Repairs and reconditioning for your second skin
After your motorcycle, it's likely that your leather racing suit is the most expensive investment that you've made for participation in our sport. Crashing happens and after it does, you'll almost surely have a damaged suit. What to do? Sportbike Leather Service, a division of trackday provider Sportbike Track Time, has the answers.
From alterations to structural repair, leather dying to sponsor patch installation, cleaning and even custom lettering and logos, Sportbike Leather Service can do it all. Although this is the first year that they've been in business, it's interesting to note that the equipment and expertise required to get things rolling came from Spyder Leatherworks, a company which turned out top-notch work for nearly two decades until it closed in 2013.
We were interested to see if this young enterprise was as good as its heritage, so we sent them a suit. The leathers in question were by Arlen Ness and are no longer manufactured, as the company has gotten out of the race suit business. This garment has been a superb piece of equipment and we really wanted it back in service so for us, the stakes were high. Since the suit is colored "hide the asphalt stains" black, we opted for the economical route and specified structural repairs only, with the additional request that any flapping trim or logos be either tacked down or removed, at the discretion of the repairer.
The damage to our Arlen Ness was fairly extensive. We'd burned holes in the arm, had opened a several inch gap in one seam and had caused top-stitching to fail in numerous areas all over the suit. In layman's terms, this means that we had places where the rider's skin was showing or about to show, plus other spots where failure of the suit's stitching was imminent. The rider had escaped injury in the crash which caused this damage, which is a testament to the protection which comes from wearing quality gear. No doubt our suit had done its job admirably but without repair, it would have been unacceptably risky to use it further.
Sportbike Leather Service opted to patch the areas of burn-through, preparing the area first by repairing the loose seams adjacent to the holes. As can be seen in the accompanying pictures, this repair wound up looking like a factory-installed reinforcement rather than a repair. We were impressed.
Any suit's most vulnerable points are where it is made from Kevlar stretch material. This stuff is nowhere close to being as protective as leather and therefore is tucked away into non-impact areas. Because it is so much less sturdy, repairs to damage of this material simply must be performed properly or the rider will be at risk in his next crash. Careful attention was paid to the restoration of the frayed or missing stitching on our Kevlar.
Most leather suits have an accordion panel of stretch-leather in the lower back area to help the rider move freely about the machine. Our suit had taken damage to the stitching here. If left unrepaired, this issue would have gotten worse as the stitching unraveled with use. The eventual result would have been a flapping pocket of loose leather instead of an accordion. This situation could lead to grabbing, tumbling and burn-through in a future crash, so it was not an issue which could be ignored. Again, Sportbike Leather Service worked their magic and restored this stitching to good-as-new.
So what do repairs like this cost? Obviously, every damaged suit is unique. Some fixes may be inexpensive, while a severely crashed suit may prove irreparable, especially if paramedics have been after it with their damn scissors! Cosmetic repairs would of course add to the cost of the finished product. To get an accurate idea of what your specific fix will cost, you'll need to send your suit in for an estimate. Keep in mind that when you need to bring a grand or more to purchase a new suit that you can really count on, having your old one repaired, cleaned, spiffed up or decorated with a bit of bling may be the cost-effective way to go.
To quote Dan of Sportbike Leather Service, "Diligent race suit maintenance can be the difference between injury and walking away unscathed. Top stitching is the first layer of defense against seam separation. Double top stitching adds to the amount of protection before the main seam becomes vulnerable to separation. Missing or damaged top stitching leads to loosening of the main stitch and in many cases is the cause of suit failure when the suit is stressed and the rider needs the protection most." We feel that these are exactly the words you want to be hearing from the man who repairs your leathers. More importantly, the work he performed for us backs his statement up and illustrates exactly what you should expect from a proper repair. Upon examining our mended Arlen Ness, we can see that beyond a doubt, it is structurally sound. In its next crash, this suit will protect us just as well as it did the first time around.