How To Choose Clothing For Riding Your Motorcycle
What to wear while you’re riding your motorcycle is a practical concern, and one not to be taken lightly. The longer you ride, the more likely it is that you’ll face changing weather conditions, temperature variations and road conditions from dirt to asphalt and every combination thereof.
So what do you wear?
It’s not like taking a quick run to the store in your car. What if it rains? Hail? Your Metal Mulisha t-shirt just won’t work in a hail storm.
Clothing designed – or at least appropriate – for riding is damn near as big a part of the experience as the ride itself. You need the right gear to ensure your safety and to ensure your comfort; riding in the cold out in Mother Nature can be distracting and make your ride unpleasant if you’re under or over dressed.
I’m not saying the “biker look” is the only way to go. I am saying that the clothes you wear need to be up to the task.
Leather is and always will be the gold standard of motorcycle apparel. It’s the established material for motorcycle riding because it’s tough, and in a worst-case scenario, it performs like a reinforced second skin. Leather provides superb protection against impacts and scrapes. It has the virtue of longevity and durability. It is without question, well worth the price. You have a wide variety of choices from modern or retro classic styles right off the rack. You can go for a Terminator look or something more classically “biker,” and depending on the way you ride, you can find cut and fit specs perfect for your style. Tight if you ride hi-rev sport bikes, maybe a little more loose-fitting if you’re out barhopping.
Leather isn’t naturally waterproof, and that can be a drawback. Your leather jacket and chaps will stay wet for a long time if it rains, and they’ll smell like, well, wet leather, once you reach your destination. That wet leather smell has the staying power of “that wet dog smell,” so it’s a consideration you have to take into account. Many current brands combine a waterproof membrane or lining (and often removable) which solves some of the inherent problems, but though leather may be passably ‘breathable,’ it tends to be too damn hot in summer.
Today’s textile garments have a lot of hype attached to them, but they do have the virtue of being waterproof, breathable, and they sometimes come reinforced with Kevlar. They dry fast. They don’t smell like the back seat of a New York taxi when they get wet and they can be extraordinarily cool on a hot day. I personally don’t love them when it’s cold, but they suffice. Modern textile jackets and pants generally come with removable linings, inside pouches and spaces for adding or removing armor. You also get the benefit of pockets which close with Velcro and other variants. If you’ve ever had your vintage Zippo lighter cartwheel down the road behind you after falling out of the pocket of your leather jacket, you can feel me on this one…
Don’t be a jackass. Find some way to look like you. You do not, repeat, do not, have to look like Marlon Brando or a member of the Village People while you’re riding. Your personal style and colour preference should lead you in your choice of riding gear. There’s no shortage of style selections in appropriate gear, so let your conscience be your guide here. Classic. Trendy. Italian. Urban. Take your pick, just make sure whatever you’re wearing doesn’t interfere with the safe and precise operation of your machine. Laying your bike down in the latest and greatest clothing is not an option…
For track day, don’t be a tool. Get some good leathers and make sure they fit tight. Lots of track day events don’t even let you wear textile-based clothing, and that’s a good thing. It’s no fun to burst into flames if you go over the high side in a corner.A one piece suit is usually a requirement on the track and a regulation requirement if you’re in most sanctioned race situations.
Armour-added gear is de riguer for motocross and GP events, so you should have and wear the composites which are up to the task of keeping you from being peeled like an overripe grape. This type of gear generally features a rating system like that developed for helmets, so check these out. Armour is generally not found in older leather styles or motorcycle garments, and the old ones work like a dream, but it is an important component of proper gear. How could you argue with extra protection to your knees, elbows, hips and back?
Your motorcycle clothing has numerous demands to satisfy. It’s to keep you comfortable in various environments but needs to keep you safe. You need it to keep you warm and dry, but cool and ventilated in the warmer seasons. Even more important, it should protect you if you come off your motorcycle or scooter. And finally you want it to fit well, not be too big and gather air – and look stylish too!
You have a couple of options here, you can go for a waterproof outfit for everyday use, or you might opt for a separate rain suit designed specifically for the needs of motorcyclists. Essentially, you wear one of these over whatever you happen to have on over any gear you wear.
One good factor? Rain suits usually include highlighted strips and built in reflectors or brighter colors which aide visibility in traffic in darker weather conditions. They feature a tight fit and good, sealed closures over your wrists and ankles. The upshot? You stay dry inside.
Buy large here. This kind of gear should easily go on and off over your boots and, ideally, keep you from having to remove your helmet. These suits should be roomy enough to provide a free range of motion when riding, so give any purchases a ‘dry run’ before you set off for Argentina, Chile, Machu Pichu or Patagonia.
Of course, a rain suit made to pack away into an easy-to-carry pouch is the ultimate killer app.
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