Wearing the Right Gear for Your Motorcycle Rides: A Head-to-Toe Guide
All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT)! It’s that simple. There is no halfway place with gearing up for the ride. You wear for the possible slide, not the ride because if it were up to us, nothing would go wrong, but the unexpected happens and road conditions can be treacherous, to say the least. And in the event of an accident, you can significantly reduce the possibility of injuries, or even death, by wearing the right safety gear from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
What to wear when riding a motorcycle?
The Must-Have Gear for Motorcycle Riders
These are the 5 pieces of gear you need to ride a motorcycle:
- Leather Gloves
- Riding Pants (Leather or Textile)
- Over the Ankle Motorcycle Boots
Helmets on motorcycles minimize the risk of brain injury by 69 percent and fatality by 42 percent. So, ride with one to significantly reduce the risk of injuries.
If it’s summer, you may go for an open-face, 3/4, or half helmet. However, the bulk of head injuries on motorcycles occur around the jaw, bolstering the case for purchasing a full-face helmet. Full-face helmets, in particular, provide the finest all-around protection; modular helmets (flip-up helmets) are a close second in terms of all-around best protection after full-face helmets, as long as the chin bar is in a modular helmet remains closed.
The prices range from $50 to hundreds of dollars, with the majority costing between $150 and $500, but money does not always equal safety. Although paying more than $150 on a helmet provides you with lighter, quieter, and more comfortable helmets than entry-level versions. If you’re on a tight budget, below $50-150 is also a good move. After all, all helmets have the same objective — preventing head injuries.
Any new helmet with a Department of Transportation certification label from a reputable manufacturer (AGV, Shoei, Arai) will fulfill industry-required crash standards and protect you. Snell, ECE, and FIM are examples of additional certifications. Each helmet safety standard has its own set of tests, methods, and requirements that must be satisfied before a helmet may be certified.
In particular, AGV’s defensive attributes continue to shine through, setting the standard for safety and performance when it comes to safeguarding riders. Two helmet units (Corsa R and Pista GP-R) received a maximum of 5 stars out of 6 helmets DOT examined since 2016, demonstrating that the brand may be trusted. AGV — with a DOT (U.S.) certification, an ECE 22.05 European safety rating, and a SHARP rating (U.K) — is devoted to offering the peak of riding performance, from MotoGP to Motocross, and every road or trail in between.
|AGV K6 Full-Face Helmet
|AGV Sportmodular Helmet
|AGV AX-9 Dual-Sport Helmet
Motorcycle Leather Gloves
When you fall and try (in vain) to catch yourself, your hands are likely to be the first to strike the ground. To absorb impact and glide on the pavement, motorcycle gloves feature reinforced palms and knuckles. Rather than grasping the asphalt and perhaps hyperextending or fracturing your wrist, your hands will glide along with the rest of your (covered) body until you come to a standstill. Spending more than $100 on Dainese or Alpinestars generally means you’ll almost always get those, as well as ergonomic stitching that keeps your dexterity.
Check that your gloves include a wrist strap to keep them in place if you fall. Armored gloves, preferably leather such as the AGVSPORT Monza Motorcycle Racing Gloves and AGVSport Echelon Motorcycle Leather Racing Glove with Protective Titanium Armor. Not any of those attractive colored textile gloves that are great for gardening or car repairs.
Leather, textile, or a combination of both are your options here. Leather is heavier and, perhaps, more protective—pro racers use leather one-piece suits—and odds are that leather equipment will still be in good enough form to be used after an accident.
Leather motorcycle jackets are all-around with a focus on speed. Back roads, canyon carving (i.e., riding turns quickly), commuting, motorways, and pretty much everywhere else involving high speeds are typical settings to ride on while wearing a leather jacket. Certain sport-riding jackets may also be used as street-riding jackets for low-speed city riding.
Polyester or, less frequently, nylon is the most regularly used textile fabric (e.g., Cordura)… It’s lighter, cheaper, and won’t roast you when you’re stuck in traffic in the summer heat. In the first few feet of sliding on the pavement, mesh or other low-quality leather will likely evaporate. Whatever you select, armor—padded inserts for your back, shoulders, and elbows—will provide you with more confidence when riding.
