Rider's Guide - Riding Gear


The Importance of Riding Gear

This needs little explanation.  Every part of you exposed to the elements is at risk while riding and needs protection.  You'll want to keep the possibility of an accident in mind when choosing gear but don't forget that your gear should fit properly, be comfortable to wear, and function properly. If it looks nice too, that's just a bonus.  When choosing gear, be certain to consider the type of riding you'll be doing, the weather you'll use it in, and how everything fits while you're in your typical riding position.  Who cares how loose your leathers are while standing around - how does it feel when sitting on your bike?  


What gear is necessary?

Legally I think all you have to wear is a helmet and a pair of Speedo's in many states. What you choose to wear beyond that is up to you and common decency.  If you really want my advice though, here it is:


  HEAD Helmet: Full-faced offers considerably more protection in an accident, is far quieter at any speed above zero, and protects your face from the sun, bugs, and rocks.  Any major brand will work.  Ensure it fits snugly - tighter is better.  I'm partial to Shoei but my Dainese helmet turned out quite nice too.
  Earplugs: These are a must-have for anyone riding at sustained speeds over 45mph.  That means just about every motorcyclist out there.  You will lose hearing if you continue to ride without earplugs, even with the quietest helmets on the market.  I've found wearing them helps me concentrate more easily when riding quickly.  Try a few different styles out and when you find some you really like, buy them in bulk.
  Additional Visors: I recommend picking up a tinted visor to go along with the clear one that comes with your new helmet.  Carry your spare with you in your tankbag or slide it inside your jacket around the side of your waist.
  Neck protection: This is optional unless you ride often in cold weather or need to protect your neck from flying gravel and other debris where you ride. 
  CHEST Jacket: I'd say this is the second-most important piece of gear after the helmet.  I'm a big fan of leather, opting for ventilated leather in especially hot climates.  The textile offerings have come a long way though and I wouldn't hesitate to buy one from the better manufacturers.  A removeable liner is a huge plus here as is built-in armor.  Some even have a pocket for a back protector as well.  There's plenty of arguments on both sides but I'd agree with those that say hard armor is going to do more for you in an accident than soft armor.  Also make doubly sure the jacket is comfortable in the riding position.  Sit on a bike while trying it on if at all possible. And if you want something you can wear under all conditions - on-road/off-road,  rain/dry, hot/cold, etc. check out BMW's line of clothing.  Their Rallye line is amazingly versatile and full of useful features.  Expensive though!
  Back protector: Think about what stands between your back and potential danger - a few millimeters of flesh.  Barry Sheene was smart to seek out additional protection for his spine.  A good one is hardly noticeable and is worth its weight in gold should things go awry.  I recommend one that wraps around your stomach with a wide band.  Narrow straps will cut into you when tightened sufficiently.
  Chest protector: I consider this one optional but the more I think about all the things in my chest that I've come to depend on, the more I think this would be a good thing to have.  Be certain to buy a jacket that will accomodate both a chest and back protector.
  HANDS Gloves: Few things will make your riding miserable like bad gloves. Poor fit and seams in the wrong place will haunt you on every ride.  Buy them on the snug side as the leather will loosen up slightly over time.  Cheap gloves will tend to bleed dye onto your skin even years after you foolishly bought them.  You've been warned.  Some of the top brands use kangaroo leather as it can be made thinner for the same level of strength as cowhide.  I've owned 6+ pairs of Held gloves for a reason.  Don't buy anything else before you try theirs too.
  LEGS Pants: Again you'll have to choose between leather or textiles.  Check for armor in the knees as well as the backside.  A good pair will offer some sort of coccyx protection.  Buying the same brand as your jacket often means you can zip them together giving you more safety and a little more weather protection. Another thing is to learn from my mistake and ensure the backs of the knees don't bunch up, placing pressure on the nerves and causing pain on extended rides. Try a pair on and sit on your bike if you can.
  Knee brace: This is another optional item, but something to consider if you've had knee problems in the past.  They tend to be expensive and a little bulky.
  FEET Boots: I don't think you can spend too much on boots.  Even the most expensive models cost less to me than two months in a cast.  Foot and ankle injuries are common in motorcycle accidents so a good, rigid boot is vital.  I've owned several pairs of Sidi boots and highly recommend them.  Daytona, Dainese, and Alpinestars are all top brands as well.  Never get anything with laces either.  Have one loosen and get pulled into your chain and you'll understand why.
  RIDING SUITS 1-piece suits: You might consider a 1-piece riding suit instead of a jacket + pants.  Racers and track day junkies will have no choice but to go with a leather race suit.  Commuters and long-distance riders might consider an Aerostitch suit or an equivalent.  The downside of 1-piece suits is usually the additonal time it takes to get in and out of it (Aerostitch Roadcrafters being the exception), and usually being stuck in the thing when you stop somewhere for lunch. 



What brands should you buy?

You get what you pay for.  Good motorcycle gear can last you decades.  Keep that in mind when you price out some of the higher-quality leather stuff.  It will be a sizeable investment up-front but if you consider the protection it offers and the added comfort when riding mile after mile I think you'll agree it is well worth it.  I have regretted EVERY piece of cheap gear I've purchased and junked it all in short order.  It took a while but I finally learned to spend a little (sometimes a lot) more in the beginning and be done with it.  I've already mentioned some of my favorite brands above, but remember to go with what fits your needs best.  You can find gear reviews in any of the magazines each month and on the website, Web Bike World


Don't wait.

You might be tempted to put off buying gear till after you get the hang of riding.  My advice?  Don't wait.   Buy your gear up front as you are most likely to experience an accident in your first years of riding. Ask any rider if they crashed during their first year of riding. Almost all will tell you yes and sadly a lot of riders never made it past their first year. If you know you are have a good chance of getting into an accident then prepare for it!


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