Gore-Tex is one of the most reliable pieces of waterproof technology for motorcycle clothing on the market – but the ins and outs can be confusing, so, Infinity is here to make it all a little more clear.
We’re big fans of GORE-TEX® gear here at Infinity. It’s a unique material that manages to tick lots of boxes for riders. But there remain some questions that exist around it, its suitability for motorcycle clothing and its care, so we decided to answer them.
What is GORE-TEX®?
Gore-Tex is one of the most popular high-performing waterproof materials available for everything from sports gear to motorcycle clothing. It was invented by Bob Gore – by total accident – and since that fateful day has become quite possibly the most relied on piece of technology in made for purpose clothing, such as motorcycle clothing.
Because of its unique characteristics, clothing featuring Gore-Tex is most commonly used for outdoor activities, and motorcycling is no exception. Although there are lots of materials that motorcycle clothing can be made from (nylon, leather, rubber) Gore-Tex is as important to modern riders as it’s ever been. This is because when using Gore-Tex, you have their promise for waterproofing reliability in any condition – and that is a promise many riders trust from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and everywhere in between.
What are the benefits of wearing GORE-TEX®?
Gore-Tex is tough, waterproof and windproof – making it perfect for riding in even the most adverse of conditions, but it’s also an extremely breathable material. Unlike leather, Gore-Tex protects you from the elements but also allows the moisture to evaporate and escape inside the clothing, meaning you won’t become uncomfortable while riding.
There’s no trade-off between comfort and function because Gore-Tex can provide both. The material is well-known for providing long-lasting, durable and comfortable weather protection.
What is GORE-TEX® made of?
Gore-Tex is not a fabric, coating, outer fabric or an inner textile lining – if you’re wondering what else there is, here is the techie bit – it’s actually an extremely thin layer of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) in membrane form. This membrane is then sandwiched between high-performance lining and outer textiles to form a laminate of materials. It has over 9 billion pores per square inch. It’s these pores that give the Gore-Tex fabric its waterproofing characteristics.
But there is also another type, and it’s called Gore-Tex Pro Laminate, which we will get into below.
How Does GORE-TEX® keep you dry?
The sandwich of materials, we mentioned earlier, is made up of three layers. The two outer layers are typically made of nylon whilst the filler layer is a type of microporous Teflon. The Teflon in Gore-Tex is not completely waterproof because it has tiny holes (or pores) in it. These pores are less than one micro-metre diameter. This is why liquid in vapour form can pass out through it and larger droplets of water (like rain, snow, etc.) can’t get in. Clever right?
Gore-Tex Pro Laminate on the other hand, is quite a bit different. Instead of the Gore-Tex waterproof membrane being a layer that sits behind the top layer of the clothing, the actual waterproofing part is bonded to the top layer. This does make a laminate Gore-Tex suit a bit more rigid but it also makes the clothing more lightweight and allows it to be better ventilated as there is no extra layer for the airflow to have to pass through before cooling you. With regular waterproofing, rainwater will soak through the top layer but will be prevented from going any further by the waterproof membrane. With Gore-Tex laminate the water will not even get the chance to soak into the top layer, instead it will bead straight off never soaking into your regular clothing underneath.
How do I wash GORE-TEX® clothing?
Yes, in order for your Gore-Tex clothing to keep being waterproof and performing at its best, it needs to be kept clean. Perspiration escaping through the material – and we all know how sweaty a long ride can be – can cause a build-up of surfactants (detergent-like chemicals) that reduce the effectiveness of the waterproofing.
You should always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions and be sure to use proper cleaning and waterproofing products designed specifically for Gore-Tex. Here is a rough guide to the best practice for washing your Gore-Tex clothing:
- Check each individual piece of clothing’s care instructions
- Remove all protectors for the clothing before washing
- Machine wash each individual garment inside out on fine wash programme at 30-35°C with fine washing powder without a soft rinse agent
- Only wash one garment at a time
- Rinse thoroughly
- Dry clean according to care instructions
- Tumble dry on a low temperature (maximum 50°C) one item at a time for short drying cycles only
- Iron on a low temperature (no.1 setting) and DO NOT iron the reflective areas
After the garment is clean you can apply a Gore-Tex specific waterproofer to get the waterproofing layer performing at its best again.
