It was a stellar day for early March and we found ourselves threading our way through Turkey Creek's maze of retail sprawl. At one point in time we were sharing a red light with a lightly dressed rider sporting a pretty sweet R-1, but the gear or lack of it made me quickly realize that this was the perfect time for an installment about riders' gear and why you should wear it.
Like so many other sports, there have been empires built on the basis of accessories alone. If you can think of it, chances are some like-minded person already has a variation of the idea out there. With all the options available in this day and age, gear really has become a question of money and preference. While a question of quality can still loom on the open market, it does look like most manufacturers realize that consumers really do want the best bang for their buck and that includes form, function, and price but not necessarily in that order. It's for that reason alone that I wouldn't want to touch on a gear review, but I do want to focus on why it's important to wear it.
Something that many don't ponder is the fact that in a motorcyclist's life, he/she will more than likely have a low-speed "get off" or accident in their riding life. This type of wreck is usually less than 40 mph and it involves a low-side or an over-braking type of situation. It's this type of wreck that can easily affect your day-to-day living if you aren't better prepared for it.
Footwear: Most any seasoned rider will tell you that a good pair of boots is a key ingredient in any gear bag. The boot should come up well over the ankle to offer both protection from a side impact or slide, and rigidity so you can't bend side to side as easily. They should also have a good sole that grips most any surface and be insulated/vented to keep the feet warm and dry.
Pants: Pending the type of riding you are doing, pants come in different cuts and styles. Leather obviously should be of reasonable thickness and form-fitting with a couple of key stretch panels in strategic spots for comfort and air flow. There are also over-pants or riding pants available made of Cordura that are very comfortable for a long riding day that can be worn over your street clothing. Lastly, there are jeans available with some serious reinforcements in them for daily riding. With added sections of Kevlar in the knees, butt, and thighs, these pants are a definite skin saver.
Jacket: Whatever the material might be, a jacket should fit snug over the waistline with very little ruffles or bunched-up extra material. You should feel comfortable but contained. The design should allow for some air to pass through to keep you ventilated, but should also have some basic armor or bolstered areas like the backside of your arms, shoulders, and completely cover the spine.
Gloves: Gloves are a key element to all this. More often than not, people like to put their hands out in an attempt to stop or catch the body in a bad situation, and more often than not the hand loses. A glove should fit well everywhere. Double stitching is a must in my opinion with extra support sewn into the pads of the hands and fingers. The most useful gloves fit over the jacket to cover the wrists. Not to use a scare tactic, but how many of us want to do without day-to-day use of hands while road rash heals? Not me...
Helmet: The single most important piece of defensive wear that anyone can have. I can't stress helmet wear enough. Your full-face helmet should fit snug all around your head with no side-to-side motion when you twist your head quickly. There are many different shapes and sizes to heads as well as helmets so take your time and find one that fits you properly.
We are very lucky to have many good parts and accessories departments in the Knoxville area. The key to finding the right gear is by taking the time to talk to these fine folks because they will be your true wealth of information. Mail order is a a hassle if there's an issue and doesn't keep the money in our local community, so find someone in an area shop and work with them. I'm sure you will find you can get great deals while keeping your money in the neighborhood.