Grading the Animals by Skin

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.

Exotic Leather

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!

Light Weight Leather: a.k.a “Soft Leather”

It has often been said that any leather is better than no leather. I can’t argue with that, but if you’re really into protection you might want to consider some Ballistic Nylon as a lightweight alternative.

I put the terms lightweight and soft leather together because they can pretty much mean the same thing, but not necessarily (more on  that later). You may run across these terms used independently of each other.

Light weight leather is thinner and therefore of lighter weight than your typical “riding grade” motorcycle jacket. It also tends to be very soft (depending on the tanning process used) because of the type of animal it comes from.

Sheepskin, Lambskin, Deerskin and Goat are typical skins that are common in the fashion leather industry. They are in fact the leather of choice for just about every leather garment not intended to suffer the trauma of sliding across an asphalt surface.

Bikers can be found inhabiting just about every corner of the globe. A biker living somewhere near the equator might not necessarily want to be lugging around a 6 to 8 pound leather motorcycle jacket, but still may  desire some sort of protection in case of a nasty spill on the road.

Just like in some states the law allows you to decide if you want to wear a helmet or not, the choice of thick or thin is yours to make.  Just realize these lightweight soft leathers will not afford the protection of a first class “riding grade” motorcycle jacket, chaps, or leather pants.

There is one more animal skin I should mention here that I  have seen classified as “soft leather”. Pigskin, or Pig Napa is indeed a very soft leather, although not necessarily light weight. In its best form it is thick, soft to the touch, pliable, and the tightly textured grain most closely resembles the finest of riding grade biker leather. Problem is, if you snag it,  it will tear. Worse still, if you drag it across the road it will disintegrate along with the rest of your skin. What am I trying to say here? Leave the  pigskin for the footballs!

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