Can you pass the Sander Test?

or, How to Select Good Riding Gear

Posted March 8, 2004

Please read the disclaimer


A very common question among new motoryclists is, "what kind of riding gear should I get?" It's a really good question, and it shows that you're on the right track. Unfortunately, it's also hard to answer well, because everyone will have a different set of requirements for their gear.

This article discusses riding gear in general, but also proposes a thought experiment you can use to see how you feel about a particular piece of gear.

Before we continue, I want to mention the word "accident." This is a word that I use in this article to provide some variety. However, most motorcycle "accidents" can be prevented.

Why Safety Gear? Accidents Happen

A simple fact of life, faced by every motorcyclist (whether they acknowledge it consciously or not) is that motorcycles are unsafe. Being on two wheels, they're much less stable (as in, able to resist tipping over) than a car. There's no safety-cage around a motorcyclist, protecting them from the outside world.

Perhaps the most important lesson about motorcycles*:

It is impossible to reduce your risk of collision to zero.

* and cars

There is literally nothing you can do to completely eliminate all risk of a motorcycle accident when you're riding. You can make that chance very small, but it will always exist. That is why we wear riding gear: it protects us in that instant where circumstances coincide to separate bike from rider, whenever and wherever it may happen.

In a situation where someone makes a mistake, and the rider is separated from his or her motorcycle, the safety gear being worn can mean the difference between waking up sore the next morning and waking up in the hospital, or not at all. Note that it doesn't matter whose mistake we're talking about: the rider's, the SUV driver's, or the deer's. Any one of them can cause a serious enough problem that the rider is suddenly separated from her bike.

In a large number of accidents (search the web for "Hurt Report" to find the data I'm basing most of this on), another vehicle does something to violate the motorcycle's right-of-way. Although there's not a clear breakdown of the kinds of injuries sustained, a lot of damage potential exists for abrasion damage. This could be called a "typical accident" -- another vehicle does something to cause the motorcyclist to crash, and the motorcyclist then slides along the pavement until they come to a stop.

This is the scenario (or ones similar to it) from which most safety gear is intended to protect.

Safety gear is utterly useless unless you wear it, every single time you ride. You can't control when and where a collision happens. The time between the crash starting and you hitting the ground is on the order of tenths of a second, in which time you can't put on any gear you didn't happen to feel like wearing. There's a phrase used on some motorcycle forums, called ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time. ATGATT. If you do that, you will have substantially increased your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident unscathed.

This is not all to say that "accidents are inevitable, so sit back and relax," for the opposite is true. There is so much you can do to prevent collisions -- but that's not what this article is about. By no means should you come away from this article saying to yourself, "accidents just happen, there's nothing I can do about it." You need to take the MSF beginning rider's class, if you haven't already. You need to read articles on how to ride safely. You need to think about how you ride, and learn lessons when you make mistakes. Just wanted to make sure that's clear.

What the Gear Does

Motorcycle safety clothing breaks down into some obvious categories:

  • Helmets
  • Jackets
  • Gloves
  • Pants
  • Boots
  • Full suits

For the purposes of this article, we can lump "everything but helmets" into one category, and helmets into their own category.


Helmets are designed primarily to prevent the rider from bonking his head on solid objects like the ground. Specifically, they're designed to reduce or prevent blunt brain trauma and neck injuries. Secondarily, they're good at keeping the head separated from abrasion damage.

Helmets also have numerous beneficial attributes that don't have anything to do with preventing accident damage. They protect the rider's hearing to some extent (although earplugs are still a good idea on rides at higher speeds or for longer periods of time). They provide protection to the face and eyes from wind blast, insects, debris thrown up by tires, etc. A tinted face shield can provide some protection from the sun. Most helmets effectively keep rain off the rider's head, and provide insulation and venting suitable for maintaining a comfortable temperature in a variety of conditions.

