Gear / Parts Motorcycle Riding Apparel Basics

Motorcycle Riding Apparel Basics

Motorcycle Safety

I was in Utah recently, a State that doesn’t enforce a helmet law. I have to say, it was strange to see people riding 1000cc sportbikes, capable of speeds in excess of 170mph, with nothing but some hair to protect their skulls.

Maybe I’ve seen the aftermath of too many motorcycle accidents but this just rubs me the wrong way. Why would anyone not protect their head, that most precious and fragile of human anatomy?

Motorcycle Helmets: Without question, a helmet is the most important piece of riding gear you are going to acquire. And don’t skimp on the price when you’re buying your lid. There’s a reason why some helmets are costlier than others, mainly the quality of the product.

Consider how much your head is worth, all the information you have in your personal, on-board computer. Assess how much your eyes, ears and your nose are worth, and then set the price range you’re willing to spend. If you just said $100, well, then you’re probably not going to like what I’m about to say.

If you can’t afford a decent helmet, put off riding until you can afford one. Seriously. If you’re hard up on cash (who isn’t) put off all the cool aftermarket stuff you want for your bike, like rear-sets, shocks, dampers, etc., and get a good quality, major brand helmet.

Your helmet should fit snugly in order for it to do its job. Not loose, and not too tight. It needs to be comfortable, allowing for some break-in. Obviously, I prefer a full-face helmet, they provide a significant amount of facial protection (and don’t believe all those myths about a full-face helmet being the cause of broken collarbones.

Even if that were to be proven, a collarbone is usually fixed much more easily than dental work, jaws, orbital lobes and noses). And use the strap. If you don’t use the strap, you might as well leave the helmet on the dealer’s shelf.

All motorcycle helmets sold in the US must have a DOT sticker indicating Department of Transportation compliance, ensuring the helmet meets certain basic impact requirements.

Eye Protection: Most full-face helmets will have a face shield standard. Use it. The eye is very fragile. Using a shield eliminates windblast and reduces rider fatigue. It’s also a natural guard against foreign objects like road dust, pebbles, bugs, smog, exhaust, etc. If you’re wearing a ¾ or half shell helmet (shame on you) be sure to compliment it with a snap-on shield or goggles.

Motorcycle Jacket: There are a good number of jackets on the market today, ranging in materials from denim to nylon. The preferred material is leather for its sturdiness and abrasion resistance. Built-in armor is advised, as pavement gets very unfriendly at even the lowest speeds.

The temptation to pull off your jacket on summer days is a mistake. One low-speed fall could put you inside for the whole season. Keep the jacket on and ride instead.

Riding Pants: Pants should be of a thick material. For me, every time I go riding I suit up in full leathers or a decent riding suit. The safety benefit of leather for the upper body also applies to the lower extremities. Add armor for more confidence.

Motorcycle Gloves: Fingers are fragile little things. Protect them. Again, leather is optimum. Add armor for knuckle protection. Gloves should be snug but allow total freedom of movement of the fingers.

Motorcycle Boots: Once again, leather is the first choice. Over the ankle is best. Ankles are fairly complex affairs. It’s not until you injure one that you realize just how inconvenient a broken or malfunctioning ankle is.

Hearing Protection: Bit of a controversy here, for two reasons. The first, contrary to popular belief, we don’t recommend earplugs as much for engine noise as we do for wind. Wind, especially at speed and regardless if you’re wearing a full-face helmet, can do significant, long-term and permanent damage.

Second, some States prohibit the use of earplugs. I take my chances in California and risk a ticket with an over zealous cop as opposed to doing damage.

Lastly, getting gear in bright colors is one added element of safety. See and be seen.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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