The best motorcycle riding jackets have CE-certified armor (Level 1 or Level 2) at the elbows and shoulders, as well as the opportunity to attach a back-armor cushion, just like premium racing jackets. The goal of the armored motorcycle jackets is to protect the rider from collisions. Some will provide significant abrasion protection, but the aim of armor is to absorb and disperse any impact force directed at you, transferring as little force as possible to your body.
Companies like AGVSPORT have their own armor that’s flexible, breathable, and CE-certified, which is akin to the DOT clearance for helmets. However, conventional armor is heavy and does not breathe well. Therefore, adventure and touring motorcycle protection firms are now selling alternatives built with specific polymers that are thin, light, and porous. D3O is the most well-known example, appearing in Klim and Aether adventure and touring jackets.
Because the molecules of D3O armor are malleable at rest, a back protector may flex with your posture and the knuckles of a glove can bend to your grasp. When such molecules are exposed to a particular amount of force, such as during a fall, they form a stiff structure that diffuses impact.
Airbags are also part of the current technologies. Dainese and Alpinestars are now producing self-contained airbag jackets and vests that may be worn beneath any motorcycle clothing. These jackets employ gyroscopes and accelerometers to detect a crash and deploy automatically, unlike prior ones that used a tether tied to the bike to initiate inflation. Because the airbag is thicker than armor, it may absorb rather than just dissipate an impact.
While we prefer to travel with an airbag than without one, they are costly. If yours deploys, you’ll have to ship it back to Dainese or Alpinestars to replace the brand-specific argon cartridge and reset it, in addition to the $700 beginning price. This can range from $250 to $300 for these brands.
The Helite brand is a low-tech alternative. Unlike the Dainese or Alpinestars, the carbon dioxide canister may be replaced for $30 after a collision. Helite is analog and activated by breaking a tether linked to your motorcycle, unlike the Dainese and Alpinestars models that require charged batteries to function. (You can’t mistakenly trigger it by hopping off the bike since it takes a precise amount of force.)
|AGVSPORT Ascari Leather Jacket
|AGVSPORT Flex Text Textile Jacket
|AGVSPORT Palomar Leather Jacket
Motorcycle Riding Pants (Leather or Textile)/Jeans (Reinforced with Kevlar)
It’s my wish that you’re not the kind of person who dares ride around in shorts. I cower each time I see that, largely because I have had motorcycle riding pants save my knees severally.
Besides offering abrasion and impact resistance in an accident, the best motorcycle pants are breathable, well ventilated (especially ADVs), and waterproof. But they prioritize rider protection and comfort in that order, with aesthetics following closely behind. The pants will be made entirely of leather, entirely of textiles, or a combination of both. To keep the pants chassis snug and secure to a rider’s legs for best performance, the legs of the clothing taper down in diameter.
In particular, sport motorcycle pants, or sportbike pants, are made to ride as quickly as possible on public roads, and often even faster than is legal. They are, in essence, beefier, more protective street motorcycle pants that lack the full-on armoring and shielding of their racing-oriented counterparts. Some may call it a harmonic balance for road riding.
What’s more, they contain extra reinforced overlays on the knees for additional abrasion shielding, regardless of chassis composition (leather and/or textile). In fact, all sport-riding pants come with standard knee protection, and hip armor may be included or available as an upgrade to the pants.
Fortunately, several companies are beginning to create jeans with Kevlar panels in strategic locations. Some apparel brands are even sewing Kevlar straight into the cotton fabric and providing protection to high-impact areas. Although Kevlar jeans might not offer the same level of protection as leather pants, they are far superior to standard denim jeans. This means you don’t have to dress up as if you’re going deep-sea diving simply to go on a motorbike trip.
In general, riding motorcycle trousers are composed of abrasion-resistant fabrics that protect you from road rash, and most of them contain holes for knee and hip armor.
|AGVSPORT Mojave Ladies Pant
|AGVSPORT Super Alloy Jean
||AGVSPORT Podium Pant
Over the Ankle Motorcycle Boots
In a motorcycle accident, your feet and legs are extremely likely to be harmed, putting you on crutches for weeks. Work boots are preferable to flip-flops, but over the ankle motorcycle footwear is by far the safest and most comfortable. They’re made to provide lots of flex and tactility while also protecting your feet and ankles from collisions, abrasion, and crushing when sliding and gliding across asphalt (i.e., a motorcycle crash).
In fact, motorcycle boots may be worn comfortably for all riding styles and regardless of the type of motorcycle being ridden owing to their built-in comfort. Decent brands to consider are Sidi, TCX, Merlin, and RST, in addition to the two well-known racing motorcycle boot companies Dainese and Alpinestars.