There are many myths about helmets that are worth dispelling. Helmets DO NOT:

  • Impair the rider's ability to hear traffic
  • Reduce field of view
  • Cause greater neck injury than "no helmet" in a crash
  • Cause fatigue from weight

For more information on helmets, please see my article, Choosing the Right Helmet.

"Other Stuff"

The other stuff (jackets, gloves, etc.) serves the nearly singular purpose of separating the rider from the pavement in a slide. Some jackets, pants and suits contain "armor," which is a fancy word for foam, strategically placed over vulnerable areas, like knees, elbows, shoulders, spines and hips. Do not discount the value of armor, just because it appears to be "mere foam." It can absorb a considerable amount of energy that would have otherwise been transmitted right to your elbow/knee/etc. Gloves and racing suits in particular can have strategically-placed sliding materials, like metal rivets or plastic pucks, to make sure that you safely slide rather than tumble in a crash.

Outside of an accident scenario, this gear all serves several more useful purposes. It protects you from the sun, wind and any wind-borne dangers like insects, rocks, rain, etc. It can keep you warm or allow a great deal of ventilation. It can carry your stuff in pockets. It is reflective, and can be brightly colored to warn off predators (such as Chevy Suburbans).

Don't Disregard the Side-Effects

Although I've separated the "effects" of this gear into accident-related and non-accident-related, don't make the mistake of thinking that either topic is more or less important. Anything that keeps you, as a driver, comfortable is an important safety device. When you're not comfortable (from frozen fingers, or wind burn, or monkey-butt from sitting too long -- doesn't matter), your fatigue increases. As your fatigue increases, your ability to pay attention to traffic and the road decreases. Your ability to pay attention to your surroundings and react appropriately to them is the number one thing keeping you from being involved in a collision.

Leather vs. Textile

For the "other stuff" that's not a helmet, there are basically two materials you find them constructed from: leather, or textile. Textile is usually some form of heavy nylon, commonly called "ballistic nylon." Each material has strengths and weaknesses, but both are excellent choices for street wear. Let me say that again:

For use in street riding, either leather or textile gear will work very well.

Leather is not "better" than textile for street use. Before I explain that statement, let me show you the pros and cons of each material:

Attribute Leather Textile
Resists abrasion Y Y
Resists abrasion really well Y N
Easily waterproofed N Y
Inexpensive N Y
Melts in high-heat situations N Y
Probably reuseable after a crash Y Maybe

As you can see, it's kind of a mixed bag. Now, on to my statement about "for street use."

Picking the Right Gear for Street Use

Riding on the street (which is to say, riding with traffic on public roads, not on the track), your maximum speed will probably stay at or below 60 MPH, except on rare occasions when you find some open freeway, or if you have a particularly aggressive adrenaline addiction. Since you can basically count on a crash happening at a lower speed, you can also count on not spending a whole lot of time sliding after the crash. Since that's the case, you don't need really good abrasion protection. Obviously, better protection is always preferrable, but there are some tradeoffs that make it easy to argue that textile is an excellent choice for street use.

You will need to keep in mind throughout this discussion that your needs will dictate changes -- if you actually spend most of your time riding at 80 MPH, leather is probably a justifiable expense for you.

Most notably for me, it's really difficult to make leather waterproof. I mean, it's a serious pain in the ass, and by the time you've done it, it's not very nice leather any more. I wore a leather jacket for a time, and every time it started raining, I either had to pull out a rain jacket (making me feel like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man), or dry my jacket out for hours upon arrival. This day-to-day annoyance was more than enough to convince me to find a better textile solution that could be more easily waterproofed.

With that in mind, take a good hard look at the table of pros and cons above, and mentally cross off the factors that don't matter for you. If you never ever ride in the rain, then waterproofing is probably unimportant, etc. The choice of leather vs. textile often boils down to "what can you afford?" I urge you to consider that for a given price, a textile jacket will commonly provide better value than a leather jacket, both in day-to-day and crash protection terms.

