Summer is just around the corner, and you know what that means … it’s riding season!
This is a great time to enjoy the open road on your motorcycle, but it’s important to make sure you have the right gear. In the heat, it can be tempting to skip the gear and ride around in shorts and a tank top, but there are so many better options. With the right gear, you don’t have to sacrifice protection to stay cool.
Types of summer riding gear
When most people think of motorcycle gear, they think of leathers. And they should—leather is durable and strong, and if it’s taken care of, a good set of leathers can last a lifetime. But in the middle of summer, leather can make 90 degrees feel like the fires of hell.
Instead, I recommend looking for a quality mesh jacket—emphasis on quality. In the past, mesh jackets were breathable, but not very protective. However, now you can find mesh made of much stronger fibers that allow for good airflow without sacrificing protection. Some mesh apparel even uses leather patches in common abrasion and impact zones, which is a great way to get the best of both worlds.
In the past, I’ve had a hard time finding summer riding pants, but now there are so many impressive options (especially from small businesses). You have no excuse to be wearing regular denim jeans.
Several small businesses have found the perfect recipe for protective and flattering casual-style riding jeans that can also help keep you cool in the summer. Many of them use Kevlar lining in high-impact areas, but some use high-strength fibers like Dyneema woven into the cotton to create single-layer abrasion resistance. Almost all of them have pockets for knee and hip armor. If you haven’t shopped for a new pair of riding jeans lately, now is definitely the time!
Also, when you’re thinking about your summer gear, don’t forget your helmet, gloves, and boots. Different kinds of helmet designs can provide you with better venting and better airflow, and helmet manufacturers are trying new designs all the time. Gloves often combine mesh vents with protection to keep you cool and covered, and boots with Gore-Tex are breathable and waterproof.
How to shop for summer motorcycle gear
When shopping for riding gear, I always recommend finding a shop with good selection where you can try on the gear in person. Motorcycle gear should be good quality (reinforced seams, made of a strong fabric, and ideally CE rated), and seeing the gear in person gives you the chance to look for these features.
But also, it’s important to be able to try on the gear, because even the highest quality motorcycle gear can’t protect you if it doesn’t fit correctly. Not to mention, improperly fitted gear can be a distraction while you’re riding. For example, a helmet with great venting is a great purchase for summer riding. But, if you get the wrong size or shape, it can put pressure on your head and give you a headache.
It’s also important to remember that most motorcycle gear—especially gear with foam padding or leather—takes time to break in. If you get a helmet or a pair of leather boots that fits perfectly right out of the box, they may be too loose after they break in, which could be a distraction while riding or keep them from protecting you correctly.
Finally, I wish I could tell you to look for the gear that was most affordable, but it would be bad advice. Good gear isn’t cheap, so it’s important to invest in protecting your body. Motorcycling is inherently unpredictable, and your body needs to be protected for the unexpected. Just like you put money aside to buy a motorcycle, you need to put money aside for your gear, too.
Research new motorcycle gear
No matter how long you’ve been riding, you can always update your gear. Not only do manufacturers update their designs and materials change to become more protective and comfortable, but old gear generally has an expiration date.
Helmets and armor especially are only rated to last about three to seven years (depending on the type), and there are only so many times a piece of gear can withstand an impact before the material starts to deteriorate.
Whether your gear is carbon fiber, Kevlar, or textile, eventually it wears out and loses its function—with possibly the exception of a well-cared-for item of quality leather gear.
So, this summer, whether it’s your first time riding in 100-degree temps or you just need to update the gear you have, take the time to learn about summer riding gear. I bet you’ll be surprised by what you find.