Something that becomes glaringly obvious the first time you get on a motorcycle is just how vulnerable you are riding down the road. What would be a minor fender-bender in a car can easily turn to a life-altering incident on a bike.
As riding a motorcycle comes with risks, it is smart to limit the negative impact of them (not to mention the pavement) should we dump our bike!
We’ve already talked about picking out a helmet, but what about the rest of your body?
Two Schools of thought: ATGATT and SQUIDs
On the one side we have those who feel the only gear you need to wear is the helmet, if a law requires it. These folks essentially have no protective gear whatsoever. They get up, walk of the door, and whatever they are wearing, they ride in. The Acronym used to describe this kind of rider is SQUID and can stand for “Super Quick Until I Die” or “Stupidly Quick, Underdressed (and) Imminently Dead” depending on who you ask! Some extremes in this camp will even ride with no shirt and in flip-flops.
On the other side of the spectrum are those who feel you should wear “All The Gear, All THE Time.” That means always in a proper helmet, jacket, gloves, boots and pants. These folks believe even if you are just going down the road to the store, you gear up.
So, let’s talk about the four additional items of protection a motorcyclist might wear.
Other than looking cool, motorcycle gloves serve several purposes. First they protect your hands while you ride. Think for a moment of both of your hands on your handle grips, knuckles facing forward into the wind. Riding down the road they are the first part of your body exposed to flying debris. A rock flicked in your direction can cut your knuckles wide open; and this happens more often than you think.
Gloves also keep your hands warm in cooler weather, and some even come with a heating element (as do all the gear we will discuss) for when it’s really cold. Since your hands control the motorcycle, it’s smart to keep them safe, warm and nimble. Not to mention, if you lose your balance at a stoplight and go down, you are going to extend your hands to brace yourself. Do you want a nice leather glove or your bare hand coming into contact with the asphalt?
Like our gloves for our hands, boots, protect your feet from oncoming objects, especially stones. Good boots will offer reinforcement to your ankles and keep your feet from slipping when balancing the bike.
Good boots also keep your feet warm and dry! And finally if you dump your bike, there is a good chance the bike will be lying on top of one of your legs with your foot pinned to the ground and possibly even burning your leg on the exhaust. At those times you want to be wearing good quality, sturdy motorcycle boots.
At first glance, blue jeans seem to be enough, and it is very common to see motorcyclists riding in them. All is well unless you find yourself being dragged along the pavement. Most normal material will wear down to your skin less than a second. A good pair of motorcycle pants will not only keep you warm and dry, but also have some kind of reinforcement (most commonly Kevlar) to protect your skin. Many also have knee and hip protection to protect you in case of impact.
This very cool and (for some models) iconic item also serves a purpose! Most people think that any leather jacket can be a motorcycle jacket; and while that is true, leather does provide a good deal of protection, a good jacket (textile or leather!) will have a few more features you may want to consider.
First any motorcycle jacket will have longer sleeves than a casual jacket. This is because when riding, you will stretch your arms forward and you want that extra length to cover any exposed skin.
Next a motorcycle jacket often comes with extra protective padding, or hard armor. Shoulders, elbows and back are the most common.
One of the quickest objections to wearing a jacket is the heat. Sure, we want to be warm and dry in cooler weather, but on a hot summer day, who wants to wear all that leather?
The good news is, you don’t have to! Abrasion resistant textile, and especially mesh, jackets can offer good ventilation to keep you cool and at the same time offer excellent protection.
So there you have it! You now know the basics to make some purchasing choices. Whether you ride ATGATT or like a SQUID is your own personal choice; just make sure it’s an informed one.
My next blog will talk about “riding etiquette,” some of the dos and don’ts when you come in contact with other riders!
Until then; remember, ride safe, ride smart, and have fun!
David Ianetta was born and raised in Boston, MA. After moving around in his younger years, he now lives in North Carolina. David has a passion for riding motorcycles,often exploring the scenic back roads of NC with is wife, Rika, who rides her own along side him.
David also writes a Daily Blog for Freedom Biker Church called, “Daily Rock“ located at www.freedombikerchurch.com and is a contributing writer for Southeastern Rider magazine.