The Complete Guide to Motorcycle Safety Gear
Riding a motorcycle is a mode of transportation that is 33 times more dangerous than driving a car. To mitigate the risks of being so exposed to the elements, it is essential to wear gear that would save your life in the event of a crash and prevent common motorcycle accident injuries.Wearing the proper gear means finding a balance between personal style as well as fit and function. Although the vast number of gear options can be overwhelming, it can be helpful to think of the old adage that you should wear what you would want to have on in the event of a crash – not what you just want to wear for a joyride. Even if it’s hot outside, there is no excuse to not wear a protective jacket. What’s more, most jackets offer moisture-wicking and ventilation to make the ride more comfortable in hotter temperatures.
The proper motorcycle gear can save your life, and it’s important to make sure you have everything covered.
The importance of wearing the proper motorcycle helmet cannot be overstated. In fact, a 2005 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) found that helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities. The report found another alarming statistic, in that only 58 percent of motorcyclists regularly wore their helmets, and lives are lost as a result of foregoing this simple, lifesaving measure.
What’s more alarming is that not all U.S. states require motorcycle helmet use, in any way.
If you are serious about motorcycling, you surely already know about helmets, but which helmet is best to prevent a serious injury? You have two basic options:
- Full-face helmets. This is undoubtedly the safest option, as a recent Deitmar Otte study found that 45 percent of all motorcycle crashes involve impact to the face, which is not covered in helmets that do not protect the front side of the head. The full-face helmet also offers protection to your eyes, with a tinted visor. A good full-face helmet will not impede your ability to hear traffic, and it should have good ventilation and a proper fit. Full-face helmets are much safer simply because they offer more protection.
- Open helmets, (three-quarter and half-helmets). The three-quarter and half-helmets are somewhat similar to the full-face helmet, but don’t provide coverage to the face. While some may argue it provides they offer better visibility compared to the full-face helmet, not to mention it’s the cheaper option, it is still far less safe and secure than the full-face helmet. The open-face helmet can also fly off in an accident. In fact, research has shown that open-face helmets are almost as useless as wearing no helmet at all.3 If you insist that the open helmet is for you, then make sure you pair it with a pair of riding goggles and perhaps invest in some earplugs.
To ensure you get the proper helmet, make sure it meets the minimum safety regulations set forth by the Department of Transportation). Also, you’ll want to make sure it meets your personal style and offers comfort on top of protection.
Helmets are designed to function for 5 years, at most. After that time, you should upgrade to a new model in that meets at least the minimum for DOT safety regulations. If you have a crash within the 5 years, be aware that your helmet is no longer safe to wear in the event of future crashes, and should be immediately discarded and replaced.
As for other helmet considerations, you should take the following into account:
- Visibility. Brighter, eye-grabbing colors will help alert your fellow motorists of your presence, particularly because motorcyclists are harder to see on the road, and studies have shown that car drivers are not looking for them.
- Noise. Earplugs can help reduce the loud noises that can distract you from the road. This can maximize comfort as well as maintaining good hearing over the years.
- Sun protection. Being shielded from the sun will be important as you ride a motorcycle, even though it can be tricky with a full-face helmet, to wear sunglasses. This is why full-face helmets
- come with a tinted visor that can be tilted up, which can be swapped out for a clear visor at night.
With so many options for full-face helmets, you may be overwhelmed. One simple way to narrow down your options is to make sure they meet the latest DOT protection guidelines. Since full-face helmets are the preferable choice for full protection, it is advisable to shop for one instead of an open helmet style. Several of the safest styles of full-face helmets include:
- RevZilla Motorsports offers a range of full-face helmets from $300 and up, you have plenty of options to choose from, such as the Arai Quantum-X Helmet, which is both Snell 2015 and DOT-approved. Designed for maximum protection and comfort, this helmet blocks turbulent air from entering the helmet and has excellent ventilation.
- For those switching from an open-face to a full-face helmet, the Shoei Neotec Modular Helmet could be the right option. As one of the top-rated long-distance helmets, its main selling points are the aerodynamic shell design, sun shield and ventilation systems, and more. It also has an excellent user rating of 4.75 out of 5 stars on motorcycle gear website RevZilla Motorsports.
