What is your philosophy for suiting up for a ride? Do you wear the same gear for a quick ride to breakfast as you do for an all-day or weekend trip?
Regardless of your confidence or competence in your riding skills, it’s other drivers and changing road and weather conditions that pose the biggest threat to a motorcycle rider. Plus, today drivers are increasingly distracted by mobile phones and other connected devices which leads to decreased attentiveness and reaction time. So, you can protect yourself and reduce not only the possibility but also the severity of an injury or an accident by wearing protective riding gear.
Here’s a quick guide to the most critical protective riding gear. Keep in mind, riding gear not only protects you in case of an accident, but it also protects you from natural elements such as wind, debris, and weather.
We all know the facts and the importance of protecting your head (and brain) when riding a motorcycle. Head injuries and severe brain trauma require the longest recovery time. Some people never recover. It still shocks me when I see riders without helmets when I travel to states without helmet laws.
There are plenty of helmet options, each with varying levels of protection. Also, your helmet should provide eye protection. A model with a full or partial face shield is recommended. If you choose an open-face or half-size helmet you’ll need to consider goggles or other protective eyewear. Check out this post and choose the best helmet for your riding style.
Most motorcycle jackets are made of leather, Kevlar, Cordura, or other synthetic textiles. These materials protect your skin from nasty road rash. For protection against impact, a good jacket should include additional protection and padding for your back, elbows, and shoulders. Advances in technology have also resulted in some airbag-enabled jackets and vests.
For a versatile jacket, look for one with a removable liner and/or adjustable venting that can make it useful in both hot and cold weather. No matter your fashion and style preference, you can find something that suits—and protects you—while riding.
Like riding jackets, motorcycle gloves are available in leather, Kevlar, Cordura, or a combination of natural and synthetic materials. Many include protective padding for your knuckles and palms. Some gloves with larger gauntlets can also provide additional padding and protection for your wrists.
Gloves not only protect your hands in an accident, but many also provide functional riding enhancements too. For example, some gloves include textured surfaces on the fingers for a better grip on clutch and brake levers. Plus, some include wiper/squeegee material to help you clear your face shield of rain or other debris.
Often overlooked, motorcycle boots are critical for a safe and comfortable riding experience. First, they should be weatherproof and lightweight. Second, they should provide enough stiffness to protect and the flexibility for comfort off the bike. Good motorcycle boots should also have additional padding on the inside of the left boot, so you don’t strain your foot when shifting gears.
However, the most important part of a motorcycle boot is the sole. Because road surfaces vary and change depending on weather conditions, boots need to provide sufficient grip and must be resistant to oil and other fluids that end up on the road. Also, because motorcycles can be heavy, a good boot should provide sufficient ankle support so as not to fatigue the foot when stopping at traffic lights.
Even if you’re not riding a cruiser with a throaty V-twin engine, motorcycles can be noisy. Then, add wind and traffic noise to the mix, and it doesn’t take long for ear fatigue from excessive exposure to these high-decibel noises to set in.
To protect your hearing, I suggest using, at least, low-cost, industrial-use foam plugs. Even better, by choosing a higher quality solution, you’ll get a better fit and more attenuation. So, invest in your ears by getting custom-molded plugs. Our ears are like fingerprints—everyone is different. Several companies offer earplugs designed for motorcycle riding. And an audiologist can also make you a custom-fitted set in a week or two.
High-visibility and reflective motorcycle vests are low-cost and effective gear that increase the visibility of motorcyclists. They protect us from being invisible. Just as highway and road crews use them, many motorcyclists now wear these vests to maximize visibility.
Sure, some textile motorcycle riding jackets are available in high-visibility and reflective colors, but if yours is not, a high-visibility vest is an excellent option especially when riding in high-traffic and high-density population areas.
Ride safe and wear the gear that will protect you in any riding situation. It’s important to be comfortable, but also to be smart. Advances in protective and preventive motorcycle safety products will help keep you safe. For me, it’s still ATG/ATT (all the gear, all the time). What about you?