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By Riders, For Riders, 250 Million readers for over 16 years.
Guide to Motorcycling
Section Four: Motorcycle Gear and Gearing Up
Remember to always wear your safety gear when riding a motorcycle. After all, you do want to ride for a lifetime, why cut it short.
Gearing Up for the Ride
- Riding Equipment
- Helmets - Beanie/Puddin Bowl, Half Helmet:, ¾ or Open-Face Helmet:, Full face helmet:, Flip Up Helmet
- Gloves - Leather, Textile, Recommendations, What to look for
- Jackets - Leather, Textile, Recommendations
Getting the proper equipment for the proper task is as important in any thing we do as it is in motorcycling. Remember when you fell off your bike when you were a kid and scraped up your arms, legs, knees etc? Well, that was at a slow speed compared to riding a motorcycle. So it is important not to ever ride without something on to protect you.
Riding gear comes in many forms such as Helmets, Gloves, Jackets, Boots, Pants, as well as different accessories such as heated gloves and vests. I will try to list as much as I can here and cover the majority of it, plus the negatives and the positives to help you decide what to get or upgrade to. I will also cover the historical gear that people wore to give you an idea of the evolution of what we have today.
No matter what the gear is, if you can afford to buy it new then do so. Its job is to save your life and a new item is 100% ready to do that, a used item is unknown. If you cant afford a good new item then used is better than nothing. You will have to make that decision yourself on weather to buy a high quality used item or a low quality new one. I would probably buy the former (high quality used item), but that is just me and you may be what you would feel comfortable doing.
You can find Riding gear available in many different sizes, styles and fitting for and males and females. You can colour match your bike, or whatever suits your fancy at the time. Since motorcycles have a smaller profile than other road vehicles then you should choose riding gear in colours that will make you visible no matter what the weather conditions or time of day. Bright solid colours (Yellow, Gold, White, Orange, Bright Blue, Green, and Red), with reflective strips are always a great choice. Walk into the room with riding gear all over and quickly look around, the coloured gear that you notice first is probably what other drivers will also see first when youre on the road. I personally wear a yellow/black coloured jacket and I do get noticed out there by other drivers on the road.
While all riding gear is important and designed to save your life in case you call upon it, no other piece is as important that the Helmet. Some parts of the world the Helmet is optional to wear and many go without wearing one. While 90% of you reading this are shaking your head at those who dont choose to wear one you have to understand why they do not. Those that choose not to wear one have their own reasons, some of which can be: Cant afford one, the law gives me a choice, ignorant of the risks, feel that wearing a helmet is a statement of freedom, feel that they can do more harm than good, believe that they would never need to ever use one, like the feeling of the wind in their hair, refuse to be labeled. Stories like this one feed the fire not to wear one: I heard about this rider that wore a helmet and the helmet got caught on the bumper of the car when it hit him, so it dragged him down the road .
So, with all those reasons, why would you choose to wear one? Studies have shown and riders have reported that helmets not only save lives but can drastically reduce the amount of injuries suffered to the face, head and neck. There is a good expression that motorcyclists use Either you have been in an accident or have yet to. While this sounds morbid the odds are not in your favor of never being in at least one minor accident. I strongly suggest you wear one every time you ride, even if it is just around the corner.
Remember, a used Helmet is worthless because you can't tell if it has been dropped or not and damaged on the inside.
Helmets are designed to protect the head and neck (at a minimum) against impact, crushing and friction damage (rubbing over another surface). While helmet construction, style and type vary they all share this same purpose. More on how they achieve that later.
Helmets come in many different types to suit your protection comfort level. The name of the helmet gives you a good idea of how much protection they offer as well as their looks. From least to most protection the types of helmets are as follows:
Positives: Protects the top of the head. Minimum amount of protection over not wearing a helmet at all. Easy to put on and take off and can leave the helmet on in many cases. Manufacturers design the beanie/puddin bowl helmet to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision, and to not obstruct hearing. Usually the cheapest helmet you can buy. Fits in with the bad boy, rebel, cruiser look.