As a point of reference on the crash survivability of textile, I once asked Rider's Wearhouse (makers of the Aerostich Roadcrafter textile suit) about crash damage they've had to repair. The guy I was speaking with said they've had numerous suits come back after crashes (some as fast as 70-80 MPH), and not one of them had been damaged badly enough to stop protecting the rider. That says a lot to me about the ability of textile to keep a rider safe. (Yes, of course it may be that they never saw the suits that really failed; surviving an 80 MPH slide down the asphalt is all I can reasonably ask from my safety gear.)

Conspicuity, or "Being Seen"

One of the problems identified in the Hurt Report was that car drivers had a hard time seeing motorcyclists. It specifically says that making the motorcyclist more conspicuous through the use of brightly colored clothing, headlights and reflective materials resulted in a reduction of collisions.

Keep this in mind when you're looking at gear. Black leather may look cool (nay, it does look cool), but it's also hard to see in traffic. Your riding gear should be as bright as you can stand; ideally it'd be high-viz yellow with reflective, flourescent orange stripes all down it. Most people can't take that much day-glo all at once though, so most riding gear has mere splashes of color.

The more colorful your riding gear (particularly your jacket and helmet, which is what most people will see from the front), the easier you are to see. The easier you are to see, the less likely other drivers will act as if you're not there. I started riding with my high-beam on all the time during the day, and noticed that people seemed to see me better. Woo!

Note that, although red and orange seem really bright in sunlight, they fade out to grey at twilight or in the dark. White is an excellent color, along with flourescents, because they remain bright through twilight by reflecting all available light instead of just the red stuff. (As night approaches, daylight fades into blues, including the ultraviolet light that makes flourescents appear so bright. This renders reddish colors quite dark.)

Notes on Textiles

When you're looking at textile jackets, you want to select something with the highest surface of "ballistic" nylon possible. This is the heavy-duty, thick-weaved nylon that usually reinforces elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees on riding gear. If you could find a piece of riding clothing that was all ballistic nylon, you'd be set, but no one makes that. I suspect such a garmet would be too stiff to be really useful, but it's a good goal to strive for.

Motorcycle Consumer News did an abrasion test on a variety of materials, including ballistic nylon and some other forms of nylon. As expected, the ballistic nylon did really well on abrasion, the "regular" nylon, not as well. So, make sure that your textile gear has as much ballistic as possible.

If you're looking at mesh gear, the mesh materials tested did surprisingly well on abrasion tests. For those, you don't need to worry as much about finding ballistic nylon in high-wear areas, although it's still a fine idea. Mesh gear is an excellent idea if you're going to be riding in temperatures from 80 to 95 degrees F, as it will keep you from overheating.

I highly recommend getting armor in whatever gear you're looking at. There's no need for a hard plate on the outside of the armor pads, and that might actually make things worse -- the hard plate allows for a much smaller contact point between the ground and the material of the jacket, which could allow it to shred and possibly start ripping open. Obviously, not something you want to have happen while sliding! Hard plates that cover over the material of the jacket or pants is a great idea, though.

But, what about racing?

I've never raced a motorcycle, so I don't speak with a huge amount of authority, but I've gleaned some information by reading a lot. In racing motorcycles, one can reasonably expect to fall off the bike several times in a season (for good riders) or several times in a race (for beginning riders or those who are less skilled). Racing accidents of this type usually involve a low-side followed by a slide for some distance, commonly at high speeds.

For this kind of accident scenario, a leather racing suit is an excellent choice. In general such a slide doesn't damage the suit at all, and it can be immediately reused. A textile suit might well be torn up or abraded to the point of no longer being safe.

However, a racing suit is designed to be worn with nothing underneath, just minimal underwear. Riding your motorcycle to work would be interesting, when you arrived, needing to change into regular clothes. Racing suits are also generally tailored for their environment ("hot," usually), so they have numerous vents and perforations that are difficult to cover up. In short, racing leather suits are designed for their job, and don't do well at other jobs. They're also expensive (starting around $1000 to get a good, well-fitting one).

