Motorcycle Leathers, Type and Quality?
How to tell the difference between quality motorcycle leathers and bargain priced leather.
1) Full grain- also called Aniline- This is leather processed without any attempt to hide or cover the natural markings that occur during the animals life like bug bites or scratches. Full grain is soft and pliable between 1.5-2.0 mm in thickness. Full grain is the strongest top of the line and best quality leather to use for motorcycle leathers.
2) Aniline or semi-aniline? Full or pure aniline- only about 5% of the worlds hide supply is considered to be high enough quality to be aniline leather. Aniline dyeing is the process of soaking the hides in transparent aniline dyes which color or shades the skins without obscuring the natural markings or grain of the leather. The hides are dyed all the way through without any pigmented topcoat. Often referred to as drum dried or aniline leather, it has a wonderful feel, soft to touch, and smell of Quality leather.
3) Semi-aniline- is an extra step beyond pure aniline dyeing which adds a top coating of highly dispersed pigments and dyes to the surface of aniline-dyed hides.
4) Plated leather- when full grain has too many scratches or defects on the surface it is buffed or sanded to remove as many as possible. This also removes some of the natural grain. A pattern is then embossed into the surface and finished with a semi-aniline dye. Also considered to be top quality leather often used for motorcycle leathers, it is not as strong as full grain leather.
5) Top grain- to obtain a uniform thickness the hides are fed through a splitting machine with the grain side up. This process yields a natural surface called top-grain. With a thickness of 1.2-1.3 mm, top grain is used in good quality, less expensive, leather jackets, motorcycle vests and chaps. Top grain is not as thick or strong as full grain and will not protect you as well as full grain motorcycle leathers.
6) Split leather- After the top grain has been removed what is left is the split. Having no natural grain it must be artificially added. Split leather is the least strong and is used in many low priced leather products. We call these bargain leathers and recommend full grain or at least top grain leather if you are going to be actually riding a motorcycle.
7) Leather types- now that you know the difference in the quality of leather lets go over the different types of leather used in motorcycle apparel. Better motorcycle leather is from cow or buffalo hide. The good buffalo is from American bison. Cheap and low quality hides are pig, goat and water buffalo. The problem with water buffalo is it never softens and is stiff forever. Lamb skin is a beautiful, soft and expensive hide but is very thin and is used for women’s tops purses and leather shirts.