There's no single answer, but here's what you need to think about.
Is it ever a good idea to repair my motorcycle gear instead of immediately looking into buying new to replace it? I know gear needs replacement from time to time, but it sucks when you get a new jacket and you don’t even have it for one season before it gets a hole.
Thanks for writing in, Jesse. The short answer: It depends. As I’m sure you already know, one fact of owning motorcycle gear is that sooner or later, it’s going to get damaged. The usual accomplices to its demise include regular wear and tear, age, weather, minor tumbles, and of course major get-offs. It’s a good idea to periodically inspect your gear from time to time, particularly if you’re off the bike for a longer period of time.
Whether or not it’s a big deal depends on a number of factors, such as whether you got injured, and/or how much you like that particular piece of gear. For example, you’re probably going to be more upset about battle-damaging a custom one-piece race suit than low-siding and splitting your $50 mesh jacket.
If there’s a manufacturing defect, and your jacket starts falling apart when you’ve only had it for a month, your best bet is to reach out to the manufacturer to see about a replacement. The retailer you purchased it from may be willing and able to help, as well. Take and share plenty of good-quality, detailed photos so they can see the problem you’re having and offer assistance. Some companies aren’t great about responding to email, so try tracking them down and reaching out on social media as well. Sometimes, that’s the best way to get satisfaction.
As for actual damage incurred while riding, you’ll need to take a number of factors into account. If you just bought an inexpensive pair of gloves and they’re failing after riding for a week, your best bet is going to be to find another pair to replace them. Remember, gloves are meant to protect your hands in the event of a crash. Whether it’s a high or a low side, one of your first instincts as a human with any level of riding experience is to put your hands out to try to stop yourself from falling. Your hands are worth protecting.
Where is the damage, and how bad is it? There’s a difference between a tiny hole in an inside pocket that you can probably sew yourself in 10 minutes, and a gigantic scrape and rip down the shoulder and arm of a textile jacket you crashed in. Fixing a small textile hole in a place that isn’t under extensive strain—in other words, not a shoulder, elbow, knee, or gusset area—may be doable, depending on your patience and skill level. If it’s major damage, you should probably replace it. A lot of armor is removable and reusable in a different piece of gear, so keep that in mind if you really like your current armor.
Unless you’re already a skilled leatherworker, most of us won’t have the correct equipment to even begin to try repairing leather at home. That’s where leather shops—particularly ones that alter and repair race suits—come in handy. Ask around to find out what’s good in your area. If you don’t mind putting your gear in the mail, you can always look further afield, as well. Take plenty of detailed photos and ask the leather expert their opinion about how well it can be repaired—as well as for an estimate. Good leather work is usually not cheap, unless you’re close friends or family with an expert leatherworker.