The pleasures of riding a motorcycle are many: taking in the surrounding sights, feeling the wind, and being at one with the machine are just a few examples. For many people, getting the biker image right is as important as the ride itself. Whether or not one is concerned with appearance, it is still necessary to wear the proper biking gear for protection. Motorcycling is far more dangerous than driving a car; while fender benders happen all the time with enclosed automobiles, any accident on a bike is likely to lead to injury, and it is only the lucky ones who walk away unscathed. Statistics from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia show that motorcycle fatalities are many times more common than fatalities resulting from car crashes.
Needless to say, biking gear is not just fashion clothing; it is the only thing that comes between a rider and the harsh reality at 48 km/h or more. It is essential, therefore, that riders know what types of biking gear are available and what kinds of protection they offer. Most of all, the rider must buy the gear and use it every single time he or she gets on a motorbike.
Biking Gear Materials
Leather is the iconic material for bikers, although modern bikers or those who wish to have a sportier or less "rough" image can choose synthetic materials. The following chart explains the most commonly used materials in jackets, trousers, suits, and gloves.
Biking Gear Material
Description, Advantages, and Disadvantages
Natural cow, bull, or buffalo hide; excellent abrasion protection for skin; may feel hot
Synthetic; resistant to puncture, impact, heat, and corrosion; lightweight; inferior to leather for abrasion resistance; used in bulletproof vests
Synthetic; strong and abrasion-resistant; lightweight and breathable; used in luggage and backpacks
Keep in mind that leather garments vary in quality. Some are made of top-grain leather, the uppermost layer of the animals skin and therefore the toughest. Jackets and pieces made of split-grain leather are softer but less durable, as this type of leather is made from the inner layers of skin.
Bikers should think about these materials and try to determine which one is their top choice as they look into specific types of gear.
Types of Biking Gear
Even non-riders are aware that most bikers wear a helmet, jacket, and boots. These important items create the quintessential biker image. In addition to these basics, there are several additional items that should be considered for the ultimate comfort and protection when riding.
Base Layers, Underwear, and Socks
The wind chill factor increases with speed. Even a mild spring day can feel chilly when riding out in the open. Biking on a winter day can be downright dangerous, leading to frostbite or hypothermia. One of the best ways to keep warm while preserving range of motion is to make use of special thin, lightweight, ultra-warm base layers and underwear as well as good, thick socks for warmth and cushioning inside sturdy boots. Balaclavas, masks, and neck tubes under a helmet are essential base layers for warmth of the head and face and frostbite prevention.
Helmets and Headwear
Protection of the head and face is essential. Helmets and headwear include different styles of helmets, visors, and goggles. Check legal requirements for helmets. Be sure that the helmet fits correctly, snug to the head; otherwise, the helmet is useless. Never borrow someone else's helmet unless it fits well. Face shields on helmets keep bugs, particulate matter in the air, and objects of all sorts from injuring the face and especially the eyes. Goggles should be worn with open-face helmets.
Body Armour and Protectors
It is unlikely that anybody who has ever been in a motorcycle crash while wearing body armour and protectors wishes that he or she had not been wearing them. It is likely that most people who have been in an accident while not wearing them wishes that he or she had. Armour protects against impact injuries and, to some extent, abrasions and friction burns. Armour may be built into jackets and trousers or a separate piece of its own. The protective pieces may be found in strategic spots, such as certain joints, or over most of a piece.
Motorcycle boots do more than just look cool; they keep the lower legs from being burnt on the bike's exhaust pipes or engine. They also stabilise the ankle, which comes in handy when trying to right a tipped bike. Boots may also protect the feet and legs from injury in case of a spill or wreck.
There are many heights of boots, from those that just cover the ankle to those that reach up to the knees. The choice depends on one's fashion aesthetic as well as the degree of protection desired. Good old leather boots are the most popular and give the traditional "biker look" for cruising and touring, although modern synthetics such as Lorica and GORE-TEX are used to make racing boots.
