Motorcycle clothing increases your comfort, helps with certain actions, and serves as a shield between your body and other objects in a crash.
However, these goals can only be achieved reliably when you choose the right gear and wear it correctly. Motorcycle gear that is too big or restrictive or is just straight up the wrong choice for a specific ride, can have negative effects on your riding quality.
Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to wearing protective gear.
In many countries, there are laws indicating which motorcycle protective gear is mandatory. In most cases, that applies to wearing a helmet. Other than that, a motorcycle rider is pretty much free to choose his gear however he prefers it, which leaves us with many different philosophies when it comes to the question of which level of protection is necessary.
Typically, it comes down to weighing whether the risk of riding or the hassle of wearing full protective gear is preferable over the other. Careless riders will select their clothing based on comfort. A short ride in the summer might be accompanied by shorts or similarly protection-less items because a) it’s hot and b) it’s just a short distance, and they are just going to drive carefully.
The other extreme is a philosophy called All The Gear, All The Time, shortened to ATGATT. Practitioners of ATGATT don’t skip out on wearing proper protective gear ever, meaning:
●motorcycle clothing (jacket and pants/a jumpsuit)
All of these are made from appropriate materials, such as leather or Kevlar, and protective plating when necessary. These types of motorcycle clothing count as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adhere to the European Commission’s safety standards for professional protective gear.
Several studies and statistics show that ATGATT is the better approach. Trusting in your ability and dressing according to your comfort can have catastrophic consequences, while riders dressed in protective gear survive crashes with overwhelmingly fewer injuries and less recovery time.
Important Factors for Motorcycle Clothing Effectiveness
Protective motorcycle gear has more purposes than just the protection factor, though it continues to be the biggest one. PPE should:
●be abrasion-resistant – the tough fabrics protect you from road rash and cuts
●be armored – armored plates protect your bones from breaking and items from penetrating your body
●improve visibility – visor/goggles protect your eyes from small particles and wind to help you see clearly and reflective markers/bright colors make you more visible to other traffic participants
●give weather protection – the gear protects from UV-rays, rain, wind, heat, and cold to keep you comfortable for a long time
●provide utility – the gear helps to make the ride more comfortable and aid you in operating the bike more efficiently, for example by using padded gloves to numb the road vibration and give you a better grip
Especially for an item like the helmet, it is important to pick the right quality. Never buy a used helmet and carefully inspect the condition of other gear you might buy second-hand. High-quality PPE is certified by the European Commission or similar institutions. Things like the armor plating can often be replaced and should be if the items have been in a crash.
PPE will not help as much as it should if you choose the wrong size. Picture a motorcycle jacket with armor over delicate body parts, like your elbows. Not every human has the same proportions. While one person with your size might fit into a jacket perfectly, the same might not be true for you. If the reinforced parts of the jacket aren’t properly covering the areas they are supposed to protect, you might as well wear no plating at all.
A general rule is that motorcycle gear must fit snugly, or it will not cover the right bits and be pulled on by the wind. However, if the gear is too tight, it will restrict your movements and hinder blood flow, which can be especially dangerous on long rides.
Materials like leather don’t stretch all that much, but you can break them in to make them easier to move in. Most leathers can be softened by submerging them in warm water for about 10 minutes, then wearing them for 30, continuously moving and stretching your fingers to loosen the gloves. Other methods use rubbing alcohol or glove oil.
If you ride in the middle of the summer, wearing your padded double-layered leather jacket might not be the best idea. While it provides great protection, overheating your body makes you more likely to lose concentration, make mistakes, and can eventually lead to fainting. The other way around, wearing light summer protection in winter will leave you stiff, shaking, and eventually, lead to hypothermia.
ATGATT does not mean wearing the same gear all the time but wearing the appropriate gear with proper protection for the acute situation. Look at the environment you will be in during a ride and pick the right gear according to the influences you will be under.
Picking the right motorcycle gear is a question of comfort and practicality. The clothing should both be functional in protecting your body in motorcycle crashes, but also comfortable enough to not hinder your actions.
Being uncomfortable, squeezed too tightly, too hot, or bothered by any other uncomfortable feelings can be distracting, which isn’t something you want to be on a motorcycle ride. At the same time, the appropriate protection must be given. Part of that is a certified gear with protective plating that fits well enough to cover important bits and does not restrict movement.
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