german version

make your own motorcycle clothing (permanently under construction ;) )

Some month ago I got my first motorcycle and since I´m a sewing enthusiast anyway, I wonder if it is possible to sew jackets, pants and in general motorcycling wear. Off the rack clothing is not only expensive, but it is also based on standard sizes. However, a good fit is specifically important for the safety of motorcycle clothing. Besides, the freedom to set the look and fit according to one´s own demands and liking is a priceless advantage.

So much for that. Above all, the clothing has to be safe in case of an accident, of course. The materials must have adequate abrasion-resistance, tensile strength, etc.

The general motivation for wearing protective clothing may be supported by this short video and the resulting aftermath...

It is planned to share my experiences (good or bad ;) ) with sewing motorcycle gear, including fitting details, material sources and sewing techniques. Maybe, there are some people out there who want to try it themselves ;)

direct link:



A perennial topic of debate: leather or textile? Discussions about it are often quite emotional and seldomly based on facts... However, there are pros and cons on both sides.

But first, some theoretical considerations (sorry for that ;) ). Basically, one can distinguish between passive and active safety. The former means protection in case of a crash, when is is only possible to limit the damage: absorption of kinetic energy at collision and protection of the skin when sliding over the asphalt. The crash protectors take over the first part, the second the shell material of the clothing, mainly (though the pads also protect covered areas, like knees, shoulders, elbows, backbone, foots and palm).

Active safety is also important, meaning influences that may reduce the risk of an accident. Such factors include the comfort of motorcycle gear that can take effect on the concentration of the driver. Overheated and soaked with sweat, you are not likely going to drive cautiously...

Consequentially, protective clothing for motorcyclist has to be made of sufficiently abrasion- and tear-resistant material. Since sliding induces frictional heat, the material also has to be heat-resistant to some extent. It seems that synthetics showed some deficits on that point. Improper materials (namely: polyester) tend to melt after extensive street contact, burn the skin and involve a long healing process. Alas, it is difficult to keep polyester and polyamid (e.g.) apart if both fabrics show the same structure. Relying on the quality of known manufacturers seems to be the the best way to deal with that problem ( "you get what you pay for" may apply in that case).

Leather is relatively unproblematic regarding passive safety. It is heat- and abrasion-resistant, only because it is- amongst others- thicker than woven fabric (about 1,2 mm in contrast to some 0,5 mm for Cordura, e.g). An additional aspect is the braking effect of the clothing. The coefficient of friction (as a scale for the braking effect) of leather is higher than that of most textiles. Depending on that, the driver stops earlier or later. Ahead of an obstacle or hitting it with residue velocity or even getting hit by his/her own motorcycle.

Though, leather has some downsides concerning active safety: at high temperatures it becomes too warm quickly, at low temperatures too hot. It is not comparably as breathable as (uncoated) fabric. Leather is not waterproof, soaks up water (if not hydrophobic) and then becomes heavy. So, it has a relatively limited wearing comfort. Textiles are much more flexible in use. They allow the construction of waterproof clothing. As a result of their lower thickness, they are lighter and often less stiff than leather. "All round" clothing for a wider temperature range is most exclusively made of synthetics. Moreover, textile clothing is washable. Leather should not be washed frequently and if, then only with adequate care afterwards. However, leather and textile may also well be combined, though washability then is restricted again.

Obviously, both leather and textile clothing has to be of good workmanship. The best materials are of no use if the sewing technique and the fit of the garment are bad. For instance, protectors may get out of place if the jacket or pants are ill-fitting.

Among textile materials, there is polyamide. A well known representative is Cordura from DuPont, which is very abrasion-resistant with a melting point at 210°C. Besides, there are aramid fibres which are famous for their high heat- and abrasion resistance (begin to carbinize at about 450°C). Kevlar from DuPont is one of them. Also interesting are ePTFE-membranes (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene; Teflon), for example GoreTex. Principle of operation: pores with a size of some thousandth mm allow water to pass in the vapourous, but not in the liquid state.

Concerning leather, cowhide that has to meet special requirements is most commonly used... Kangaroo hide may at equal conditions be much thinner than cowhide and therefore offers high comfort at a high safety level.

Fitting requirements [and possible constructions]

Considerations about sewing details

Other (ideas...)

abrasion test

I have done simple abrasion testing on the fabrics I ordered.
Kevlarstoffe hochwichtiger Holzklotz The swatches have about 6 x 10 cm. They were - wrapped around a piece of wood- pressed moderately for about 5 seconds against a straight grinding wheel with a rough surface, resembling tarmac. From 2900 rpm and 15 cm diameter of the grinding wheel results a "sliding speed" of about 82 km/h.

And the winner is... leather ;). From left to right: calf leather (specifically for motorcycle clothing), coated Kevlar (KEVC), reflective Cordura (CREF), thin Keprotec, Kevlar (KEV), Quattro Stretch Kevlar (QSK) and Cordura 500 D. The shortcuts in brackets refer to the names used at, the online shop where I obtained the fabrics.

Leather clearly and impressively was the most resistant material; when Cordura and other thinner fabrics are badly damaged, leather only got a scratch.

Amongst textiles, the coated Kevlar (KEVC; 41% PA, 33% Kevlar®, 18% PU, 8% EL; from Schöller) was definitely the most resistant type. It has become a bit thinner where is was grinded, but it was not frayed. The fabric is rather thick (app. 1 mm) and even slightly elastic, with a smooth left side, relatively stiff. It can soonest be compared to leather, but does not quite seem to meet its durability (at least not in use as a single layer).

Quattro Stretch Kevlar from a finnish company is fairly durable, as well ("3rd place"). Since it is a knit and not woven fabric, it is quite stretchy and also soft.

Of course, the test´s informational value is limited. Contact surface, -time and -pressure are in a reasonable range, but not really reproducible. The fabric was not pressed evenly against the grinding surface, often resulting in a rather punctiform area of stress. However, the test allows a first impression of how resistant the materials are, in comparison with each other.

Other (ideas...)


(in german only)

motorcycle pantsPants (completed)

motorcycle jacketJacket (in progress)

links about protective riding gear...
motorcycle safety foundation Reviews by riders