Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Importance of Motorcycle Gear

The Importance of Motorcycle Gear

Looking cool on a motorcycle is one thing.  Being cool is quite another.

Joanna Benz only wears full motorcycle gear when riding
Story by Jim Foreman and Irv Seaver BMW

One look at this title probably has most “All-The-Gear-All-The-Time” or ATGATT zealots aroused at least as much as when ‘enjoying the stories’ (ahem) in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

This is not about ATGATT or repeating the mantra on social media posts like a brain-dead zombie. Instead, this is a discussion on why good quality motorcycle gear matters and why you should make a point to own some and use it.

The 2013 GEAR study made some startling conclusions including this one.  “A substantial proportion of motorcycle designed gloves (25.7%), jackets (29.7%) and pants (28.1%) were assessed to have failed due to material damage in the crash.”

This means that cheap, decorative, and poor quality moto gear is a waste of money.  As the old proverb goes, “Buy quality, and you buy it once.  Buy cheap and buy it several times.”  In other words, you get what you pay for.  Spend some money on quality gear.  It’s better to have one set of high-quality riding gear than a closet full of poor fitting, cheaply made kit that wouldn’t protect you in the most minor of incidents.

“Nothing turns me on more than a rider in a helmet and race suit.” –Laura Ruddy

Laura Ruddy
Fortunately, one can find bargains when premium clothing lines go on closeout to make way for newer styles.  Stick with top brands like Held, Dainese, BMW Motorrad, REV'IT, and Alpine Stars and you’ll be good.

If money is super tight, there are several local and online retailers selling pre-owned motorcycle gear.  It’s usually in excellent shape and can offer many years of service to the new owner.  The same premium brands mentioned above are often available.

Yes, it’s known that many of you that are reading this get it already.  If so, please share this story with someone who needs a nudge in the right direction.  If someone shared this with you, consider that person a true friend who thinks you’re smart and deserving of the best!

Let’s get past the obvious first. If you think riding in a t-shirt, sneakers, shorts, and maybe a helmet is all the motorcycle gear you need, this may be a long and painful journey for you.  At least you’ll meet lots of women… Mostly nurses, in hospitals.


Starting from the top of your body down, a helmet is probably the most critical piece of safety gear you can wear.  It’s so crucial that many US States require helmet usage.  If one is trying to argue that they are better off in a motorcycle collision without a helmet, walk away.  They are completely full of it and probably also think they own Brooklyn Bridge.

Study after study concludes that helmet use offers the single most significant reduction in fatalities among motorcyclists.

What kind of helmet though?  In truth, a full-face helmet does the most to protect your brain and face in a collision.  They also are the quietest and keep bugs, rocks, rain, windshield washer fluid, cigarette butts, and other nasties off of your face while riding.  Whether it’s a solid full face or a modular helmet, these work the best in protecting the pilot and passenger.

Full-face helmets range in price from $79.00 at Cycle Gear to over $1000.  A surprising number of riders think the $79 helmet is perfectly fine.  It would be a wonder if they made any correlation as to what the helmet is protecting.

Yes friends, everything you are; your entire existence takes place in your brain and spinal cord.  Don’t you think it’s worth spending a little money to protect it with a high-quality properly fitted helmet?

This is all we are.  From the Bodies Exhibit
Yes, fitment is critical.  If it isn’t properly fitted, its effectiveness dwindles substantially.  Most people buy helmets that are too big for their head.  If it fits perfectly in the store, it will be too big in a couple of weeks.  It should fit snug, without pressure points.  Your cheeks may be pushed together like fish lips, but once it is broken in, it will fit perfectly and protect your head correctly.

The top makers of street helmets are Schuberth, Shoei, and Arai.  Time and time again, these brands have made helmets that offer comfort, quiet, airflow, and protection that is consistently proven effective.  That doesn’t mean brands like HJC, Shark, Nolan, AGV, and others aren’t good.  They are.  The key is that the helmet you choose fits your head in both size and shape properly and provides the comfort, airflow, aerodynamics, and quiet you want.

