Written by Kyle Cannon of Motorcycle Habit (article has been edited for size/relevance)
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.
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.
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.
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 chaps 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 chaps 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.
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.
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.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are “manufactured” leather jackets and chaps, 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.
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.