The simplest, safest answer is that if you're interested in racing, you need to speak with the racing organization you're joining to see what their rules and recommendations on protective gear are.

Picking a Helmet

Selecting the right helmet is one of the most difficult things to describe in written words, but I'll give it a try.

Helmets come in a variety of shapes, as do heads. In general, each brand will have a different signature shape (Arai produces helmets with three different shapes). When your head and the helmet have different shapes, you will put it on, and immediately feel pressure points and blank spots where the helmet doesn't press at all. Your goal is to go into a shop, and try on every helmet they have. It's the only way to get a good fit.

Once you've found a helmet that feels like it's touching your head almost everywhere, you need to select the right size. This is done by finding a helmet that's not loose at all on your head (ie, if you move the helmet, you should also feel it moving your skin a bit), but which is also not tight. You shouldn't feel hard pressure on your head anywhere, it should all be gentle, firm pressure. It's normal to have a bit more pressure on your cheeks than everywhere else.

Once you've found the right shape and size of helmet, put it on and leave it on for at least 10 minutes, preferrably 15-20. In that time, you shouldn't feel any hotspots develop, or get a headache, or anything. When you take it off, you shouldn't feel any weird patches or see any red spots on your forehead. You're going to be wearing this thing for possibly hours at a time, so you really want it to fit right.

Every helmet legally sold as a motorsports safety device has to have a DOT approval sticker on it. DO NOT buy a helmet that doesn't at least have a DOT sticker! Some helmets also have a Snell rating sticker on them. There is some debate in the motorcycling community as to whether a Snell rating is a good thing. Me personally, I tend to think it is, but you can take it or leave it as you choose. I've never been entirely clear on why having a Snell rating would be a bad thing.

When you've found the right helmet, please buy it from the store in which you've just been trying it out. They just spent a lot of time helping you out, and if you don't buy some stuff locally, your local motorcycle businesses won't survive. It'll probably cost a little bit more, but you're paying for the service you just got.

Do not buy a helmet off the Internet or mail order without having gone through the above fitting process. It will most likely not fit you correctly, and you will have just wasted your money on something you may not be able to return.

Do not attempt to "save money" by buying a used helmet. Never, ever buy a used helmet. As soon as they're used, helmets start breaking down and wearing in to fit their users. Not only will they not fit as well, they will be less safe in a crash. For this reason, it's also safest to replace your helmet every 3-5 years, whether it's been involved in a crash or not. A 5 year old helmet is still safer than no helmet, but a new helmet is much better. There have likely also been significant safety, ventilation, or comfort improvements in the intervening time.

Cheap Helmets vs. Expensive Helmets

If you've spent any time shopping for a helmet, you know that there's a bewildering array of not only brands and models, but also prices. What makes an "expensive" helmet worth so much more than a "cheap" helmet?

There's no one answer to that question, but here are some possibilities:

  • Brand name
  • Materials used
  • Research invested
  • Extra features
  • Fancy graphics

Every helmet that sports a DOT or Snell sticker has passed the tests necessary to get those certifications. But, some helmets do much more than merely meet the testing specifications, they can far exceed them, protecting your head much more in a crash than a helmet that just met the requirement. Unfortunately, there's no reliable way to tell which helmets fall into this category, and paying a higher price doesn't guarantee a safer helmet.

The biggest thing you can see when comparing helmets is the feature set. This includes things like vents, breath guards, fancy linings, face shield retention system, etc. In general, a removable liner is a good thing to have, so you can wash it out if it gets all skanky after a summer of riding. More vents is usually better, but vents sometimes don't close effectively, or increase the wind noise of the helmet. Anything that can be done to size the helmet to fit you better, like replaceable cheek pads, is usually a good idea.

Three-quarter or Full-face?

