For a beginner to the motorcycling hobby, it’s pretty overwhelming to know where to start. Or maybe you’re not a newbie, but your gear’s got you into a scrape or two and you want to know what you need. Finding a suitable get-up for riding your motorcycle can feel formidable, but don’t worry: we’re here to lay it all out for you, and help you on your way to feeling safer on your bike.
A Rule Of Thumb
There’s an old acronym that can sum your Motorcycle gear requirements up in six characters: ATGATT. It stands for “All The Gear, All The Time.”
All The Gear, All The Time means you need to be fully covered and protected every single time you ride your bike. No matter how short the trip is, you can never guarantee you won’t need your gear – and if you fall, you will need your gear. The surface of a road is designed to create friction, like the friction on a sanding machine, and that’s what good gear is in turn designed to protect you from.
To start from the top of the body, you need head protection, aka a helmet. A good helmet should be your priority, and the best piece of protective gear you own.
Anybody worth their salt in the biking world will tell you that a helmet can’t be good enough unless it’s a full face helmet. This stems from an intensive study done by Dietmar Otte published in 1981, examining the impact areas from bike crashes. The results of the study are discussed in depth here:
Manufacturers recommend using a helmet for no more than five years, as the materials and parts that are in place to protect you and absorb impact begin to wear down to a detrimental level. These materials and parts can also be destroyed in a crash, without showing signs on the outside. They absorb the impact for you so well that there’s no noticeable signs, but you don’t want to use a helmet after it’s been thrown into the road – you also shouldn’t buy a used helmet for this reason!
You need to find a helmet that fits your head, and isn’t too heavy on your shoulders. There’s more to consider of course, like ventilation, aerodynamics, aesthetics, and noise, but these aren’t as essential for a beginner as a good fit. You can always check the reviews of the helmet you’re looking at to see if other riders talk about them though!
Even if it’s sweltering hot, you need to wear a jacket whilst riding. If you can afford it, you might want to buy a jacket for hot weather and a jacket for cooler weather, but no matter what you buy they need to satisfy our requirements!
You need sleeves that go down to your wrists and stay there, even with your hands on your handlebars. The jacket has to be snug, but you need to be able to move normally and comfortably. There should be thicker material over your shoulders, elbows, and other places that are particularly affected in crashes. This is so important that some jackets have thicker material and composite under-armor. Lastly, this isn’t a requirement, but it’s a feature you should look out for: a built in airbag system. The force that you, the rider, feels can be reduced by up to 90% more than composite under-armor.
Again, regardless of the heat: you need gloves!
Riding gloves loves nowadays tend to be built with the same motive as riding jackets – composite armor is placed in areas that get hurt the most, and there’s insulation! Gloves being made for riding also allow you to use your bike properly whilst being completely safe – imagine having to quickly use a signal on your bike but your glove gets in the way! Make sure you have full use of your hands before you buy a pair of gloves.
You also need to ensure that your gloves go up beyond your wrist. This is called a gauntlet, and it should bridge the gap over your wrists and make sure you’re completely covered if the worst happens.
There’s a common misconception that wearing jeans whilst biking is enough, because denim’s strong right? Concrete’s stronger. Some riding trousers are reinforced with kevlar, what they use in bulletproof vests – that alone should tell you to stop riding with jeans!
Good riding trousers protect you from road rash and broken bones, but also offer breathability, visibility, optional linings for the winter, and are often designed to be worn whilst not riding as well. Before you buy though, make sure you know if you want to wear clothes underneath your trousers – this can affect your comfort and your fit.
Ensure that your trousers are snug but not too tight, ride up above your boots, and give you the ability to move freely whilst riding.
You’ll do a lot of riding in your boots, and maybe a little walking too, so make sure that your boots will keep you safe and comfortable. A rudimentary test to see if your footwear is good enough is to hold the toe and the heel, and wring your hands together. If you’re happy for your foot to end up however your shoe ends up, go ahead.
A boot made for motorcycle riding should have ankle protection – ankles are a frequent injury in biking, but can be prevented with additions such as extra rigid material, toe and heel boxes, and non-slip soles. Your boot needs to go above your ankle, be secure in place, and ideally should cover your shin.
So Cover Up!
Cover up, stay safe, and get riding! Riding a motorcycle is a great hobby, but it doesn’t come without risk. Not only can your bike hurt you, but even harsh weather can hurt! You need to have no distractions, and a good set of gear helps you on your way. You shouldn’t ride without this, even if you can’t afford good gear at the moment. Wait until you can buy some – it’s worth it, I promise.