Welcome to motorcycling! Maybe you just bought your first bike or are about to do it. Either way, you’ve probably realized that you’ll need to buy more than just a motorcycle. Motorcycle gear can get really expensive really quickly, but you don’t need to spend a fortune (which you probably don’t have since you just bought your first bike) to keep yourself comfortable while riding or protect yourself in a mishap. While all motorcycle safety gear is important, there is a hierarchy of necessity. Since the assumption of this article is that you’re short on cash, we’ll work our way down the list.
If you only buy one piece of motorcycle gear, buy a helmet – even if you live in a state that doesn’t have a helmet law. Nothing does more to protect you in a crash than wearing a helmet. When it comes to buying a helmet, only two factors are absolute: DOT certification and a proper fit. Ascertaining the DOT status of a helmet is easy. It has a sticker saying it qualifies. For fit, you want the helmet to be snug but not so tight that it causes hot spots on your head. Also, consider that helmets break in over time, making its fit get looser. You don’t want a helmet that bobbles around on your head at highway speeds because it is too big after a couple months of riding.
Helmets range in price from less than $100 to over $1000. You don’t need to break the bank, but don’t automatically go for the bottom of the barrel either. Pricier helmets will have more features like better ventilation and a quieter interior, though. Here’s a selection of quality helmets for less than $200:
You may be surprised to see gloves second on the list, but when you consider that it is virtually impossible to avoid putting your hands out in a crash and then look at how fragile hands really are, riding with gloves makes a lot of sense. Riding with a pair of $20 leather work gloves is better than nothing, but there are many gloves available for less than $100 that will protect your hands much better.
You’ll want to look for some kind of restraint that keeps the gloves from falling off in a tumble. Also, extra layers of leather or other protective material in areas more prone to abrasion is also a good thing. As you climb up the price range, you’ll start to see additional armor for the knuckles and other parts of your hands
Take a look at these gloves:
While tons of old-timers will tell about how they grew up riding in jean jackets or classic leather jackets without armor, you don’t need to suffer like they did. Technology has progressed to the point that you can get tremendous impact protection at your elbows and shoulder – and sometimes even a back protector – for a remarkably low price.
In the bargain price range, you’ll most likely be looking at textile jackets instead of leather. However, in recent years the availability and variety of textile riding gear has exploded. While inexpensive jackets usually lack premium features like waterproofing and removable liners, you can get a stylish jacket that will last you several years for just a couple hundred dollars (or less).
You may wonder why boots are before riding pants since knees are just as vulnerable as elbows. The honest answer is that this is really a toss-up protection-wise, but boots also connect you to the ground when you’re at a stop. Riding in a pair of cowboy boots with leather soles may look cool; however, if you put one down in bit of oil at a gas station, you may find yourself picking up your bike. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)
Motorcycle boots typically have grippy soles that help keep your feet in place on both the ground and the bike’s pegs. Additionally, they are much sturdier than sneakers and provide abrasion protection (and often armor) for your vulnerable ankles in a crash. While motorcycle boots that look more like high-top sneakers are gaining in popularity (and are frequently available at attractive prices), the height that the boots rise up your leg protects your shins from the surprisingly common impact from stones out on the highway.
Look to these boots for inspiration:
Blue jeans and black leather jackets have been the unofficial motorcycle style for generations. While denim does offer a modicum of abrasion resistance, they do absolutely nothing in regards to protecting your knees from impacts. The number of riding jeans – complete with Kevlar abrasion protection and CE-approved armor – has blossomed over the past two or three years, and we motorcyclists can now protect ourselves without looking like we’re wearing a space suit out to dinner with friends.
Riding jeans aren’t the only kind of protective pants you can buy. Textile over pants have been around for a long time. Then there’s the racy look of leather pants – though you will look silly stopping by the grocery store in them.