Vegan motorcycle gear

This post is about safety gear for riders. For fashion, check out my post on vegan motorcycle jackets.

In a previous life (well, circa 2006), I was very much a sportbike rider. For five years, a motorcycle was my main form of transportation. I commuted (in the HOV lane) on my bike, did weekend trips with hubby and friends, and took my bike to the racetrack. What a fun hobby–and an efficient way to travel!

vegbiker

Jacket: Fieldsheer (I think)
Pants: Dainese
Boots: Sidi
Gloves: Tourmaster (I think)
Back protector (not shown): Dainese
Helmet (not shown): HJC

It wasn’t until I adopted Frankie, my dog, that I started to use a car more and spent time at the dog park instead of on the twisties (that’s motospeak for curvy roads for you non-riders out there).

My handle (name) on motorcycle forums was vegbiker so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about vegan motorcycle gear. I outfitted myself with head to toe non-leather gear. Safety is paramount so I wore it all, rain or shine, summer or winter. I’ve racked up over 40,000 miles on sportbikes and I’ve been in two accidents (caused by someone else).

I believe non-leather gear is best for a few reasons. Mainly because I don’t want to wear an entire cow. But also because leather is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It absorbs sweat and other smells. If it gets wet it stinks, and more importantly, it loses its strength after being wet. With cordura, lorica, and kevlar as options, I wouldn’t choose leather. The Cadillac of motorcycle suits, the Aerostitch Roadcrafter is cordura, a non-leather material.

Jackets – Fieldsheer, Joe Rocket, Dainese, Tourmaster, Icon, and similar brands all offer jackets made of cordura, a tough, tear-resistant fabric that helps keep out the rain and wind. The jackets often have zippered flaps to let air through if it gets warm outside, and they usually have removable linings, making them great all-season jackets. There are even mesh summer jackets available that are still strong in a crash. When you buy a jacket, get one with armored elbows and shoulders–and make sure the sleeves are long enough when you reach forward.

Pants – The same companies that make jackets make pants. Again, get a pair with armor. If you buy cordura pants from the same manufacturer as your jacket, you can zip them together at the waist for a snug fit. I always wore riding pants over my jeans because denim will last about five feet on the cement before it rips to shreds. The goal is not to crash, but if you do find yourself sliding across asphalt at 50 miles an hour (as I once did), you’re going to want more between your skin and the road than cotton. Trust me!

Gloves – A lot of gloves are made of leather–but some aren’t. I wore armored gloves with Clarino and Kevlar with carbon fiber knuckles to protect my hands. Even a bug bouncing off your finger will hurt when you’re at highway speeds. You can find warm winter gloves as well as airy summer ones from companies like Spidi, Alpinestars, Aerostitch and Scorpion.

Boots – This might be the toughest category to shop vegan but it’s not impossible. I wore lorica boots by Sidi that kept out the rain and protected my foot. The main things to look for is a boot that is sturdy, covers the ankle, and has a slim toe profile (so you can get your foot under the shifter. Try to get a pair without laces. If yours are lace-up, always tuck the laces into your boots so they don’t get caught on anything. Don’t wear steel-toe boots. They’re usually too bulky to shift smoothly and I’ve heard bad things about how the steel can cut if your boot is bent back (as could happen in a collision).

Helmets, unless the chin strap is leather, are vegan, as was the back protector I always wore under my jacket. Like I said, safety first!

I wore my vegan gear to track days, which is a track environment for race enthusiasts but isn’t an actual race. I’m not sure what the official rules are for races. Tracks might require leather. You could always scour Craigslist and eBay for used gear if you need leather as a track requirement. There are a lot of Rossi-wannabes who quit riding and sell their almost-new gear.

For the 98% of riders who don’t race, the vegan route is completely possible–even for fun on the track. Check out online stores like Motorcycle Superstore and Motosport.com to get started. Your local bike shops probably carry popular brands as well (or can order them).

I always wore all my gear–even on a quick run to the grocery store. The saying, “better sweat than bleed” is true. Motorcycle gear isn’t cheap, but walking away from a crash is priceless.

What’s wrong with leather?

