Gear Talk: Does Leather Keep You Warm On A Motorcycle?

warm leather gear

Every rider wants to extend the season as long as possible, that means riding when the temperature starts to get on the colder side of things. That means getting gear better suited to help keep you warm, many of times that can mean picking up some leather gear.

So, does leather keep you warm on a motorcycle? Any proper piece of leather motorcycle gear, when paired with a good thermal layer underneath will absolutely keep you warm while riding a motorcycle. The majority of the cold you feel is caused by the wind blowing on you. Leather does a great job blocking out the wind, which keeps you warmer.

While this might seem like the end of it, it’s actually not. There’s a lot more to it. Read on to find out more.

What are some benefits to wearing leather when riding a motorcycle?

Protection. There is no denying that leather jackets, pants, gloves and boots have been a staple for motorcycle riders for decades. There is a valid reason for that, leather is really good at keeping you safer during a crash and reducing injuries. Many times during a crash a motorcyclist will spend some time sliding along the pavement.

The pavement will act like a giant sanding block. Making quick work of any exposed flesh, sometimes going all the way down to the bone. That’s why it is very important to wear gear to prevent or limit this.

Studies have shown that wearing a leather jacket with armor can lower your chance of injuries by 23% for some types of injuries and others types by 63%. While that may not be 100%, it’s still a significant reduction and that is just for jackets. Add a pair of leather pants, boots and gloves and your chances are lowered even more.

What is ATGATT?
What is ATGATT?

Style. This is subjective, but many people will agree that leather jackets are cool. A leather jacket or leather pants will look just for a night out on the town as they do when riding.

Versatile. Unlike some other materials, leather is an all year type material. The same piece of leather gear can be comfortably worn in both winter and summer. Sure you might need to change what you wear with it, and it might be a bit hot in the summer, but it is still perfectly fine to wear any season. Besides, it’s better to sweat than bleed.

Durability. It’s not uncommon for a piece of leather motorcycle gear to last 20+ years if taken care of. I personally have leather jackets that are still going strong even after 20 years(bought before I started riding). I just make sure to keep ’em clean and let them dry properly if they get soaked. The initial cost over a cheaper costing textile piece, doesn’t seem so bad when you divide the cost over the lifetime of that piece of leather gear.

Keep the wind and rain out. Most of the cold you feel is when the wind gets through your clothing and blows on your skin, removing heat from your body. If you add water to the mix and you start to feel it even more. Leather prevents both wind and water from reaching your skin. Keeping you dry, warm and more comfortable when riding.

Will I be warm enough in a leather jacket when riding my motorcycle?

This really depends on the specific jacket you are planning on wearing and what features or lining there may or may not be. Even though leather is an all year round material that does a really efficient job of keeping cold wind off your body, there are still a few things you will need to do to stay warm in colder temperatures.

If your jacket comes with a removable liner, make sure you use it. Common sense right? But there are people who will forget about this or get caught out mid trip without it. It’s easier to remove heat while riding than it is to warm up if you are already cold.

Along those lines, always make sure you zip up any vents in your jacket. They might be great for the summer, but in colder weather they are not so good. If you find at the start of the day it’s too warm for your liner or a warm sweater under your jacket, then pack it and take it with you anyways. You’ll be happy you did when things cool down after sunset.

Let’s say you are riding on a nice fall afternoon, the sun is out, you’ve got your leather jacket and a long sleeve t-shirt underneath. You are perfect, not hot or cold, but a few hours later when the sun drops it’s a different story. So you pull over and toss your sweater on or add your liner. Problem solved and back you go to enjoying your ride. Life is good.

If you hadn’t packed it. Your great day out will start to get a little less great, the cold evening air will start to hit you and you won’t have your old pal Mr. Sun there to warm you up.

As far as actual winter riding is concerned, I’ve personally never braved the snow and slush on a motorcycle. Never appealed to me, guess I’m not hardcore enough.

