular use on our site, check out our Glossary of Terms page.
What We Mean by “Riding Grade” Leather
The history of using an animal’s skin for clothing dates back to the pre Neanderthal ages, and was more than likely the one material first used by our ancestors to cover up and protect. Ok, maybe Adam and Eve preferred plant leaves as a fashion statement, but even Tarzan understood the value in making his own leather. That loincloth wasn’t made of plastic!
Every animal has a skin, and is therefore a great candidate for leather. There’s snakeskin, coonskin, beaver pelts, sharkskin, lambskin, cowhide, horsehide, and kangaroo, just to name a few, all of them when properly tanned earning the right to be called “Genuine Leather”.
For the serious motorcycle enthusiast, leather is much more than a fashion statement. It’s a matter of protection. Whereas a good motorcycle helmet or lack thereof may be the difference between life or death, the quality of your leather motorcycle jacket, chaps or pants, can determine how long and painful your recovery will be should you survive.
So what constitutes “Riding Grade Leather”? Basically, it comes down to two factors: The type of animal skin used, and the tanning process used to turn it into leather. So let’s start with getting the skinny on the skins.
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