Dainese Fulcrum GT Gore-Tex Boots
|SIDI Adventure 2 Gore-Tex Mid Boots
||Alpinestars Tech 7 Enduro Boots
Don’t Forget About Motorcycle Suits (One-Piece & Two-Piece)
There are two main styles of motorcycle suits: One-piece and two pieces.
Two-piece suits like the AGVPSORT Imola Dona 2 Piece Suit are suitable for all types of motorcyclists. For racers, one-piece, or race leathers, are rarely the initial choice of clothing. They’re not really practical off the bike, they don’t provide much weather protection (requiring over suits and the like), and not everyone wants to appear like they’re headed off to a MotoGP qualifying session every time they leave the house.
A correctly fitted, well-specified race suit, on the other hand, provides unrivaled protection in the event of an accident, as well as an unequaled sense of security. As a result, many more seasoned riders own a one-piece suit as part of their overall riding gear, especially those who hit the track regularly.
A nice, off-the-rack one-piece leather suit can set you back anywhere from $500 to even upwards of $2,500. Sone like the full-body Podium II Moto Race Suit and Monza Race Suit — both leather protective ventilation CE Level 2 certified— retail way under the $1,000 mark, which explains why AGVSPORT is perhaps so popular. Not to mention the knee sliders are sold separately.
Additional Motorcycle Riding Gear
- Body Armor: Armored shoulder, back, vest, knee, shin protectors, all worn under or over your riding pants and shirts
- Riding Socks: From thin and breathable to warm and waterproof
- Rain Gear: Waterproof jackets, rain suits, shells, & more.
- Cold Weather Riding Gear: Neck warmer, balaclava, and heated motorcycle gloves to keep your warm
- Eyewear (goggles or safety riding glasses): Enhance your view and protect the eyes from the road debris, sun, rain, wind, and bugs
- Ear Plugs: Reduce the wind noise
Things You Should Wear on a Motorcycle
Anything that isn’t motorcycle apparel! If you ever have to dump the bike, good quality motorcycle clothing, whether leather or textile, is essential to keep you from shedding DNA! Avoid the following;
- Clothing made of Lycra, elastane, spandex, rayon, polyester, etc.
- Cotton pants
- Normal everyday jeans and cargo pants
- Loose clothing
- Heavy backpack
- Wallet chains
To name but a few… and is it necessary to add that you should not attempt to ride in your birthday suit? You still look cool in proper gear, we promise!
Pro Tip: If you must wear all black to connect with your gothic clique, attach lots of silverware to your garment to make you visible. Plus, a strip of neon on your back doesn’t destroy the entire look, only keeps you alive sometimes.
What About Fashion Accessories?
You don’t have to be a utilitarian just because you are on a motorcycle. In fact, many male and female bikers prefer to carry personal items, like wallets, purses, keys, makeup kits, and a plethora of other things that make living off the couch smoother. While it is not advisable to leave the house without your phone and wallet, these items also pose a real threat to bikers. Although we haven’t found any laws prohibiting ladies’ purses, they flap around in the wind and cause danger to you and fellow road users.
Because you still need these items, we recommend you get a motorcycle accessory for your personal effects, a tank, or a saddlebag. Prefer a backpack over fanny bags and the like, which can cause severe injury in a crash. If you must carry a scrench or any other sharp tools, find a rigid and padded tool holder bag and wrap them nicely so that they are not all over the place.
A secure phone mount can help keep an eye on your phone if you are expecting a call or following navigation just as long as you don’t lose focus on your riding.
The Takeaway: ATGATT. But, at the bare minimum, helmet, leather gloves, jackets, riding pants (leather or textile), and over the ankle motorcycle boots.
Protective gear is one of the few life-or-death considerations when riding a motorcycle. It is the sole line of protection you have against the potential for injury as a result of an unlucky event ending in a crash. The best riding apparel is made and perfected after numerous hours of design and testing, especially now that motorcycling is inherently perilous because of the top-gun performance of modern machines and the age of Tik-Toker drivers. People are paying less attention to bikers as modern cars tend toward autopilot and social media apps maximize viewing time from drivers in traffic.
Riding without gear is a serious injustice to self and fellow riders.
About the author: Michael Parrotte was the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, and a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.