This will have to be a personal choice for you. I have always chosen full-face helmets because they seem safer to me. As far as I know, they are safer, but are less convenient. If you want to be safe, but also want the convenience of an open-face, there are numerous flip-up helmets that offer a good compromise.

Snell has not yet tested any flip-up helmets, so you won't find Snell ratings on them. You can read more about Snell ratings on their website. This FAQ page has lots of good, easily digested information on their testing, and helmets in general.

If you're on the fence about which kind of helmet to choose, read on.

What Do You Wear, Ian?

These days, I wear an Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suit (which I reviewed here), an Arai Quantum/f full-face helmet, gloves by Olympia (for winter) and Teknic (for summer), and some 1980's era German paratrooper combat boots. My feet are wide enough that I haven't been able to find a production pair of "real" motorcycling boots that fit me.

In the past, I have worn both textile (Teknic, I think) and leather (FirstGear, review here) jackets, textile pants by Joe Rocket, and FirstGear winter gloves. I've always had the German boots, although they've been replaced with a newer pair. When I was wearing the leather jacket (which was black), I mail-ordered an obnxiously bright orange-and-yellow safety vest, which I wore over the jacket. (An excellent investment, at around $15.)

I own a set of mesh riding gear (jacket and pants) for summer, but I'm not favorably impressed with the way I can pull the jacket up by raising my arms, thus exposing a large swath of belly. I wore it last summer, and I will probably explore getting different mesh gear for this summer.

I plan, in the future, to replace my German boots with some commercial engineer or logger boots such as Red Wings or Danners. Something that comes in widths. I haven't discounted the idea of getting a pair of motorcycle boots made, but the cost is hard for me to stomach when compared to production boots that basically only lack the anklebone armor.

The Sander Test

When you've selected a set of gear, perform the following thought experiment:

Mentally, climb into all the gear you've selected. Gloves, jacket, boots, helmet, etc. Everything you will or do wear while riding your motorcycle. Now, imagine that I'm walking up to you, with my imaginary belt sander. It runs at around 30 MPH, which is a reasonable crash speed. It's loaded with 80 grit sandpaper, which is sharper than asphalt, but not as coarse. I switch on my sander, and apply it anywhere the fancy strikes me: your face, knees, ankles, butt, hands, belly, etc. Where do you recoil in pain? Where are you feeling red-hot sandpaper stripping away skin? That is where you need to improve your gear.

The purpose of this thought experiment is to demonstrate, in an easily imagined way, what happens when you're sliding along the pavement. If your gear isn't up to snuff, you will feel a great deal of pain in the places where it doesn't cover sufficiently. Think about your face, pavement grinding by 2 inches away: do you want a full-face helmet now? Think about how much actual control you'd have in a slide: will those leather chaps really help? How will you keep your butt off the pavement? If you have fingerless gloves, how will you move your hand when it's trapped under your chest as you slide? If you have any exposed skin, there's an excellent chance that you'll lose it in a crash. And remember, as we established earlier, a crash can happen at any time, and without your control. The gear you wear every time you ride will determine what happens in a crash.

The Financial Perspective

One common complaint about motorcycle safety gear is that it's expensive. This is true. It probably costs a minimum of $500 as of this writing to outfit yourself with a reasonable set of safety gear: helmet, jacket, gloves, pants and boots. If you can't afford to get the safety gear, you can't afford to be riding a motorcycle right now. Save up your money until you can afford both the bike you want and the safety gear.

Here's my rundown on prices for gear. (Note: these prices are out of my head based on my recent experiences, not from anyone's catalog or website. Please think of them as "ballpark" figures rather than a suggestion you can pay X amount of money for the given thing.)

Minimum price the absolute minimum you should ever pay for gear -- any less, and chances are you're getting unsafe gear.
Normal price these prices are "about normal" for good, high-quality safety gear that's not extravagant or overpriced.
High price this is for normal production items; you can always pay thousands of dollars for custom manufacture, gold inlay, custom graphics, etc.