Negatives: Outside noise (e.g. wind) can be harmful to the ears since it does cover the ears. Does not offer adequate protection for any other area than the top of your head in case you need it there. Does nothing much in the way of keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks/dirt/dust and cold out from anywhere other than the top of your head. Many are not even DOT approved and even more carry fake DOT stickers. Better than wearing no helmet at all but not by much.
If you can land and skid by using the top of your head alone, then this helmet is for you or if looks outweigh safety concerns.
Positives: Protects the top and sides of the head, as well as the ears* (plus possibly the eyes and neck). Offers more protection than wearing a beanie/puddin bowl since it protects the ears. Easy to put on and take off and can leave the helmet on in many cases. Manufacturers design the half helmet to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision, to balance protection and convenience and to not obstruct hearing. Usually cheaper to buy than either a ¾ helmet or a full face helmet. Fits in with the bad boy cruiser look. Some Half helmets have leather ear protectors that fit over your ears and thus offers more protection in that area.
Negatives: Outside noise (e.g. wind) can be harmful to the ears since it does cover the ears. Does not offer adequate protection for the face/chin/teeth/nose/ear/neck/eye area in case you need it there. Does not do much in the way of keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks/dirt/dust and cold out from anywhere other than the top of your head.
¾ or Open-Face Helmet:
Positives: Protects the head, neck, ears, and eyes. Offers the third most protection over any other type of helmet (other than full face and flip-up full face). Compared to the full face helmet there is not as many times you have to remove the helmet (take a photo, drink, eat, etc) since you can just lift up the face shield and taking off a ¾ helmet is easier and more convenient to do than other types. Manufacturers design the ¾ helmet to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision and to balance protection and convenience. Usually cheaper to buy than a full face helmet.
Negatives: Can muffle outside noises since it does cover the ears. Does not offer adequate protection for the face/chin/teeth/nose area in case you land there. Also aids in keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks/dirt/dust and cold out due to its wrap around design but not very effectively compared to a full face helmet.
Full face helmet:
Positives: Protects the entire head, neck, ears, eyes, face and chin. Offers the most in protection over any other type of helmet. Also aids in keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks/dirt/dust and cold out due to its wrap around design. Manufacturers design the full face helmet to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision and to offer the most protection from a crash and the environment.
Negatives: Can muffle outside noises since it does cover the ears. Even with a flip up face shield there are many times you have to remove the helmet (take a photo, drink, eat, etc) and that takes longer to do than other types. Can be an inconvenience for those who wear eye glasses since you cannot put the helmet on while wearing them. Usually is the most expensive type of helmet to buy.
Positives: Protects the entire head, neck, ears, eyes, face and chin. Offers the most in protection over any other type of helmet. Also aids in keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks/dirt/dust and cold out due to its wrap around design. Eliminates many of the negatives that normal full face helmets have such as removal, taking it off to drink/eat and to put on/off glasses.Manufacturers design the flip-up full face helmet to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision and to offer the most protection from a crash and the environment.
Negatives: Can muffle outside noises since it does cover the ears. Even more expensive type of helmet to buy than the full face helmet. MAY not be as good in a crash as a full face helmet because the chin can come open on impact. Brand new "technology" so we don't know how safe this helmet design is yet.
When choosing a motorcycle helmet take a look at the back bottom of the outside shell and see what safety standards it carries. (See photo). If it does not have a safety sticker there, then check into the helmet for a tag attached to the liner. Still no indication of any safety standards put it back on the shelf.
Safety standards are either set by the helmet manufacturer (DOT) or by an independent research lab (Snell) for North America anyway. You can read up on either standard by following these links: SNELL , DOT and Internet Articles on both standards: 1, 2, 3 and then you can decide for yourself what one you are most comfortable with. My first helmet (which I crashed in) was a DOT only approved helmet and it performed great. My second helmet is both DOT and SNELL approved because I got a great deal on it. Hopefully I will not be testing it anytime soon.
