Said to be four times more resistant to tearing and with almost twice the abrasion resistance of conventional cow leather, kangaroo leather also has the advantage of being substantially thinner (and thus lighter) as well as supple and nearly impervious to sweat. Much of this is because kangaroo leather fibers run horizontally with the skin, whereas cowhide fibers are basically random. Thus it is only natural to see kangaroo leather finding its way into more sportbike protective apparel.
Italian riding apparel manufacturer Spidi has now joined the 'roo-leather movement with its new GP Kangaroo racing suit. Made from high-quality 0.8mm Australian ranch-raised kangaroo leather, its comparative thinness as opposed to the usual 1.2-1.5mm thickness of traditional cowhide means the Spidi suit weighs substantially less than other leather suits. Our size 50 suit scaled in at 9.3 pounds, compared with 12 pounds for a conventional leather suit.
The GP Kangaroo suit sports the usual features found in quality high-end leather racing apparel, such as elasticized areas around the knees, shoulder blades and lumbar portion of the back. Schoeller Keprotec fabric is used throughout the arms, crotch, inner thigh and rear of the knees/calves for added flexibility and breathability. CE-certified Biomechanic shoulder and elbow/forearm guards offer superb impact protection, while a pocket in the rear of the leathers is provided for an optional Warrior spine protector. The knee pads feature more than three inches of height adjustability. Additional foam padding is placed in the tailbone, rear thigh, biceps, ribs and shoulder blades for even more protection.
Neoprene inserts on the ankles, collar and cuffs prevent chafing in those areas for better comfort, and the perforations in the chest, stomach, shoulder, legs, arms and back provide cooling airflow in hotter climes. Also helping in such conditions is an optional half-liter drinking system that fits into the aerodynamic race hump on the back of the suit.
While there's no doubt that the Spidi GP Kangaroo suit is lighter than most cowhide suits, what was immediately noticeable was its supple feel. Many leathers are somewhat stiff when new, but the GP Kangaroo has that smooth and soft feel that allows superb flexibility out of the box with no break-in required. Overall fit with an off-the-rack suit was excellent, and as with the JP3 suit we reviewed back in the July '07 issue the hard armor is much more comfortable than the old versions. Ventilation with the GP Kangaroo suit is superb, although it'd be difficult for it not to be, considering the number of perforations in so many areas.
We were a tad apprehensive about the comparatively thin kangaroo leather being able to fully withstand the abrasion of a fall on the pavement, even though we figured a company with Spidi's reputation wouldn't be offering a subpar product. After getting the opportunity to test the GP Kangaroo suit's durability at a Riders of Kawasaki (ROK) track day at Road America last year, we need not have worried.
RA is one of those expansive racetracks that can have different weather conditions at opposite sides of the circuit, especially during the summer when thunderstorms roll through the area, and this particular day was no exception. As El Jefe entered the back section of the track he noticed the sky was pretty dark, and even though the track looked dry he could smell the wet pavement. He immediately backed off and decided to head for the pits to let the track dry. Heading out of Thunder Valley and into turn 14 before the pit entrance, he thought he was traveling at a mellow enough speed and lean angle to maintain traction, but the ZX-10R he was riding didn't agree and promptly dumped him on the ground at about 50 mph.
Although he only slid on his butt and right arm for a bit before going off into the grass (thus it wasn't a severe test of the leather's protective capabilities), those areas all held up very well. Other than the usual scuff marks the only damage was some of the stitching on the decorative leather pattern coming apart, but since it was only an adornment and not a primary portion of the suit, there wasn't any danger of the leather separating. El Jefe suffered no injuries whatsoever, with the possible exception of his pride in bringing back a damaged ZX-10R to the Kawasaki reps.
Our only complaints about the GP Kangaroo suit were identical to the JP3 suit: The knee sliders are relatively small and wear rapidly, and the shin guards are a bit bulky when worn with boots that already offer substantial protection in that area.
The GP Kangaroo suit retails for $1999.99 and is available in silver/red and white/black color combos.