More importantly, it’s critical that you replace your helmet when it becomes too old.  For most brands, it’s 5 years from the date of manufacture.  Schuberth states you must discontinue use 8 years after the date of manufacture.  Every DOT helmet is required to have a Date of Manufacture label in the helmet.  Do you know yours?

Even if the helmet is never worn but kept in a cool, dark place, the EPS Liner (Styrofoam part that protects your head) degrades over time.  Like those cheap convenience store ice chests, it begins to harden and become brittle after some years.  With that, its protective capability quickly diminishes, too.

If your helmet is over 5 or 8 years old, it’s time to retire it and get a new one.

If your head has impacted the ground, however minimally, while wearing the helmet, you must retire it.  You may have just tipped over, in a parking spot, but if you hit your head, you must replace it regardless of whether or not it looks like it took damage.  Have you ever pushed your finger into one of those Styrofoam ice chests?  What happens?  Does it stay compressed or does it pop back out to normal?  That’s why they must be replaced.  The helmet did its job and protected your head.

Several helmet companies offer a significant discount if your helmet needs to be replaced after an impact.

If you buy a quality helmet, you will not have wasted your money on a stack of cheap helmets that may have looked super cool but doesn’t fit right, rattles, shakes your head, or suffocates you inside.

Armored Jacket

Mildred: “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” Johnny: “What've you got?” -The Wild One

One can’t imagine a motorcycle rider without some type of jacket.  A jacket is so much more than a fashion statement, for most people.

A jacket serves to keep riders cool in the summer, warm in the winter, dry(ish) in the rain, and unscathed in a get-off.  Add to that the benefit of being free of bugs, insect stings, gravel, and errant cigarette butts.

Up until the early 90’s all one really had commonly available was a thick leather or denim jacket to accomplish this.  Now there are adventure, touring, racing, spirited-riding, commuting, bike show, cruising, cold-weather, warm-weather, electric, and even air-conditioned jackets.

Wait!  Wait! Some of you are thinking, is he crazy?  Wearing a jacket in the hot summer?  Yes!  Furthermore, the type of summer jacket one wears depends on if they are in a humid environment or a dry heat.

BMW Motorrad Boulder Jacket
If one is riding in a dry heat, a solid textile jacket with zipper vents like the BMW Motorrad Boulder Jacket works best.  Open the zippers enough to get the air circulating around your body and enable its natural cooling.   If too much air is passing through, one will dehydrate quite quickly as the body works overtime to produce a cooling sweat.  Remember, a body never evolved to travel at 65+ miles an hour.  It’s up to us to help our body do its job to keep our temperatures regulated.

Let’s say you’re in Virginia in July.  It’s humid!  A large-mesh textile jacket works quite well in those environments.

Either way, be sure to drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Jackets do much more than regulating our temperature and keep us dry in the rain.  Most motorcycle jackets include CE rated armor in the elbows, shoulders, and often the back.

CE rated armor is explained quite well in this article by Motorcyclist Magazine.

On a get-off, a rider’s shoulder followed by the elbow is most likely to hit the ground hard.  Good armor is the difference between a little soreness and a hospital stay.

According to a March 2006 research study on motorcycle protective clothing, “Use of protective jackets and trousers, in particular, make riders significantly less likely to be admitted to hospital following a crash. Although (Protective Motorcycle Gear) often cannot prevent major injuries in high impact crashes; it can reduce torn ligaments, broken bones and gravel rash following minor crashes.”


This one should be quite obvious.  The first time one gets hit with a bit of gravel or impacted by a suicidal bug usually drives home the point that gloves are quite necessary.

This is one of those areas where using a leather (Cowhide, Deer, Goat, Kangaroo) or other natural abrasion-resistant material seems to work best.

The best gloves have familiar labels.  Look for Held, BMW Motorrad, Dainese, and Alpine Stars.

Indeed, any glove is better than no glove, but imagine if the glove you’re wearing will protect the heel of your palm and fingers when sliding down asphalt or being pelted by hail, bugs, or gravel.