DOT is the united states Department Of Transportation safety certification. It is the MINIMUM requirement for any approved motorcycle helmet and must be clearly displayed for yourself and for an officer of the law if he/she wants to inspect your helmet (it does happen in rare occasions). If the helmet does not have a DOT certification on it then it probably does not even met the minimum safety standard! Basically, DOT certification is placed on the helmet in an honour system where the government DOES NOT test the helmet but trusts that the manufacturer did test it or else would not be selling it with the DOT certification on it. To make matters worse, there are helmets that are sold with a fake DOT certification on it that do not offer adequate protection either. These helmets would more than likely would fail a DOT test and not meet the minimum requirements you are looking for, but they sell them in the name of good looks and to possibly fool an unwary police officer. A word of advice, usually these are the cheap, puddin bowl or beanie type helmets manufactured by an unknown manufacturer (or the manufacturer is not even listed). If the DOT certification suits you just fine then use it and put any bad thoughts of it out of your mind. Buying a DOT helmet for a well known manufacturer is as close to a guarantee that it has passed the DOT standard.
SNELL is another standard used in North America and it stands for Snell Memorial Foundation (http://www.smf.org/). They are an independent testing laboratory which tests helmets further and under more tests then the DOT standard. The SNELL standard is not just given to any manufacturer who conducts their own tests on their own helmets, instead the manufacturer must submit X amount of the same helmet to SNELL who does the tests themselves. Unfortunately, the SNELL tests are very expensive for manufacturers to do for every helmet they want to sell and the amount of helmets SNELL receives from the manufacturers vary in quantity but are of course a lower amount then the manufacturer doing their own tests.
How experienced motorcyclists see it: If you can afford, like the colour/style and fit of a particular SNELL certified helmet then buy it. It does not mean that the DOT standard is any worse or wont protect you any better over SNELL. What is does mean is that the majority of SNELL helmets are also DOT approved so you are sure of getting at least good quality helmet designed to protect you.
No matter what standard you buy, feel good that you value your head and brain by protecting it with a helmet.
Riding Gloves are another very important safety item to wear while riding your motorcycle. Unless we are trained not to (martial arts, gymnastics etc), then most of us reach forward, palms down when we fall. This gives a very high chance that it will also be an area that could loose not only lots of skin but blood as well. I've read that people who have not worn gloves in a motorcycle accident were surprised at the quantity of blood they lost through their palms (something like 2 quarts). That is a surprising amount to most of us and by wearing gloves that provide us with decent protection we can keep our blood where it is supposed to be, on the inside.
Gloves have been around for motorcyclists it seems since the introduction of the motorcycle. They are available in many different styles, temperature ranges, materials and degrees of protection. The vast majority of protective gloves for motorcycle use are either Leather or Textile (non-leather). Both leather and textile offer styles from basic to a high tech look and are made in a dizzying array of colours and patterns. With the innovation of 3M Thermalite (and other heat insulation products) we can now enjoy warm(er) hands in cold(ER) weather than ever before and enjoy the less bulky feel as well for that warmth. Today summer gloves for cool(ER) hands in warm(ER) weather can be made with the protection we need rather than cutting off protection (from inside palm, fingers top of hand etc) to keep our hands cooler.
Glove are probably the least controversial type of riding gear you will
put on and no matter what you wear almost no one will care (expect for yourself).
Unless someone you know (or is in your riding group) who went down talks about
the benefits of gloves you will almost never have "motorcycle gloves"
come up in conversation with other bikers. Just because they are not talked
about doesn't mean that they are not important to wear.
What to look for:
- Gloves that were designed to meet or exceed what you are going to be using them for.
- Good stitching, especially in areas that will absorb any impact
- In the case of leather, thickness.
- Armor/Padding in areas that will absorb any impact, especially the palm area.
