Motorcycle Chaps for Cowboys on Two Wheels
They weren't Motorcycle Chaps, but I've worn chaps most of my life, since I was maybe 14 years old. Most of that time, I was Cowboyin' and wishful of keepin' my legs from bein' shredded by mesquite and cactus. Nothing can do that, like quality built, leather chaps.
With Motorcycle chaps, the motivation should be 'bout the same... Ya'll should be wishful of keepin the asphalt from shreddin' your hide... should your luck be such that you drop your bike...
Truth be known, you've got options... Chaps, leather pants, or overpants of either leather or synthetic.
The differences are convenience of getting them on or off... weight, cost, removable insulation... and the most important thing... do they make your butt look big? :o)
Really... your last consideration should be how they LOOK... First and highest priority, is the function; are they gonna protect your knees, your thighs, your shins... from road rash...
When picking Motorcycle Chaps... as well as pretty much all protective motorcycle gear, it's my considered opinion... which is free... so you get your money's worth!... Form... Should follow function.
Keep THAT in mind.
If your only goal is to LOOK good... buy any piece of junk that you think LOOKS like you want it to...
How-some-ever, If protecting yourself from injury, in the unfortunate event of hittin' the pavement, is what you're thinkin' about... Inspect your Motorcycle chaps for function and fit, First... and then worry about the form.
Think of it this way; If you're worried 'bout how those chaps are gonna make your butt look? ... think about what they'll make your legs look like... if you ain't wearin' 'em... when you go down?
I say... ATGATT! All The Gear, All The Time!
There's plenty to look at. The first, is the leather itself. You can get your chaps built with prime leather... and you can buy chaps made from hides that are tee total junk!So, How do you tell the difference? There are several things to look at.
The first thing to look at... or, uh... Sniff at... is what does it smell like? Huh? smell it? Yup... this is kinda nasty, but there is a lot of leather that comes out of South America, that are tanned with urea... that's right boys and girls... so... if you want "Piss Poor" leather... go out and buy Motorcycle Chaps... Tanned with the Urea method... The quality of your leather will be as you can imagine...
How do you know? They have the distinct perfume... of Ammonia. Ever go into a tent at a Motorcycle event where the vendor is selling leather goods... and the ammonia scent was strong? Wanna Guess why? :o) Those are the chaps being sold for $99 bucks...
... Uh... I ran my own, full time custom leather shop, for a number of years... Listen here kids... Do the math... Good, Quality, Chap Leather is gonna run you $5 bucks a square foot... a hide is gonna be somewhere around 17 to 22 square feet... So... to get JUST the leather... at the Wholesale price is gonna run you somewhere between $85 and $110 dollars...
Uh... that don't leave much for the craftsmanship of actually building, quality Motorcycle chaps... does it?
Another way of judging the leather is to FEEL it... check what's often called its hand... Chap Leather that's going to protect you shouldn't have the softness of and delicacy of silk... but it shouldn't feel like a chunk of roofing tin either. You want the leather to be pliable but have a reasonable firmness to it. You don't want to wear something that feels like a couple stove pipes wrapped around your legs...
... but having something with the strength and durability of newpaper ain't gonna do you any good either...
If you don't know leather... at all... find someone you trust, who does... Have them take you around and show you some Motorcycle Chaps, and other protective motorcycle gear, built with quality leather... as well as some of the junk stuff... Get yourself an education...
If you're going to drop the better part of $200 if not more, on your chaps... it's in your best interest to do so with some knowledge of what you're buying...
I wore my most recent pair of chaps for more than 30 years! and that was Cowboyin'! THAT is how long, good, quality Leather gear can and should last... Those chaps lasted right up until I foolishly forgot 'em, rolled up in my saddle bags for a week one summer. The bags leaked in a rain... the chaps got soaked... and mildew ruined 'em... otherwise, I'd likely still be wearin' those well worn, reliable old friends...
There's a lot more to the chaps you'll wear on the road... an important issue is weight... wouldn't it be nice if they were good leather... but still very light and thin? ... Yup... It would be... except for the problem that soft, thin leather might be good for upholstery... or fashion Jackets... but when you're wanting it to armor your legs from the assault of asphalt... at 50 mph... it ain't gonna get the job done...
