We talk about gear all the time and it often comes up on the forums when people post pictures. It’s gotten to the point now that when anyone posts a picture of themselves on a motorcycle in motion and they aren’t wearing head to toe gear, they immediately add a disclaimer at the bottom explaining why they weren’t. Seriously though, I’d be willing to bet that most of us are hypocrites. I’ve been on bikes since I was 4, so 24 years now, and I’ve had my share of get-offs. Some occurred while I was wearing gear, some without, and thankfully I’m still here to talk about it. That said, I’m still guilty of wearing jeans or cargo pants, running shoes (though not often) and hoody’s. The problem with this hypocrisy now though is that there is absolutely ZERO excuse for not wearing gear.
When I started riding on the street at about 19 years old the most important thing to me was that I wanted to look cool, we all do. In fact, 9 times out of 10 if you tell me that your love of bikes has nothing to do with an image or attitude, I’d call you a liar. Especially on a streetfighter; we often want to look aggressive to match the attitude we want our bikes to portray. I remember rushing out to buy the first helmet within my budget that matched my bike and wearing the piece of crap hand-me-down jacket and gloves that the previous owner of the bike gave me. The gear I had was better than nothing, but I often found myself wearing other things because I thought I looked dorky. I didn’t own proper riding pants for another 2 full seasons and it wasn’t until FOUR years after I started riding that I bought proper riding boots.
I’m not going to talk about helmets because while I firmly believe that wearing any less than a full face helmet is completely stupid, that’s only my opinion. What I want to talk about though is the trend of motorcycle clothing manufacturers designing every day styles. They’ve realized over the last few years that not everyone wants to look like a Power Ranger and that chaps (while better than nothing) just don’t suit most people.
When I started working in the motorsports industry, ICON was fairly new and frankly their stuff was of questionable quality, mostly gaudy designs, and flashy colors. Soon after that they became the go to brand for those wanting to look “cool”. They’ve come a long way in the last 5 years and I will tell anyone about the several pieces of ICON clothing I own now and wear a lot. They also, at least in my opinion, were the catalyst for this trend among apparel manufacturers.
Icon isn’t the only one either—browsing through but one of my catalogs shows “cool” and casual looking protective gear from the likes of Alpinestar, Cortech, Fieldsheer, Joe Rocket and many more.
Let’s start at the feet shall we? I personally wear and adore my Alpinestar SMX-R boots and they are on my feet now every single time I ride. They’re actually more comfortable to me than riding in running shoes and I don’t have to worry about shoelaces catching on levers either. That said, almost every single motorcycle footwear catalogue now has shorter (while still covering the ankle) leather boots, no toes sliders, flashy graphics, and so on. Again with some the brands you can expect these types of boots from; Alpinestar, ICON, Sidi, Puma and more. Some of these boots are even nice enough to wear in business attire and are comfortable enough to wear all day.
Moving up the leg, there is no excuse for not wearing proper pants now. When I was training as an EMT, one stat that really struck a chord with me was that something like 75%+ (can’t remember the exact number) of motorcycle related injuries were injuries to the lower body. Now, that’s a skewed stat but it is important. The reason that number is so high is because of traditional thinking. When you got your first bike, which gear did you buy first? I know that I and most of my friends bought helmets, gloves, and jackets. No pants or shoes…I have seen now how far pant technology has come and it’s damn cool. I own two pairs of Draggin Jeans, one pair of ICONs, and one pair of Alpinestar denim style pants. They aren’t perfect, they don’t offer the same protection level as leather would in most instances but at least I have something. To all those who just wear jeans because “they’re good enough”—think back to falling off your pedal bike when you were a kid, how’d those jeans hold up? I can show you pics of the scars on my knees from this if you so desire.
For those who like wearing hoody’s, me included, there is a great option for you which is inexpensive when compared to a full on moto jacket, works great around town and provides the protection necessary for most rides. Look in the motocross section of your local shop’s apparel catalogue and find the body armor sets. ICON does have their field armor which has some chest protection and great spine protection but there are many others as well. Alpinestar and 661 are really popular but I’m a big guy and couldn’t find anything that fit me. Then came EVS with their offering and I bought the EVS BJ22 Ballistic Jersey. It is basically a complete jacket, arguably more protective than any of my textile jackets. It has it all—hard plastic chest, shoulder, elbow, forearm and articulating spine protection. Personally I think it looks completely dorky to wear without something over it but I wear it dirt biking with a football jersey on, street riding with my BFT or Custom Fighters hoody, or just with a T-shirt on. I can have the look I want without sacrificing myself to the pavement gods and considering that I believe the only reason I’m walking today is because of having a spine protector between me and a curb at 40mph, it’s an essential piece of kit for me and very often overlooked.
The cost does still add up, but not as bad as one thinks. I went to www.motorcyclegear.com (formerly newenough.com) and did some price shopping. To outfit myself in Alpinestar boots, gloves, armor, and reinforced jean pants would cost me just a hair over $500. Change brands and I can get that sane protection without the brand name for under $400. Both are a small price to pay to save my skin and potentially my life.
The final decision is up to you after all, it’s your hide but if you were to ask someone who wasn’t wearing gear what their medical costs and/or insurance costs and it may be a worthwhile investment in your biking future. We want you all to be safe so you can enjoy it for a long time and hopefully pass the passion on to a younger generation.