Armored motorcycle jackets are great for riding on the street and even going off-road. But racing bikes on a track requires even more protection. Besides specialized boots and gloves, a two-wheeled track day requires a proper motorcycle race suit. Many of these race suits turn to leather for their protective qualities. Italian brand Virus Power’s new Predator motorcycle suit, though, hides the hide in favor of textiles. But is it just as safe?
Why are most motorcycle race suits made of leather?
While you don’t need the latest and most expensive motorcycle to hit the track, you do need a race suit. And most, if not all tracks require you to wear a leather motorcycle race suit, often in a one-piece design, Motorcyclist reports. But these requirements aren’t based on fashion—they’re rooted in solid safety science.
Leather is a popular motorcycle gear material for several reasons. It’s windproof, warm when lined, and if it’s black, doesn’t show grease and oil. And, most importantly, it’s both durable and extremely abrasion-resistant. That last property is vital for riders because it means the asphalt won’t shred their skin if they fall.
Different types of leather vary slightly in their specific strength and abrasion-resisting properties, RevZilla notes. MotoGP riders, for example, typically wear motorcycle race suits made out of kangaroo leather. Not because it’s stronger than cowhide per se, but because it can be thinner, and therefore lighter, without being weaker. It’s like carbon fiber to cowhide’s steel.
Virus Power says the textile Predator motorcycle race suit protects like leather without the drawbacks
However, while a leather motorcycle race suit offers excellent abrasion protection, it comes with a few drawbacks.
Firstly, even with perforations, leather isn’t as breathable as a textile material, RevZilla says. That’s a significant problem in the hot, sweaty conditions of a track day. Secondly, even a kangaroo leather motorcycle suit isn’t exactly light. Also, leather isn’t waterproof. And finally, leather gear requires more time-consuming care than textile gear.
That’s where the Virus Power Predator textile motorcycle race suit comes in. The Italian gear company claims its trademarked textile material and weaving style create a race suit that’s both breathable and “completely water-repellant.” Yet the material is also fully recyclable, vegan-friendly, and machine-washable. In addition, at 8.8 lbs, the Predator is roughly 25%-30% lighter than the equivalent leather motorcycle race suit, RideApart reports.
However, these qualities don’t come at the expense of safety. The Virus Power Predator textile motorcycle race suit has an AAA CE rating. That’s the highest CE rating possible—and it’s usually only achieved by leather gear, Motorcycle.com says. The Predator also has removable shoulder, elbow, knee, back, and hip armor as well as knee sliders, RideApart notes. Plus, Virus Power’s textile material has a low heat-transfer coefficient, meaning the rider won’t get friction burns if they scrape asphalt.
How much does it cost?
The Virus Power Predator textile motorcycle race suit starts at roughly $2,060. That might seem like a lot of money, given that the leather Sedici Corsa starts at $600. However, some Alpinestars and Dainese race suits cost even more than the Predator. And these leather suits offer significantly fewer custom graphics options than Virus Power.
Without direct testing, it’s difficult to validate all of Virus Power’s claims regarding its textile suit. However, on paper, the Predator seems like a genuinely compelling alternative to ‘traditional’ leather race suits. It offers similar levels of safety but with greater breathability and an easier care routine. Dedicated track-day riders might want to give this suit a test wear.
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