- Fit. Make sure you can use all your fingers without binding, and you can use the handlebar controls effectively.
- Warmth/Cooling. If you are going to ride in very hot or cold weather, pay attention to the gloves ability to provide that for you.
- Comfort. Since you will be wearing the gloves all the time, make sure they fit well and you can use all your fingers without binding, and you can use the handlebar controls effectively.
- Glove length. Too short of a glove will not provide adequate wrist protect from impact, bugs, wind, rain etc.
- Best Protection where you need it. Do you fall forward with your palms open or do you make a fist or Best to look for protection there because in an accident it will be your habits that will take over.
Weather you are just riding around town, cruising the boulevard or pushing it to the limits on the race track you will find the right glove to suit the style and protection level you need for what you are doing.
Recommendations: If you find yourself riding without a windshield (or one that does not cover your hands) I would recommend getting "Gauntlet" style gloves (leather or textile) that fit up and cover your jacket's cuffs. That way, cold wind, bugs, rocks/dirt and rain won't go up and into your arms and it makes riding that more pleasurable.
Textile gloves are a recent invention (10 years) in motorcycling and were designed to offer the wearer leather like protection, warmth and to remove some of the leather disadvantages as well. They are made from state of the art Man-made materials such as Kevlar, Ballistic Nylon, and other exotic materials to do this. Today, you can find roughly a 50/50 mix of Textile and Leather gloves for sale at retailers. Every year the Textile process improves making the materials softer, less bulky and offering better protection than the year before. Textile gloves generally appeal to those who wish the highest technology protecting their hands and a high tech look to go along with it. While the "cruiser" image doesn't fit all that well with textile gloves, both textile and leather gloves can easily be found in the "sport" rider area. No matter what bike you ride, do yourself a favour and buy what you like and believe will protect you the best for what you are going to be doing.
Positives: The material allows for other types of armor protection to be sewn in like Kevlar, hard plastic, and metal more easily (and cheaply) than leather. Can also be designed in more colours, patters, styles and offer almost complete protection in heavy rain and wind. Can now offer more protection than leather since more textile gloves also include different types of armor. They also will not shrink or colour bleed when they get wet like leather does so no worries about carrying another pair of gloves to cover them in case of rain. Good abrasion and high puncture resistance.
Negatives: Textile gloves tend to be higher in cost. Not as "soft" and pliable as leather and Can be more bulky. Textile is also much harder to patch up any holes or damage in the material.
Leather gloves have been around as long (or seems that way) as motorcycles have been. They are made from cow hide and are available in different grain leather (short, long) and different thickness' (measure in millimeters). Quality and protection of leather gloves vary from cheap cosmetic stuff to serious pro racing standards. Protection is not only in the thickness of the leather but also in the stitching as well since thick leather pieces will do you no good if that's what they turn into because the stitching didn't hold up. Leather gloves offer the best mix of cost and protection over Textile gloves, they are also softer, easier to fix and Can last longer. Today, you Can find roughly a 50/50 mix of Textile and Leather gloves for sale at retailers. Every year the Textile process improves making the materials softer, less bulky and offering better protection than the year before so leather is facing some serious competition.
Positives: Leather is inexpensive and commonly available in many different forms. Easy to patch and repair a hole or worn out area. Can be soft, comfortable, well fitting and still provide adequate protection. Fits in with the "cruiser" look and is naturally warmer than textile and wind resistant.
Negatives: Not water-resistant and Can easily shrink when wet making them too small and uncomfortable. Colours (black especially) Can easily bleed and leave hands dyed (only a personal cosmetic problem as it doesn't affect the colour of the glove). High abrasion but poor puncture resistance.
