Motorcycle Protective Gear – Complete Beginner’s Guide

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Regardless of the size, type, or style of your motorcycle, quality gear is a good investment in your riding enjoyment and safety. The safety gear will keep you alive during a crash, warm when it is cold, cool when it is hot, and dry when it is wet.


Motorcycle Protective Gear

Speed is among the elements that necessitate safety gear on a motorcycle. Typical motorcycle speeds exceed 50 mph, especially on the highway, and the human body is not designed to absorb impacts at such speeds.

When it comes to abrasion, you can estimate to lose a millimeter of flesh for every mile/hour you are riding over 30 when you get into a crash. If you are hitting 70 mph, for example, you can suffer severe injuries.

It is easy to dismiss the need for safety gear if you have an advanced skill level. The truth, however, is that everyone crashes, even the most seasoned riders.

No two crashes are the same, and it is possible to count fatalities in a 30-mph crash and none in a 70-mph accident. Smart gear choices will drastically reduce the risks of injury and make riding all the more fun.

Importance of Good Quality Motorcycle Gear

Purchasing quality motorcycle gear will be the wisest decision you make. As with any other investment, they are cheaper ways to go, but how much investment should you channel into your gear?

A common concern is whether quality gear has to be costly. It is becoming cheaper to get decent gear, and there are favorable choices in the market. On the other hand, there are expensive gear that may not provide the best protection.

Brand name and cost, while important, are not indicators of quality. You can watch out for certification while browsing through gear, and use the buying guide below:

– Consider your Riding Needs

You need to be clear on the type of riding you intend to engage in to narrow down your choices. Will you wear the gear on and off the motorcycle? What weather do you prefer to ride in?

– Identify Your Primary Priority

You can evaluate gear on functionality, style, value, and levels of protection. It is improbable to find a piece of gear that scores perfectly in all these factors.

You will have to have a few qualities that you value the most. Embracing style and convenience would, for example, mean sacrificing a level of functionality.

– Choosing Material

The material of the gear should offer abrasion resistance. Leather reigns as the most popular material for leather, pants, and jackets. Other materials can, however, offer similar levels of protection.

Some motorcycle apparel is constructed of modern synthetic fabrics like Kevlar and Cordura. You get function and fashion with these fabrics, and they are also light in weight. Most synthetics are additionally water-resistant. Synthetics are however less durable than leather.

Motorcycle Helmet

Helmets are common topics of discussion in motorcycle forums. Given the many styles and brands available, it is easy to be overwhelmed.

One primary query is whether to buy a half-face or full-face helmet. 45% of all impacts to the head in crashes involving motorcycles occur in the face region. A full-face helmet is, therefore, your safest bet, and they will typically cost a couple of hundred.

The shell material and construction also impact on the rating and protection of a helmet. The most common materials include Carbon Fiber, EPS, Polycarbonate, and Fiberglass composite.

The helmet size will dictate your comfort. It should not be too loose or tight, so getting the properly-sized helmet is vital. Try several helmets on to get the right fitting. An uncomfortable one will make you less-focused on the road, which can be hazardous. A good helmet will also deliver a good field of vision and proper ventilation.

Another consideration is safety adherence. Ensure that your choice is at least DOT-certified. Other rating standards include SHARP, ECE 22.05, and Snell (M2015). The standard you should observer will depend on your locality.

Riders also pay attention to the weight of helmets. A light helmet will transfer less power during impact, and it is even more comfortable and enjoyable to use.

Helmets will weigh between 3lb to 3.9lb. A well-fitting one will not over-burden your shoulders and head. Getting a wrong-weight helmet may lead to neck pain and even neck injury over time.

Helmet brands will also promote their innovative technologies to make their products stand out. Look for innovations that boost safety.

MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System), for example, protects a rider’s brain from impacts that result in rotational motion. It will absorb and redirect the impact forces that can prove fatal to the brain in a crash.

An expensive helmet does not always mean maximum protection. Some brands offer budget-friendly helmets that will protect you adequately.

Motorcycle Jacket

The motorcycle jacket is must-have gear for any rider. A leather jacket is the image that will probably come to mind when thinking of motorcycle jackets. While leather still dominates the scene, other textiles have been adopted on the trail as well.

The style you select will be informed by the type of riding you do, including adventure, racing, cruising, and street.

When it comes to material, leather is appreciated for its excellent abrasion resistance. The main chassis of motorcycle racing jackets feature leather for its protective qualities. Since they are made to be thick, they will keep you insulated in old weather.

Leather is also durable and easy to repair and clean. Textiles edge leather out when it comes to protection from weather elements. Synthetic fabrics breathe better when it is cold, and they are also able to repel water.

Textile jackets have been made tougher by incorporating materials like Kevlar. These jackers will also be cheaper than leather products, and you will find more range and variety.

Modern-day motorcycle jackets include armor and padding. When the motorcycle jacket was first unveiled, it offered no such inclusions and would therefore not provide much in the way of protection.