- If you’re looking for the maximum safety score, consider the Shark Race-R Pro Carbon Fibre Full Face Helmet. Rated SHARP 5 stars (“Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme” helmet ratings set by a British government quality ratings scheme), this helmet is also DOT/ECE certified, and intended to be worn by pro racers. The Shark line is also more affordable, and will set you back about $300, compared to other motorcycle helmets which are upwards of $700!
Remember that no matter what helmet you buy, it will need to be replaced a) after a crash or b) after 5 years, as the materials begin to break down over time.
If you decide to forego a full-face helmet with a face shield, then you’ll definitely need to get protection for your eyes, especially for long distances going over 55 miles per hour on the highway. Without it, it will be nearly impossible to keep your eyes open at this speed, not to mention you are vulnerable to debris such as dust and bugs coming in contact with your eyes (and your face, in general). Something as simple as an errant pebble hitting your eye could be the cause of a devastating crash.
Motorcycle eyewear is tougher than simple eyeglasses. It is designed to withhold impacts to the eyes, and are more durable, to boot.
Eye Protection Recommendations
- A top-rated, affordable pair of motorcycle sunglasses are the Bobster Shield II Sunglasses, available on RevZilla Motorsports for $14.38. These frameless sunglasses are made with polycarbonate lenses and closed cell foam to protect against the wind, and offer 100% protection against UVA/UVB ultraviolet light. They are available in multiple colors.
- If you want a snug fit, choose 100% Racecraft Googles for your motorcycle eye protection. The nose guard is removable, but this attachment helps mold the glasses to the face to help with stability. The goggles come in multiple colors, including mirrored finishes, and are available for $65.
While you’re on the road, you’ll definitely want to be alert to the other vehicles and not have a soundproof ride. However, you’ll also want to protect your hearing as you travel at high speeds and are right next to cars honking a blaring horn. If you’re wearing an open-face motorcycle helmet, it will be crucial to invest in a good pair of earplugs meant for motorcyclists.
Hearing Protection Recommendation
- Try out a pair of custom-made ear plugs made by Earpeace. These Custom Fit Earpeace ear plugs, priced at $225, are used by DJs and musicians worldwide and come in 16 colors. You can also choose your level of decibel-protection from 10DB to 260DB.
- Just because you want hearing protection doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend hundreds. In fact, the top-rated earplugs on RevZilla Motorsports, NoNoise Motorsport Noise Filter Ear Protection, will set you back only $30. These comfortable earplugs sufficiently filter out wind and road noise without affecting your ability to hear things like sirens, horns or various low-level sounds. Also, they are washable and reusable.
M Solo Black Smoke Hearing Protection
NoNoise Motorshort Noise Filter Ear Protection
Motorcycle Helmet Cameras
A wise choice for motorcyclists in the modern age, this could save you in the event of a crash, in terms of who was at fault. For extra peace of mind, consider a helmet-mounted cam. You can also share videos of what it looks like while you’re on the bike with friends and family or re-watch your rides.
Although originally banned by the Federation of International Motorcycling in 2014 for fear that helmet cams would prevent the helmet to absorb impact in the event of a crash, new research suggests that they are not as dangerous as previously thought.
Motorcycle Helmet-Mounted Camera Recommendations
- One example of a good motorcycle helmet-mounted camera is the waterproof color-video camera, the Contour ROAM2 Camera, for $289. It has an instant-on record switch with no power button, vibrant color, and records 60-frames per second. It includes a micro SD card at 4GB so you can use your camera right out of the box. Find this helmet cam on Amazon.
- The $279 motorcycle helmet cam, the Sena 10C Bluetooth Headset & Camera, is the top-rated option available on RevZilla Motorsports. This combo of a Bluetooth camera also include a communication system, with direct-to-video voice recording camera and a four-way intercom. Consider this option for the versatility and safety it provides.
- A slightly more affordable option comes in another Sena model, the Sena Prism Bluetooth Action Camera-Lite Pack, also on RevZilla Motorsports. It captures HD video and is a nice, compact size. Videos are recorded for up to 500 meters in front of the motorcycle, and it’s quick and easy to set up.
Contour ROAM Waterproof Video Camera
Sena10 C Bluetooth Headset Camera
Sena Prism Bluetooth Action Camera Lite Pack
Jackets are another priority in motorcycle safety gear, second to helmets. This must-have piece of clothing for motorcyclists ensure that they are not victim to abrasions in the event of a crash (also called “road rash”). Jackets obviously cover your upper body, but they really offer protection to your internal organs, as well, by offering a sort of second skin. In fact, impact-absorption offered by the jacket can help protect your ribs, heart and lungs with chest protectors.
