If you’ve just bought your first motorcycle, it can be a pretty daunting task to work out what kit to buy. But it needn’t be confusing, and it needn’t be expensive, because we’ve tested and reviewed hundreds of pieces of motorbike clothing so can help you choose what suits your style and pocket…
Motorcycle riding kit can be expensive, but it’s possible to fully kit yourself out from head to toe – with proper gear – for as little as £300.
It’s worth visiting as many shops as you can (both online and in real life) to get an idea of what’s available. Giving yourself a budget of £500 to £1,000 will give you a very good range of gear to choose from, and using the articles linked below, you can go into your local shop armed with the knowledge that’ll help you buy the best.
Also keep in mind that a membership to BikeSocial can save you £100s – anyone who buys their motorcycle insurance direct from Bennetts (not through a comparison site), gets membership for free, or you can join here.
The only piece of riding kit you legally have to wear on a motorcycle in the UK is a helmet that’s approved to a recognised standard, which now means ECE 22.05 or ECE 22.06. If you wanted to, you could ride around in shorts and flips flops, as long as you have a helmet on.
But please don’t.
Invest in some decent-quality motorcycle kit and you’ll be far more comfortable on the bike, and you’ll be much better protected.
All motorcycle clothing sold in the UK and Europe has to be tested and certified as Personal Protective equipment, which means you can more easily compare how safe it all is. I’d always recommend going for the highest levels of protection, but only as long as the product’s comfortable and you can easily move around in it. Your budget will always be a consideration, but the safest kit doesn’t have to be the most expensive by any stretch.
In each section below, we’ll tell you what labels to look for in the kit you buy, and you can check out this article to help you find the safest motorcycle gear.
Expect to pay: From £80 for a budget lid to £300 for a mid-range and £400 upwards for premium.
Labels to look for: The latest helmets are certified to ECE 22.06, which is a tougher standard to meet than the out-going ECE 22.05, but you’ll still find these legally on sale too. DOT and SNELL lids cannot legally be worn in the UK, unless also certified to ECE 22.05 or 22.06.
The most important thing when buying a helmet is that it fits properly and that it’s comfortable, so I very strongly recommend that you buy your first lid in a shop, rather than ordering online. A large proportion of riders wear helmets that are too big for them, because they don’t know how to get correctly fitted. It won’t cost you more, and a reputable store won’t try to upsell you.
You’ll find three distinct styles:
Regardless of what style of helmet you choose, don’t assume one brand will be better for you than another, even if it’s what your mates have; our heads are all different shapes.
Find out more: Check out our guide to the best motorcycle helmets here.
Expect to pay: The cheapest gloves start at £20, rising to £60-£80 for some very good ones and £150 plus for the most expensive.
Labels to look for: Gloves are tested to EN 13594:2015 and will have a number on the label of 1 or 2. There aren’t many Level 2 gloves, but these are the more protective. KP on the label means they have knuckle protection.
Gloves are really important as your hands are often the first things to hit the ground in a spill. Find the ones that fit you well, but make sure that they’re secure on your hands as if – after doing up the straps comfortably – you can still pull them off, they’re not going to properly protect you.
Most winter gloves and some summer gloves will be waterproof, but keep in mind that the waterproof membrane will make them hotter. If you can afford it, you’re best off buying a pair of non-waterproof summer gloves, and a second pair if you’ll ride in the rain and cold.
Find out more: Check out our guide to the best motorcycle gloves here.
Expect to pay: Budget textiles can start at around £150 for the jacket and trousers, with some of the best coming in at around £500 for both.
Labels to look for: Jackets, trousers and one- and two-piece leathers all have to be certified to EN17092, and will have an A, AA, or AAA rating on the label. The more As, the higher the protection.
Okay, first of all do you want all leather kit? A leather jacket and trousers that zip together are more convenient than one-piece leathers, and a good quality set will offer very good protection. If you’re going to ride in the rain though, you’ll need a waterproof over-suit, which isn’t that convenient, but it works.
Motorcycle riding jeans are becoming more popular now, and most can be worn all day in comfort. Paired with a leather jacket, this is a great option for many fair-weather riders, and given the prices, there’s little reason to get any jeans that aren’t rated AAA.
If you’re going to be riding in the rain (let’s face it, there’s a good chance you will at some point in the UK) and you don’t want to carry a waterproof over-suit then consider buying textile riding kit as there’s a huge range available at a great variety of prices, and the best gear will keep you dry, yet also have effective ventilation, meaning you’re comfortable in all weathers.
Find out more: Check out our guide to the best motorcycle textiles here.
Find out more: Find out about the best motorcycle riding jeans here.
Find out more: Read our reviews of the best leather kit here.
Expect to pay: Proper bike boots cost from just £50, with some of the big name brands being around £120 to £180.
Labels to look for: Bike boots are tested to EN 13634:2017 and will have four numbers on the label, each being 1 or 2. 2 is the higher performance for (in the order you’ll see them) boot height, impact abrasion resistance, impact cut resistance and transverse rigidity, which is resistance to crushing if the boot’s trapped under the bike.
A large proportion of motorcycle boots are waterproof, and while the membrane will make them warmer, it’s less of an issue than with gloves; I tend to wear waterproof boots almost all the time.
In bad weather, taller waterproof boots are better as they’ll seal more effectively with your trousers. They’ll also provide protection further up the shin than the lower ‘high-top’ style boots, though these still offer ankle protection and can be very effective.
In good weather, my favourite riding kit includes a pair of bike jeans, a leather jacket and the more casual-style bike boots as they’re easier to walk around in.
Find out more: Read our reviews of the best motorcycle boots here.
All motorcycle clothing will include armour, and it’s really important to leave it in as it offers valuable impact protection, as well as adding to the abrasion resistance of your kit.
Armour comes in Levels 1 or 2, with 2 being the safer. A back protector is often included with jackets and is highly recommended, while some also include valuable chest protectors.
Another option for back and chest protection is an airbag system. Many brands use the subscription-based In&Motion airbag, or you might want to look at offerings from the likes of Alpinestars, Dainese and Helite.
Find out more: Read our reviews of the best motorcycle armour and airbags here.
Car drivers – particularly in the UK where there are fewer motorcycles and scooters for them to be accustomed to – aren’t looking for the narrow form of a motorcycle when pulling out at junctions; they’re used to seeing a large slab of car, van or lorry. Wearing more conspicuous clothing can be safer, but you don’t have to go for a full hi-viz outfit to be better seen.
In the dark, a lot of kit has reflective panels built in, but also consider the colour and design of your helmet, which is often the most visible part of your gear when you’re sat behind a bike’s fairing.
What you wear on a motorcycle will always come down to personal choice, but also learn to ride defensively. That doesn’t have to mean crawling along at a snail’s pace, or getting too negative with your attitude to other road users. Simply think ‘what if’ when you’re riding. What if the driver of the car waiting at the junction hasn’t seen you? What if there’s a horse in the road around the next bend? What if someone steps out from behind that bus? Be prepared to slow down or avoid the proble.
Buy the best kit you can afford, then enjoy riding your motorcycle or scooter as it’s one of the best ways of getting around!