Many factors will influence your choice of motorcycle riding gear. Some of the most important are the type of riding you will be doing, the kind of weather conditions you’ll be riding in and your budget.
Here are some specific tips for considering the many choices that will face you.
Think safety before fashion
Have you been anticipating just how great you’re going to look in those new leather pants? If so, uh oh. You’ve got another think coming. Leather riding pants, if they are truly protective, are equipped with “armor” (yes, you’re going to be wearing armor!). They add extra bulk at the hips and knees. Good jackets have armor at the elbows, in the shoulders, and across the back. Sorry, this is not a slimming look.
You need it all and you’ll never regret it for the times you do drop your bike (it happens to all of us) or worse yet, you take a fall at speed.
What you can do is learn about armor. Study it on line, ask friends, go to a gear shop and ask lots and lots of questions. Armor is made of various materials and the technology is constantly improving. There are some non-bulky armors made of miracle fabrics that feel light, add very little volume to your figure, and do the job. Personally, I’m attached to the mega-armor that has saved my elbows more than once.
Figuring you’ll buy black riding gear because it’s sexy and a slimming color? Forget it. Your priority is safety and safety comes in bright colors. Yellow and orange are among the best for being conspicuous.
Want to be seen by oncoming cars? Wear eye-catching colors. Whether it be your bike, your helmet, your gear, or all three, be visible. Also you’ll find that all real riding gear comes with reflective patches on it. That’s critical for night-time riding. S
hop for gear with lots of this reflective fabric scattered around the gear. Remember, “Loud clothes save lives!”
Think comfort before fashion
Buy riding gear that leaves room for layers (unless you’re wearing fitted leather in which case there’s only room for silk). Layers are the way to go, whether you’re aiming to be cooler or warmer. You want room for layers under your jacket, your pants and even in your gloves.
A layer of silk can double the warmth of your hands; a layer of polypropylene glove inserts can let you enjoy riding on a winter day. There are wonderful fabrics for top and bottom which wick away moisture, add heat and are easy to purchase through sports catalogs or specialty gear shops.
Plan space “in” your clothes for layers. And you’ll be especially glad you didn’t select the fitted, slightly tight, “great deal” riding pants as you get back into the saddle after an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch stop.
One of your under layers may be a zippered jacket — a lightweight windbreaker or medium-weight fleece, depending on weather conditions. Be aware of zippers! Wind travels through them and you lose much of the heat-retaining qualities you may be seeking. Buy jackets with zipper “flaps”, an extra strip of fabric from top to bottom which covers the zipper. This will prevent the wind from finding its way to you.
When you buy boots, try on lots of pairs and think “comfort.” Boots can be comfortable for riding but uncomfortable for walking. It’s easy to buy a good-looking, comfortable boot only to discover that a hike to the waterfall a mile away is a miserable experience because of blisters. You may need to spend more to buy a multi-purpose boot, but the comfort and opportunity to explore off the bike will be well worth it.
Think convenience before fashion
One of the most inconvenient things about riding pants is having to take off your boots before taking off your pants. Select riding pants that have a long zipper. This allows you the convenience of slipping on or off your boots whenever you wish.
There are some convenience factors involved in the decision as to whether you want a one-piece (full riding suit) or two piece (jacket and pants). What you select really depends on finding what suits you.
The major advantage of a one piece is that you can easily wear underneath it an outfit that doesn’t look like you just got off your bike. You can join others at a dressy gathering by choosing wrinkle-free clothing and with a quick zip or two, you’re out and ready to party. (I’ve even managed to wear skirts tucked inside my one-piecer but more often choose slacks).
You can do the same with two piece gear but the slacks are more fitted at the waist and there’s a tendency to feel uncomfortable about removing your pants in front of everyone (perhaps this is just my own hang up…). What I’ve noticed is that if you’re wearing a jacket and pants and stop for lunch at a restaurant, 99% of the time you just remove your jacket and leave on the pants. That means you’re sitting with the bulk and weight throughout your break. When wearing a one piece suit, almost by necessity you remove it. As I said, this is mostly about what you find suits you.
And Lastly… think fashion
Commit to good quality, protective riding gear. You don’t have to buy it all at once, although it would be great if you could. For me, it’s part of the package deal of riding a motorcycle.