Padding in high-impact regions was subsequently added. Armor soon followed although it was rigid and bulky. Motorcycle armor technology has advanced to almost be unnoticeable in the jacket.

Visibility / reflectivity is another factor to appreciate in a motorcycle jacket so that you avoid accidents. Most brands will provide their jackets in reflective material and Hi-Viz colorways. Other jackets will have inconspicuous reflective piping that becomes bright when a headlight hits it.

If you are especially keen on warm-weather riding, you should observe the ventilation on the jacket. Some jackets will have a mesh material or straight-through venting. Look for intake vents at the front and exhaust vents at the back.

Other jackets will be fitted with removable liners, which will add to the jacket’s versatility. Insulated liners will make the jacket warmer when it is cold and can be removed when it becomes hot.

A motorcycle jacket should additionally be of the right fit. A small one will make the rider work hard to move, leading to fatigue and constricted blood supply. A big one can ride up during a slide, and leave your skin exposed.

Motorcycle Pants

A pair of jeans will not do well on a motorcycle, as you need a pair that is designed for the rigors of the road. A quality pair will protect your knees and hips from abrasion and weather elements. Pants should also offer maximum visibility and ventilation.

Like motorcycle jackets, the pants also come in a variety of materials, with the most common being leather, Kevlar jeans, and textiles. Your jacket can inform your selection, but it should be useful either way.

A leather pair will offer the most protection. Textiles will provide weather-resistance, and they can be designed to be an additional layer over regular pants so that you can wear them to and from work. Textiles pants can also include removable lining for the extra warmth when it is cold.

Denim is typically interwoven with a second fabric to boost its abrasion-resistance in the event of a fall. Kevlar is the most popular addition in this aspect. Other denim pants will integrate extra padding in sensitive areas like the knees.

Quality pants should include CE-rated armor in the knees, shins, and hips. They should fit snugly, allow air and blood circulation, and be comfortable. There should also be a zip with which you can connect your jacket to your pants. A zip fastening that runs around your waist is the best option.

The ideal pair of pants will be influenced by the weather, type of motorcycle, and riding distance. Leather will offer maximum protection, but it can be uncomfortable on long journeys.

Textiles will provide ventilation, visibility, and significant protection, but it is no perfect for all occasions. Riding pants should not ride up high and expose the top of your boots, and they should not be too tight or bulky that they make your ride uncomfortable.

Motorcycle Boots

Motorcycle boots should offer protection from crashes and elements, but should also be stylish and comfortable that you can walk in them in-between rides.

Motorcycle boots are not marketing hype, as they are designed to absorb impact. Most of the rider-specific features will not be visible and will include oil-resistant soles to guard against slippage, molded ankle protection, built-in shifter pads, and triple or double-stitching in the seams to disintegrate in a crash.

Motorcycle boots will have an accumulation of protective features that are absent in a high-quality working boot.

The engineering and materials that make a motorcycle boot withstand off-road terrains and motorcycle speeds, unfortunately, do not come cheap.

Most boots will be carved out of thick leather to deliver high abrasion resistance. Treated leather will be able to repel water. Some manufacturers will provide boots made of textile materials that are breathable and abrasion-resistant.

Closures are another consideration with motorcycle boots. Laces are conventional, but they can come undone during riding. Buckles and Velcro will offer a much better fit so that your boot will stay on even during a crash.

The best kinds will also have triple- or double-stitching to ensure they stay together should you crash. The sole should additionally provide the right level of grip.

Motorcycle Gloves

It is easy to overlook the vitality of a pair of good gloves, but they provide excellent protection for your hands. During a crash, the first human instinct is to break the fall with our hands. Your hands will, therefore, be the first organ to touch the ground.

A good pair will guard against abrasion and impact, so it needs to stay on your hands. Look for options with a retention strap to wrap around your wrist tightly.

Gloves should also come armored. While the knuckles and the top of your hand need protection, it is more vital to protect the base of your palm. Be keen on materials that will slide and not catch on the pavement and which will offer impact protection.

When riding in cold weather, it is easy for your hands to get cold, which is undesirable since you need to retain control of your motorcycle. A good pair will come with insulation and a windproof, waterproof layer.

Your gloves should offer a snug but comfortable fit since it would be dangerous for anything to get in the way of you controlling the bike’s buttons and levers.

Motorcycle Protective Suit

Motorcycle heat-to-toe suits offer both comfort and protection from the elements and crashes, but they can be expensive. If you are on a budget, opt for pants and jackets that zip together. You will get more flexibility this way as you can wear a single piece of the suit if the situation demands it.

You will get more control during riding with a one-piece, and the best ones will feel similar to pajamas. It should be waterproof and offer ventilation. One-piece suits may be incredible on the road, but they offer their own challenges off the bike. Choose one that zips up and down fast.

Motorcycle Protection Armor

Motorcycle body armor absorbs the energy that would find its way to your body during an accident and includes:

– Neck Braces

Neck braces are a relatively new invention, having been first marketed in 2004. Given how severe neck injuries can become, neck braces have become vital for motorcycle riders. Most braces are designed to restrict the movement of the neck and head in a crash and also deflect the impact to areas like the shoulders and chest. The brace may not entirely prevent injury, but it will reduce the risk of sustaining life-threatening injuries.