Like jackets, motorcycle gloves are most often fashioned from leather or a durable synthetic. Some gloves even feature armoured protection at the knuckles. Wearing gloves protects the hands from calluses caused by accelerating and braking. They also protect the hands in the event of an accident.
Jackets, Vests, and Waistcoats
One of the most recognisable types of motorbike gear is the jacket. The classic Schott Perfecto leather jacket popularised by American actors Marlon Brando and James Dean in the 1950s, as well as punk rock musicians in the 1970s and 1980s, remains the iconic biker jacket. Newer jackets in Kevlar and Cordura allow for some variation in colour, and some wearers consider these to be more comfortable than leather.
Motorcycle vests and waistcoats serve several purposes. First, they add a layer of warmth and help to break the wind. Second, they serve as protection for the torso and may include armour or simply serve as an extra layer of skin. For those bikers who insist on riding in their shirtsleeves in warm weather, the arms are dangerously exposed, but at least the internal organs are less vulnerable with a protective garment over the chest, abdomen, and back. Third, some waistcoats are made in neon or reflective colours and are designed to increase a rider's visibility in inclement weather or at night. Ideally, these garments should be worn during the day as well for an extra degree of noticeability.
Leathers and even lightweight protective synthetics with long sleeves may feel oppressive on a hot summer day, but when the choice is between heavy perspiration and mild discomfort and the potential for losing skin, hopefully the choice is made clear.
As a jacket protects the upper body, durable trousers protect the buttocks and legs. They also protect the lower legs from hot parts of the bike if tall boots are not worn. Some bikers prefer to wear denim jeans with leather chaps.
Leathers, Suits, and Over Suits
Protective over suits may serve different purposes. Some are waterproof suits for rain wear; these are worn over regular leather or other protective garments. Others feature a thermal lining for extra warmth on chilly and windy days.
Motocross racers and sports bikers wear one-piece zippered protective suits to ensure that the top and pants do not separate and expose the back and belly in a wreck. Still, there are some two-piece leathers and suits, which are primarily worn by leisure riders.
Where to Find Biking Gear
You can obtain biking gear from retail centres such as sporting goods stores, motorbike shops, and leather goods shops. Pre-owned apparel is often in good condition if it has not been through an accident and if the leather has been properly cared for. You can check out consignment shops, classified adverts, and online auctions for used biking gear. Internet auctions offer new items as well as used ones.
How to Buy Biking Gear on eBay
You can find a wide selection of biking gear for men, women, and children on eBay. Starting at the home page, type the word "chaps" or a more complex set of words "Spada jacket waterproof yellow" into the Search field. Click the Search button or press the Enter key. You can then start looking at individual items right away or choose a more specific category. Use any available category filters, such as those for gender, style, size, and brand, to narrow down your results.
If you are interested in looking at multiple types of biking gear, you may wish to navigate through the directory. This shopping method allows you to view several related categories and make notes of the one you wish to check out. To use the directory, go back to the home page and click on the All Categories link. Continue to click category links until you get to motorcycle clothing, and then follow the same steps as described in the keyword search section to narrow down the listings.
Biking gear looks cool to some people and is often worn by non-bikers, but this apparel is primarily designed for functionality. Motorcycle riders are vulnerable to the environment and the elements, to other drivers, and to potential hazards; in reality, almost anything in the environment can be considered a hazard when riding a bike. Even tiny bugs, twigs, and pebbles can feel almost like bullets at high speeds. While riding is inherently dangerous due to the nature of riding exposed on a fast-moving vehicle, riders can protect themselves somewhat by wearing the proper protective gear. Biking gear includes:
- Base layers, underwear, and socks for warmth
- Body armour and protectors to prevent impact and abrasion injuries
- Boots to stabilise the ankles and protect the feet and lower legs from burns and abrasion injuries
- Gloves, jackets, vests, waistcoats, and trousers for warmth and to minimise abrasion injuries
For most items, the primary choice is between old-fashioned leather, which still reigns as one of the best materials for protection, and modern synthetics, which are lightweight and have a sportier look. Above all, the commitment to wear any type of gear regularly is the best way to avoid injuries.