How to Choose Your Best Extreme Riding Gear !

Nothing surpasses the pleasure of seeing the world on a motorcycle, because on a bike, you are right there, in the thick of it. That means you get to smell the freshly cut hay alongside the road you’re riding down. The morning sun recharges you, just as it recharges the flora.

The downside of all this nature worship is that you will experience the world in its entirety, and you must take the bad with the good. That means being prepared for any kind of weather.

Rain Gear

Ride long enough, and your rain suit will become as much of a part of your everyday riding gear as your helmet : You won’t leave home without it. A good rain suit can turn a miserable, wet ride into a tolerable or even fun one.

Rain suits are either one - or two - piece suits, made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or nylon. I prefer the one-piece suits, since rain can seep in between the pants and the jacket on a two-piece suit.

When selecting a rain suit, choose as brightly-colored a suit as possible. Visibility is especially important when it comes to gear you will wear in low-visibility situations, like the rain. Do not buy a black rain suit. Face it, you’re not going to look cool while riding a motorcycle in the rain, regardless of how tough your rain suit looks. Since being cool is out of the question, you might as well be safe.

PVC provides better rain protection than most nylon suits, but because it is so sticky to the touch, it can be difficult to get on and off. To get around this, the best PVC suits have a nylon mesh lining that slides against your leather riding gear. Look for a suit that has such lining in both the upper and lower portions.

In my experience, the best rain gear is a waterproof riding suit, like the Alpinestars Durban Gore-Tex jacket and pants, which are made of Gore-Tex Cordura material. With these, you don’t have to bother putting a rain suit on when foul weather approaches and taking it off when it passes. Even the best rain suits are a hassle to put on by the side of the road on a windy day, and when they get wet, they can be real buggers to get off over leather.

As backward as it may seem, I’ve encountered a lot of resistance to rain gear. This strikes me as so odd. I know from long years of experience that few things in this world are as miserable as spending an entire day in drenched leather.

You can get a bare-bones two-piece rain suit for well under $50. Expect to spend over $100 for a top-quality one-piece suit.

Freezing to Death : Beating the Cold !

Motorcyclists tend to get cold more often than they get hot. Even on a relatively mild day, say 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the windchill on a motorcycle traveling at 65 miles per hour can approach freezing. Hypothermia (a condition where your body temperature drops to dangerously low levels) is a very real danger on a bike. As I said earlier, in cold weather, a synthetic motorcycle suit can be a real lifesaver, but even those who can’t afford such a suit can throw together the proper gear for riding on a cool day.

Thermal underwear is a given if you plan to ride when it’s cool. On a bike without fairing, I wear thermal underwear (tops and bottoms) whenever the temperature dips below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

On really cold days, I wear jeans and a turtleneck sweater over my thermal underwear. I like to wear a sweatshirt over that, along with either chaps or riding pants. When the temperatures get too cold, the summer leather riding suits usually go into hibernation.

Even if you can’t afford a jacket with electric liner, you can still benefit from electrically-heated clothing on a budget. Ansai, as well as several other companies, makes electrically-heated vests you can wear under your jacket. These vests can keep you toasty on even the coldest ride. On super-cold days, I’ve worn an electric vest under my rain gear, even though it wasn’t raining. The vest warmed up the entire inside of the suit and kept me as warm as if I’d been driving a car.

Keeping your hands warm can go a long way toward keeping your whole body warm. Most of modern companies offer electrically heated handgrip kits, and also offers them as an option on its bikes. You can also purchase something called Hand Mitts (Click on the picture above), sheaths that attach to your handlebars and surround your controls. These devices may look odd, but they provide superb protection against the elements.

Baked, Boiled, or Fried : Beating the Heat !

All motorcyclists have to deal with the heat. Riding all day under the hot sun takes a lot out of your body. You can become dangerously dehydrated and even suffer heat stroke. At the very least, you may become tired, and your judgment and riding skills will suffer.

One of my most dangerous riding experiences occurred because of dehydration. I got a mild case of food poisoning in Las Vegas, but didn’t realize it until I was headed across the Arizona desert. At the worst possible moment I could imagine, I realized I couldn’t keep down water. I spent a difficult (and dangerous) day making my way from gas station to gas station, until I finally had the sense to call it quits and get a motel room.

Since that episode I’ve learned a lot about riding in heat. The most important thing to remember is to keep hydrated. Always drink plenty of fluids, and on really hot days, drink fluids especially designed to rehydrate your cells, like sports drinks. Remember that Caffeine is a diuretic, and will deplete your body’s store of water rather than replenish it. If you feel thirsty, you have already gone too long without a drink. If you ride much in hot climates, you should really invest in a Camel Back or some other brand of water reservoir. Fill these with ice, and in addition to providing you with refreshing water to drink, they will keep you cool during the day.

Another method for keeping cool is to soak your shirt under your riding gear. This works especially well with a heavily ventilated jacket, like an Alpinestars TGP Air Jacket. You can control the rate of evaporation of the water on your shirt by opening and closing vents in the jacket.

The right gear is crucial for hot weather riding. Most leather makers now offer perforated leather riding gear, which lets air flow through the garment. There are even a few companies that offer mesh jackets with protective armor, sort of like the gear worn by off-road riders. These help you keep cool but still provide reasonable abrasion protection. Joe Rocket’s Phoenix jacket (Click on picture above) is a very popular jacket of this type.

Again, like I said in How To Choose Your Riding Gear : Jacket, Pants, Gloves & Boots ! , synthetic riding suits make excellent hot-weather riding gear. You can remove the lining from most of these and just use the outer shell, which still retains all the armor and protective qualities. The suits themselves have many zippered vents, allowing you to control airflow. I recommend wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt under its suits, since theoretically its Cordura can melt under extremely high temperatures, but in all its years of manufacturing suits (and examining and repairing suits that have been through crashes), they have yet to find one case of this happening.

While I can’t condone this practice, your risks would probably be minimal if you chose to wear just shorts and a T-shirt under your Alpinestars suit on an extremely hot day. You would still have far more abrasion protection than someone riding in jeans and a light jacket.