I recently wrote about vegan shoes and vegan purses. Some people might ask, “What’s wrong with leather?” Up until recently, I was one of those people. So let me share with you what I’ve learned:

Leather is not a byproduct of the meat industry. It’s a co-product. When I was a vegetarian I wore leather shoes, jackets, belts and bags. I thought leather was a byproduct that would be wasted if no one turned it into things I could wear.

Then I learned that the profit margins on meat are relatively small and that leather brings in a lot of money. Half the value of the animal! So by buying leather, I was supporting the meat industry.

That’s when I switched to buying only second-hand leather. But I’ve stopped that too. I’m grossed out now at the idea of wearing someone else’s skin. It’s a little too Hannibal for me. I also realize that I’m promoting leather when I wear it. Others might not know I bought that jacket used and go out and buy a brand new one.

I still have a few pair of leather shoes and I’m in the process of selling them. With the money I made selling my other leather shoes and jackets I bought a few awesome pair of leather-free shoes. My favorite so far are the Novacas booties. They’re an all vegan company that focuses on workers’ conditions, ethically sources materials, and environmentally friendly business practices.

novacas

Faux suede booties by Novacas

Which brings me to the other problem with leather: It’s not green.

The reason leather shoes don’t rot away like roadkill is because of chemicals. Leather is tanned with an acidic chemical compound that preserves it. Leather is soaked in biocides and fungicides to prevent mold, and it’s treated with nasty concoctions like sodium sulfide to remove the hair. Even chemicals like arsenic and formaldehyde are used.

pile of leather

Stack of tanned leather

In places where leather production is prevalent (such as India and China), water and air pollution is high. Workers (and nearby residents) also face high instances of cancer from all the chemicals.

Finally, not all leather is a co-product. Kangaroos in the outback are shot for their skin. Exotic animals are turned into leather goods too–and they’re terribly mistreated in the process. Snakes are often nailed to trees and skinned alive. Lizards are clubbed to death, and alligators are crowded in filthy pens on farms killed when they are big enough to be marketable.

Fortunately, there are lots of cruelty-free leather alternatives out there. Sure, some are made from petrochemicals, but I doubt they’re worse than the environmental impact of leather. Some are made with good environmental practices in mind and use green (and even recycled) materials. My resources page is a good place to start looking.

Leather-free purses and bags

When going vegan, leaving hamburgers off the menu might not be difficult but if the thought of finding leather-free bags sounds daunting, I’m here to help. It’s actually fun and simple to find leather-free purses and totes.

Here are some examples that I’ve picked up over the years.

Matt & Nat is an all-vegan line that has really stylish laptop bags, messenger bags, purses, and wallets. There’s something for everyone–men and women. So far, I have only one piece from Matt & Nat: a faux-suede cross-body bag made using recycled plastic bottles.

Matt & Nat

Shiraleah also sells cute, affordable vegan bags. I have a couple of their crossbody bags. Hands-free and cruelty-free! Like Matt & Natt, this company is ethical and green.

Shiraleah

Sometimes the fact that a purse is vegan is obvious. Cute fabric purses are all over the stores. And in spring, you’ll find straw and canvas totes everywhere. Have a look on Etsy for unique, handmade bags like these three that were given to me.

fabric bags

Here are three more small bags. In the top left, you’ll see a clutch by Crystalyn Kae. She has an amazing line of vegan purses. They’re glazed fabric, look like leather, and are really durable. My Alchemy Goods purse (in the lower left) is made of old bicycle inner tubes. They’re a Seattle company that makes wallets, laptop sleeves and purses. Seatbelt Bags weaves bags from seatbelt fabric. They’re also made in the USA.

three hand-made bags

I have a range of clutches in faux leather. Three of these are label-less, but the orange one is Shiraleah.

three hand-made bags

I’ve bought a few Nine West purses over the years–all thrifted, and all non-leather. They’re not a vegan company but there’s a good selection if you look.

nine west

When I carry my electronic devices, I need a bag that fits them. The large, Crystalyn Kae tote fits my huge laptop. I put my Surface in a smaller tote like this one by Snap Designs. My Kindle will fit in almost any bag, but I like this one from JC Penney.

bags for my electronics

I’ve even found some fun, specialty purses. These are from a few places. The Valentino-inspired flower purse is from a street fair in Florida, the alligator embossed bag is from Target, and the clear PVC bag is from Forever 21.

fancy bags

From Payless to Stella McCartney, there are vegan bags at every price point. I want to get my hands on a Gunas. They’re an all-vegan line and have unique, trendy bags. Do you have a favorite vegan bag?

