The best motorcycle safety gear may be more important than the motorbike you buy. Why, you ask? Protective gear may save your skin in a slide. It can keep you warm and dry when it is cold and rainy and keep the sun from burning your skin on a summer’s day.
I want to devout this article to why ride with motorcycle protective gear on the street and provide sample gear to wear for riding a cruiser or standard motorcycle on the street.
Why spend money on motorcycle protective clothing?
After spending thousands on a motorcycle, the thought of spending $1,000 or more on riding equipment may sound ridiculous. And for some folks it is.
Gear is, after all, a touchy subject. Some folks don’t wear protective gear, some folks wear some gear sometimes, and some folks wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT is the acronym for wearing “all the gear all the time”). The choice is yours — but follow your local laws about legally required riding equipment.
To me, proper gear is essential. I’ve had plenty of wrecks and low-sides on dirt bikes and motorcycles and road and mountain bicycles to see how my body handles ouchies. It does not. Road rash sucks — bad.
Motorcycle protective gear helps mitigate risk.
Motorcycles are risky and dangerous. Having protection does help with the risk, but it is not a fail-safe.
If you ride like an idiot who thinks he’s / she’s invincible, then you are probably going to get hurt with or without gear.
There is a saying I heard when I started riding: “It’s never a question of ‘if you crash,’ it’s a matter of ‘when you crash’.”
Motorcycle riding apparel improves riding comfort (most of the time).
Good motorcycle safety equipment does protect your skin from the elements, such as a blistering sun trying to sunburn your arms. A rain suit can keep your clothes dry in a down pour. This provides comfort when weather sucks. Of course, any extra clothing layers may cause undue warmth, which can be an issue in hot weather.
What I wear
I always wear a helmet, gloves, boots, and riding jacket on the street. I won’t ride the bike without them. If I am riding down remote gravel roads, I will add motorcycle pants and a chest protector.
These are choices I make based on my willingness to assume risk in the event of a slide or an accident.
For those who wear full gear, some gear, or no gear; you have to measure the risk vs reward of wearing it vs not wearing it and make that decision yourself.
A helmet is one of the most critical pieces of motorcycle protective gear.
They are designed to protect the rider’s skull from cranial and/or facial injuries that can occur from falling off a motorcycle. It protects the brain, which is a vital organ.
Helmets are designed to absorb force when a rider’s head hits the ground. In the event of an accident, they will be scratched and may break, which indicates they served their purpose and it is time to buy a new helmet.
Many (but not all) states require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet at all times.
Helmets also protect the rider’s face from road debris and rocks that can fly up unexpectedly when driving. However, not all helmets are created equal, and every style has its own set of pros and cons.
There are many different types of helmets for riders to choose from – the main types are full face, which covers the entire head and face; modular, which looks like a full-face when riding but has a component that flips up; an open face helmet, which covers the top and sides of the head, but not the face; and half helmets, which cover the head and part of the face.
What seems like the safest helmet may also be the most restrictive, so ultimately it is up to the rider’s preference when balancing safety vs. comfort.
A jacket protects the rider’s body and arms in the event of an accident. Many include armor in high impact areas, like the shoulders and elbows. Many protect against slides.
Some include reflective material as well, which increases the rider’s visibility to other drivers at night.
Jackets protect against wind, heat, sun, and even bugs – they can help make a rider’s journey much more comfortable.
Jackets are available in a variety of materials, everything from leather to textile to other materials as well.
My summer jacket is a Joe Rocket Phoenix 5, which has CE-rated armor in the shoulders and elbows. It has a back protector, too. The jacket is mesh and breathes well — even in the dog days of summer.
Gloves are necessary for rider safety in the case of unexpected falls and slides to protect the rider from abrasions and impact.
They are also important for grip on the handlebars, especially in warm summer months when hands are prone to sweating. In addition, gloves help the rider’s hands from becoming numb, as they are prone to do on long rides.
In order for gloves to do the job they’re designed to do, they should fasten securely and tightly to your wrist, ensuring they stay on your hands in the event of an accident.
A solid pair of motorcycle boots will protect the rider from the motorcycle’s hot exhaust pipes, as well as road debris and extreme cold or warm temperatures.
They should be able to maintain traction with the road, the bike’s pegs, and the gear shifter. Boots made of durable material, such as leather, will be able to resist oil and other chemicals and will be able to stand up to frequent road impact.
Solid ankle support and protection is very important.
The importance of a strong pair of pants, designed specifically for motorcycle riding, should be obvious – their padded insides will protect the rider’s lower body from being ripped up by the road or gravel in the event of an accident.
They are the last line of defense between you and your skin. They are made out of a variety of materials, including leather or tough armored textile.
Stronger materials provide more protection in the event of accidents.
Another important piece of motorcycle protective gear is the chest protector, which protects the rider’s chest, heart, lungs, and rib cage from impact with the road in the event of an accident.
Some models also have a portion that protects the rider’s back and spine. Most chest protectors are made from strong molded plastic type materials that are stitched to fabric.
Wicking clothing as a base layer
Cotton is the worst material to wear during activities in which you will sweat.
Cotton absorbs moisture, sticks to your skin, and doesn’t dry out easily.
The best solution is to wear wicking clothing as a base layer. It helps wick sweat away from the body during the hottest days of summer. During cool weather, the sweat is wicked away from the body and evaporates. This helps keep you warm in the cold.