One of the most important, but often overlooked areas of motorcycling is the clothes we wear when riding. I use the term clothes; because in its basic form, that is what it really is, it is the garments we put on to go riding.
Being humans, we are very individual in the way we think, act and appear, clothing is a very personal and individual thing, it is for some a way of expressing who they are, who they follow in racing, what they want to project to another person or they just simply want to have protection from the elements and in the worst case scenario, from a crash.
This thought can then be extended into the different areas of motor cycling, trail riders, Motocross riders, Trials riders, Road racers, weekend riders, commuters, tourers, learners, pillions and casual riders.
Open any motorcycle magazine and you will find pages of ads that are promoting a certain brand, style, comfort level and safety level in their clothing. Clothing also extends to Helmets, boots, gloves, eye protection, body armour and so on. For all of us this can be quite daunting when trying to work out what may be the best or in many cases the most affordable items to by for your riding style and type.
Looks or Style:
To many riders, this is a very important part of their individuality and motorcycle life. We can have extremes at both ends of this, ie, the outlaw bikie, the tattooed and unwashed of the motorcycle world, they wear nothing but what the club has laid down in their laws, as riders they tend to shun away from safety gear, wear open face, cheap helmets, sunglasses are optional for eye protection, Jeans, boots rarely gloves and plenty of patches.
We can also have the weekend warrior, the Claytons clubbie, they can usually be found in groups outside the local Cafe sipping on latté, they are normally much cleaner, the bikes are cleaner and they also have the open face helmets, although they tend to be less stubborn on this subject and will wear a full face if the weather is bad.
Then we have the Beach rider, thongs, board shorts and singlet, these guys are actually good value, their bikes are always very low in kilometres when they sell them, probably to do with the amount of time they sit in the shed waiting for the owner to re grow skin to 90% of his or her body after the crash on the first day of summer two years ago.
There are also a lot of us that have our hero’s in the racing scene, many of us buy replica leathers, helmets, gloves, boots and so on, even the bikes we ride we copy our hero’s, I swear, last weekend I saw Rossi, Stoner and Baylis on the Old Road! For others, it is nothing more than being very practical in what we wear and ride in, we look for weather protection and safety first and then think about the style of the item.
Everyone has a comfort zone, everyone has a expected or accepted level of protection they want. We see it every time we go for a ride. On hot days, the guys that wear T shirts because it’s hot, the guys that still wear leather jackets in the heat. The riders that at the first drop of rain stop, normally under a bridge or overpass and put the wet weather suit out, or the rider that will take the gamble and not have a wet weather suit.
The distance of your ride can have a big impact on your choice of weather protection, there’s nothing worse than getting soaked to the skin in the first km’s of a thousand km trip. It can also be just as frustrating to spend 15 mins getting into your wet weather gear to find it turns into a 38 degree day just 10 mins up the road.
One of the biggest influences on what we buy. Everyone has a budget, everyone has an opinion on what is too expensive or too cheap. This is where you have to do your home work, shopping around with different suppliers of product, getting feedback from people about a particular brand or style of clothing or helmet, getting into stores and physically trying stuff on. These things all help to give you a chance to make a valued decision on how much you are prepared to spend.
Safety Helmets are required by law in Australia to meet a certain level of safety, from the very cheap helmet to the most expensive, they all must meet that level of safety to be sold in this country. The more exotic the materials the more you pay, the flasher the paint work, the more you pay. Yes some brands offer a much higher level of protection, but the final choice is yours. There are no regulatory standards for clothing for road use, different suppliers offer certain information on their product, abrasive tests and so on. Try to buy what you can afford but with the highest level of protection for your money.
A strange category. What I mean by this, is an understanding of what you want from your safety gear. Do you want the maximum protection from a crash? The maximum protection from the elements? Clothing that offers some built in protection but not over the top in both price or safety? Do you want to just ride in jeans and T shirt and not be concerned about the consequences? Many riders don’t understand these questions and don’t know how to come to a decision as to what is best or needed by them. Experience is one of the ways to learn how to make that choice, but experience can come at a cost, you may learn the hard way after a crash and then realise that the thongs and shorts weren’t such a good idea after all. Each rider has to make that decision before he rides, and each of us as individuals, will make different decisions. Let’s all hope we make the right ones.
Type of riding:
This goes back to what was said earlier, there are so many different forms of riding, from racing to road riding. If you were doing a track day, you wouldn’t turn up in jeans and runners, you would make sure that you had the appropriate clothing for the day, the same goes for riding down to the corner shop, it’s easier to leave the thongs and shorts on, but is it really the correct way to ride? The old saying, horses for courses is true, pick you clothing to suit the riding. Types of safety gear out there is immense, let’s look at what you can get and what you really need for a particular discipline of riding.
Trail riding / motocross:
Weekend trail riding in one of the biggest actives in the world. Protective clothing is a must, There are very few of us that go all day on the trails without some sort of fall or obstacle being flung at you. Helmets are different to road helmets, usually very light, large peaks and open frontal areas for goggles to fit. Boots are very tough robust and rigid to support the foot, ankle and lower leg from injury and obstacle ( rocks, stumps and the like) that may be in your way or you land on.
Body armour is very extensive, Back, chest, knee, elbow, neck and hands all need to be protected. The type and style of this can vary, but it is very very different from what you may have as a road rider. Pants and shirts are usually light and offer minimal protection, the armour is relied on quite heavily to do this task. Cuts, grazes, bruising and broken limbs are part of the sport so protection is a must.
This type of rider is there in big numbers, many have a type of bike that has some form of link to racing or has been modified to be better than stock. The riders usually take pride in what they ride, as a result they know that protection is vital if they are going to have a play on their favourite bit of road. These riders tend to have two piece or one piece leathers, back protectors, armour in their leathers, good quality gloves and good quality helmets.
The track rider / racer
At the high end of the sport where speed and pushing to the limits is an everyday occurrence, the need for top quality safety gear is a must. One piece leathers with built in armour, additional back protector and chest protector are the norm, quality gloves, top level boots and helmets are also a must for these riders. Coming off the bike at extreme high speed requires a very, very high level of safety gear.