Leather-free shoes

For some people, giving up cheese keeps them from going vegan. For others a plant-based diet is a no-brainer, but shoes? You love shoes, right? You might be thinking, “I can’t give up animal products if it means switching to hemp Birkenstocks.” Well you don’t have to! There are tons of stylish vegan shoes out there if you know where to look.

vegan shoes

Proof that cute vegan shoes exist!

Accidentally vegan shoes

This first category of footwear is comprised of shoes that just so happen to be vegan. I doubt the manufacturers had anything other than looks and costs in mind. Often cheaper shoes are vegan. Stores like Payless sell a lot of faux leather and faux suede shoes. Summer shoes in canvas, raffia, and other materials qualify too. They’re not always high quality though. Some are. I’ve had “manmade” boots for several seasons that are stylish, comfortable, and don’t make my feet sweat.

Have a look at zappos.comamazon.com, or DSW. You’ll find vegan shoes from lots of brands like Wanted, MIA, Volatile, and Madden Girl. Aerosoles has a mix of materials. If you look at the product description (or tag, if you’re in the store) you’ll find non-leather options. Here are a few of my “accidentally vegan” shoes and boots.

Velvet and sparkles

Poetic License velvet and sparkle booties (from amazon.com)

Satin leopard platforms

Satin leopard platforms by Two Lips (from DSW)

faux nubuck

Fioni faux nubuck peep-toe pumps (from Payless)

Kimchi Blue

Kimchi Blue velvet desert boots (thrifted)

Starlet by Payless

Satin and sequined kitten-heel mules (from Payless)

Guess boots

Guess faux leather boots (from T.J. Maxx)

faux suede booties

Faux suede stack-heel booties (from Old Navy)

silver boots

Dirty Laundry faux leather engineer boots (from amazon.com)

satin and stones

Satin and rhinestone pumps (from JC Penney)

Intentionally vegan shoes

This category is made up of vegan companies who have worker conditions, environmental impact, animal rights, and of course style, in mind. The shoes will cost as much as leather versions but the quality is high, the materials are stellar, and you’re supporting a vegan business. I’ve only just started to splurge on quality vegan shoes so I can show you only a few. After the images, have a look at the list of vegan shoe companies. There’s no shortage!

novacas

Faux suede booties by Novacas

Cri De Coeur

Faux suede OTK boots by Cri De Coeur

Some of the vegan shoe companies out there:

Additionally, stores like Moo Shoes, Vegan Chic, Compassionate Couture and Alternative Outfitters carry all-vegan men’s and women’s shoes and boots from a bunch of companies. I’ll keep my resources page updated with the latest, growing list.

Second-hand leather

Some people buy used leather shoes. The thinking (at least what I used to think) is that I wasn’t adding to the demand of new leather shoes and I wasn’t supporting the leather industry financially. In fact, buying second hand meant I kept things out of the landfill!

However, I’ve grown uncomfortable with leather. First, it creeps me out. When I saw footage of a slaughtered cow being de-skinned, it really hit home. Second, other people don’t realize I bought my leather shoes at a thrift shop so I’m not sending a good vegan message. If they like my used shoes, they might buy a new pair. I don’t want to be that kind of trend setter! Finally, I like proving that I can live a vegan lifestyle. If I make an exception with my shoes, I’m saying it’s good to be cruelty-free…but it’s impossible to live without animal products. And that’s not true.

So now that you have more info on vegan shoes and leather alternatives, vote with your dollars, and be stylish and cruelty-free!

Do you have a favorite brand of vegan shoes?

ballet flats

Ballet flats come in lots of different materials

sandals

Sandals are often vegan

vegan boots

Boots can be vegan too