However I can tell you from personal experience, from just wearing a leather jacket out and about, that a leather jacket with a liner will be plenty warm. Especially with a thick sweater underneath.

I pretty much wear a leather jacket all winter, never really noticed the cold being an issue. Maybe except the odd time I chose fashion over warmth on a night out and skipped wearing a sweater underneath.

So yes, you will be perfectly warm when wearing a leather jacket on your motorcycle. Just make sure to add some layers underneath if the weather so dictates.

How well does leather motorcycle gear keep out the elements?

Properly fitted leather gear is amazing at keeping those nasty elements out. Well, maybe not heat. I’m not going to lie. You will feel the summer heat when you wear all leather in the summer, but if you are smart about it and stay well hydrated it isn’t anything to worry about.

You can offset the heat by wearing a damp bandana around your neck while riding, you’d be amazed how much cooler you will feel if you try this. It’s pretty simple to do, just take any bandana and soak it in cool water. Wring out most of the water, tie it around your neck. That’s it.

Even though you will feel the summer heat in gear. It’s been shown that gear in the summer actually keeps you cooler and prevents dehydration. It all has to do with the way that your body cools itself with perspiration.

When you are not wearing gear, the moisture from sweat is evaporated by the wind while riding. So your body isn’t able to cool itself efficiently and then it produces more sweat, leading to quicker dehydration and a possible heat stroke. Wearing motorcycle gear helps to prevent this from happening.

When it comes to rain or moisture, leather is excellent at keeping you nice and dry under the wettest conditions. I’ve been caught out before in a leather jacket. It was pouring rain, I was completely soaked head to toe. When I got a rest stop, I got inside.

Took off my jacket and my arms and torso were completely dry. My feet on the other hand were not, I think there must have been a gap between my boots and pants. So naturally the water found its way in. But wherever I had a good seal was perfectly dry.

I’m vegan, what are my alternatives to a leather jacket when riding a motorcycle?

There are plenty of non-leather options. A really great option is a textile jacket with some sort of abrasion resistant material woven into it. Depending on the material and the placement of these slide panels, you can get close to, if not the same protection as a leather jacket.

The slide panels or materials are usually an aramid or kevlar type material. When you are looking for a jacket or non-leather piece of gear, check to make sure they have some sort of slide resistant material added. If they do not, keep looking.

Whatever you do, do not just get a “faux-leather” jacket and think it will keep you safe on a motorcycle. While it might feel like a leather jacket to the touch, it will not act the same way as leather when sliding and skipping down the road during a crash. It will provide virtually zero slide protection, leading to road rash and increased injuries.

Will any leather jacket work as a motorcycle jacket?

It really depends on the type of leather used. I could write a whole article just on this topic, but not to get off track I’ll keep it short.  Leather thickness, strength  and stitching are key things to look at. 

The thickness and strength is important, simply because the thicker and tougher the leather is. The more slide time it takes before it wears through and starts to mess up your skin, flesh and eventually bones.

A lighter or softer leather found in many leather jackets, simply is not up to the task. While it’s better than nothing, you should instead wear a leather jacket that is specifically designed for your safety rather than cool styling.

Stitching is also important and many times overlooked. It doesn’t matter how good your full-grain leather jacket is if the stitching is not up to the task, then it’s going to fail. You don’t want your pants tearing at the seams when you’re sliding down the road. Look for triple seams or other types of reinforced stitching.

Final thought:

So does leather keep you warm on a motorcycle? Of course it can, but it all depends on the type of leather gear, how you choose to use that gear and whether or not you layer warm clothing underneath it as needed. 

I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope your next ride is a good one. Happy riding!

Jordan Baker

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been riding motorcycles for a few years now(9+ years). Along the way I’ve learned a bunch, made mistakes and picked up a thing or two. I’ve also spent countless hours practicing and working on improving my skills, something I try to do a few times a week. That’s why I made this website. So I can share my love for riding and everything I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you’ll stick around and check out a few articles.

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