Ahh, the dilemma of the real biker. You know the dangers of driving a motorcycle, but deep down, you want to look cool while behind the handlebars. As you pick the equipment you’ll use when traveling, the decision can cause you to make some tough decisions. Helmets, knee pads, visors, and other typical biker gear are designed for your safety, which doesn’t always give you the sleek, smooth look you had in mind.
Still, riding a bike with nothing between you and a high-impact crash landing isn’t something to take lightly. Statistics show that you have an 80% chance of getting seriously injured or killed if you are in an accident. So, the odds aren’t “ever in your favor” here. Having the right gear might take a little away from your “cool” factor, but it will increase your chances of riding your bike again. Check out this list of the five most essential motorcycle gear, and be sure to have each item on hand every time you ride. (Hint: Some of these are even stylish!)
1. A Helmet
If you’re skipping a helmet, the most frequently ignored safety gear, for aesthetics, it might even mean you’re breaking the law. Many states, like California, require all riders of any “motorcycle-type vehicle” to wear a helmet. But whether there’s a law forcing you to wear one or not, helmets are the ultimate safety gear for bikers. You don’t have an airbag or seatbelt stopping you from flying through the air after a crash.
If you hit your head, you may end up with traumatic brain injury. The helmet softens the blow. As you’re shopping, try on different sizes and styles. The right fit is crucial. It should be snug enough not to move around but not so tight that you’re in pain. Don’t worry about the style yet. You can always “doctor” your helmet with paint and decals to personalize it after you find the ideal fit.
2. Kevlar Clothes
Kevlar became a household name when law enforcement officers began wearing bulletproof vests made from the material. Before then, it was used primarily in racing car tires to replace steel. However, Kevlar is a strong, heat-resistant fiber that works incredibly well as clothing. In motorcycle apparel shops, you’ll find Kevlar-lined jeans, vests, and shirts. Because the clothing is lightweight and flexible, you can move around without restriction, but in a crash, you have an added layer of protection between you and the concrete.
3. Brightly Colored Gear
The traditional biker gear has always been black, but modern riders are moving away from dark colors. With car accident statistics on the rise because of distracted drivers, bikers need to do everything they can to be seen. Neon is the trend today. Brightly colored helmets, jackets, and safety vests with reflective taping make you more visible. If you don’t like neons, that’s fine. Stay away from dark colors when possible by choosing whites or lighter shades. Find another way to stand out on the road if you’re determined to follow tradition with a black helmet and jacket.
Your hands are the limbs responsible for saving your life in an emergency. They must be ready and able to move the clutch and steer you in the right direction. When your fingers are cold or wet, it’s hard to keep control of your bike. Use thin leather gloves that are breathable when it’s hot, and consider investing in grip warmers for those winter and wet days. Your hands must stay dry and agile.
Another traditional part of biker gear is the stylish boots that complete the outfit. Contrary to what you might think, these boots are about smart riding, not fashion sense. A cruising biker’s feet are within a few inches of the engine or exhaust, so they get hot fast. Synthetic shoes don’t protect you from this heat, but heavier boots provide a barrier from the extreme temperatures and the road if there’s an accident. Standard shoes will shred when they come in contact with a high-velocity slide across the pavement, whereas well-made boots keep your feet from feeling the full impact.
Boots also absorb some of the shock and vibration from the road as you ride. The bumps you hit aren’t as jarring to your body when you have heavy footwear minimizing the hit. And with comfortable boots, a long ride doesn’t take as much of a toll on your body.
Motorcycle gear is intended to keep you safe, but you must use it correctly all the time for it to work. Shop around and find the equipment that matches your style, but whatever you do, don’t ride without these five essential pieces of bike gear.
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