You're gonna want that leather to be of a heavier weight than such light weight stuff... no matter how sweet it feels... Typically, leather is gauged in ounces... The chaps I wore, Cowboyin' were built of leather with a 5 oz. chap leather rating... those are fairly heavy... and not made for walkin' around a whole lot, but give the maximum protection while still allowin' a fellla to move about when he needs to.
Most of the Motorcycle chaps I've seen, that I felt were a quality up to the task, are likely a bit over 3 oz. and near to 4 oz. in weight... I'd have to say they generally don't get as heavy as the 5oz weight you'll find a working cowboy wearin'.
So... now that you know the leather is good quality... and heavy enough to actually protect you in the event of a fall... What next?
Craftsmanship, fit and Hardware are things you need to evaluate and inspect... Look at the stitching... look for an excessive amount of missed stitches... or stitch lines that run off the seam... or vary visibly from a line... parallel to the leathers edge.
At high stress points... is the end of a stitch line reinforced with rivets? Similar to the rivets you find on the pocket corners of the jeans you're wearing right now! Not an absolute necessity... but... it is an indication of better craftsmanship.
Look closely at the hardware. The buckles, the rivets, the grommets... and, especially, the zippers. Those zippers are going to take a lot of abuse, exposed to all sorts of weather. Make sure the Manufacturer of your Motorcycle Chaps didn't cut corners when they stocked their hardware inventory.
One last thing I can think of... is a lining... When are you going to wear your chaps? Are you a "Riding Season" Biker? Do you only ride in the Spring, Summer... Early Fall? ... Basically, the warm weather?... If so... I'd not waste my money on insulated lining... you shouldn't have much need for it... a decent pair of thermal underwear will do the job you need.
If however, you're like me... and only pull your bike off the road... if the road is iced up in the winter... having chaps with removable insulation is something you're gonna be wanting...
In really cold weather you'll want to trade the chaps out for Ski or Snowmobile overalls... but in the less than totally dang cold :o) putting in insulated lining... and likely that thermal underwear is gonna serve well for a whole lot of your riding.
Now... The fit... here again... it's a good idea, if you've got little experience with Motorcycle chaps, to take somebody who is experienced, along with you... to offer some advice.
You want 'em to be snug enough to not be able to flap... when you put your knees in the breeze... but still have enough 'ease' to allow you to move, and sit comfortably on your bike... and You'll want enough slack in 'em to allow you to add that thermal underwear, if you're a cold weather rider.
The length is the last issue to deal with in selecting fit of Motorcycle Chaps... and the easiest. Most manufacturers build 'em long, so they can be trimmed to length. Be careful though, that you don't cut 'em too short... You can always, easily, cut off more... Putting some back on, if you cut too much... is a whole other deal. You can do it... but you're gonna have to pay someone with a leather stitcher to repair that goof! :o)
Well I said the length was the last issue... but I just thought of one, last, thing... Uh... your, actual, butt! It's the part behind you that gets forgot a lot... Unfortunately, chaps don't cover that. If you want that covered too... you're gonna have to use full pants... either leather or synthetic... and either a stand alone sort of Motorcycle Pants... or Overpants...
One thing a fella... or a fellerette could do, and something I'm anticipating... is using a product like Bohn Armor, or Draggin' Jeans, in combination with Motorcycle chaps.
I'd get the better ventilation for summer ridin', over full pants, wearing Motorcycle Chaps; and with Bohn Armor on... I'd have not only abrasion/road rash protection... but impact protection as well... and... my lil' butt would be protected by the armor included in the seat.
so... now... all you have to do is decide what kind of motorcycle protective gear is gonna do the job you want it to... and then wear it!
For me, that's primarily, a Helmet, gloves, leather jacket, Motorcycle chaps, and boots...
uh oh... another "last thing" :o) the cost... What can you expect a set of good quality chaps to set you back? I just bought a fresh pair of Black Motorcycle Chaps, made by First Classics... that were priced at $200... the $99 stuff... well, I've never seen any of those I'd put on... If you've got the wallet for it... and you want the unique style and flash... Custom Chaps, are going to likely start something over $300, and go up quick, depending on the leather, and the detail... but... they'll last nigh on to forever... and you'll look damn good in your Motorcycle Chaps to boot!
Return from Motorcycle Chaps to Motorcycle Touring on Freedom Road