New Rider Gear Guide
Hey new rider, 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, including helmets, gloves, jackets, armor, pants, and boots.
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, follow these three key steps:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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, performance, and of course, how much money you’re willing to spend. When you shop at Road Rider, you’ll find that we have hundreds of helmets, plenty of time to guide you through them, and lots of experience to help you pick out the one for you.
If you’d like to know more before you shop, be sure to read our Helmet Buyer’s Guide for a complete breakdown of helmet fit and features.
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. When your hands to get cold it can be all you think about, and as the longer you keep riding, the more 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 Alpinestars SP-8 glove is a good example of a great glove to start out with – it’s relatively inexpensive, and has the essentials necessary to be protective and comfortable. The Held EVO Thrux is a more technical glove with some higher-performance features and materials integrated for greater comfort and protection, and it’s 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, polyurethane sliders, and special stitching, all aimed to achieve maximum comfort with maximum protection.
- Cowhide Leather– Cowhide is the most common and least expensive kind of leather, and is soft, strong, and versatile.
- Goatskin Leather– Goatskin is still fairly economical, but is slightly softer and stronger than cow leather.
- Deerskin Leather– Deerskin is thin and stretchy with an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Deerskin gloves are preferred by some motorcyclists because of their extreme softness.
- Kangaroo Leather– Race gloves and other premium gloves that demand the highest level of protection and dexterity may contain kangaroo leather, which is extremely soft, flexible, highly abrasion resistant, but also lightweight.
- Kevlar– Kevlar is an aramid fiber made by DuPont. Aramids are synthetic fibers (Nomex and Dyneema are other examples) that are highly heat, tare, and abrasion resistant. Aramids are used in a wide range of products and applications, including military personnel armor, motorcycle tires, helmets, and fire suits. Motorcycle gloves are often lined with Kevlar, made apparent by a distinctive yellow glove interior.
- SuperFabric– SuperFabric is a nylon- or polyester-based material made by Higher Dimension Materials, Inc. It is characterized by hard bumps resembling raised pores on its surface. These bumps prevent cutting and tearing, and make SuperFabric more abrasion resistant–while also lighter–than leather.
- Gore-Tex– Gore-Tex is a waterproof and breathable membrane material commonly layered between the outer material and soft inner lining of winter gloves. Read our Waterproof Gear Guide to learn more about membrane technology, the different ways it’s used in gear, and how it can affect performance and price.
- X-trafit– X-trafit is a sticky material used to adhere a membrane like Gore-Tex to the two surrounding layers. This can make a big difference to motorcycle gloves because it reduces the shifting and bunching of material and provides more dexterity and feel at the finger tips.
- Sometime seams are made on the outside of the glove rather than on the inside next to your fingers. Having the stitching on the outside reduces discomfort and irritation caused by your fingers rubbing up against the seams, so pay attention to the inside of feel of gloves you try on.
- Pre-curve- Gloves can be 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 moto gear and for good reason–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 in 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 include a simple foam back pad that can be upgraded to a CE-rated back pad. Some jackets (most Alpinestars jackets) also have foam chest pads that may also be upgraded.
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.
Do you know the difference between a CE-Level 1 back protector and a CE-Level 2 back protector? Read our Guide to Back Protectors and Replacement Armor for more information about different ratings, brands, and kinds of armor options.
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 for better protection against crushing. While touring boots are designed primarily to provide comfortable protection, race boots need to deliver optimal protection while giving the rider as much feel and feedback from the bike as possible.
Example: Tour Master Solution 2.0 WP
Street Sport, Light Track Boot
Example: Alpinestars S-MX 6
Aggressive Sport, Track Boot
Example: Sidi Mag-1 Boots
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.
Textile Pants- 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- Track pants are worn on the street and on the track and, because of their aggressive pre-curved shape and high level of protection, they are most practical for sportbike riders. They are made of leather, sized to fit like a second skin, and usually contain hip padding and substantial knee armor that extends down the shin. Knee pucks are Velcroed to the outside edge of the knee so riders can make contact with the track in corners to gauge their lean angle.
Chaps- 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.