We all know how dangerous motorcycling is. Everyone’s mum, dad and colleague has long been telling me that if I get a bike, I will crash it. And of course they were wrong. I was comfortably able to crash more than one bike. And yet, I’ve never once been hurt, even though one of the bikes I fell off was a 160bhp GSXS 1000, which can do well over 150 mph. Now, fortunately I didn’t fall off at that speed (because that’s slightly illegal, and I probably wouldn’t be typing this now). But I suspect the main reason that I was fine when I crashed is because of the clothing that I was wearing. So I thought I would share some bike clothing tips with anyone who is deciding that biking is for them:
Helmet: An absolutely huge array of choice here. We must balance cost with safety. Like brake systems for cars, safety of my head is not really an area that I’m keen to compromise on. Helmets have a sharp safety rating, much like cars have a Euro NCAP safety rating. Both are conveniently measured out of 5 stars and the higher the number, the safer your head is. Therefore, neither of the helmets I ever bought were below 4 stars. Fortunately, my head never hit the ground in any of my crashes but always better to be safe. Also think about how quiet the helmet is as speed. A constant din is bound to impact on one’s concentration levels, so be sure to invest in some earplugs in any case.
Footwear: Again, lots of different types here, depending on what sort of rider you are. Generally speaking it helps if you go for footwear that is waterproof. On most bikes your feet do quite a lot of braking and gear changing, unless you’re on a scooter. Maybe this is why I always see them wearing Nike trainers. Anyway, feet that are warm and dry is definitely preferable to feet that are cold and wet. Having done a couple of long rides to France on each of my 1000 cc bikes, through all weathers, this makes a big difference to comfort and concentration. I bought myself two sets of boots, one for sporty riding and one for more relaxed riding. Both have worn well, and there is no need to spend vast amounts of cash trying to look like a new Moto GP entry.
Gloves: There are two arguments to this. Some I know don’t wear gloves, as it robs them of ‘feel’. And I can very much understand this. your hands operate the throttle, front brake and clutch. A vital combination, and one that can land you in a hedge if not applied correctly. So I also used to be in this camp. This was until I made the mistake of riding without gloves in cold weather. Unsurprisingly, my hands ended up being locked in one position, and it was more by luck than skill that I got my SV650 back home. Who know how many trees or cars I would have damaged if I’d been on the Aprilia?
So winter gloves can keep you hands warm, which will offer you better control in the cold. Summer gloves have more ventilation, so your hands don’t become slippery and sweaty. So all weather riders tend to have two sets of gloves for this reason. If you’re feeling very smug, you can even get hold of some heated gloves, and adjust the temperature to your liking. As I’m not that rich, I stuck to the traditional two pairs.
Clothing: There are many different categories here but my main message is to not just buy the cheapest items. Motorbike clothing will protect you should you fall off the machine (which is almost a guarantee). I bought a full set of leathers, in case I wanted to go on a track day. I never went on the track day in the end, but riding through France I felt very safe at speed. You see racing riders fall off their bikes at 140 mph and immediately get up and shout at the teams. Possible question marks over their politeness, but at least their clothing is protecting them well. We can have a piece of this too.
Textiles and Leathers form the two main groups of clothing. I had a protective commuter jacket and reinforced jeans to go with my full leathers race suit. I also invested in a couple of back protectors, which are very light but protective. Peace of mind in the clothing department means that we can just get on with the business of riding, and all the enjoyment it brings. We have enough to worry about out on the road without bringing the integrity of our clothing into it as well.
Conclusion: Do you have any particular clothing tips that you swear by? Do you have a defined budget for motorcycle clothing, or is it more done by impulse? Let me know in the comments, and join the family. Thanks for reading, and safe riding!