Item Minimum price "Normal" price High price Notes
Full-face helmet $75 $300 $1200
Textile jacket $125 $250 $500
Leather jacket $150 $400-500 $1000
Gloves $30 $40-120 $300 Winter or waterproof gloves tend to cost more than summer-weight gloves
Leather pants $150 $250-300 $1000
Textile pants $75 $125-200 $500
Riding boots $100 $200 $800 I personally wear combat boots ($40) because I can't find any riding boots that are wide enough without getting them custom made for $500+
Textile $405 $915-1070 $3300 Note that most people mix and match from the "cheap" and "regular" columns, as well as mixing leather and textile, so the totals shown here are unrealistically high.
Leather $505 $1190-1420 $4300

I like to tell people that they should budget $1000 for safety gear when they buy a motorcycle. That is, they should have $1000 in the bank or in their hand, that they intend to spend on safety gear. This prevents them from doing something silly like "saving $50" by skimping on a piece of gear that's a lot safer for just $50 more.

You don't have to spend $1000 to get a good set of gear, but if you plan on spending that much, you'll be happy when you get set up for less. One trick you can use to save money is to locate the model and brand of gear you want, but in last year's model. This gear is exactly as protective, but retailers need to clear it out for "next year's model." This stuff tends to go on sale around the fall and winter, although it's worth checking any time of year.

The Finanaces of Crashing

For this discussion, let's set up a scenario in which we have two different riders: Casual Carl and Safety Steve (thanks to David Hough for the naming convention -- go read his book, Proficient Motorcycling, if you haven't yet).

Casual Carl, as you'd expect, isn't wearing much for gear -- he spent $80 on a 3/4 face helmet, some fingerless gloves that look cool, and rides his motorcycle wearing those things, jeans and a t-shirt. He's got some leather motorcycle boots, but he doesn't wear them very often because they're not very comfortable.

Safety Steve is a safety freak, so he's got a leather jacket, a full-face helmet, full gauntleted leather gloves, textile riding pants, and mid-calf leather boots. He's wearing one of those orange-and-reflective safety vests over his jacket, because he couldn't find a bright enough jacket that he liked, so his jacket is black. (Yes, people actually do that -- I'm describing an outfit I wore for several years.)

Each man is riding along, a state apart, enjoying his bike, at around 35 MPH. Out of nowhere, a drunk driver in a Chevy Impala clips each of their rear wheels. There was no way to react; neither driver could have done anything differently to prevent the accident.

In Washington, Steve is flung from his motorcycle head-first, and lands hands-first, in an instinctive attempt to shield himself from the impact. His right wrist makes a sickening cracking noise, badly spraining it, and he slides, Superman style, down the pavement before coming to a stop 100 feet down the road. He gingerly gets up, a life-long memory of 20 grit pavement bobbling past his face, very fast and 2 inches away, burned into his mind. Other than the sprained wrist, he has some bruises where he clipped the handlebars with his right leg, and where he landed on the pavement. His helmet is still sort of serviceable, but desperately needs a new faceshield, and the right knee on his riding pants is pretty hashed up, although it didn't actually abrade through.

Steve calls a friend to come pick him up and take him to the hospital, since he can't tell if his right wrist is broken or just sprained.

Steve is down about $300 to replace his helmet, $150 for the pants, and $70 for his emergency room copay, to splint his wrist. His insurance will probably cover the riding gear, and medical insurance reduced his emergency room bill from around $1000 to $70.

Casual Carl, down in Oregon, is similarly flung from his bike at 35 MPH. He also hits the pavement face-first, attempting to break his fall with his hands. The thin, cheap leather of his gloves splits apart in the palms, catching the pavement and yanking his hands backwards, breaking both wrists. His face is pressed into the pavement for a quarter of a second before he reflexively turns it to the side, allowing the 3/4 helmet to take the rest of the abuse. His T-shirt dissappears in the first 10 feet, leaving his bare chest to absorb the abrasive energy of his weight, pressed down across 90 feet of pavement. Both knees and thighs are immediately exposed to raw pavement as the jeans rip open. Fortunately for Carl, the shock causes him to pass out before his mind can fully process the damage he just received.

