The UK’s constantly changeable climate means it’s either wet or will be wet soon. While most of us can’t afford multiple sets of gear for every possible situation, some options are good all year round and in any conditions, while others may struggle. We have a look at if leathers are waterproof and how you can make them a little bit more water-resistant.
Are motorcycle leathers waterproof?
There is quite a lot of information on this, and while some people say yes leathers are, and others say that they are not. I’ve worn leathers in the rain multiple times and on some occasions, I got soaked to the core whilst on others I’ve stayed bone dry. This is all circumstantial and depends on a number of factors. A perforated race-style suit designed to allow airflow through to keep the wearer cool will also allow moisture through, and quite often the stretch panels around body joints will get pretty sodden quickly. With that in mind, just a standard leather style jacked with no holes may still do a good job of keeping moisture out.
How to dry leathers properly
Getting leathers wet can cause big problems with the garment. Repeated cycles of getting wet, and then drying out can cause the leather to deteriorate and stiffen up, particularly if dried too quickly. This washing and drying takes out the natural oils and tanning additives that keep the leather, leathery. You can add these components back in and condition the leather, but looking after it in the first place eliminates the need. When wet leather will also get heavy as if the leather wasn’t heavy enough to start with.
How can I dry out wet leather?
I have always found that a slow drying process over a few days has worked best for me. I stuff the items with old newspaper scrunched up and put them in a heated room. The newspaper gradually draws the moisture out, depending on how soggy the items are can require a few sheet changes. I would warn against putting them near any direct heat source, i.e. don’t leave them on top of a radiator or next to the fire, just put them in a normal room.
What about leather conditioners?
It is always good to give the leather a feed after drying (effectively giving the leather, some moisture and nutrients back in). For this, I have always used Renapur leather conditioner, however other products are available. This feed will also stop the leather from cracking and is great for giving the leather a clean too. With good maintenance, leather can last a long time, look at the guys riding round in 30-year-old retro suits.
Can I waterproof leather?
You can always add a coating to the leather item, but this can sometimes stiffen the leather out. Some products can damage the leather, so pick carefully and do your research beforehand. Commonly used are treatments aimed at leather shoes and walking boots such as Nikwax. This leaves a coating on the surface which allows the water to bead off easily before water can soak through. I’ve heard of people using visor sealants on leather however, I haven’t tried it so this is a myth. Regardless of what treatment you pick, no solution is permanent and all will require topping up.
What are other options?
Other options include wearing a dry suit if it’s raining, these are normally made from PVC and fully waterproof. They are designed to go over the top of your leathers and form a waterproof membrane. They can be folded up and carried in a rucksack if required.
Is Gore-Tex waterproof?
Alternatively, if you ride in the wet a lot, consider using textiles. Many textiles these days incorporate Gore-Tex into the construction which is inherently waterproof. Gore-tex works by having microscopic pores, too small to allow water droplets through but large enough to allow moisture through. Summed up rainwater from the outside won’t penetrate, but the material retains its breathability from the wearer.
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