Abrasion Resistance: What is Nylon? What is Cordura?

Breaking Down the abrasion resistance and qualities of Nylon and Cordura

By Anton

What is NYLON?

Nylon Material

Nylon is a polyamide derived from coal or petroleum, which was first developed in the 1930s by a scientist called Wallace Carothers at DuPont Corporation’s research centre in Delaware. Its first commercial use was in 1939 for the production of toothbrush bristles and garnered great success a replacement material for women’s tights, previously made with silk or hemp. It also quickly rose to prominence during the course of World War II for the manufacture of parachute cords, tents and other materials. Nylon is still widely used today in the manufacture of clothing, plastic components, automotive parts and climbing ropes.

WHAT’S IT GOOD AT?

Nylon is the second most common form of material used on motorcycle apparel, the first being polyester. Both material share quite a few common properties, there are both strong, abrasion-resistant, and are lightweight. Nylon does have an edge in some regards, especially when it comes to safety, it is well known for having better abrasion resistance (upwards of 30%) and slightly better tensile strength (about 10%) than the same denier polyester. 

The drawback? It is much more expensive, count on paying twice as much for the equivalent material in nylon than polyester. It also has a somewhat lower burning point than polyester and is water absorbent, however, because it absorbs water is more resistant to other liquids such as oils it is also more difficult to dye, which explains why you will mostly find it in black.

Nylon is a premium material that you will find on most high-end jackets, you will also find nylon in the form of Cordura which is a specific brand and weave of nylon owned by Invista a subsidiary of Koch Industries. 

WHAT ABOUT BALLISTIC NYLON?

The term “ballistic” is a hand me down from the nylon flak jackets developed in World War II used to deflect shrapnel and debris by soldiers. Ballistic Nylon most often refers to 2×2 basket weave configuration using a high denier nylon thread. The specific weave is designed to impart greater tensile strength to the material. Ballistic nylon is not a standard, nor does it denote the type of material used, so treat the term with care.

Klim Dakar adventure motorcycle pants
Klim Dakar Pants - Made of 840D and 600D Cordua

What is Cordura?

Cordura is a brand name for a variety of fabrics developed by DuPont and now belonging to Invista based in Kansas. Cordura fabrics are all composed primarily of nylon, their most popular product is an air-jet textured Nylon 6.6 fibre, which is composed of two monomers containing six carbon atoms each, which affords the fabric improved tensile strength, a higher melting point and better resistance to oil. The air-jet texturing differentiates it from standard nylon as the process, creates a textured, fuzzy on the surface of the fibres similar to natural material such as cotton. This textures surface on the yarn creates additional “loft” or contact points on the material which is meant to spread out abrasion more consistently. 

WHAT’S IT GOOD AT?

Cordura can be found in a variety of products that require high wear resistance, most commonly backpacks, military and outdoor clothing and of course motorcycle equioment. There are two main advantages of Cordura clothing, you are getting gear that incorporates nylon, which has proven abrasion resistance and performance, the second is you are buying a known and tested product. If you are buying a motorcycle product that incorporates Cordura you can be assured that the material has been thoroughly tested and is fit for use. 

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?

As always it’s important to look at Denier when purchasing motorcycle clothing, with most Cordura products ranging between 600D and 1000D. Also consider looking at the specific Cordura weave used to see if it might be a blend like Cordura-cotton or Cordura-Denim, which trade-offs some protection in exchange for comfort and style.

Cordura Fabric

Additional Info and Sources

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