Motorcycle Protective Gear
Safety is paramount when driving a motorcycle or a car. Accidents happen quickly, and the extra exposure on a bike means that even a minor accident can have grave consequences. Don't mess around with taking the right precautions beyond safe driving habits; learn about safety gear and how it can make a big difference in both comfort and safety.
Helmets aren't a legal requirement in all states, but they are in quite a few; plus, it's hard to dispute the life-saving benefit helmets provide. Shopping for one, however, is harder than it seems. Helmets come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, weights, and colors. Be prepared to spend time finding the right one for you.
Quality & Standards
In terms of quality, there are safety standards listed on helmets that are set by two different bodies: the U.S. Department of Transportation and/or Snell Memorial Foundation. Both organizations require helmets to go through a specific set of testing before they can be certified safe.
There is no real helmet size standard in the helmet industry, so trying on helmets will be part of your process. Helmets are built to be snug. When you try and move the helmet around on your head, it shouldn't be loose. If it is, try the next size down. Don't hesitate to keep the helmet on for more than a few minutes to see how it feels over time.
Body Gear & Clothing
Good body gear is just as important as a good helmet. Think of how fragile skin is and then embrace a biker look if you plan on spending any time on a motorcycle.
Beyond the basic comfort and relief from the weather that gloves are meant for, a good motorcycle glove can also provide some padding for protection in an accident. Hands seem like an afterthought, but fingers break easily and there's no reason to risk such a high-use part of your body.
Suits, Pants & Jackets
Similar to gloves, outwear provides both protection from the elements as well as protection in an accident. The choices and varieties of this gear are endless.
The important thing to remember is that your jacket, pants, and/or suit is an integral component of your protective motorcycle gear. Take the time to understand the different types of:
- Protective padding can range from full body armor to protection for specific body parts, such as your elbows or knees.
- Padding is often sewed right into motorcycle clothing.
- Being exposed to the open air can get you cold fast. Good insulation will help keep you warm.
- If your bike is your only form of transportation, you are likely to find yourself riding in the rain. Make sure you have gear that can hold up in the moisture.
- With so much gear available, you shouldn't have to compromise very much on comfort. Make sure the gear you want is right for your needs.
Leather vs. Synthetic
Leather has long been the standard material used to make motorcycle protective clothing. However, synthetic materials—such as ballistic nylon—are now widely used in place of leather.
Both types of materials have similar protective qualities. While leather has superior abrasion resistance, synthetic materials can be more breathable and may have higher water resistance. Your personal preference will go a long way toward determining which type of material you want to buy.
Motorcycle boots are a sturdy piece of safety gear that you probably won't use for anything much more than riding. Their thick soles, steel-plated toes, and heavy ankle protection are all designed to keep your feet safe in the event of an accident. Also consider the debris flying up from the road, such as rocks and possibly glass. Sandals won't protect you from these unexpected assailants!
You'll have all the usual choices to make here, too, including decisions on:
- Lacing and/or Velcro straps.
Motorcycle boots should provide a good grip on the bike and work well with your gear shifting mechanism. Take your time to try on several pairs until you find a good fit.
If the prices and range of options for all this motorcycle gear become overwhelming, just take a step back and break down the process. Remember—protective motorcycle gear can make a huge difference in an accident. That's pretty good motivation to think about making sure you find the gear that's right for you.