Abrasion Resistance: What is Denier? What is Polyester?

Breaking Down what Denier rating means and the abrasion resistance of Polyester

By Anton

What is DENIER?

Synthetic Fibres

You will see Denier rating crop on a number of motorcycle garments, most likely on jackets and pants. What does it mean? Well, its main purpose is to help determine the thickness of the strands of thread the fabric is made of, which is useful in determining abrasion resistance.

Denier is a unit of weight which is the measure of the mass of a single thread of material. Specifically, it denotes the weight of 9,000 metres of a single thread, each gram of that material is equivalent to 1 denier. To give you some examples:

1D or 1 Denier:  9,000 metres of a strand of silk weighs 1 gram.

20D or 20 Denier: 9,000 metres of a strand of human hair weighs 20 grams.

200D or 200 Denier: 9,000 metres of simple fishing line weighs 200 grams.

1000D or 1000 Dernier: 9,000 metres of Cordura thread used on a military spec backpack will weigh 1 kilogram.

If you’re comparing two of the same materials, if the denier rating in one is higher, the threads of that material are thicker, which will translate into more material in the layer between your skin and the road. I will let you guess which one of these you’d rather crash in, the silk sheet or military spec backpack material.

WHY IS IMPORTANT?

When comparing two products try and see if they display the denier rating on it. It should read 500D,  1000D or something in between. This will tell you what you’re really paying for; 1000D is a premium material with high abrasion resistance, 500D has lower abrasion resistance but will be much better than a no-name material that just states “100% polyester”. Okay, it’s polyester but how much of that material is there?

Denier is not the ultimate factor in motorcycle clothing, it is important to look at what is the material being used is, as Denier does not tell you what the fabric is made of nor is not a measure of tensile strength.

RST Paragon V white adventure motorcycling jacket

What is Polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic material derived from coal or petroleum composed of long chain polymers called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is one of the common thermoplastics, used in variety of application including consumer goods, packaging, industrial goods and textiles. It was first patented in 1941 by a team of British scientists and the rights bought by DuPont who launched it to the general public in 1951. 

WHAT’S IT GOOD AT?

Polyester is one of the most commonly used materials in motorcycle apparel, its widespread use in the consumer marker make it cheap to manufacture and produce. Polyester is significantly more abrasion resistant and has a better tensile strength than natural materials such as cotton (think denim jeans). Polyester does have its drawbacks though, it is lightweight and versatile but won’t deliver the same amounts of abrasion resistance as leather or nylon. However leather is generally considered not suitable for adventure motorcycling due to its weight and the lack of breathability, of the material.

Polyester is also hydrophobic, which means it won’t absorb water, which makes it good at wicking moisture and makes less prone to stains, but does however absorb oil. Compared to Nylon, Polyester also has a higher heat resistance, which can be a factor in a slide on tarmac.

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?

Because it is so widespread it’s important to look at the denier rating of polyester, it is best to stay away from cheap jackets or pants from no-name brands that don’t display these. Generally, 500D-600D (denier) is the lower limit one should look for when purchasing motorcycle apparel made of polyester. If you want to upgrade your protection look for Nylon or Cordura material, as these will provide better abrasion protection for the same comparative denier.

Polyester Material

Additional Info and Sources

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