Why leather makes a superior knee slider

Dailies, Galleries -

By

Of all the things you wear to ride fast on the street or track, the humble knee slider is probably the last item you’d think deserves an upgrade. A more expensive helmet will be lighter and vent better. A more expensive suit will fit better and survive more crashes. The right long underwear for the season will keep you cool or warm. But knee sliders? They’re all alike, right? I thought so too until I tried these handmade Asphalt & Gas leather superbike pucks.

Photos: Brian J. Nelson

Standard knee pucks of the kind that likely came with your suit or trousers tend to share the same common problems:

1) They wear too quickly (these Astars pucks were toast after just four or five trackdays).

2) Their hook-and-loop fasteners don’t grip the suit well enough.

3) They’re excessively noisy while sliding

4) They’re completely numb, offering little indication but noise that they’re touching down at all.

And that’s why Jeff Lee, who still makes every pair by hand, set about designing a superior slider.

The biggest difference between the A&G pucks and the shitty ones that came on your suit is that these are made from leather, not plastic. Layers of un-dyed cowskin are bonded to each other across their entire surface, completing one inseparable mass that’s then coated by a black dyed layer. That’s then bonded to a honest-to-goodness Velcro (as in the brand, not the generic crap that passes as such) backing.

Being made from leather is what make the A&G sliders last longer, slide silently and deliver real feel as to what the surface is doing under your knee. As an added benefit, keep your knee down continuously for long enough and they’ll begin to singe themselves black.

I wore these for the first time on my Icon one-piece during the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR launch at Infineon. Putting my knee down for the first time around Turn 2, I was immediately surprised when my leg got tugged back a little bit. Compared to typical plastic sliders, these leather ones do have a little grip to them. The second and third surprises came as my knee slid off the tarmac and onto the painted curb. Not only could I feel the surface transition and feel the difference in grip between tarmac and paint, but the bumps in the curb began to catch the leading edge of the puck, popping my leg back a little bit each time. None of this is scary or a big deal, it’s just notable because your knee actually interacts with the surface through the A&Gs; not something that can be said about plastic pucks I’ve worn in the past, those just slide along seemingly independent of anything else that’s going on, skipping over curb bumps without really feeling them thanks to their rounded shape.

What do the A&G sliders feel like when they touch down? Well, ever crashed in a leather race suit? If so, you’ll feel something familiar; there’s a real tactility, but still a relatively friction-free slide. What little friction remains will train you to avoid throwing a lot of weight very suddenly onto your knee, which is probably a good thing. When you’re at the limits of a motorcycle’s performance, the last thing you want to do is transfer even the most incremental amount of weight off the tires.

Because your knee now becomes intimate with the surface you’re riding on, you also gain an additional point of information that you can then use to inform your riding. No, it’s not nearly as important as the feedback you’re getting from the levers, tires and suspension, but a more informed decision is a better decision nonetheless. Even if that advantage is only incremental. Through the A&G sliders you really do gain a better understanding of surface texture and grip levels.

The main advantage here is going to be longevity though. These are claimed to last five to 10 times longer than their plastic counterparts. Sean’s been wearing these on the road for a month, regularly getting his knee down during that period, and I’ve done six 20-minute track sessions on them. I’m lanky, so my knee goes down pretty much anytime I’m not totally upright. All that and I’d guesstimate they’re less than five-percent worn. Given that a set of standard plastic sliders only lasts four to five trackdays, we’ve got no reason to doubt A&G’s longevity claims.

Look, you’re not going to want to prioritize obtaining these over a top-tier back protector, chest protector, boots, gloves, helmet or other piece of essential gear, but given that, at $50, they cost the same as nice-ish plastic pucks, there’s really no reason you can’t pick up a pair the next time yours are due for replacement. They’ll last longer, they’ll stay on your leathers better, they’re pretty much silent and they’ll contribute a new element of feel to your riding. All that and they’re the kind of accessory that’s really going to make you stand out as someone that’s very serious about their motorcycle riding.

Asphalt & Gas Superbike Sliders are available from Aerostich.

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

    I bet tattoo models prefer you puck with leather rather than plastic.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Tattoo models out, wannabe actresses in.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        Apologies. I somehow missed the memo.

        • Devin

          He’s been Californicated so quickly.

      • contender

        Potentially a lot of drama there. Actresses lose appeal after while.

        • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

          Almost as bad as musicians. Trying to pretend you think they’re good at acting/singing/playing music is the worst.

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            I just blame being deaf when I get caught not listening.

  • Coreyvwc

    I’m very short, my bike is very tall, so my knee doesn’t come down until max lean, and the pucks last forever. Good idea for you lanky bastards though haha.

  • smoke4ndmears

    can you really put alot of weight on them when in a tight spot?

  • Archer

    Nonononononono! With all the Icon stuff you wear, you ought to be wearing sliders with titanium inserts in them to generate enormous rooster tails of sparks every time you touch down. Now, make up your mind!

  • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

    Another option is to not drag a knee just because you can. My Dainese pucks last quite some time, but I use my knee to gauge initial lean angle – not to hold myself up through a turn.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      In case it’s not clear enough in the article, you really shouldn’t be taking any weight through your knee.

      • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

        Tell that to whomever was wearing the A-Stars puck in the image above. You don’t grind through the puck (and probably into the leather on the shin based on the status of that puck) without pushing your knee unnecessarily into the ground. You can’t tell me that happened with a leg pinned against the fairing at a 50˚+ lean angle.

        Who knows, maybe they were just checking the grip level of the asphalt with their knee and couldn’t get a good read ; )

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Nope, that wore right through due to light dragging only. Which is why there’s a need for something a little nicer, like these A&Gs.

          • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

            I wouldn’t have believed it if you didn’t say so…

            I always thought of that kind of wear along with the type of people who complain that they’re wearing through toe sliders on their boots – to which my response would be to put their damn feet up on the pegs where they should be. Anyway, I digress.

  • skullvulture

    +1 on just using pucks as a feeler gauge. Definitely interested in these and they aren’t too much more expensive. I love my Klucky Pucks and would be surprised to find something I like better though….

  • oldblue

    Point 3 – plastic pucks are excessively noisy?

    Okay people…the time has come. Stand up against noise pollution caused by knee sliders! It’s about time we did something about this insidious problem!

    Seriously…you short folks have an advantage here. I’m tall and wear out sliders fast. Great for boasting, bad for the budget.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      But why be all SCREEEEEEEEEEEE if you don’t need to be?

      • T Diver

        Um, you guys are dicks. When did everyone become road racing fucking puck connoisseurs? Did you see Desmo “Danger” Dave?!! A couple of posts ago people we discussing how tight jeans were. WTF. And excessive noise?!! Like I said dicks!! Get louder exhaust!! It’s kind of like, “Hey bitches, Sean drags knee every time he gets on the 405!!! You mean you don’t!!! WTF?!!! Thom is coming to kick your pussy ass back to Silverlake!!”

        • http://www.kenta.ro Kentaro rides a NRS and a GSA

          WTF DICKS. WTF.
          Fucking. Need some DTF bitches.
          WTF!!!!

          • DoctorNine

            Thanks for the abridged edition.
            My attention span is too short for the original.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Man, we should totally bring thom out to silverlake. Moped race between him and Tommy!

          • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

            Moped time trial with The Onion riding pillion.

        • FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

          Nobody is allowed to talk about gear ever again.

          • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

            Skinny jeans are still fair game, right?

            • Sean Smith

              Always.

            • tomwito

              Cool!

  • Penguin

    You missed the best thing about these pucks – once they get hot and toasty then people behind can smell the cooking leather. Badass factor of at least 10

    • HammSammich

      Hmmm…this is a keen point. Perhaps we should be developing bacon pucks!

      • nymoto

        Mmmmm bacon.

        • austin_2ride

          BACON WEAVE!

          • JaHo

            Bacon-scented two-stroke oil. Oh, and a decent, cheap two stroke track day weapon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cheese302 Cheese302 [Street Triple R]

        I’m down for bacon pucks.

        • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast

          totally down for bacon pucks! popcorn pucks d be good too! the scrape off corn would just pop pop pop pop as you re exiting a turn, haha.

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    Leather’s where its at. Back in the ‘ol days of LA club racing everyone used leather, usually Bates.

    And you’re right about the noise, even with ear plugs the sliding plastic resonates.

    And what do you manly-men use for elbow sliders? :)

  • Michael

    Too fekkin fancy. Just go King Kenny with a roll of duct tape.

  • Campisi

    Newbie question: what is the actual purpose of dragging a knee? My pegs scrape if I lean far enough, and I worry I’ll over-lean the tire not much farther beyond that point.

    • Penguin

      It’s so that when you’re at the caff/ bar people see your fucked up sliders and worship you as a biking God. (Also see “What is the purpose of a belt sander.”)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      If you’re dragging peg before knee, your body position is all wrong. Hanging off will allow more speed at a given lean angle and therefore more outright possible speed and more safety overall. Do so and your knee will drag.

      • Campisi

        Ah, okay. Freeway on-ramps and the occasional backroad jaunt are really the only times I’m riding aggressively enough to hit big lean angles, so I’ve never put too much thought into it.

        … Incidentally, anyone know of a good performance riding school in Washington State?

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    I’ve gone round and round with different slider hardness, testing multiple PU compounds. You can make them as durable as leather, but not with the feel Wes describes. Or you can duplicate the feel, but they’ll be toast in a couple sessions.

    As for how hard you press down with the sliders I can tell you some very skilled riders want sliders that drag A LOT. Doug Chandler described it to me as steering with your knee. He felt it helped his bike pivot around the corner. Doug liked the soft, sticky ones but when you’re at that level, refreshing your sliders every session is no big deal.