Motorbike Jackets - Leather or Synthetic?

When choosing your motorcycle jacket you will be faced with the decision of synthetic or leather. Consider the table below which outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Note. By leather we mean a leather jacket, not brightly coloured one piece racing leathers . In all respects, racing leathers are superior if you own a sports bike which you push to the limit.

If you use your bike a lot, travel at reasonable speeds and live in a hot climate you need to invest in an air flow jacket. This is a synthetic jacket made of a mesh-type fabric that allows air to penetrate. Modern products have good protective armour and offer good crash and slide protection. I wear mine 8 months of the year and change to leather only once winter arrives. You will need a rain suit in your luggage as the wind chill factor is significant as this jacket offers zero warmth and waterproofing protection.

Leather Jackets

Advantages Disadvantages
Can last as long as 30 years if looked after Dark in colour and thus affecting visibility
Classic styling prevents it looking dated Heavier in weight
A lot cheaper that synthetic jackets Not as waterproof and is not the best choice if you intend to tour a lot.
Professional motor cyclists only use full body leather riding suits  Few have zip out linings
Has an attitude, history and tradition that is hard to beat Some leather jackets are fashion garments and should not be used for serious biking
Sportbiker leather jackets have very effective soft body armour sewn into the style of the jacket. (Touring and cruiser jackets generally do not) Feels more restrictive and heavy at first
Smells great especially after it has been treated Traditionally shorter in length
Can often be worn as a regular garment (although the sleeves are a bit long) due to a huge variety of available styles Must be treated to keep it soft and water resistant
Does not show the dirt! Not as warm as a synthetic jacket with a winter lining. Hot and uncomfortable in very hot weather.

Synthetic Jackets

Advantages Disadvantages
Brightly coloured, often with reflector strips Does not last as long.
Almost totally waterproof thus making it an excellent choice for touring. Styling becomes dated, begins to look grubby and the colours fade
Many have a zip out lining to cope with extremes in weather, again making it a good choice for touring. A lot more expensive
For hot countries there are special 'airflow' fabrics that allow the moving air to penetrate the jacket and keep you cool.  The 'airflow' fabric mentioned alongside offers no waterproofing qualities at all. If the weather turns cooler you freeze. In this case a separate windbreaker worn over the jacket has to be used.
Usually longer in length Cannot usually be worn as a regular garment except in extreme weather
Lighter in weight Cleaning can be a complex process as damage to the waterproofing layer can result from using detergents.
Has a body armour system sewn into the inner part of the jacket. Soft body armour is regarded to be more effective than hard.
Kevlar-lined denim-style jackets and Cargo pants are available through companies like Draggin Jeans. These garments can be comfortably worn into theatres and pubs.