Welcome to the second most controversial riding gear item. Why is that? Well, as with motorcycle riding gloves are mainly made from two different materials (leather and textile) so are motorcycle jackets. As with gloves, leather came first, and has it's own style and appearance but textile is not only quickly catching up but also passing the protection of leather in many areas. While textile clothing cannot be as easily patched up as leather, more professional motorcycle racers are wearing it over leather. While you may find heated debates over weather to wear a helmet or not, you won't find any (or hardly any) on wearing some sort of protective jacket. Those who do not choose to wear a jacket and opt for a T-shirt or even bare-backed are making a their own statement, I just do not know what that is. Crashing and sliding down a road till they stop with a T-shirt on is a gory though and something you probably never want to see. Watching motorcycle races and seeing racers slide down the track wearing a full leather suit till they stop is a thought easier to deal with because you know the odds are greatly in their favour of walking away.
Ok, enough with the images on to the facts. Motorcycle jackets are there to protect you from abrasion (rubbing), impact (quick, strong blows) and puncture (piercing) damage. The odds are very high that if you fall off a bike you will land on somewhere where your jacket will be. Both leather and Textile are designed to address these issues using thick, high-grade leather, armor pieces (hard and soft), double stitch sewing, Kevlar, rivets and foam in the joints. Many manufacturers offer a dizzying array of styles and designs, you just have to visit any local motorcycle store or Internet retailer to find something that will suit your style and budget. It is always best in the interests of safety to get a jacket in other than black so other drivers Can see, and notice you better. Bright colours are the best (gold, yellow, orange, red, blue, etc) but even dark blue, purple, red and green are better than black.
WHAT DO LOOK FOR:
- A good fit in very important with room to have a sweater underneath for
- If the jacket has armor make sure it is over what it should be protecting. (Shoulder armor is over your shoulder, not your biceps). Check the shoulders and elbows especially.
- Construction. Look at the seams and stitching, see if it looks strong where impact points are, take the time to notice smaller details like pockets, zippers vents, wind protection. If the company designed these areas well, chances are they took the time to do the same all over.
- Reflective/White strips. They will reflect headlights at night making your otherwise dark jacket noticeable. To be seen is important, and doubly so at night or in weather when visibility is poor.
- Thickness of the Leather. Good leather should be at least 1mm thick and ideally thicker. The thicker the leather generally means more protection for you all over.
- Vents. If you ride in hot weather, you will appreciate that your jacket is equipped to let the wind pass though it and cool you down.
- Colour. As mentioned look for bright colours over darker ones. This reduces the chance of drivers saying "I didn't see him/her".
Leather Jackets have been around as long (or seems that way) as motorcycles have been. They are made from cow hide and are available in different grain leather (short, long) and different thickness' (measure in millimeters). Protection is not only in the thickness of the leather but also in the stitching as well since thick leather pieces will do you no good if that's what they turn into because the stitching didn't hold up. Quality and protection of leather Jackets vary from cheap cosmetic stuff to serious pro racing standards. Leather Jackets are more expensive then Textile Jackets, but they are also softer, easier to fix and Can last longer. Today, you Can find roughly a 50/50 mix of Textile and Leather gloves for sale at retailers. Every year the Textile process improves making the materials softer, less bulky and offering better protection than the year before so leather is facing some serious competition.
Positives: Leather jackets are commonly available in many different styles and colours. Easy to patch and repair a hole or worn out area. Can be soft, comfortable, well fitting and still provide adequate protection. Leather is heavy and thick so they are great to wear in cold weather because they Can retain body heat and are wind proof as well. High abrasion but Can offer poor puncture resistance. Fits in with the "cruiser" look and style.
Negatives: Not water-resistant and Can easily shrink when wet making them too small and uncomfortable. Colours (black especially) Can easily bleed and leave clothing dyed. Because of the material used (leather) they are heavier and not as well ventilated as Textile jackets making them uncomfortable to wear in hot weather. Can be hard to find styles in anything other than black.
