Comparison: 1990 vs 2019 leathers.

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Thirty years in motorcycling is a long time. Carburettors are considered old school, laptops have replaced screwdrivers, and in 2019 there is even more acronyms and abbreviations. Everybody knows technology moves on exceptionally quickly, especially in safety equipment. Most motorcyclists nowadays have affordable gear with features most factory-backed riders dreamt of 30 years ago. So we have put together a little bit about the significant differences in leathers in the 30 years.


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To put this to the test, we bought an ¬£80 pair of 1990 Dianese leathers. They came complete with a retro colour scheme fit for a Slabby GSXR. We believe it is an Evolution TS suit, but there isn’t a label in there which says!

Classic Dainese leathers
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Construction material differences

While the construction material is still leather, the thickness of the leather hasn’t changed. A pinch test on the leather at the same points on the suit shows the leather gives or take the same thickness. We were cautious about getting leather only and no padding or liners. Both suits had a leather thickness of 1.25mm on the leg and stomach areas. Despite being the same thickness, the modern 4SR suit feels much stiffer and more robust. Advances in the tanning and treatment of the leather can help here to make the suit stronger from the same amount of material.

Kangaroo leather can replace traditional cow due to its higher strength. This reduces the weight of the suit overall and can be used in areas of contact with the bike to improve rider feel by using thinner material.

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The numbers bit..

In a fair test using a fat guy that is usually scared of the bathroom scales and some scales, we wore both suits and weighted them. There was a 2.6kg difference between the two suits with the old suit, fat rider and boots weighing 85.1kg. The modern suit, fat rider and boots weighed 87.7kg’s. Science much.

The Daytona Security 3 GP boots weight 2.3kg’s and the fat guy’s weight was 77.4kg. This subtracting these figures give a weight of 8kg for the new suit and 5.4kg’s for the old Dainese suit. Again, a difference of 2.6kg’s.

This 2.6kg’s is made up of the additional liner material, padding, armour, race hump and hydration pocket on the modern suit.

Modern knee and shit protection vs retro pad

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The modern suit does, however, have lightweight stretch panels on the inside of the legs from groin to calf, and also the inner arms. This reduces some weight over a solid leather panel. The modern suit is also perforated on the torso for ventilation. The retro suit is full leather construction everywhere except for a small stretch panel on the calf.

Motorcycle leathers Armour

The reason we all wear leathers is for safety. Leather has some of the best abrasion resistance for the cost, and you still can’t do a track day without leathers.

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Believe it or not, the 90’s leathers do have some armour, although it’s limited to shoulder cups, and knee cups. By armour, we mean a thermoplastic shell with some foam sewn in. This is miles apart from the shaped D30 CE approved armour found in the modern suits. The modern suit has Shin, knee, hip, back rib, chest and shoulder protection, a significant improvement over the old suit.

Price difference

We genuinely have no idea what suits cost in the 90s’, we some of us weren’t even born then, but we know now that there are suits these days to suit any budget. I have always found that leathers give a superior sense of safety and comfort, and I’ve worn them all year round without issue.

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Looking at this suit, makes me glad that technology is advancing, and with the current airbag technology making it into more and more suits, with a competitive price tag it keeps getting better. Who knows what technology we will have for safety in another 30 years time.

new vs old leathers
modern vs old school

Despite the price tag difference, I’m going to continue with the modern 4SR leathers.

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