What are the different types of GORE-TEX®?
There are three different types of GORE-TEX® fabrics:
- GORE-TEX® Pro is the most rugged and extreme material
- GORE-TEX® Active is designed to keep you cool during strenuous and movement-based activity
- GORE-TEX® is a blend of GORE-TEX® Pro and GORE-TEX® Active
GORE-TEX® technology can be added to light or heavy weight clothing.
Will GORE-TEX® keep me warm?
Due to how Gore-Tex materials allow perspiration to escape whilst shielding you from the elements, it can keep you very well insulated. If you are riding in very cold wet weather with a piece of clothing that has a Gore-Tex membrane the top layer can be soaked with water – but it won’t get to your clothes underneath your jacket or trousers. But with the top layer soaked wet it can become very cold whilst riding and can become quite heavy with the wetness. Gore-Tex Pro Laminate on the other hand will not be soaked by the rainwater, so, you won’t be damp whilst you ride.
There is a bit of a trade-off with this, with a Gore-Tex membrane, in a jacket for example, the membrane would act as an extra layer keeping you warm – with Gore-Tex laminate there is no extra layer meaning you can be a bit colder, it’s just you will be dryer with the laminate. And as the laminate has no extra layer it does give you a little bit of extra room to wear thicker clothes underneath, such as a jumper for warmth
How do you reactivate GORE-TEX®?
All waterproof clothing is treated with DWR on the top layer – this means Durable Water Repellent – this is a water-repellent polymer that is applied to the outer fabric layer. This treatment is even done on Gore-Tex and Gore-Tex Pro Laminate for extra weather-protection. DWR creates a hydrophobic barrier allowing water to bead and roll off the top layer of the outer fabric. On a piece of clothing that has a Gore-Tex membrane this is extra helpful to reduce water soaking in but also helps to support the water-repellent qualities of Gore-Tex laminate.
This DWR treatment does have to be re-activated after extensive use. Exposure to perspiration, insect-repellent and other chemicals will affect the DWR’s performance. Reactivating the DWR treatment is simple enough – all you have to do is wash the garment and apply heat.
Always follow the care instructions included with each item you own and it is always a safe bet to wash the clothing individually – so just clean your jacket on its own and then do the same for the trousers. To reactivate the DWR, follow these steps:
- Machine wash the piece of clothing by following the wash instructions for that garment
- Line-dry the garment or tumble dry it on a gentle, warm cycle – not hot
- Once it is dry, tumble dry your garment on low for 20 minutes – the heat will reactivate the DWR
- If you are not able to tumble dry the garment, iron the dry garment on the gentle setting (warm with no steam) by placing a towel or cloth between the garment the iron itself. This will apply the heat needed to reactivate the DWR
These steps will reactivate the factory-applied DWR treatment and bring back that hydrophobic quality to the piece of clothing. If it does not, then it is probably about time to get a new DWR proofer and reapply it.
Most water-proofers available come in an aerosol as a spray that goes across the garment after it has been cleaned and dried – you would then leave the spray to dry on the garment.
Reactivating the DWR is the best way of getting the Gore-Tex performing at its absolute best.
Infinity Motorcycles' Gore-Tex Recommendations:
Gore-Tex has gained huge popularity in motorcycle gear recently, but it is not the only kind of waterproofing out there. Many brands will have their own waterproofing tech that can still do an amazing job and may be a lot more affordable or better suited to you if you are not as much of a regular rider. You can take a look at some of the brands' own waterproofing tech in our Guide to Waterproof Motorcycle Gear.