New Rider Gear Guide
Welcome to the world of motorcycling! If you’ve never had to shop for motorcycle gear or a helmet before – even if you have – you may find it hard to pick out what’s right for you from the overwhelming number of options available. But when you visit Road Rider, we’ll do our best to walk you through the different features and fits of the products we carry, so you’ll feel good about the gear you choose. We’ve also put together this gear guide to give you an overview of the different kinds of protection you might be looking at when you visit Road Rider:
While you can’t know now exactly what you’ll want when you start riding more frequently, with knowledge and exploration it is possible buy gear now that you will love using for many years to come. We hope this New Rider Gear Guide and your visit to Road Rider helps you make that happen. Happy riding!
Your motorcycle suit of armor begins with the most critical piece of protective equipment- your helmet. When selecting a motorcycle helmet, try to follow these three steps:
- 1: Put in the time. The best thing you can do to help ensure you’ll be happy with your choice further down the road is to try on a few different brands and styles.
- 2: Identify the features you want. Once you get started trying on helmets, we’ll help you understand all the functions, features, and different helmet styles. It may be really important to you that your helmet has excellent venting, or has a drop-down sun shield. Whatever you’re looking for, these features will help you narrow down your choices.
- 3: Focus on fit. Once you’ve decided what features you want in your helmet, it comes down to how your head feels inside the helmet. That’s why comparing the feel of different helmet sizes and shapes will make you much more confident about your choice when you do select that first and most essential piece of safety gear.
The materials and construction of a motorcycle helmet determine the maximum protective potential of your helmet. But if a helmet doesn’t fit correctly, the money you’ve spent on a safe, quality helmet won’t translate into good protection when it counts. A helmet that is too big or otherwise ill-fitting won’t protect you properly and will move or whip around in the wind. More than just annoying, this kind of fitment is dangerous. A helmet that is too small or whose internal shape doesn’t match well with your head can give you headaches, localized pain, and feel very uncomfortable – especially over a prolonged period of time.
- A helmet should feel snug but not uncomfortably tight.
- Keep in mind that the pads inside the helmet will naturally break in and make it feel a bit looser (approximately half a helmet size bigger) after a few months or weeks of wear.
- Before you buy your helmet, wear it in the store for at least five minutes to make sure it feels snug but isn’t too tight.
- A helmet that is too tight will give you headache-like pain or pressure hot spots, and when you remove the helmet you may see red indentations on your forehead or cheeks.
Helmets can come with a few different safety ratings. Every motorcycle helmet that is legal in the State of California must have a DOT certification and a DOT sticker on the back. Some helmets, especially some half helmets, don’t have DOT certification. They aren’t legal, they aren’t safe, and you may be ticketed for wearing one.
A Snell M2010 rating is an additional safety certification that some manufacturers voluntarily submit to. A Snell-rated helmet will always be more rigorously tested and approved for safety than one that is simply DOT rated.
A helmet may also be DOT and ECE 22-05 rated. ECE 22-05 is Europe’s minimum required safety rating for their street helmets, like DOT is for us. Helmets that are ECE and DOT rated can be legally worn in both the United States and Europe.
There are many elements of a helmet’s construction that are measured during Snell and ECE tests, and ECE helmets surpass Snell helmets in strength and safety in a few collision and impact scenarios. But most evaluations conclude that, overall, a Snell rating is a more rigorous safety standard for street riding helmets than ECE. You can read all about it in detail in an in-depth discussion on webBikeWorld.com here.
At the end of the day, the right helmet is going to be different for everyone. There are a variety of factors to take into consideration, like safety, fit, function, and performance. That’s why we have hundreds of helmets, plenty of time, and lots of experience to help you pick out the right one.
Care and Replacement
The generally accepted life of a helmet is between five and seven years because the EPS lining (the hard part between the removable, soft lining and the exterior shell that does the brunt of the impact absorption work) naturally breaks down over time, weakening its protective potential. But this 5-7 year guideline only applies if the helmet has not been dropped, involved in an accident, or otherwise damaged. Helmets are not designed to sustain multiple impacts – once a force is applied, the outer shell is weakened, the EPS compresses, and the helmet should be replaced.
