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Motorcycle Gear

A guide to safety gear for Motorcyclists

by Michael Murray





motorcycle helmetmotorcycle glassesmotorcycle glovesmotorcycle jacketmotorcycle pantsmotorcycle boots





Motorcycle Gear

One of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of motorcycling is riding gear.

Though gear can be cumbersome, awkward, and intrusive, it's also the only thing that will protect you from the road in an accident. Imagine sliding across pavement at 30 mph wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and you'll begin to understand why some people say you shouldn't expose any part of your body on a motorcycle that you wouldn't want exposed to a belt sander.

Going from head to toe, here's a breakdown of key safety equipment:



Motorcycle SafetyHelmets

An old saying goes something like this:

If you've got a $20 head, buy yourself a $20 helmet.

That said, a proper, DOT-approved helmet can go a long way towards saving your skull in case of an accident. Even if you've decided you don't want to protect your brain, helmets also offer shelter from wind noise and turbulence.

A helmet is designed to save your head from impacts that would otherwise be life threatening or altering.  Nothing is worse than a life altering head injury that could have been prevented with one piece of protective equipment.

How to choose the perfect helmet:

No matter what the outer shell of your helmet is made of, you can make sure it is trustworthy to provide impact protection if you find a DOT (and sometimes SNELL as well) approval marked somewhere on the helmet itself. MAKE SURE your helmet has a layer of EPS foam underneath the shell, which serves to absorb the energy from an impact without passing it to your head.  The helmet comfort liner is designed differently in every brand, make and model, but one thing stays the same; it will adjust to the individual shape of your head over time. With this in mind, generally all motorcycle helmets get more comfortable as you continue to wear them.

Always make sure you start with a very good and tight fit to ensure that the helmet never gets too loose. The last piece to check for is a chin strap. Make sure it is strong, well secured to the shell, and straps tight enough under your chin so the helmet won’t come off even if you pull extremely hard on it.

How to make sure you have a good fit:

A perfect fit is just as important as what the helmet is made of, because the fit can affect the way the helmet performs during that crucial moment. If you can remove the helmet with the chin strap buckled, if the helmet can move easily and independently while it is on your head, or if it falls down over your eyes, then the helmet is too big. If you can significantly bite the inside of your cheeks when you open and close your mouth while the helmet is on, if it impairs your vision to a dangerous degree, or if it gives you an instant headache, then the helmet is too small. No matter how well the helmet fits, it’s not going to protect your head if it is strapped to the backseat of your motorcycle.

*ECE , ACU, and SHARP are European certifications and standards


Motorcycle SafetyEye Protection
Eye protection not only keeps wind from making tears streak down your face, they also keep all manner of debris and bugs from flying into your eyes. Visors in helmets offer built-in eye protection, but some riders prefer to wear separate eye protection so they can enjoy a tinted field of vision that's removable when the sun drops.

Usually, eye protection is as simple as flipping the visor down on a full face helmet.  If you choose to ride with your visor up, or in a less-than-full-face helmet, we strongly encourage you to wear shatterproof eye protection. Find a pair of riding glasses/goggles that keep your eyes protected, don’t obstruct your vision, and help you see well whether you are riding during the day (shaded) or at night (clear). Most glasses/goggles designed for street riding will come with padded frames to keep air from drying your eyes out and wind from making them water.  Reinforced lenses will help keep bugs from making your eyes into a final resting place, and rocks from making them useless. Seeing clearly at all times is essential to your safety on the motorcycle, so take the proper precautions before hitting the open road.


Motorcycle SafetyEar Protection
Earplugs are safety equipment? Absolutely! Wind noise on a motorcycle can become extreme at highway speeds, and your hearing can suffer damage after enough repeated exposure to loud sounds.
Check local laws about ear protection before you plug up; some states require custom-molded earplugs, while others have more specific rules governing how you can cover up your ears on a motorcycle.


Motorcycle TravelJackets
A wide variety of jackets are available, offering many options when it comes to upper body protection; from armored race gear to ventilated summer wear, jackets can not only reduce or prevent abrasion injuries, they can also look cool in the process.

This is what a jacket is all about: elbow, shoulder, forearm, chest and back protection. Jackets are made from abrasion resistant material, usually textile or leather, that acts like a second skin while you’re sliding down the road during an accident.  Friction burns are not only painful, but they can also takes weeks or months to heal and are very susceptible to infection and complication. Abrasion resistance that will help prevent you from road rash is only half of a jacket’s purpose.

Look for CE approved armor or other materials inserted in the jacket that provide impact protection. Street riders quite often meet with a fixed object (car, sign, guardrail, curb, tree, etc.) which can cause internal trauma. In cases such as those, body impact protection can save your life.

The jacket liner also serves a very important protective role, especially for riders who get caught in rain or unexpected cold weather. A liner will help protect you from hypothermia, which is easier for motorcyclists to catch than you might expect.

If you ride in hot climates, keep ventilation in mind when trying anything on, and look for perforated leather or breathable textile. Remember, if it seems too hot to wear a jacket, just ask yourself if you’d rather sweat for an hour or bleed for a week.

How to make sure your jacket fits:

Find out if it stays in place by pulling on the sleeves, the waist, the collar - chances are, if you can expose a large amount of your skin with a simple tug, the jacket is too big, and won’t offer the best protection in case of an accident. Also, check to see if the armor in the jacket stays put, an elbow pad won’t do much good if it slides around to your bicep. Just remember, your jacket should be snug, but not uncomfortably tight.

*Road rash, the most common form of injury among motorcyclists involved in accidents (also known as a friction-burn). A friction burn occurs when skin is scraped off by contact with a hard object, usually the road. Because road rash is caused by a hard surface and the heat that builds up between that surface and your skin, it is almost always both an abrasion and a heat burn. About 70% of road rash injuries are 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The temperature it takes to cause a third degree burn on an adult is 160 degrees Fahrenheit with less than 1 second of contact. Keep that number in mind the next time it’s “too hot” to wear your jacket when you ride.



Motorcycle GlovesGloves
It's a basic human reflex to break your fall by with a cat-like extension of the arms, and hands can suffer considerable damage when a rider is thrown off his or her bike. Protect your palms, knuckles, and fingers with sturdily constructed, well-padded gloves, preferable gauntlet-style ones that extend past the wrist.

Take a minute to think of all the things you do daily with your hands, and how your life would change if you couldn’t use them. Gloves will protect you from your body’s natural reaction to put your hands out when you’re falling.

The ground is unforgiving at any speed to the soft skin on your palms and fingertips, so gloves act like a second skin and take the worst of any fall.  Most gloves now come with reinforced knuckles as well, to disperse the force from impact and help keep the fragile bones in your hand from breaking so easily.

A moisture wicking liner will help keep your hands from getting swampy in the heat, and a well insulated glove will help keep your hands from turning to ice in the cold. There are so many good reasons to wear gloves, and there are so many styles.

How to find the perfect glove:

Make sure the glove goes on with a snug fit, and not so loose that it might slip off in an accident. The tips of your fingers should touch the tips of each finger in the glove. Just as important, make sure the fabric fits snugly around your fingers and that the fabric isn’t easily twisted while you’re wearing the glove. If there are reinforced knuckles, make sure the knuckles don’t bind to yours and that the molding fits well with the natural shape of your hand. Most gloves are pre-curved to fit nicely around the handlebars or clip-ons, so make sure you can squeeze and open your hand easily. Short gloves provide no wrist protection, so make sure your jacket covers that area if you decide against gauntlet style gloves.


Motorcycle TravelPants
Here's one of the easiest places to get lazy when it comes to motorcycle gear. But just because you've donned a helmet, gloves, and jacket doesn't mean you should skimp on lower body protection. Pant styles range from touring and dual purpose to sport and casual.

Riding pants are one of the most commonly overlooked pieces of gear, but they are just as important as any other protective equipment.

Here is what you should be able to find in a good pair of riding pants:

Knee, hip and shin protection, abrasion resistance for your skin, and a shield against the weather elements we encounter as riders.  Most riding pants will come with removable armor, don’t take those pads out if you value your ability to walk. CE approved hip armor, knee pads, and even shin pads are designed to keep bones from breaking, tendons and ligaments from tearing, and to absorb impact force to reduce internal injuries. Whether your pants are made from leather, textile or a mixture of both, they are designed to protect your skin from burns and abrasions. We can all agree that no one wants to sit on a butt full of gravel.  Riding pants can come with liners to keep you warm, perforation to keep you cool, and even moisture wicking material to keep you dry.

How to find a perfect fit:

Make sure your pants are snug enough to act as a second skin but still allow you to move easily. A good way to ensure you can bend your knees enough is by squatting all the way to the floor. Swing your leg up as if you were getting on your bike to make sure the crotch isn’t too high or snug.  Check to see if the legs are long enough, do they cover your boots or fit underneath them easily?  Most pants will come with zippers or another type of cinch closure to keep them from riding up over the boot and exposing skin in case of an accident. Make sure the armor sits where it should, doesn’t rotate easily, and is comfortable against your skin.


Motorcycle TravelBoots
From motocross and road racing to traditional cruiser styles, there are loads of ways to keep your feet protected on a motorcycle. Also, don't underestimate the importance of keeping your feet firmly planted on the pegs and shin protection from pebbles!

There are 28 bones in each of your feet and ankles, and 25% of all the bones in your body are found below your shins. Hopefully those numbers are enough to urge you to wear protective boots to keep you happily riding and walking for years to come.

A good pair of riding boots are made to do two things:

The first is to protect your feet from injury in case of an accident. Obviously, this means your boots should be made of an abrasion resistant material that covers your entire foot and ankle. The internal structure of the boot should be sturdy enough to keep your foot and ankle from bending in an unnatural manner, protecting you from broken bones and torn tendons or ligaments.

The second thing a pair of boots should do is keep your foot comfortable, dry and at a neutral tempature.  If it’s hot, your foot should stay cool, if it’s cold, your foot should stay warm.  Some boots are waterproof or water resistant and will keep your feet dry in case of rain or other inclement weather. You need your feet to shift and brake, so if they are uncomfortable, it can affect the safety of your ride.

Find a pair of boots that are comfortable and durable, reinforced for riding with heel, toe, and ankle protection. Most boots will be stiff at first - take a walk around the neighborhood, wear them around a bit, they will soon conform to your foot.

Off-Road Protection


Off-RoadNeck Protection (Off-road)
Though they're still in their infancy, neck support devices offer the possibility of preventing or reducing severe spinal column injuries from spills involving head compression. Testing in on-road situations have been less successful than offroad applications (due to the fact that the devices limit head rotation, and subsequently, visibility), but there may be a day when these devices become widespread among offroad riders



Michael MurrayElbow, Shin, and Knee Guards (Off-road)
Typically worn beneath jerseys while riding offroad, guards protect key body parts like elbows, shins, and knees from impact; they can also be effecting for street riding when worn in combination with less protective outer layers (like Kevlar-reinforced jeans), though they won't offer the complete coverage of full gear.



motorcycle safetyRoost Deflector/Chest Guard (Off-road)
These devices tend to be made of lightweight plastics and offer impact and abrasion resistance to the chest area.




Ride on!

Michael Murray
Owner | Rider | Enthiusiast

Michael Murray, Cameraman for the Road Less Traveled motorcycle documentary, and owner of

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