The joy of motorcycle riding goes far beyond simply sitting in the seat and turning the throttle. My fun begins with the process of dressing for the ride. Yes, I know some of you don’t change an article of clothing between eating breakfast and going for a spin—everyone’s different, and you should set your own rules. However, I like purpose-built apparel, regardless of what I’m riding—it’s a pleasure, not a chore, to don it.
An essential part of my preparation for riding a dirt bike involves strapping on various armored implements. When I started riding off-road, an open-face helmet with goggles, leather pants, lineman boots, and, if it wasn’t too hot, a sweatshirt got it done.
Plastic roost guards came into the picture, though many riders mistook them for chest protection from impact—and a large number still do. Knee guards became essential, and some riders used elbow guards.
We’ve come a long way, baby. Now, I have high-tech carbon-fiber knee braces to help prevent injury. My upper body is protected by an armor-infused jacket that harbors CE-rated chest, back, shoulder, and elbow impact protection. Helmets, boots, gloves, and goggles are better than ever, and I’m experimenting with CE-rated hip and coccyx protection. Rather than being a nuisance or hindrance, all of it gives me confidence, which makes me a faster rider—what a deal.
At the other end of the spectrum, when it comes time to ride a cruiser, I don’t rely on shorts and flip-flops, as I’ve seen in Arizona. Leather jackets are great for abrasion resistance, but don’t do a thing for impact protection without additional armor.
CE-rated shoulder and elbow protection is common these days, but many manufacturers still skip on back protection. Fortunately, most jackets have a place for a legit back protector, and I always take advantage of that. Doesn’t that compromise my badass image on a cruiser? I’m trying to think of a reason to care—nothing yet.
One of the great innovations for casual street riding is technical jeans. Using Kevlar or other abrasion-resistant materials inside a denim outer shell is brilliance. You get the classic look of denim jeans without the utter lack of protection they offer. The best jeans also have pockets for knee and hip armor. I plead guilty to not using hip armor—yet.
Technical sneakers are another advancement that I love. I’m a running shoe kind of guy in regular life, so the ability to wear something very similar when riding is fantastic. Yet, I acknowledge that they don’t offer near the protection of high-quality sport boots.
As always, it’s about balancing risk and considering the ride ahead. I know people say ATGATT, but I don’t think anyone puts on a race suit to ride a bike to the corner to fill it with gas. If I’m riding down to Tommy’s at Beverly and Rampart for a chiliburger, I’ll wear something that will protect me from likely hazards while staying comfortable as I’m leaning on the outdoor counter enjoying a great meal.
Especially for cruiser riders, comfort and style are important considerations. The apparel companies have worked to weave serious protection into jackets, pants, and footwear without compromising the rider’s appearance. That’s a win for everyone—riders are safer, and gear companies sell their wares.
In all cases, putting gear on puts my head into the right space for the coming ride. Each piece reminds me of potential dangers and my responsibility to ensure I don’t have to rely on anything I’m wearing. The best safety device is smart decision-making.