Textile jackets are a recent invention (10 years) in motorcycling and were designed to offer the wearer leather like protection, warmth and to remove some of the leather disadvantages as well. They are made from state of the art Man-made materials such as Kevlar, Ballistic Nylon, and other exotic materials to do this. Textile jackets come with vents to open in the summer, wind and water proof designs as well as removable liners for cold weather. Hard armor and foam pieces Can be easily placed at strategic locations on the jacket and not ruin the design. Today, you Can find roughly a 50/50 mix of Textile and Leather jackets for sale at retailers. Every year the Textile process improves making the materials softer, less bulky and offering better protection than the year before. Textile jackets generally appeal to those who wish the highest technology protecting their body and a high tech look to go along with it.
Positives: Textile jackets tend to be a little lower in cost than leather jackets. The material allows for other types of armor protection to be sewn in like Kevlar, hard plastic, and metal more easily (and cheaply) than leather without ruining the look and design and thus increases its safety for you. Can also be designed in more colours, patters, styles and offer almost complete protection in heavy rain and wind. They will not shrink or colour bleed when they get wet like leather does so no worries about carrying rain gear to cover them in case of rain. Vents are a welcome addition in warm riding weather, as well as the lighter nature of the jacket. Good abrasion and high puncture resistance. Available in many different colours as well as black.
Negatives: Not as soft and pliable as leather and Can be more bulky as well. Textile is also much harder to patch up any holes or damage in the material so the life span of the jacket Can be lower. Even though Textile jackets are waterproof they are not 100% waterproof over a long (hours) time in the rain because the stitching puts minute holes in the material.
TEXTILE & LEATHER SUITS
Popular with riders who demand the up most in protection and safety one and two piece riding suits were designed. While you Can buy a jacket and add pants to it, the suits offer more protection than any other combination since manufacturers will have a way to attach both pieces better together to form a bond. One piece suits Can even offer even higher protection than two piece suits because they are joined to form one piece and eliminate any chance of a two piece bond breaking. Racers today favour the use of leather one piece suits with added skid pads and protective armor because they patch up better. Textile one piece suits are favored by those who don't race on the track but need all weather, all year protection against the elements. That being said, a few racers are catching on to the textile racing suits now offered.
They are available in as many styles and colours as jackets are. These suits offer a higher degree of warm and cold weather protection and their ability to keep the environment out is unsurpassed (wind, rain, dust, etc). The materials both share the same positives and negatives as their jacket counterparts.
Boots are a very interesting piece of safety equipment on the market. While every rider who is concerned with their safety uses them, there is no real standard other than that for motorcycle racing and dirt bike boots to follow for the street rider. To make things harder for a rider looking for boots to wear while on a motorcycle it seems no two riders agree on style or type of boot. That being said, let me help you out telling you what people do agree upon to use.
Before I give you advice on what to get, let me first tell you want not to use. Do not ride a motorcycle with bare feet, flip-flops, sandals, or running shoes of any type (that goes as well for rubber boots, flippers, clown shoes, dress shoes, clogs, high heels etc) because they are not designed to protect your whole foot in case of an accident.
What to wear or at least what is more agreed upon as a good choice to wear. Obviously racing track boots for street use and dirt bike boots for dirt riding is recommended, but they are both expensive and Can be hard to find anything you like. They are not very comfortable for walking any distance in and are quite rigid and heavy. So, what are you other choices? Motorcycle safety courses recommend "boots" that completely cover the ball of your ankle, made from leather, have good traction and probably oil and gas resistant soles. Like jackets colour and reflective material on boots Can make a big difference in other seeing you. I would like to add in there some type of armor to protect the foot (steel toe boots for example). Some riders believe that wearing steel toe boots Can cause the metal toe plate to cutoff/sever toes in an accident. While this may be true, the force of impact to do that probably would have done more damage if you didn't have steel toe boots on. I personally use steel toe boots and find they offer excellent protection for the price and are commonly available.
Personal Experience: The steel toe plate saved my toes when something sharp cut completely though the thick toe leather but was stopped by the steel plate during an accident I was engaged in at the time. So, take my advice and think about buying a pair of good, full height, steel toe, leather construction boots that have a oil/gas resistant sole and are comfortable to walk in.
