Textile motorcycle gear - what you need to know

Textile material is made by arranging different man made fibers together to create a desired appearance, texture, strength and durability. With textile motorcycle gear the main protective fibers that make up the protective part of the material consists of ballistic nylon and cordura nylon. Ballistic nylon is the heavier of the two and has superior tensile and tear strength. Cordura nylon is lighter and provides great abrasion resistance. With the combination of these two nylons, textile motorcycle gear is made to protect you from a slide down the road in a motorcycle accident. Added armour will help protect you from the initial impact of hitting the road surface in a motorcycle accident and aid in the protection from a high speed slide. In the modern world we live in, riders are spoilt for choice when it comes to textile motorcycle gear. There is motorcycle gear for every riding scenario so lets try and find out what type of textile motorcycle gear will suit your needs and riding conditions.

Type of textile motorcycle gear

There a loads of different choices when it comes to purchasing textile motorcycle gear. This can make it hard when making a decision, as most of us will only be purchasing a limited amount of gear to fit into our budget. Personally I have 3 sets of motorcycle gear that i use depending on the riding that I’m doing. These are:

  1. Warm weather gear – consists of lighter breathable textile gear with arm, shoulder and back armour protection
  2. Wet weather gear – consists of heavier, waterproof textile gear with arm, shoulder and back armour protection and waterproof overprints
  3. Full leathers – consists of a leather jacket/pants combo that zips together for added protection and for track requirements

The first step to deciding what type of textile gear to purchase, besides budget (lets not forget textile gear is usually the cheaper option), is the main type of riding you will be doing. You may need to purchase a different jacket, pants and gloves combos depending on wants/needs and riding conditions. Most of us will start off with one set of riding gear so its a good idea to try and get a hybrid blend to cover as many bases as possible, for example a heavy textile jacket with removable armour, zip vents for air and a removable thermal inside liner. These 3 different types of riding you may be doing mentioned above include:

  1. Commuting

When commuting its important that your protective gear is comfortable. Textile gear is much more comfortable compared to leather, as its lighter, more breathable in warmer weather and a better material to have in wet weather. Textile motorcycle gear gains serious points for your ability to wash it easily. There is a lot more movement of your body while commuting, such as stopping at traffic lights, putting your feet down and moving your arms and legs around. Textile motorcycle gear also comes in many different colour and hi-vis variations to help with visibility while out on the road. 

  1. Adventure riding or cruising

The main positives to wearing textile gear while partaking in this type of motorcycle riding is the constant change in riding conditions and personal comfort. Spending hours at a time on your motorcycle is much more comfortable in textile gear than leathers. When conditions change textile gear offers a greater ability to adapt such as built in liners that can be removed, the ability to dry textile gear easier when wet and the ability to easily wash your dirty/sweaty textile gear. Its also easier to store a spare textile jacket or pants in your luggage if adventure riding. Lets not forget that textile motorcycle gear is usually much cheaper than leathers, making it cheaper to replace after the many miles of adventure riding.

  1. Riding the twisties or weekend riding

While textile gear is great for riding the twisties, especially in warmer weather, it won’t offer as much protection as leather gear will. Riding these conditions will occur more risk, especially if your pushing the limits of your motorcycle, skills or both. I would recommend full leather gear when riding the twisties. That being said I have been known to ride the twisties with my light textile summer gear when the weather gets hot.

Quality and fit

Textile motorcycle gear is made to be lightweight, comfortable, strong and abrasion resistant. Regardless of what type of gear you decide to purchase, its important to inspect the quality and make sure the gear fits your body properly. The weakest part of any motorcycle gear are the seams and stitching, so check for double stitching and hidden seams for greater protection. The same goes for added armour and stitched in air vents. Check around the edges for vulnerability and make sure the armour has a CE or AS rating or some kind of brand specific protection rating.  

Wet weather riding

Textile gear is a must have for wet weather riding. Its not necessarily more waterproof, but will be easier to dry and clean after a good dose of rain on the street, and won’t require specific treatment afterwards like leather will. My wet weather gear consists of water resistant textile gloves, boots, jacket and pants. I then have basic waterproof raincoatings I wear over my textile pants. I tend to find my jacket keeps me fairly dry underneath, even though the jacket is absolutely soaked after a good downpour. I feel like the extra layer of water protection provided by the overprints keeps my legs nice a dry, and they are an extra size too big so they cover my boots nicely as well. Just keep in mind these waterproof overpants provide zero safety protection and will not breathe. A waterproof overcoat might be a good idea to add to the collection if you have problems with leaking jackets. These waterproof overcoats are usually cheap and will roll up very small. I keep a pair in the back compartment of my bike (its a supersport so the storage is tiny). Check out this article on wet weather motorcycle gear for more information.

Its a good idea to keep in mind that in an accident, going down on the street will typically be at slower speeds than on track or aggressive riding on the twisties. At slower speeds your textile motorcycle gear has less contact time with the road providing less extreme conditions for the fabric. Keep in mind that the cheaper, more casual denim jeans with kevlar panels stitched in will offer abrasion resistance but will not have any armour to protect against impact in an accident and will not offer as much protection than a proper pair of stronger textile or leather motorcycle pants. After any motorcycle accident, its a good idea to closely inspect your gear for damage, and seriously consider replacing it as it will almost definitely be compromised in some way.

If your looking to purchase your first set of motorcycle gear for the street, I have created a 5 step checklist for purchasing textile motorcycle gear, listed below. If your looking to purchase leather motorcycle gear, click here for a 7 step checklist.

  1. Decide on the main type of riding or future riding your doing – examples include commuting, aggressive street riding, adventure riding, cruising, track days of a combination of these
  2. Make a short list of what you need out of your textile gear including price – Take into account your budget, level of protection required, looks, comfort and potential weather and riding conditions
  3. Check the quality of textile material as listed above, check the seams and stitching, safety standards. Mistakes in the manufacturing and quality control procedures do happen
  4. Check the level of armour vs the level you require/want as well as the quality and location of that armour – Some products have armour that can be purchased and fitted separately
  5. Fit and warranty – Get fitted properly in person, be mindful of the warranty provided, does the company believe in their gear?