It’s important to choose a jacket meant for motorcyclists, though, and not just a fashionable leather jacket you think would look good riding the bike. You can also wear jackets made from other textiles, which are designed to be as strong as leather in resisting abrasions. Textile jackets often cost less than leather, but they are just as strong, and typically made to be waterproof so you stay dry in bad weather.
Motorcycle jackets are different from the typical fashionable jacket, because they have added protection, such as double-up seams to prevent bursting, as well as ventilation. Even if it’s hot outside, remember that the windchill factor of riding the motorcycle at upwards of 55 miles an hour can easily drop the temperature by over 20 degrees, Fahrenheit.
Jackets should also have body armor, which protects the back, shoulders and elbows, and serves as impact-absorption in the event of a crash, and it should come with a safety rating.
If you want to add further protection, your jacket can also connect to the pants so you have a suit that better keeps out the elements and stays together in the event of a crash. You’ll likely need to buy both pieces together, from the same brand/manufacturer, in order to ensure it functions properly.
As for fit, you’ll want your jacket to be comfortably snug and offer the range of mobility you’ll need to ride your motorcycle. You may want to opt for a jacket that does not have pockets, depending on the functionality you want.
- If you’re interested in jackets and you live in a four-season climate, you may want both a lightweight jacket and a winter jacket. Leather, for example, is a material that can really get warm, whereas other materials will breathe better. A lightweight summer jacket could be made of mesh, like the Dainese Air Frame D1 Jacket, for $250, available on Amazon.
- A good winter jacket staple is a leather one. It looks fantastic, and is one of the best materials to resist road rash. Don’t simply go to the mall to get any leather jacket though, get one that’s specifically designed to be worn on a motorcycle, like the Alpinestars Atem Jacket with thick cow leather and reinforced stitching. Price starts around $560.
Although it’s easy enough to put on a pair of jeans and hop on the bike – that simple denim fabric doesn’t do much to protect the rider in the event of a crash. Sadly, pants are an oft-overlooked part of motorcycle safety gear, with many riders even opting to wear shorts in the summer, which offer no protection whatsoever.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who reviewed hospital data for people injured in motorcycle accidents between 2001 to 2008, one-third of those injured suffered injuries affecting their legs and/or feet.4
Similar to motorcycle jackets, motorcycle pants also come in a variety of textile materials to choose from, from leather, to denim, and other fabrics. They can be a second layer on top of your regular dress pants you wear to work. You can even add an extra layer of warmth with insultation that you can wear in the colder months.
Pants should fit comfortably in a normal riding positions (think, too, of shifting and stopping), and shouldn’t be too tight or too short, exposing the tops of the boots.
- Consider a fashionable pair of riding jeans such as the Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Protective Kevlar Riding Jeans, which are made of bulletproof Kevlar fibers and fit comfortably against the body but are not too tight. Bonus: they look like real jeans and you can wear them off the motorcycle, too.
- If leather is more your style, be prepared to spend a lot more, but get perhaps a better material. try out the top-rated style, Dainese Alien Leather Pants available on RevZilla Motorsports for $480. Made of D-skin leather, it is CE-certified, and comes with built-in composite knee protectors and armor for the hips.
- For flashy color options to get you noticed on the road, try out the Klim Mojave Pants, available at RevZilla for the more affordable price of $130. This top-rated style fits over your boots and provides the ultimate protection for off-roading and plenty of ventilation for riding in hotter temperatures.
Tobacco Motorwear Indigo Selvedge Protective Kevlar Riding Jeans
Dainese Alien Leather Pants
Kim Mojave Pants
The footwear you choose is also important. Simple sneakers will not cut it in the event of a crash, especially because the feet and ankles are so vulnerable in this situation. Also, you’ll need to support the weight of a motorcycle, which often is in excess of 350 pounds. Your feet, legs and ankles will need to be stable on sometimes-slippery surfaces when you stop, and be oil-resistant and slip-resistant. Soles should prevent twisting and strong toe and feel boxes that keep the feet locked in to reduce impact force in a crash.
Fit for boots should go above the ankle, as you risk your boots flying off if they are not securely laced above that point, and you would have no protection. Don’t forget socks, too! Choose a pair that keeps your feet fresh while riding long distances.
