DIY Perforated Leather for Motorcycle Gear

Cooler than leather better than mesh: perforated leather

Cooler than leather better than mesh: perforated leather

Leather gear is very protective, offering the rider both impact, with armour, and abrasion resistance. Use by professional sportbike riders is a pretty good endorsement for its utility. Unfortunately leather, like anything else, has its disadvantages, two of which is weight and that it is hot to wear. While we cannot do much about the weight issue, adding small perforations to the leather will allow increased air flow and cooling without compromising protectiveness. While perforated motorcycle gear is popular with the summer rider, it is expensive, even more expensive than non-perforated gear. I’ll cover a possible method to perforate your own leather gear.

Some methods of piercing leather will not work. These include: using a drill, safety pin, finishing nails, golf/football shoes, shotgun, falling off bike and others. You don’t want to rip or otherwise destroy the leather. The perforated hole should be round and in a uniform pattern throughout the area. The greater the density of perforations the better the cooling but the worse the integrity of the leather.

Osborne leather punch no. 622, the ventilator punch

Osborne leather punch no. 622, the ventilator punch

There are limits to DIY perforating your own leather garment. Factory perforated garments start with leather already perforated, so when they sew zippers and seams all the leather used will be perforated. DIYers cannot do this because with multiple layers of leather the seam will be too thick to perforate and would unduly weaken it. DIY perforation is therefore limited to open areas, where you can access both the front and back portions of the leather section.

Punching a hole into leather is pretty easy. You put the cutting board under the leather, take a leather punch, align and hit it forcefully with a hammer. Since motorcycle leather is between 1.2-1.4mm, leather thickness is not an issue for any leather punch. Osborne and others have commercial punches available but they are difficult to find and expensive. The Osborne Ventilator Punch costs $82US.

Useful tools include:

  • A set of individual hollow tipped leather punches. Multi head punches on a wheel will be limiting when trying to perforate the middle of a leather section.
  • Hammer, preferably rubber
  • plastic cutting board: An old one is good.
  • Some method of aligning holes: I am thinking of a graph paper grid in transparent plastic, available at art stores in 8.5″ x 11″ sheets. They have different densities for the graph paper, so find one that you like
  • small needle

Here’s my method. Lay the plastic cutting board on a solid table. Put the leather garment on the cutting board. Align the graph paper plastic sheet on the leather and using a needle make small holes where you want a perforation. You should be able to see the needle holes in the leather. If you have a larger area than the sheet, do one section first, then move the sheet, aligning some of the holes to the edge of the plastic sheet and repeat. Remove the plastic sheet. Take a hollow tipped leather punch of your choice and punch a hole in one of the needle holes. Repeat as required.

I do not think there is much more to perforated leather than this. You could take a look at commercial perforated garments and see how much and where they perforate. The whole garment need not be perforated. If an area is covering armour there may not be a benefit in perforating this area.

Related links:

4 thoughts on “DIY Perforated Leather for Motorcycle Gear

  1. Ari

    Thanks for the tip mate.

    I’ve been thinking about doing this to my 2 piece Dainese. Just need patience i suppose.

    Cheers from Sydney.

  2. Robert

    Four years later and your site is still helping fellow riders! I bought an older SPIDI race suit last month for $100. In excellent condition, but it is not perforated so I expected to get hot during one of our typical SoCal summer track days (all of our tracks are in the desert!). Went looking on google for perforation tools, and your article popped up. Found a 622 punch on eBay for $50 with postage and will start the process as soon as it arrives.

    THANK YOU!!!

    [Don: As a fellow rider I am glad to help. Good luck with the Spidi suit.]

  3. Arai Helmets

    The right gear can make or break your ride. Stay safe and dress for the crash and not the ride!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *