Safety in everything is paramount, and motorcycling is no different. Whether you’re 6 months into your new adventure, or 16 years passed that first ride, motorcycle gear is an investment that will always pay for itself. Sure, there are cheaper ways to go. Jeans and hiking boots are always in style. How much investment do you put into your gear, and when do you take that investment for granted?
The old acronym ATGATT answers the questions simply: All The Gear, All The Time. A quick trip seems harmless and surely nothing can happen, but statistically, it’s more likely you’ll encounter a problem near your home rather than on a longer trip over the weekend.
When it comes to buying new motorcycle gear, what do you look for? Style before material? Function before fit? These are great questions, and we’re going to share what to look for in motorcycle gear for everyone.
Helmets are always a topic of discussion. Should I wear one? Do I really need one? And if I choose to buy one, what should it be? Remember ATGATT? Yes, you need one! There are three basic types to consider: full face, ¾ helmet, and a ½ helmet.
- Full Helmet– The full helmet is going to offer you the most coverage around your head and face with additional protection at the base of your head. The eye protection will most likely be a visor that can be rotated up out of the way as needed. The visor can come in a variety of finishes including a light tint, dark tint, a color variation, or just a simple clear. Protection is best on this type as it covers everything vital, should breathe well with ventilation, and can allow you to hear surrounding traffic and sounds for defensive riding.
- ¾ Helmet– The ¾ helmet is similar to the full face helmet, but it doesn’t offer the same facial coverage. The side, top, and back of your head will be covered only. Visors for the ¾ helmet are usually a flip down type that can be clear or a colored or tinted variety. Protection will be less than the full face in the chin and facial area, but other areas (side, back, and top) should be comparable. Hearing and ventilation will also be comparable to a full face helmet, as it should breathe well while wearing it and you can hear what’s in close proximity to you.
- ½ Helmet– Now the ½ helmet isn’t what most call the “brain bucket”. The ½ helmet will cover the top of your head with a partial cover of the side and back. It still offers protection but doesn’t cover your face in any way. Riders will usually choose some other form of eye protection like glasses or goggles. This style offers the least overall protection of the three due to the limited coverage.
For more information, check out our article on how to choose the safest motorcycle helmet. We discussed the different protective parts of the helmet and provided the recommendation to look at European manufacturers for their softer exterior. Whether you want a helmet from a European, US, or another region manufacturer, it needs to fit your head comfortably. The protection liners have different shapes and sizes, and you should try a few on to determine what brand fits you best. Once you know what brand(s) tend to fit comfortably, then you can start to narrow down your choice of model, features, and visual style.
- Full Face: GDM Duke Helmets DK-350 – The GDM Duke offers a double D-ring chin strap with a removable and washable liner from the helmet. Weighing in at just under 5 pounds, it offers comfort and protection without the price tag. It also has a built-in drop-down tinted visor and face shield with scratch resistant UV coating.
- Full Face / ¾ Hybrid: Schuberth C3 Pro – The C3 Pro is on the higher end of the purchase options out there for a modular helmet, but it’s listed as the best hybrid option if you just can’t decide between a true full face and the ¾ helmet. The Schuberth offers a quiet ride, flip-up chin protection to a ¾ helmet, and has superb fit and finish with great paint protection.
- ½ Helmet: Voss 888CF Genuine Carbon Fiber – The Voss 888CF is made with handwoven carbon fiber for a lightweight composite shell that offers the best protection a half-helmet can offer. It comes with a fast ratchet micro metal quick release chin strap and offers a comfortable microfiber liner.
No matter the weather or how far you plan to ride, a jacket is definitely a must-have. Check out our article on choosing a safe motorcycle jacket, where we uncover the different parts of a jacket and how each add to a protective package that keeps you safe from the sting of a June bug on your next ride.
There are a lot of materials available, from leather to synthetics that offer great protection, style, and function. It will be up to you to decide what to wear. Leather may look great with your rugged cruiser or flashy with your sports model, but a well-designed synthetic may suit your long touring motorcycle better over 1,000 miles of open road. The jacket should fit comfortably without being too big and bulky, and offer the function you need. Pockets, both internal and external, may or may not be what you need or want, so choose wisely on what level of function you need to ride.
- Textile Mesh Jacket: Klim Induction – The Klim Induction jacket was updated in 2017 and is one of the most functional, lightweight jackets on the market. The coloring is highly visible with added reflective inserts that makes the rider easy to see in day or nighttime traffic. The fit is snug but offers the rider enough room to wear a thicker layer of clothing underneath the jacket for extra warmth on the cooler riding days. If the afternoon temperatures heat up, you can easily remove them and allow the jacket ventilation to keep you comfortable.
- 4-Season Textile Jacket: IXS Montevideo II – The Montevideo II has a maximum amount of storage via internal and external pockets while offering the rider a jacket that can ridden in all year round. Rain or shine, hot or cold, this jacket aims to do it all. Ventilation offer cooling during the summer months and a removable thermal liner offer layered warmth during the cool autumn and winter months. Visibility is great with retro-reflective sections of the jackets, and it also can attach to a set of pants to complete a full suit.
- Leather Jacket: Cortech Piuma – When someone hears leather jackets mentioned, Marlon Brando may come to mind. Leather jackets offer great protection and rugged good looks, but with the addition of mesh and protective panels, it comes a versatile jacket for all riders no matter their style. The Cortech Piuma is made from cowhide leather with tight-knit, high-flow mesh fabric to increase ventilation. Reinforced zippers on all pockets, wrists, and closures offer security while riding, and reflective fabric on the outer arms and back increase nighttime visibility. You can also add additional armor to the Piuma if desired.
Pants are often an overlooked riding gear because often riders think jeans are acceptable riding gear. Actual motorcycle riding pants offer protection from the environment as well as ventilation and armor in the most likely places that receive contact. Visibility is a key design feature, whether that’s in a bright color design or a retro-reflective covering.
Just as motorcycle jackets come in different materials and styles, motorcycle pants are complementary in that respect. Textile, leather, denim, and kevlar are different materials used in pants and they can be used singly or in combination with each other depending on what riding style they are made for.
Most textile pants are designed as a second layer over a set of shorts or regular pants. They can be an addition to a jacket that can form a complete suit, or just meant to be worn over your nice dress pants on the way to and from the office. Removable linings to add a layer of warmth are an option for cooler riding and can always be removed during the warmer riding months.
Beyond the secondary boundary textile pants, there are certain styles in denim and leather that resembles the layer directly covering your skin. Denim is usually interwoven with another fabric to increase its abrasive resistance in the case of fall. Kevlar is common in that respect, and there are some labeled as ‘Kevlar Denim’ pants. Other denim styles may add sections of added protection in the high impact areas.
Leather can be found in a sporty style that involves abrasive knee pucks meant to touch the ground. For those that want to take riding to the edge, these pants offer maximum protection in the butt, knees, and hips. There are less aggressive styles in leather that more resemble regular pants, but still offer protection for riding.
Finding your perfect set of riding pants is going to involve consideration for what you plan to ride in, including weather, the length of ride, and what type of motorcycle you ride. Leather is great for protection but over the course of a long ride, it may become less and less comfortable. Textiles offer great protection, visibility, and ventilation, but also aren’t the perfect pants for every occasion either. You will also need to consider if you prefer wearing clothes underneath the pants, as they above all else need to fit comfortably in your normal riding position. They shouldn’t be too tight, ride up high exposing the tops of your boots, nor be too bulky that make riding, shifting, or stopping cumbersome.
- Textile: Alpinestars Andes V2 Drystar Waterproof Pants – Alpinestars has been a long-running brand high in motorsports and motorcycle clothing technology. The Andes V2 Drystar is a 4-season pant that offers ventilation, warmth, and waterproof protection for any riding condition. These are made from reinforced poly-fabric textile with breathable construction. Protection includes hip and knee pads that can also be removed and upgraded to CE-certified Nucleon inserts. The pants are adjustable in the waist and offer enough storage to take along your wallet, cell phone, and a few other small items.
- Leather: AGV Sport Willow Perforated Leather Pants – The AGV Sport pants are on the more aggressive riding side. They are meant for sport riding on a track vs. your basic Sunday cruise. They can be worn on the street, even if you never plan to touch a knee down and scuff the knee puck. They offer leather construction for abrasion protection and armor in the high impact areas, with a mix of Kevlar and stretch panels to assist in comfort for the long days of riding.
- Denim Hybrid: Icon 1000 Varial – When looking for hybrid denim pants, Kevlar seems to be the common addition. Icon broke from that tradition with the Varial pant in that it uses a coated nylon blend of cordura denim with leather reinforcements. The pants feature discrete impact protectors placed in the high impact areas and yet a straight cut that feels relaxed in the thigh and seat areas for a long comfortable ride. The pants are labeled as waterproof to get you through light rain and mild snow.
Jackets and pants can be purchased separately, but there are other options in riding suits that may be better for you as a rider. Suits come in one and two piece sets that offer the same level of protection, ventilation, material selection as jacket and pants combinations. It could also be argued that there’s better waterproofing in one-piece suits.
As with pants and jackets, the fit of a suit should be comfortable without being bulky and cumbersome. They offer similar visibility to a separate jacket and pant combinations, and most two-piece suits are paired together so that they can attach at the waist to act like a one-piece suit.
It’s up to you as a rider whether you feel more comfortable in a one or two-piece suit. Since both can attach at the waist, the decision point may be whether you want a jacket that can detached and taken off at a restaurant for lunch. Although a set of one-piece leathers hanging behind you at the local burger joint looks great, it may not be the best fashion choice concerning onlookers (but who care’s right?)
- Leather One Piece Suit: Alpinestars Challenger II– This leather suit is standard of what you should expect in the more aggressive suits on the market. The suit is made for hard riding and comfort with stretch panels in the arms, crotch, and knees. Most are either leather or have a Kevlar mix meant to increase abrasion resistance in the case of an asphalt incident. Impact protection is offered on the chest, back, shoulders, hips, and legs, with a set of knee pucks ready to touch down. Most suits come with a mesh liner to offer cooling and ventilation.
These boots are made for riding, and that’s just what they’ll do, but sometimes they’re used to walk around in too. Motorcycle-specific boots are designed with rider-specific features and safety in mind. They are usually above the ankle footwear with built-in ankle protection, increased torsional stiffness for reduced flexing, and oil-resistant soles for a firm grip on the ground (as well as being stylish footwear). One of the more common injuries that can occur in motorcycling is when the foot is trapped under the motorcycle and the ankle and lower leg take the force of the motorcycle falling. Sturdy protective motorcycle boots are the key to protecting the ankle bone.
Laces on motorcycle boots will usually be on the inside of the boot to prevent tangling with anything on the motorcycle. Exterior laces can get caught on the shifter, foot pegs, etc. and prevent you from getting your foot down when you stop. Any boots with exterior laces should have the ability to tuck the laces into the boot. Beyond the laces, motorcycle boots should have a shifter pad meant to wear against the shift lever, secure buckles (if designed with buckles), and double or triple stitching that are durable enough to survive a slide on the ground. If laces aren’t your style, there are alternatives to Velcro or solid buckles that will secure your boot on your foot and still be comfortable.
Motorcycle boots are generally made from a high-quality thick leather that provides good abrasion resistance. Manufacturers recognize that leather doesn’t always breathe well and they have started to design textile boots with high abrasion materials that are waterproof and with good ventilation. They also add replaceable plastic or leather reinforcements in the high wear areas on the toes, shifter pad, and heels. These can be changed when they wear out instead of needing to purchase a new pair of boots. You can also consider boots with metal toe protectors (internal or external to the boots) if you plan to ride in more stop and go traffic for added toe protection. If you choose a leather boot, make sure it is made from treated leather that won’t absorb water in a rainstorm. Soggy wet boots make for an uncomfortable ride.
The last thing to emphasize about motorcycle boots is that they need to be comfortable on your foot to wear all day. Manufacturers make their boots specific to their brands, and just like helmets, they tend to fit feet a little differently by brand. Keep in mind the socks you plan to wear with the boots, as thick, heavy socks may make the boots too tight and limit ventilation during a long day of riding.
- Sport / Race Boot: Joe Rocket Speedmaster 3.0 – The Joe Rocket line features all mentioned features in protection and replaceable parts at a price that makes them a bargain. The boot is made from perforated high-grade leather with injection molded shin, heel, and ankle armor for maximum protection. They also include magnesium toe sliders for when you want to ride hard and get your knee on the ground.
- Cruising / Touring Boot: Highway 21 Spark – For those that don’t want a full on race boot, the Highway 21 line may be more to your style. These are designed in a more classic boot style, but feature high-grade leather construction with an oil-resistant sole. The liner is waterproof throughout and the insole is removable. Putting them on is eased with a pull-loop to grab and pull on.
- Adventure / Dual Sport Boots: Gaerne Balanced Oiled – Adventure boots are designed for the all-around rider. You’d most likely look for these if you plan to ride a dual sport motorcycle with a mix of on and off-road riding. The Gaerne boots offer exterior buckles to secure the boots while the leather / ballistic nylon protects your foot and keep it dry. These have a secure waterproof design that is meant to see water more often than a typical street rider would, and offer superior ankle protection for the trail rider.
- Street / Walking Casual: REV’IT Royale H2O – At first glance, the Royal H2O boots look like a shined up pair of dress boots. They are made from high-grade leather with suede accents, feature exterior lacing, but the laces can be tucked away for riding safety. They have heel and toe support, an anatomically shaped footbed and toe cup, and a synthetic sole. These are just the boots you need if you’re riding to a function and want to wear them all day.
Gloves are oftentimes not given the respect that they deserve. Gloves offer more protection for your hands than you realize. In the event of a fall, you’re more likely to put your hands out to catch yourself as a natural reaction.
Just as with jackets and pants, there are a few material options to choose from. Leather is always a good choice, some offer additional padding and protection on the fingers, knuckles, and back of the hand and palm, and there are also textile blends that offer abrasion protection with waterproofing.
When moving past the material discussion, on a basic level, gloves need to fit your hands snugly but comfortably. You have levers and buttons to manipulate while riding and fumbling for the turn signal button in oversized ski gloves is just awkward, not to mention dangerous.
Among the different styles of gloves available, there are a lot of choices to consider. Some want the protection and light weight of a full race glove with carbon / Kevlar knuckles, ventilation, and wrist protection. If that’s too much, perhaps a touring glove that offers great protection, ventilation, and heating for hot and cold riding, and can go everywhere and do anything. If you plan to ride in a more urban setting, there are great offerings in a lightweight glove that don’t extend past your wrist that make it easy to ride with a jacket. With today’s technology in wireless communication, some will consider fingerless gloves to be able to use a mobile touch screen without needing to take the glove off. In those cases, we’d recommend finding a glove that has a touchscreen compatible palm rather than riding in fingerless gloves. You may never need their protection from the ground, but having a large bug or rock hit you in the finger is a stinging proposition.
Once you have decided on material and features, finding the right size is your next challenge. As with helmets and boots, manufacturer sizes and shapes will vary slightly. European sizing and US sizes can be converted back and forth, but they still have a slight variation on what will truly fit your hands and comfortable cinch at the wrist. We’d recommend trying on a few sets of gloves in the material and style that you are interested in to find what fits comfortably snug without strangling your fingers or feeling like ski gloves ready for the slopes.
- Textile Hybrid: Tour Master Cold Tex 3.0 – These Tour Master gloves feature a goatskin palm with a textile hand and wrist material. They are touchscreen compatible, but offer a good all-around weather riding opportunity because they are waterproof and breathable. They have a thin polyester fleece liner for added warmth, but aren’t internally heated for those really cold rides. They’d be a great option for most of the riding, just outside of the winter months.
- Full Race: Alpinestars GP Racer – The Alpinestars brand features full protection in a lightweight comfortable and durable glove. These are slightly curved to better fit your hand and offer a touchscreen friendly palm and index finger, which is a benefit for those using a touchscreen device on a sporty ride.
- Touring: Joe Rocket Rocket Burner Heated – Joe Rocket offers a lot of styles and the Burner has something a little different. Inside the glove is a heating system powered by dual lithium-ion batteries. The Burner gloves are waterproof, breathable, and offer up to 4 hours of heating time with 3 different heat settings for the colder riding months
- Urban: Icon Pursuit Touchscreen – These Icon gloves have all the standards features you would expect in a motorcycle glove. Integrated knuckle protection with a sheepskin leather offers great riding experience, but what makes them different than so many others is the goatskin touchscreen friendly padding on the palm and fingers. You won’t need to remove the glove in order to use your touchscreen maps feature, which is one less thing to worry about on your next ride.
Now that we have covered the basics of motorcycle gear, let’s dive into additional safety gear for your protection.
Outside of the armor provided in motorcycle jackets and pants, there are added armor opportunities available that will work with your jacket and or pants to increase protection. Most motorcycle jackets offer padding or impact resistance at the waist, on the back and chest, and at the shoulders and elbows. You can add to that protection with an armored vest, a back protector, and even an airbag system as you would find in most newer cars and trucks. The key with these added armor vests or pants is that they need to fit snugly to you with little movement and comfortably inside the jacket and pants you are wearing them under. You may need to take your favorite riding jacket and pants to a retailer to try some body armor on and get a feel of the extra layer to make sure it’s the right option for you.
As with the vests and pants available, you can add additional protection in the high impact areas like the elbows, shin, and knees. Most armor is adjustable, so these can be fit to your specific body. These will again want to fit snugly to you without adding a cumbersome layer that makes it difficult to ride in.
No matter if you plan to ride with a full face or another version of a helmet, you can always add additional eyewear that will provide eye protection for all situations. Standard sunglasses aren’t rated for impact protection, nor do they protect your eyes from something coming behind the lens and into your eye. If you want something with a similar fit to sunglasses, there are eyewear options that are rated for impact protection and have a padding that protect from debris intrusion without impairing your peripheral vision. If you want something even more protective, look into a set of motorcycling goggles. They will stay securely on your head and there are some fun styles that will match your favorite riding jacket.
This is an area that most don’t realize until after a long ride and fatigue has set in. Your ears, even inside of a helmet, are constantly bombarded by sound. Earplugs don’t have to be fancy, and you can buy a universal pack at the grocery store that will do a great job. They will reduce the white noise (also called static) from wind rustling over your helmet. It will also reduce loud sounds of traffic, but not to a level that makes you feel unsafe and unable to hear what is around you.
Whew, that’s a lot of motorcycle gear options to think about! If you’ve heard of people spending all day trying on a wedding dress, imagine how long you could spend trying on every piece of motorcycle gear. All of your gear is an investment, so always buy the best you can afford to stay safe and comfortable on every ride. Remember, All The Gear, All The Time boils down to a great acronym, but it can be the difference of a oops moment and crutches. Be safe out there!