You can clean the lining and cheekpads of your helmet with water and a mild soap. There are also many helmet cleaning agents available specifically designed for helmet interiors, such as Motorex Helmet Care. You can polish the outside of your helmet with a multi-surface cleaner, such as Plexus or Pig Spit. Do not use any chemical agents on your visor unless specifically designed or listed for use on helmet shields, as they may cause distortion and break down the anti-fog coating.
Gloves are an essential part of your protection arsenal, but also a huge part of your everyday comfort on the bike. When you’re wearing the right pair of gloves for the job, you won’t think about your gloves at all. When you’ve got the wrong pair, you might have a big problem. Ill-fitting gloves can impede your ease of movement on the controls, be distracting, and fatigue your hands. Allowing your hands to get cold can make your ride extremely unpleasant, and can even be dangerous as your hands’ coordination and mobility diminish.
Most riders end up with a few pairs of gloves for different seasons and moods, but when starting out, we recommend looking for a general purpose glove that fits you well. The Joe Rocket Sonic glove below is a good example of a great glove to start out with – it’s basic, protective and comfortable. The next glove, the Held EVO Thrux, is also an excellent choice. The EVO Thrux is a more technical glove with some higher-performance features and materials integrated for comfort and protection, thus is quite a bit more expensive.
Kinds Of Gloves
- Winter gloves will likely be waterproof and insulated for warmth, but this added bulk can reduce your mobility and feel for the controls. That’s why we don’t recommend starting out with a thick winter glove, but you might want to pick up a pair later on.
- Summer gloves often feature perforated leather, mesh fabric, intake vents, or all of the above. Many summer gloves are wrist length, but there are many ventilated gauntlet-style gloves to choose from, also.
- Gauntlet gloves have a tall cuff that protects your wrist and lower forearm. They are also less likely to come off in an accident and will prevent wind from rushing up your jacket’s sleeves.
- Gloves may feature things like high-tech fabrics, different kinds of leather, like goatskin or kangaroo, polyurethane sliders, and different stitching patterns, all aimed to achieve maximum comfort with maximum protection.
- You will notice on some gloves, like the Held gloves above, the seams on the fingers are located on the outside, not on the inside. Having the stitching on the outside reduces rider discomfort and irritation on rides. Pay attention to the feel of the inside of the glove, because anything you feel in the store will be magnified when you’ve been on the bike for an hour.
- Some gloves are cut and stitched with pre-curved fingers. This provides a cleaner fit around your hand on the handlebars and reduces bunching and rubbing.
- When analyzing the fit of a glove, keep in mind that a very high-quality, soft leather will contour slightly to your hand with wear, whereas less-expensive leather gloves and textile gloves will change little or not at all.
- Make sure you aren’t fighting the glove when you open your palm or make a fist. Grab our demo handlebar grip and feel for any pointy stitching, pressure points, bunching in the palm and around the fingers.
- Put in the time, try on many pairs, and you’ll find a glove that has the features and fit for you.
Motorcycle jacket manufacturers spend an incredible amount of time coming up with innovative features, new fabrics, and improving on classic design elements in their jackets so we never leave home without them. And of course, the primary reason we gear up is to reduce our chances of getting seriously injured in an accident. In many accident situations, your motorcycle jacket can mean the difference between needing to make a hospital visit and just brushing yourself off and walking away. But a motorcycle jacket also protects you from the elements in a way that regular street clothes just can’t.
There are jackets out there for every style, every body type, and every kind of riding, so we know you can find one that you will love to wear.
Leather has always been the go-to material for race gear for a good reason, and is a great choice for everyone else, too. It’s naturally breathable and has a very high abrasion resistance. The extent of the leather’s abrasion resistance depends on its type, treatment, and the thickness of the leather, and the highest abrasion resistance is usually found in race leathers. Although leather is naturally breathable, it might be hot and heavy in the summertime. That’s why many leather jackets and suits are ‘perforated’ with tiny holes for ventilation, or have zippered vents that provide airflow in hot weather. In addition, more and more leather jackets are now being offered with features typically only seen on textile jackets, like removable liners, zip vents, and elastic inserts in flex zones.
Example: Alpinestars Jaws Jacket
Textile jackets are usually made of manufactured materials known for their strength and abrasion resistance, like nylon or polyester. Many brands will use a stronger material in high impact zones and more elastic materials in flex zones, like behind the shoulders and around the elbows.