Laces, bane or benefit? Laces Can be a serious safety hazard on boots while riding a motorcycle. The problem isn't that the boots have laces, it is if they come undone and get caught in the chain/belt/spokes of your bike. I've never heard of it happening, nor have I heard of it happening to anyone, but it is a good point to mention. If you boots have laces (mine do) don't worry about it, just make sure they are tied up tightly and check them at gas stops to see if they have come loose. You Can also buy longer laces so you Can do a double tie them around the boot and then tuck them in. Using shorter laces is another idea because if they come undone you don't have to worry about them getting caught on anything (just you boot falling off). Zippers, buckles and Velcro straps are better to use and found on racing boots for this reason. The benefit of laces is their ability to be cut off quickly and loosen a boot to take off, the low cost of replacing them and their availability. But don't stress over laces, because as I've said I've never heard of it happening, nor have I heard of it happening to anyone else.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
- Ankle support and above the ankle coverage by leather or other good protection
- Oil and/or Gas resistant sole for durability and better traction
- Comfortable to walk in for long distances
- Armor or other foot protection (like steel-toe, steel-ankle, steel foot plate)
- Toe of the boot fits in between foot peg and shifter comfortably
- Zippers, buckles and Velcro straps are better but laces will do
You will find pants are both an sensible and popular item motorcyclists wear for safety. It doesn't make much sense when you think about it to wear shorts, swim wear, underwear (or nothing at all). If we were 100% assured that we were not going to have an accident we could wear nothing at all but unfortunately, we never know when, how and where it will occur (if ever). So it is in your own best interest to prepare for that time if/when it happens. As with jackets, pants cover a large percentage of the body so quality is important as well as colour. Due to the unpopularity of bright coloured pants it may only be possible to buy them in black (or other dark colour). If this is the case for you, you Can always add reflective strips to them later on.
Blue Jeans: The majority of street riding motorcyclists wear "blue" jeans. Jeans are a common clothing item found our wardrobes and offer OK protection in case of a spill. They look good, are very comfortable to wear, cheap, commonly available and last a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, they are not wind or waterproof, the cuffs Can catch your boot heel and really they don't offer lots of protection. I myself am guilty of wearing them almost 90% of the time. At 50mph they Can slide X feet before wearing though. Tip: A used pair (that doesn't have any warn out spots) actually slides further than a new pair.
Chaps: The next most popular type of riding wear that fits right in with the Cruiser style. They are available in both leather and textile and offer more protection than jeans alone. Both types give a more comfortable ride and offer more wind and water resistance to the legs than jeans and are comfortable to wear and sit down in. Unfortunately they have a protection problem (sometimes larger than others) due to their design. They are made to protect the legs and not much else so unless you fall down on your knees or legs protection is not much different that what you got on below them. Most people fall down where Chaps don't offer protection (bottom, hip, groin) so you have to decide how much of a "safety upgrade" they are over Blue Jeans alone.
Leather Pants: The 3rd most popular type of safety wear. Fewer riders (as compared to Jeans and Chaps) were full leather pants due to their cost, weight and positive/negative drawbacks. But they offer a much higher level of protection than either Jeans or Chaps because they completely cover all the lower areas and legs just like jeans do. They carry the same drawbacks as leather naturally does*. Since they are thicker than jeans alone (some leather pants Can be worn on top of jeans) they offer good protection from things thrown up from the road (rocks) and natural bullets (bugs).
* (Not water-resistant and Can easily shrink when wet making them too small and uncomfortable. Colours (black especially) Can easily bleed and leave clothing dyed. Because of the material used (leather) they are heavier and not as well ventilated as Textiles making them uncomfortable to wear in hot weather. Can be hard to find styles in anything other than black.