Carl wakes up in a hospital in Portland, having arrived in an ambulance 16 hours earlier. He's been in and out of surgery, prepping for skin grafts to his face, chest, arms, and legs. A plastic surgeon has already worked on him to reconstruct his nose and left cheekbone. He's had gravel removed from his skin with tweezers and a wire brush. He's in stable condition, but he'll be in and out of the hospital for the next 4-5 months receiving grafts and recovering from the accident.

When Carl is finally recovered, he's out around $15,000-20,000 in hospital bills, and he's lost his job due to his inability to work for the first two months after the accident. He was working at a job where he made $35k/year, so he has forfeited about $10,500 in income in addition to needing to find another job now. (Since I made up these numbers, I suspect they're pretty low -- Carl might actually be out more like $50k or $100k in medical expenses, but we'll work with these numbers, since they're horrifying enough.)


Let's see the tally of who spent what:

Item Casual Carl Safety Steve
Safety gear $120 $950
Replacement safety gear $0 $450
Medical bills $20,000 $70
Lost income $10,500 $0
Total $30,620 $1,470

Obviously, this is a contrived example. Real world numbers will be different, but this isn't an unrealistic example. Had Carl been wearing better gear, he could have notched down that medical bill. At some point, he wouldn't have been out of action for long enough to lose his job, which would produce dramatic results on the Total line in that table.

However, the point is obvious. Steve, who spent some good money initially, ended up with little financial liability from his crash. Carl, who didn't want to spend much money on safety gear, ended up spending a good chunk of the next few years paying off his medical bills. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is worth hundreds of pounds of cure.

And, of course, this strictly-numbers analysis doesn't look at what happens to a person who has to endure that kind of pain for 4-5 months. It doesn't examine the mental problems that could develop, or the strain on relationships with other people, or the fact that Carl chose to never ride a bike again as being far too dangerous -- he considers himself lucky (and rightly so) that he didn't die in that accident.


As I hope has been made painfully, gut-wrenchingly clear at this point, good quality riding gear is an essential part of riding a motorcycle. Regardless of how skilled you are, there's always a chance that something could throw you from your bike, and if you're not wearing safety gear, it could be the beginning of the end of your life.

No safety gear will ever reduce your probability for getting hurt to zero, either. The only way to be truly safe on a motorcycle is to encase it in resin, sink it into the floor, and sit on top of the block where you can't fall off. You could still chip a tooth if you tripped, though.

Motorcycling is a fun, exciting sport/form of transportation. If you can accept the risk of an accident, and the risk of getting hurt, you can enjoy it. You can reduce your risk of being in an accident by riding safely and alertly; you can reduce your risk of being hurt in an unavoidable collision by wearing the right safety gear.

I hope that by reading this, you have a better idea of what safety gear is right for you. I also hope that you will be a safe rider -- get training if you don't already have it; get more if you have already had some. Above all, once you've done what you can to reduce the risks of riding, get out there and enjoy it!

This work is Copyright © 2004 by Ian Johnston. Permission is explicitly granted for non-commercial reproduction with credit. Commercial use is not allowed without explicit written permission from the author.

If you see an error or omission, please send me email at reaper at obairlann dot net, and I'll correct it. I also appreciate email if you love or hate it, or if you want to use it non-commercially.


I'm just a regular guy, who happens to have some opinions on motorcycling, and what kind of gear he thinks is safe. I encourage you to read this article with a critical eye, because I'm probably wrong. I am not paid any money by anyone to write this stuff, I do it because I hope it'll help other riders to be safer. Please engage your brain before taking any free advice you found on some guy's website.