Textile jackets are highly versatile, and can be loaded with features like zippered vents, pockets, space-aged materials, and removable liners. You may also notice that manufacturers often use special patented materials that have been developed to provide a high level of protection along with other desirable qualities, like softness, flexibility, and light weight. Check with our staff to find out more about the particular strengths and features of any of our jackets. You can also check the tags attached to the garment which will identify some of the key materials used in its construction and their benefits. We have a variety of mesh jackets for hot weather, heavier jackets with insulating liners for cold weather, and technical touring jackets that can do it all.
Example: Rev’It! Tornado Jacket in Hi-Viz*
Hard armor is essential, and it’s going to protect you from impact as well as abrasion. Most motorcycle jackets come with CE-rated* elbow and shoulder pads. Nearly all jackets, even leather track jackets, include a foam back pad that can be upgraded to a CE-rated back pad. Some jackets have foam chest pads that may also be upgraded. Some new jackets have CE armor in the shoulders and elbows that feels soft because it was developed to harden on impact but be comfortable and low-profile while on and off the bike.
Back Armor Upgrades
The vast majority of motorcycle jackets do not come with a CE-certified back protector, so many riders choose to upgrade. If you’d like to upgrade your jacket’s back armor, you can test out the feel and fit of a variety of CE-certified back protectors of different materials, shapes, and styles in the store.
Some motorcycle boots do a lot of things pretty well, and some do a few things exceptionally well. But wearing a protective boot that was designed specifically to meet the unique needs of motorcyclists is a great place to start. Look for a boot that has sewn-in or external ankle sliders, a reinforced sole, and sturdy toes and heels. Motorcycle boots aren’t designed for walking comfort, but you will notice that the flexibility of the sole varies between styles and models of boots. Most touring boots have a soft sole for better vibration absorption over long distances, while race or sport boots will have a very rigid sole.
Example: Tour Master Solution 2.0 WP
Example: Alpinestars S-MX 6
High-Top Riding Shoe
Example: Icon 1000 Truant
Once you get out there riding, you’ll see the benefit of wearing a good pair of motorcycle pants. Typically offering hip padding and CE-rated knee armor, riding pants are on the front line of your safety system. Don’t forget, street clothes shred instantly in an accident, so covering your legs with an abrasion-resistant material is going to help ensure that something like a low-speed lowside doesn’t collect serious payback from your body.
Many people wear motorcycle pants over their jeans or street pants, and an “overpant” will be sized to be worn that way. However, most motorcycle pants can be comfortably worn over your normal pants or alone. Like jackets, motorcycle pants may have removable liners that provide waterproofing or additional warmth when needed, and they may have zip vents that provide airflow. Because of the functional versatility of textile materials, most motorcycle pants for street use will be made of nylon or polyester.
Track pants are worn on the street and on the track, usually by sportbike riders. They are made of leather because of the material’s superior abrasion resistance and will often times feature more substantial knee armor that protects the front of the shin, as well. They are cut to be worn tight to facilitate easier movement during spirited racing and riding.
We know leather is highly abrasion resistant, but it’s also pretty good at blocking wind and insulating you. Chaps go on fast over your jeans and protect your exposed knees and shins from the forces of wind and road debris. If you decide to try out some chaps, buy a pair that fits snugly. The leather will stretch out in flex zones, especially at the waist, so you’ll need to make sure you aren’t on the tightest belt loop when the chaps are brand new.
If you have any questions or comments about gear or getting started, we’d love to hear from you! Submit comments and questions at the bottom of this page or give us a call at (408) 227-6936.
*CE- ‘CE’ is a European rating system that is used to identify a wide variety of products that have been tested and approved to meet certain safety standards. Motorcycle gear that is CE rated means that it has passed a certain set of standardized tests developed for that product group.
*Hi-Viz/Neon Gear: Studies have shown that riders who wear brightly-colored or neon motorcycle gear have a real safety advantage on the road. Read our hi-viz gear guide to learn more about the hi-viz safety advantage and to get some gear ideas.
If you’re ready for more, click here to read the fantastic article “Getting Started”, on the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) website. It’s filled with words of wisdom to keep in mind when your getting licensed, picking out a bike, and hitting the road for the first time.