Posted: 21 Oct 2011
According to the letter of the law, the only piece of clothing you have to legally wear on a motorcycle is a crash helmet – although decency laws would also probably insist on pants as well…
The most important part of your kit is your crash helmet, or lid. There is an old adage – bones mend, heads don’t. With helmets the rule is generally you pay for what you get, a £20 helmet from Korea may be road legal (with an ECE 22.05 approval sticker) but it won’t be as good as a recognised brand when it comes to protection or fit.
To help with the selection of your helmet the government has set up an independent testing body that rates each helmet, so go visit the site to get its results. The ACU Gold sticker means the helmet has been approved for track use by the UK’s governing body. It isn’t necessarily a guide to the helmet’s protective qualities.
When buying a lid, first take into account a few factors. A removable lining means you can easily clean it and stops odour, which is good. A helmet should last five years – will the style you like now go out of fashion? Do you like a double-D or ‘seat belt’ style fastener? It’s simple factors like this that make a difference. Now try it on.
Buying a helmet over the internet without trying it on is a bad idea. Everyone’s head is different and you need to make sure the helmet is not only the right size, but also a comfortable fit. Some riders find they have an ‘Arai’ head or a ‘Shoei’ one, odd but true. The salesman will assist with fit, but as a general rule snug is best without being over tight. A loose helmet that can virtually be spun around is next to useless in an accident.
Once you have bought your lid there are a few simple rules to keeping it in tip top condition. Don’t store it somewhere it may fall. A dropped helmet is rendered useless, since it cant be trusted in an accident to protect you.Avoid long exposure to direct sunlight, plus don’t leave your gloves inside it, since all the death and dirt on your gloves, will end up on your head?
Also, should you get your lid wet, use a drycloth not a hairdryer to dry it, as this will damage the protective lining. Finally never, ever, buy a second hand helmet. You simply don’t know its history and it’s not worth the risk.
You would have to be pretty stupid to venture out wearing just your pants and a helmet, so selecting the correct kit is essential. Shorts and a T-shirt may look cool and keep you chilled out on a summer day, but remember how much it hurt when you fell off your bike as a kid? That was at 10 mph, imagine the pain at 50 mph. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wear full leathers just to pop to the shops, alternatives are available.
Several companies do ‘motorcycle jeans’. These have inbuilt protection such as Kevlar lining and armour and while not as good as leather, but are certainly better than your standard jeans in an accident. Lightweight summer jackets are also easy to come by and so are summer gloves and boots.
When it comes to protection leather is best, you don’t often see cows with cuts! Leathers come in two styles, one or two-piece. Race leathers (one-piece) look cool, but are designed for track use and aren’t the most comfortable to wear about town! If you are planning on touring a set of zip-together two-piece leathers are far more comfortable when off the bike.
As with helmets think of the colour/style when buying leathers. Green may match you Kawasaki, but will look stupid if you buy a yellow Ducati! Go for a snug fit as baggy leathers allow the armour to move around in an accident, rendering it less effective, and remember leathers ‘give’ slightly so will get looser with age.
Most leathers come with CE approved armour as standard, which is good. How much should you spend? Again, you pay for quality and while there are premium brands that bump their price due to image, they also spend a lot on R&D and protection. Go for the best you can afford and also check out the end of season sales and bike shows, bargains can be had if you don’t care about the latest style. Remember, black never goes out of fashion!
Boots and gloves are generally down to personal preference. Most track boots are not waterproof so it’s often a good idea to buy a crossover boot that has track features such as toe sliders but is also waterproof and breathable.
Gloves should also be a snug fit and if possible with solid knuckle protectors. A set of summer ‘race’ gloves that are lightweight but not waterproof and a reserve waterproof set won’t break that bank.
Finally, one essential piece of equipment that many riders over-look is a back protector. The foam item supplied with your leather suit is next to useless. Buy a quality separate back protector and always wear it!