“Capable of keeping you dry when it's wet, cool when it's hot, warm when it's cold and alive in a crash, motorcycle safety gear is the most advanced apparel this side of a space suit.” -Gizmodo
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. When it comes to safety gear, there are some awesome options out there for motorcycle riders. Yet many riders don’t wear any gear other than a helmet, and quite a few riders won’t even wear that.
Why Wear Gear?
There are too many reasons to name, but we’ve narrowed it down to five main arguments that sum up why gear is a necessity for any motorcycle rider.
1. Crash Protection:
This is the biggest one. When you get into a motorcycle wreck, your entire body is exposed to harm. There is no metal frame or seat belt keeping you from skidding across the road into oncoming traffic or through debris.
Our bodies are made to go about 25 mph at top speed. Anything faster than that, and your bones and organs will go splat if you hit anything solid… like the asphalt, for example. Speaking of asphalt, considering the average coefficient of road friction, you lose 1 mm of flesh for every 1 mph over 30 mph you’re going when you hit the road.
That’s not an opinion, that’s physics. Without proper gear, you’re basically guaranteeing that any crash you have is fatal. And notice that we said “when you hit the road,” not “if.” Any seasoned rider will tell you, at some point in your life, you will crash that bike. It might be minor, you may only be going 3 mph at a stop sign when it happens, but it will happen. Be prepared for it.
Now, we know that good, reliable gear is expensive. However, even a minor crash can easily lead to a $50,000 hospital bill (broken bones, bruised organs, skins infections from road rash, and all of those pain meds are not cheap). Suddenly, paying an extra $1,500 when you buy your bike doesn’t sound quite so bad.
2. Rain Protection:
Most people either avoid riding in the rain like the plague, or just accept the fact that they are going to get wet and have bruises from hitting rain drops at 50 mph. With solid gear, you don’t have to worry about that.
3. You’ll Look Like A Biker:
People who are decked out in their gear, unashamed and proud as they get of their bike look awesome. They look tough. They look cool. They look invisible. That guy wearing a short sleeved shirt, khaki shorts, and sneakers as he rides to work? He gets scoffed at.
Seasoned bikers know that you need to wear the right protective gear. The new kid on the bike with a helmet that wouldn’t protect a 3-year-old on a tricycle is not going to garner the same respect from other riders, drivers, or law enforcement as the person with a solid helmet, armored jacket, pants, and riding boots. If you don’t care enough to protect yourself, why should everyone else on the road?
5. Peace of Mind:
Yours. Your spouse’s. Your kids’. Your great aunt Nancy’s. Your church congregation’s. Everyone’s. When you have the right gear, you can ride without being terrified of a minor crash turning fatal, and your loved ones can watch you leave without worrying about whether you’re coming back.
The Right Gear:
Now you know why you should wear the correct gear, but what is the correct gear?
The most simple and important item you could have when riding a motorcycle. Some countries (like Australia) and U.S. states require a helmet for all riders by law. Arkansas requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear them, but otherwise, it’s just optional.
The good news is, a cheaper (well-made) helmet is going to be just as effective as a $800 helmet in terms of making sure your brain stays in your skull. As long as you have a good fit, it’s pretty standard protection across the board. To make sure you have the right size, you’ll want it to be tight, yet still comfortable. With the helmet on your head, try to move it around while keeping your head still. If it doesn’t want to rotate, it’s a good fit.
Helmets have a five year lifespan from their manufacturing date. After that, it’s time to get a new one. You should also always get a new helmet after a crash. They’re made to last you through ONE crash, not three.
Many people overlook gloves, but they are the second most important protective item you should wear. You use your hands for a lot, and they’re very fragile. A crash can easily damage your hands, and once they are out of commission, you’ll struggle to do anything from riding your motorcycle to lifting a fork.
We instinctively try to catch ourselves with our hands. Gloves need to protect our hands from jarring impact while also preventing abrasions. They need to fit securely fastened around the wrist, tight enough so that they won’t fall off throughout the duration of a crash. They should also have extra protection at the base of your palm, since that’s what section of the hand hits first and hardest in a crash.
Windproof and waterproof options are great. They’ll keep your hands dry and warm so that you can keep control of the handlebars through different seasons and weather.
Jackets, Pants, and Suits:
Road rash is not fun. Neither are broken ribs. Feeling the wind on your biceps does not outweigh the benefits of keeping your organs inside your body and your skin attached.
Do your research on materials. Some materials have different benefits (Gore-Tex will be awesome for waterproof jackets while Cordura helps with crash impact), and you’ll have to look around to find what fits your riding style best. Some materials are better for ventilation while others have more armored protection for faster riders.
Order jackets, pants and suits true to size, even if you plan on layering. Manufacturers know that riders layer, and that extra room will be built into the right size.
Full suits are awesome for long-distance rides, but aren’t the most practical for morning commutes or a short ride across town for a coffee date. If you aren’t going with a full suit, but can’t afford a jacket AND pants, a jacket is more important. Riding pants are the best, but there are Kevlar-reinforced riding jeans that will give basic protection. A quality jacket will keep your joints safe and your skin in tact.
You need your feet to ride, so keeping them safe is paramount. At the very minimum, you should be wearing rugged combat or work boots with a strong sole and ankle support. Corcoran jumping boots will give you some solid protection, and Gizmodo recommends these for those commutes to work or quick rides across town.
The best boots are bonafide riding boots. These boots are practically bomb-proof and will keep your ankles and feet safe through anything that might happen on your bike. If you’re wondering how safe your boots are, grab the toe and heel and twist as hard as you can. Will your foot survive in whatever shape you just contorted the boot into? If not, it’s time for a different pair of boots.
- Earplugs-- open road riding can get loud and damage your eardrums
- Tinted Visors-- they’re more efficient than sunglasses
- Scarves-- for the winter, we promise you will not lose any cool points for keeping warm in January
- Luggage-- don’t strap anything that could break or injure you to your back
Overall, do your research. You need to be comfortable while still being protected. Wearing the right gear can prevent fatalities. Feeling the wind through your hair and the sun on your arms is not worth dying for. Period.
Have you been in a motorcycle wreck? We want to help!
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