Motorcycles and leather are a pairing as classic as peanut butter and jelly. Leather motorcycle gear can last longer and weather more scrapes than virtually any other equipment material when properly cared for.
However, as mentioned in our previous blog, "Is a Leather or Textile Motorcycle Jacket Right for You?," leathers require regular maintenance to stay supple and strong on the road ahead. In this blog, we provide six tips to help prolong the durability and classic appearance of your leather motorcycle gear.
- Choose High-Quality Leather Riding Gear
While you can take proactive steps to keep your leathers in good shape once you have them, the most important step in ensuring the longevity of your riding gear is choosing high-quality leather equipment as your initial investment.
The tanning and finishing processes that better quality leather undergoes makes the material more water and impact resistant over time.
- Clean Your Leathers After Each Ride
A motorcycle ride is likely to leave you with a thrill of adrenaline and a layer of sweat. Salt, including the natural salts found in sweat, can cause leather to dry out and crack over time.
In addition to giving your leathers a basic wipe down after each ride, invest in a reliable desalter you can use to remove the salts that accumulate around the neck and underarms of your jacket, wrists of your gloves, hip creases of your pants or leg coverings, and ankles of your boots.
Once the salt is gone, brush or shake off any remaining dirt. Use a leather shampoo to give your gear a deeper clean.
- Give Your Leathers Adequate Drying Time
Any time your leathers get wet, including when you clean them after a ride, always allow the material adequate time to dry. When possible, hang each piece up separately on a clothing hanger in positions that do not stretch the seams. For example, the seams between your jacket's collar and sleeves should line up with the top of the hanger.
Allow the leather and any lining to dry completely before folding the material in any way or putting it into an enclosed area like a closet.
- Handle Small Repairs Immediately
Your leathers should protect you from most minor injuries on the road. Unfortunately, this safeguard often means that your gear sustains small scratches and scrapes. As you clean your gear, look for any new damage.
When possible, repair new damage to your leathers right away. Restitch any popped seams and use a microfiber cloth to buff out light scratches.
- Include Leather Conditioning in Your Maintenance Routine
One of the most advantageous characteristics of leather motorcycle gear is its flexibility. However, without proper conditioning, leather can shrink and become brittle, eventually inhibiting your range of motion.
Specialty leather conditioning solvents can help prevent this problem. In addition, they can help reduce the amount of dirt and salt that stick to your leathers so you can shorten your after-ride cleanup routine.
You should clean and condition new leather gear as soon as you purchase it. After this initial conditioning, plan to condition your leathers approximately every 60 to 90 days. You may need to condition certain items, like your gloves, more often than others depending on how the gear wears over time.
You may want to make this periodic conditioning part of your general bike maintenance schedule, like your oil changes and adjustments, to ensure that your protective gear stays in just as good of shape as does your motorcycle.
- Remove Stains as Soon as Possible
During a ride, you may encounter food, chemicals, and other substances that could stain your leathers. If you notice a mess on your equipment, take a moment to wipe away what you can as soon as possible to prevent the substance from penetrating deeper into the leather.
Try to determine the type of stain you're dealing with. For example, is the substance a fat like butter? Non-greasy stains respond to warm water and non-detergent soap, but you should avoid using water on fatty stains. Instead, allow the residual fat to dissipate into the leather, buffing and conditioning as necessary.
Remember that any oils your leathers are exposed to, including anything from cooking grease to oily skin to leather treatment oils, can affect the patina of the leather. If you're concerned about the color of the leather, you may need to apply a new oil treatment to match the color of recent fat-based stains and conceal any dark spots left over.
Use the care guidelines listed above to ensure that all your leathers are in good shape enough to protect you on many motorcycle rides yet to come.
In the market for your first leathers or looking to upgrade a particular piece of leather motorcycle equipment? Browse the expansive inventory from Bob's Cycle Supply to find jackets, boots, gloves, and other equipment at cost-effective prices.