Can Textile Motorcycle Jackets Measure Up to Leather
for Safety and Comfort?

Let's take a closer look at textile motorcycle jackets. Leather definitely has the lion's share of the market, but there's definitely a place for a fabric riding jacket in the thinking motorcyclist's closet. Textile jackets have many of the same features of their leather cousins (see Motorcycle Jackets for basic jacket features), but they also offer some options that leather jackets don't.

Textile motorcycle jackets:

  • can incorporate waterproof materials such as Gore-Tex to make them waterproof for those rainy day rides.
  • tend to be less expensive than good leather ones, so economics can play a factor while still offering decent protection.
  • are generally made from nylon or polyester materials. Nylon is usually tougher, but some polyesters are being developed that are said to be giving nylon a run for it's money.
  • make it easier to incorporate features like fluorescent panels and piping, which can be a good safety advantage for night riding.
Before getting too far down the road, let's start with a little vocabulary. The weight of fabrics are measured by the denier. The higher the denier, the heavier the material is. This gives you a rough idea of the toughness as long as you're comparing the same material. For example, a 600 denier fabric will be stronger than a 500 denier fabric made from the same material. That being said, the type of nylon or poly material your jacket is made from is a big consideration.

In the nylon family, if you see the Cordura brand name used, that's a good sign because it's used in some of the finest and toughest motorcycle gear you can buy. The Cordura brand can actually refer to other types of materials, but in the world of motorcycle clothing, it's most likely a nylon-66 product.

Polyester is getting into the textile motorcycle jacket game with stronger fibers being developed. One worth mentioning is the Carbolex brand, which is a trademark of Fieldsheer, one of the premier manufacturers of both textile and leather motorcycle jackets.

So, how do these fabrics compare to leather in terms of abrasion protection? According to Fieldsheer's testing, they say it can be up to 90% as strong as leather. From the 3rd party test results shown on their site, their heaviest and most abrasion-resistant Carboflex material is 75% as strong as the 1.2-1.4 mm race quality leather they use in their leather jackets. That's pretty damn good if you ask me.

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