How to Choose Your Riding Gear : Jacket, Pants, Gloves & Boots !

Although we can do a lot to make motorcycle riding safer, the fact remains that motorcycles tend to fall over more often than cars. Think about your soft skin hitting the hard pavement, and you start to see why we wear special clothing when we ride. The following list describes the bare-minimum amount of protective gear you need to wear when riding :

- Over-the-ankle leather boots
- Leather, full-fingered gloves
- Long pants
- A riding jacket

This list defines the absolute minimal amount of clothing you can wear to ride safely, especially concerning the last two items (pants and jacket). You may have seen people riding in shorts, tennis shoes, and nothing else. My advice is to not become attached to these people, because should they survive even the most minor spill, they will not emerge from the experience as people you’d want to look at on a regular basis.

Denim actually provides a fair amount of abrasion resistance and should be considered the lowest acceptable standard for protective pants and jackets, but many riders prefer the safety (and style) of a purpose-designed riding suit. These suits, usually constructed of leather or special synthetic materials, like Kevlar and Cordura nylon, offer superior abrasion resistance and often have built-in armor to protect vital areas of a rider’s body.

Make certain that your riding gear is constructed of competition-weight leather (leather that is at least 1.3 millimeters thick) : Leave the fashionweight stuff to the supermodels and biker wannabes.

Looking Good in Leather

Competition-weight leather (leather that is at least 1.3 millimeters thick) provides the best crash protection of any material, period. That’s why it’s the material of choice for racing suits. I can guarantee you (from personal experience) that buying a new jacket is much less painful than road rash, which is what riders call the abrasions from a crash.

Not all that long ago, a motorcyclist had one choice when it came to protective gear : the traditional leather biker jacket, like Marlon Brando wore in The Wild One. This lack of choice had its advantages: Back then, you knew who rode a bike and who didn’t.

The variety of styles and colors now available for leather riding gear probably has a lot to do with the increasing popularity of leather in the fashion world. No longer are motorcyclists forced to choose between Marlon Brando’s biker jacket or nothing at all. Today’s jackets and complete riding suits are available in as many styles and colors as are motorcycles themselves. And traditional black leather riding gear is now available in shapes and styles to complement every body type.

Synthetic Riding Suits : Ties Optional

While leather is still the optimum material for crash protection, an increasing number of riders choose synthetic riding suits. The advantages of leather are most apparent at extremely high speeds (which is why racers choose leather), but at speeds under triple-digit velocities, synthetic suits provide all the protection you are likely to need.

These suits have certain advantages over leather. Most of them are machine washable, unlike leather, which must be sent to a cleaner. And many of them are waterproof or water-resistant, eliminating the need for special rain gear. Plus, these synthetic suits can easily be worn over regular clothing, a tremendous advantage for people who use their motorcycles to commute to work.

Most synthetic suits are constructed with removable liners, allowing the rider to use them over a broad range of weather conditions. In hot weather, riders can wear light clothing beneath their suits, and as the temperatures drop, riders can put in the liners and wear extra layers of clothing.

Gloves : How Much Blood Can You Lose Through the Palm of Your Hand ?

Many riders - even those mentioned earlier, who wear nothing but a pair of shorts and some sandals - wear a pair of gloves when they are riding, if for no other reason than for comfort.

Always wear a sturdy pair of leather gloves, preferably a pair with gauntlets that extend over your wrists. A good pair of gloves designed specifically for motorcycle use will have extra leather on the palms, knuckles, and fingers. This provides additional protection against abrasion in case of an accident.

Riders who like to consider themselves tough often wear fingerless gloves. While these will provide some palm protection in the event of a crash, they really offer very little hand protection. Plus, while you are riding, the wind stretches out the finger openings, and bugs can get blown in. Getting stung by a bee on the palm of your hand can make your ride home a painful and dangerous experience. Full-fingered leather gloves prevent this. In fact, bees are one major reason to wear protective gear. They are a major part of the riding experience; sooner or later, you will get stung. Wearing gloves is one of the most effective ways you can avoid bee stings. I especially like gloves with large gauntlets that go well past the sleeve opening on my jacket; this keeps the little buggers from flying up my jacket sleeve and stinging my arm.

Fancy Footwear

Even choosing footwear for riding requires you to think. You need to wear a pair of over-the-ankle leather boots to protect your ankles from being burned by the exhaust pipes and from stones and other debris. You also need to take other factors into account when selecting a pair of boots.

On a motorcycle, your feet are an important part of your motorcycle’s chassis : They are what hold up the motorcycle when you are at rest. In effect, when you aren’t moving, the soles of your shoes are like an extra set of tires. Because of this, you’ll want to wear a pair of boots with grippy soles. While fashionable cowboy boots provide adequate ankle protection, their leather soles are far too slippery for them to be safe riding shoes. If you wear cowboy boots, make certain they are work-style cowboy boots with grippy rubber soles. That holds true for any style of boot you choose.

I prefer a pull-on boot over a lace-up boot, and not just because they take less time to put on. I worry about laces coming loose and getting caught in moving parts. Motorcyclists seem to develop unnatural attachments to their boots, perhaps because they are such an integral part of riding. I have a couple of pairs of riding boots that I’ve elevated to the status of pets.

My favorite boots are a pair of Durango Men's Work boots I’ve had since few years ago. These are the big, up-to-the-knee black leather boots that scare people when you walk into the room wearing them. I’ve ridden through thousands of miles of rain and snow in them, I’ve even crashed in them, and they still have the original pair of soles.