What Gear do I Really Need to Wear?
With so many variations of motorcycle gear available, it can be intimidating to find what's best. Although riding with All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) is the safest option, motorcycle gear can get expensive quickly. For new riders not wanting to make a large upfront investment, here is a good starting point to build your motorcycle wardrobe.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course will require at the minimum a DOT helmet, eyewear, gloves, long sleeves, pants, and ankle covering boots. Although this is enough to get your license, graduating to leather motorcycle specific gloves and a ECE or Snell rated helmet will give you
significantly more safety. For gloves, look for full leather covering of the palms; reinforcements at the palms and knuckles is a plus. Helmets are based highly on preference for features as well as price, but look for ECE or Snell safety ratings over DOT alone.
After graduating your MSF course and hitting the street, it may be time to upgrade your safety. For most riders, a motorcycle specific jacket is an important next step in protection over a regular jacket or no jacket at all. Motorcycle jackets are made with abrasion resistant material and are reinforced with armor at impact points such as elbows and shoulders. Good motorcycle jackets will come with or have the option to add a backpad. The safety of a jacket is highly dependent on material. A mesh or textile jacket will sacrifice some protection for comfort, being more breathable and cooler yet less resistant to tearing. A leather jacket will be the most durable material, but it will be much warmer.
Similarly, boots can be a compromise between safety and comfort. When looking for a motorcycle specific boot, ankle protection is a must. Dropping the bike on your ankle is a common accident for new and experienced riders alike. Wearing a boot with a stiff ankle support or built in protection will help decrease the risk of injury. Furthermore, in the event of a slide, having a motorcycle boot with lots of abrasion resistant material is always a plus. Another specific thing to consider with motorcycle boots is laces. It is possible to get your laces tangled in the shift gear or brake lever of a motorcycle - potentially causing a tip over - which is why many motorcycle boots come with a different fastening system, such as straps or elastics.
Pants are typically one of the last pieces of gear new motorcyclists think about, but they are no less important. Your lower body is often the first place to touch the ground in an accident. From full leather pants to casual jeans and mesh pants, there are a variety of options with many different levels of protection. Much like a jacket, full leather pants will offer the most protection, but they also are much warmer than their mesh or textile counterparts. Textile is a step down from leather, but still better than a mesh pant in terms of tear resistance. For those looking for a more casual form of motorcycle pants, jeans reinforced with Kevlar and armor are available. This allows for impact protection as well as better abrasion resistance than what traditional denim offers.