- Consider the Sylmartin Rocket Boots available on RevZilla Motorsports, at the price of $315. These waterproof leather boots provide breathability and come with a zipper closure. The soles are anti-slip, anti-static and slip/oil-resistant.
- If tall, over-pants boots are what you want, with a classic engineer style, try the TCX Fuel WP Boots, available at RevZilla for $290. These boots have a vintage leather upper and a replaceable sole which grips to any surface, even a slick one.
Stylmartin Rocket Boots
TCX Fuel WP Boots
The hands are another very important area to protect in the event of a crash. Seeing how the hands have 27 bones each, in addition to many other connective tissues, you’ll need your hands to be protected. Think, too, that your hands would likely be the first area to touch down if you do crash, and you’ll begin to realize the importance of properly covering the back of the hands and wrists, particularly.
Gloves should fit with a retention strap around the wrist, and abrasion-resistant materials, similar to those worn on other parts of the body. One such material is Kevlar.
- Some gloves sew the ring and pinky fingers together, preventing the pinky finger from becoming dislocated or breaking, which is an unfortunately common occurrence. One such example is the Held Titan EVO Gloves made with modern materials such as kangaroo leather. They are abrasion-resistant and sweat-proof with a wrist strap and elasticated leather panel. Consider, though, that these gloves will set you back $400.
- A more affordable option intended for winter riding are the Joe Rocket Windchill Gloves, priced at $72. These gloves are lined with 100g of Thinsulate, and are designed to keep your hands warm and flexible in even the most frigid temperatures.
- Want flashy colors at an even more affordable price? Try out the Fox Racing Dirtpaw Race Gloves, available in 5 different eye-catching colors. These padded gloves are perfect for entry-level motorcyclists.
Held Titan EVO Gloves
Joe Rocket Windchill Gloves
Fox Racing Dirtpaw Race Gloves
Armor: Elbow, Shin and Knee Guards
The purpose of armor is an added layer of protection which absorbs the impact of a crash and diverts the energy that would otherwise be directed absorbed by your body’s joints and limbs. Armor can cover the knees and elbows, in particular, and it should fit snugly but still not impede movement. Fit should ensure that the armor won’t shift or move in a crash.
The armor you should be wearing while on a motorcycle for maximum protection includes:
- Elbow Guards. While most motorcycle jackets will come with basic protection for the shoulders and elbow, usually adhered with Velcro into the lining or in zippered pockets, many riders complain that these are bulky and uncomfortable. Instead, you should look for something that’s both helpful in the event of a crash and has a safety rating. Look for Euope’s CE safety rating, since the U.S. doesn’t have its own safety standards for elbow guards.
One example of a great pair of elbow guards comes from Forcefield Isolator 2, made of super soft, lightweight, and flexible protection that is CE-approved.
- Shin/Knee Guards. These guards protect the front of the lower leg as well as the knees. While many motorcycle pants include knee pads, they aren’t as secure and offering excellent protection as these guards meant specifically for the shins and knees. Most designs have an asymmetrical design so one is made for the left leg and the other for the right leg. These, similar to the elbow guards, will provide extra cushion and protection in the event of a crash.
If you’re worried about the bulk of this added armor, consider one that is heat-responsive and molds to the legs, keeping them securely in place. After a few miles of riding, you’ll hardly notice them! Consider the Dainese Knee V E1 N Guards, which also cover part of the thighs, too.
Forcefield Isolator 2 Knee Armor
Dainese Knee V E1 N Guards
Make Sure to Wear “All Gear, All the Time”
Riding a motorcycle comes with inherent risk, and it’s important to be “suited up” for the ride to ensure maximum safety if you do crash. There’s no excuse for being chintzy on your gear – if you need to reduce costs, buy a less-expensive motorcycle and then splurge on the safety gear of a proper full-face helmet, leather/or strong textile jacket/pants/suit, Kevlar gloves, and leather boots. No matter your excuse for foregoing one of these items, there’s a plethora of choices when it comes to style and safety as a motorcyclist.
There’s really no reason not to gear up, if you don’t want to become a crash statistic – “All Gear, All the Time” (AGATT) is a common motorcycle riding adage, and remember, too, that accidents can still happen on a quick trip to-and-from work, for instance.
If you have been the victim of a motorcycle injury in California, please call Wilshire Law Firm today to learn more, at 1-800-522-7274. We accept calls 24/7.