Textile Pants: 4th more popular type of safety wear. Textile pants are generally made from the same textile material that textile jackets are made from and also carry the same positive/negative drawbacks. Textile pants have come a long way (like textile jackets) in offering less bulky and more comfortable wearing. The majority are designed to be able to slip right over jeans making this option about the same protection as leather. The textile pant market is growing fast due to the cost of textile pants is less than that of leather and its advantages. Some styles also include padding and armor options.
Armor/Reinforced Jeans: Not a new idea, but new on the market is this type of product (see: Draggin Jeans). By taking a normal pair of heavy weight jeans and adding armor, extra stitching and padding to them they still look like jeans but offer increased protection at a reasonable price. While they may not offer the same level of protection as Textile and Leather pants, they are not as expensive as well. Their drawbacks are the same as jeans including wearing out faster than leather or textile.
Safety gear does not always mean protection, but Can also mean precaution. Wearing items that make riding safer for you, more comfortable, and more enjoyable means you may not have to try out that expensive safety wear due to cold, fatigue, heat exhaustion, or by being invisible to other drivers. Here are some accessories you may wish to consider among the hundreds of items out there for sale.
Heated and Cooling* Accessories: Vests*, Jackets, Handle bar grips, thumb warmers, neck wraps, water bags/bottles are available to keep you warm on cool/cold and cool on the hot days. Body core temperature plays an important role in keeping us alert on the bike and only a few degrees either way Can spell disaster. Being too hot or too cold causes longer reaction times, loss of vision, poor judgment and bad balance. If you are going to be riding in really hot or cold temperatures (see COLD WIND CHART) then take a look at the heated and cooling accessories that are offered.
- Heated Plug in items can't be beat on cold riding days. Get there safer and more comfortably, many long distance/all year riders swear by them
- Cooling Vests are as important as headed items are HOT days. Like air conditioning and cold beer on a hot day they really hit the spot to make a hot ride bearable.
- Neck wraps. They not only keep the hot and cold wind away from your neck and helmet, but are important in regulating the flow of blood to your brain and keeping it at the right temperature. Without one, blood is heated (or cooled) but the passing wind thus causing your body to get too hot/cold and side effects such as hypothermia and heatstroke Can occur. Fleece ones are great in the winter and special designed water retaining ones great in the summer.
- Reflective Strips. Cheap, commonly available and bright. Do any riding at all and you will notice cars don't always see you. Give yourself a better chance of not being a road pancake and put on some of these reflective strips where drivers Can see them. Jackets, pants, helmets, you and even the bike all benefit when applied to them. (3M makes great ones)
- Rain Suit. An obvious choice that usually gets left behind. One and Two piece rain gear are great additions to under the seat or in a storage bag because you never know when that shower is going to hit. Even a $1 poncho and grocery store plastic bags (for the feet) will keep you dry. Wet and cold on a motorcycle is no fun and will even make you want to be in driving a (cough) car!
- Tools: While it isn't something you wear, it is something you might need to get yourself home on your bike. Always make sure you check and pack a small amount of useful tools with you when you go out riding. (Don't forget the tire gauge, electrical tape and zip ties). Some long distance riders will even carry cell phones, first aid kits and GPS units as well. If you are going to carry a cell phone, it is best to carry a satellite connection version because you Can use it anywhere in the world. GPs (Global Positioning System) units are great so you don't have to ever worry about caring a map or getting lost.
Helmet Manufacturers Websites:
AFX AGV AGV US Arai Helmet Ltd Answer Axo Bell Sports Bell Motorsports Bieffe Racing Boeri Briko Cross S.A. Fengxing - MHR Fulmer G-Force Racing Giro HJC USA KBC Leedom International Lucky Bell M2R MSR Nolan OGK O'Neal Rodia, Beijing Schuberth Security Race Products Shark Helmets Shoei North America Simpson Race Products Soaring Helmet Corp Specialized Stand 21 Strategic Sports Suomy (Vigano) THH Thor Trek USA Vemar Helmets Vigor Sports Zamp Racing