Neck braces are especially ideal for fast and adventure riders. Some companies will provide body armor with integral braces.

– Knee Braces

Knee braces are among the gear that protects the knee from injuries. They will typically have a solid external frame with a hinge located at the knee joint level. Look for a functional and certified one.

Most knee braces will be carved from carbon fiber, while other materials include 3DF foam and fiberglass reinforced nylon. The braces should also be adjustable while being compact enough to stay put during riding. Although the brace should have a solid frame, it should be comfortably light weight to avoid any restrictions.

– Knee Guards

If you have leather or denim motorcycle pants, it is wise to invest in a knee guard for the added protection. Most of the guards will come with a hard shell for durability and protection. The guard you select should offer full-knee protection, and it should be easy to fasten.

For added comfort, a knee guard’s cushions should attach well to a rider’s body. A slim profile design will give you a good fit for movement. Good knee guards come with breathing holes for ventilation and extra comfort.

– Elbow Guards

Your elbows are among the body organs that are susceptible to injury when riding a motorcycle. You will likely use your elbows and hands when breaking a fall. Elbows can also hit wayward branches or other riders, especially on off-road trails.

Elbow guards can be judged on pricing, lightweight, ergonomic design, and adequate protection. They commonly feature a well-stitched blend of spandex, polyester, and polyurethane.

This material should be complemented with meshed perforations to absorb sweat and boost breathability. Elbow guards are fitted with armor plates for added protection.

– Wrist Braces

A hyperextended wrist is among the common motorcycle injuries on the road. Think of how you naturally brace yourself during a fall. Most riders will put their hands in front of them as soon as they sense danger. If your hands impact on the trail or pavement, you can end up with a broken or a hyperextended wrist.

A wrist guard will stabilize your wrist, and reduce the severity of an injury to your wrist. While they are suggested for any motorcycle rider, they are particularly ideal for anyone who has sustained a wrist injury before. Good guards will keep old injuries from reoccurring and prevent new ones.

Kidney Belts

A kidney belt is one of the sure ways to protect your kidney while on the road with your motorcycle. It is a wide band that is constructed from reinforced material, and which protects the vital organs in the lower torso.

Not only will kidney belts protect you, but they will also improve your posture. Even if you do not get into a motorcycle accident, your body absorbs the strain of motorcycle riding.

Most of the vital organs in need of protection are surrounded by fatty tissue and are quite vulnerable to jerky movements and impact.

When it comes to kidney belt material, foam padding is among the popular elements. The belt should be light weight to encourage movement rather than inhibit it.

It should further be adjustable and fit snugly. It can have a triple- or double-strap system to ensure it stays on during riding.

Back Protector

A back protector is designed to absorb energy upon impact and spare your ribs, spine, and other organs like the spleen, kidney, and liver from injury.

A rightly-sized protector will fit comfortably under other protective gear. A small one will fail to protect the sensitive lumbar region of your lower back.

When purchasing a back protector, take your normal riding gear to ensure that everything fits into each other well. You can test the protector on your bike to assess the level of comfort.

Back protectors come in two levels, based on the level of impact, and a level 2 one will give the most protection.

Chest Protector

Chest protectors will be worn underneath your jersey or jacket for thoracic protection. The fit should be just right, especially if it is going underneath your riding clothes.

Riding a motorcycle can be exhilarating, but things can shift from fun to life-threatening very fast. A chest protector will cushion the organs in the part of your body from impact.

Chest protectors are commonly confused with roost protectors. The latter will guard against dirt, errant rocks, and debris, but leave your spine, chest, and back unprotected.

A chest protector will offer protection from the same things, in addition to protection from impacts.

Other Protection Gear

A rider can never be entirely safe on a motorcycle, and you can pack on additional gear to give you peace of mind while on the road.

Hearing protection is an area that is easy to neglect. Even with your ear tucked in your helmet, you will be continually bombarded by sound.

You can get earplugs from the store to guard against white noise, that is the sound of wind rustling over your helmet. The levels of traffic should also be reduced to offer comfort but to keep you aware of the environment.

You can boost your vision by getting a tinted visor because it can be challenging to wear sunglasses in a helmet. Motorcycle goggles will offer protection against elements like debris, rain, and tree branches.

Even if mouthguards can be uncomfortable, they will guard against chipped and broken teeth. Ankle braces and ankle supports will offer protection against hyperextension-related injury.

Some riders choose to wear long underwear with special features to withstand weather elements.


Riding motorcycle is as dangerous as any other extreme sport. The technology in motorcycle gear has advanced to offer both comfort and safety.

The essential gear protects vital organs like your head, hands, knees, and legs, which are directly exposed to riding elements.

Other products like kidney belts and chest and back protectors will cushion internal organs like kidneys and chest. Your gear should enhance your riding ability, and not impede on it.

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

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