Additionally, a gauntlet style glove goes a long way to reducing wrist injuries versus hand only protection.


Now we come to pants.  According to the previously mentioned study, Legs are 74% likely to have an injury in a motorcycle crash.  The points with the highest severity are the knees and hips.

Bull-It SP 120 SR6 - Ladies Ocean Straight with Covec®
For many riders, the belief in the myth that legs aren’t as important as the rest of the body is foolhardy.  Clearly, these riders haven’t demolished their patella (knee cap) from an impact with the street.  Our legs make up nearly 50% of the skin coverage on our bodies. Naturally, our legs also give us mobility.  Since though there are no vital organs in our legs, it’s often given secondary priority for protection by motorcyclists.

Like with elbows and shoulders, modern rip-resistant fabrics like Kevlar®, Covec®, nylon and other incredibly strong synthetic fabrics go a long way to protecting our legs from abrasion.  Add CE rated armor to distribute any impact over a wider area and prevent serious injury to your knees and hips.

You don’t have to look like a spaceman to have protective pants.  Companies like Bull-It Jeans, Drayko, Dainese, and BMW Motorrad offer stylish, all-day comfortable jeans that disguise the protective features of the pants while still flattering your figure and fashion choices.

Sadly, denim jeans such as Levi’s, AE, Wrangler, or Diesel jeans don’t hold up in an abrasion.  Typical fashion denim jeans look great but are not designed, built, or intended to withstand abrasion. They last less than a second leaving you vulnerable, bare-skinned, and without critical knee protection.  Several companies, including Icon, make over-pant knee and shin guards that can offer significant added protection for a passenger or rider.

There’s no excuse not to wear protective pants.


Only second to one’s head, feet are the most common injury in motorcycle collisions.

Dainese Torque D1 Out Boots
According to the real-world GEAR study from 2013:  The risk of any foot or ankle injuries in a motorcycle collision was reduced 45% by wearing motorcycle specific boots and (a surprising) 53% by non-motorcycle boots when compared to shoes or joggers.

The conclusion was that any good fitting boots such as hiking, or work boots provide a risk reduction similar to motorcycle boots.

To their credit, motorcycle specific boots usually don’t have laces that can catch on levers or foot pegs when moving your feet to the ground, at a stop.  They also can offer significant protection
against sprains and abrasion.
“A rider wearing full motorcycle gear is practically invisible to me.” Trooper Worthington (Colorado State Patrol Motorcycle Trooper)


Nikki Riordan and Lyndsey Livingston always ride in full gear

The 2013 motorcycle apparel GEAR Study conclusively found the following to be true.
Motorcyclists wearing protective clothing fitted with body armor were significantly less likely to sustain injuries to the protected areas compared to those wearing non-motorcycle clothing.

Specifically, when body armor was fitted, there was a 23% lower risk of injury associated with motorcycle jackets, 45% for motorcycle gloves, 39% for motorcycle pants for leg injuries, and 57% by wearing motorcycle, sturdy work boots, or hiking boots.

This doesn’t mean you are protected by a shield of invincibility, but instead, you significantly increase your chances of being unhurt and uninjured in a motorcycle collision by wearing high-quality, proper-fitting motorcycle gear and equipment.

Fortunately getting high-quality gear has never been easier than it is now.  Visit your favorite retailer to try on and buy quality gear.  Ask about specials and closeouts and please, don’t buy gear just because it’s cheap or has cool colors.

When you’re in Southern California, or need a trusted source for the highest quality protective equipment and apparel, visit Irv Seaver Motorcycles in Orange County, California to try on and buy or order top-tier apparel from trusted brands including Schuberth, Held, Shoei, Arai, Drayko Jeans, Bull-It Jeans, and the incredible highly rated gear from BMW Motorrad.


  1. You forgot to mention the brand Rev'it! :)

  2. Good article. Perhaps a future article encouraging others to ride with quality protective gear might include the benefits of how airbag technology is now also available.

    1. Thanks! Yes, Helite makes an awesome inflatable vest. BMW Motorrad, Dainese, and Alpine Stars also make inflatable gear, too.