What Are Some Good Choices for Bike Jacket Hides?

MediumMech

Member
So, after a few years away from the hobby, I'm looking to get back into riding motorcycles. Obviously, this means a new jacket is in order!!! As I have freakishly long arms, I will almost certainly be commissioning something semi custom. Aero is my first choice at the moment, but I'm open to other possibilities. In any case, I will need to make some decisions regarding a hide. I'm new to this, so I'm not fully sure of the advantages/disadvantages of steer versus horse. I'm also not sure of what kind of tanning or preservative processes make for a good utility jacket that has decent rain resistance. I'm likely to chose a jacket pattern that is based on a 40's or 50's jackets, so with all those pockets and details, I'm imagining that the hide weight shouldn't be too high. I'm looking to learn from others who ride and/or wear jackets in all weather conditions. What hides have you found that perform well and look great?

Thanks!

- Dave
 

MikeyB-17

Well-Known Member
Good man!
I’m fairly sure the majority of bike leathers are cowhide, of various grades. I know my leathers are. Some makers go in for kangaroo hide, which is very abrasion-resistant. Personally, biking is an area where I ignore vintage style and go all out for modern technology, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. Aero make fantastic, traditional bike jackets using 30’s/40’s/50’s designs, and although I know people do use them for riding, technology has moved on, and there are other companies who make jackets more specifically bike-orientated, with armour etc. I don’t have any personal experience, but I do know that if you’re in the US, I have heard very good things said about Langlitz, both about the quality of their jackets and their customer service.
 

busdrivermike

Well-Known Member
Well my thoughts on this after 38 years of riding and still being old school in wearing leather
Instead of the newer military grade kevlar,gortex, multi layered waterproof camel back supporting
Armored vented jackets that look in my opinion hideous but are truly functional.
Is first it depends on the riding position you will be in as some
Jackets will just absolutely suck regardless how good they look off the bike
Nothing worse then a jacket digging into your arm pits especially over a few miles
Or riding up your back or creating a wind tunnel around your neck
second I’ve discovered I needed multiple jackets as I live in Canada and
To fit seasonal conditions, during the Canadian spring and fall
I use a heavy schott bomber in naked cow hide with zip in liner and snap on collar, I also supplement
With a heated vest on +10c or cooler days so the ability to layer is for me important in a bike jacket.
During the summer months I’m either in a goatskin A2 or medium weight leather
Shirts cow, deer or heavier lamb skin usually under a denim vest or jacket just because I like it
I also have a heavier cowhide biker vest for over the leather shirts because it’s great on the highway
I’ve yet to find a good all season all conditions leather motorcycle jacket and I don’t think it exists.
cow has been my hide of choice as it’s the most common , though from
Past experience deerskin is amazing, soft, strong and doesn’t stiffen up if soaked
Through In a good rain , honestly a fantastic leather I consider making my next jacket
A deerskin one.
But in all honesty my thoughts are if your gonna go leather for a riding jacket
That will be versatile and comfortable go with a company that builds them for
Riding, like vanson or other similar companies, removable liners, venting , removable armor
Built for the arms being forward but again your riding position matters with this also.
 
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mulceber

Well-Known Member
so I'm not fully sure of the advantages/disadvantages of steer versus horse.
For a long time this was controversial (and in some corners it may still be), but there is no real difference. Raw skins from horses and cattle are similar enough that how they're tanned has far more of an impact on the finished product than the natural properties of the skin. I know I bring this up every time the neigh vs. moo question comes up (so, sorry everyone else!), but it bears repeating: when Gary Eastman wrote his A-2 jacket guide, he actually had to have DNA tests done to prove that some of the "horsehide" A-2 jackets were in fact cow. They're really that similar. We just prize horsehide because, up until the '60s, it was the premier leather for men's garments. I think mostly what matters for your purposes is to have a nice, heavy, tough leather.

As to what features you want, there are a bunch of people (some of whom have already posted) who know way more about this than I do.
 

MediumMech

Member
Thanks for the feedback, really great tips and reminders here!

I'm pretty set on an old-world style for the exterior, although I intend to make good use of modern technology for layering underneath the jacket! My previous bike jacket had a zip-in liner, and I just found it clumsy and cumbersome. Would prefer to choose my own layers as needed and forego the zip-in.

Regarding hides, I've been working google, and my understanding so far is that weatherproofing and durability fall more to the finishing process than to the actual hide (@mulceber just confirmed this while I was typing!). I'm skeptical of cowhide, but I suspect that's because I've never actually had my hands on a truly premium hide. I believe my previous bike jacket was cow of some sort, but fairly low grade. From what I'm reading here and elsewhere, a full-grain cowhide with proper tanning and finishing makes for an exceptional jacket.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Yeah, it really does depend. You're right that a lot of cowhide out there is crappy, but that's just because we eat SO MUCH beef in North America that raw cattle hides can be obtained for next to nothing, which results in it being an attractive choice for tanners who are looking to produce the cheapest of cheap leathers. But if you look at the cowhide being produced by tanneries like Horween (Chicago) and Carlo Badalassi (Tuscany), you'll find cowhide that's in the same league as the nicest horsehide available. Incidentally, Aero stocks leathers from both of those tanneries, so they're a good starting point. Bill Kelso also has some nice reproductions of early 20th century Biker jackets, although I think by now they've mostly dropped their cowhide options.
 
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MediumMech

Member
Oooh...Horween... I just recently discovered they have some really educational bits on their website. Super helpful. I also see Aero carries their Chromexcel HH. I may have to inquire if they carry the steer as well.

I'm expecting a BK A2 sometime in the Fall, so if that goes well then maybe I consider them for a bike jacket. I've had largely positive experiences with Aero, so I would have no qualms about ordering from them again.
 

MediumMech

Member
Link to the Horween Chromexcel process for those interested.

 

MediumMech

Member
Vanson would be a much easier sell if their website wasn't so horrendous... That said, I'm going to email them for some more information, and see how it goes. I like that they offer highly customized jackets based on body size, type, and riding style. I would be surprised if they are much cheaper than Aero by the time all the charges are factored in, but I will investigate for sure. Thanks for the tip!
 

Duckhook

New Member
Good Morning Everybody,

I am a longtime lurker and finally decided to chime in. I also just recently returned to 2 wheels about a year ago and have been going through the same process. I am no longer the idiot youngster riding in shorts and sans helmet. I'm older (49), not necessarily wiser, and have a young daughter that I'd like to stick around for. I really appreciate the traditional motorcycle jacket designs but also look for modern aspects such as venting and armor. Oxford makes some nice designs that won't break the bank but also incorporate armor. I got the route 73 in brown and the material feels tough, the armor is comfortable, and I don't look like I just got off the bike. I do wish the venting was better as I live in Utah and we can get some crazy weather shifts through the day. I'm currently looking for another option and have been debating the merits of horse vs. steer (the Aero board racer in cordovan chromexcel is stellar but that price?!?!?). Some of the motorcycle specific brands also offer leather that has a special treatment (I think the treatment is called TFL?) that reflects some heat but doesn't look any different. So many factors to consider!
 
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