The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Safety Gear

The Ultimate Guide to Motorcycle Safety Gear

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Get the picture? Riding a motorcycle with no helmet in sweatpants and sandals looks about as silly as any of those. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether to ride with any piece of motorcycle safety gear (except in states where helmets are required by law), but there’s a reason that many experienced riders use the phrase “all the gear, all the time” to describe their preferred riding state. 

Are you ready to protect yourself using the best motorcycle gear available? Good, because we’ve got a complete guide for motorcycle safety gear for you. Follow us as we discuss the best in helmets, gloves, boots, motorcycle helmet intercoms and the whole kit-n-caboodle of essential motorcycle safety gear. 

Wrapping Your Head Around Helmets

If you go all-out on just one piece of motorcycle gear, make it your helmet. There might be times when it’s all that’s standing between you and a life-altering or life-ending brain injury. 

Here are the essential considerations when choosing a motorcycle helmet: 

  • Shape and Size: Your helmet needs to fit you snugly and not move around on your head, but it shouldn’t pinch. Finding the right size helmet will involve determining your head shape, measuring your head to make sure the helmet will fit correctly and consulting the helmet manufacturer’s sizing chart to find a size that matches your head circumference.
  • Style: Motorcycle helmets come in a ton of different styles. Full-face models offer the best protection, and modular helmets are almost as good and include flip-up face portions for improved air circulation. If you choose to go with a half helmet model, make sure you pick up a face shield to prevent rocks and debris from flying into your face. 
  • Certifications: At minimum, you need a DOT-approved helmet, which means it meets the relatively lenient helmet standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It’s much better if your helmet is also approved under either the Snell Foundation standard or the European ECE standard, both of which are more rigorous. 
  • Noise: Air blowing through your helmet creates wind noise inside of it and, in some cases, this noise can be distractingly loud. There are various ways to make a helmet quieter, but read some reviews before you purchase the helmet and find out if it has a reputation for being noisy.
  • Look: While looks shouldn’t be your main consideration, get a helmet that looks cool and fits your style. A helmet you don’t like is one you won’t want to wear. 

Booting Up

Motorcycle riding isn’t a hobby where you should just bring any old footwear. Sandals or sneakers are right out, and even normal boots are often lacking in some important things. Thus, motorcycle boots are another must-have part of the rider’s motorcycle safety gear kit. 

These are some of the most important features of a good pair of motorcycle boots:

  • Height: Motorcycle boots should cover your ankle at minimum, but taller boots will give you better protection. They’ll do a superior job of protecting your legs, both from the hot engine and in a situation where your foot gets trapped under your bike in a crash.
  • Material: Leather is the most popular material for riding boots by a wide margin, although you can find textile alternatives that may be more breathable. 
  • Reinforced Ankles and Toes: Motorcycle boots should have a reinforced ankle section to provide extra support for the rider and prevent ankle injuries. Toe reinforcement is also common, especially in the left boot, which works the shifter and can thus get worn out quickly.
  • Closure: Your boots should have a durable closure system that offers a firm fit. Laces are common, but consider boots with recessed laces to prevent them from getting tangled on the shifter and footpegs. Racing boots often have velcro or buckles. 
  • Waterproofing: If you’re going to commute on your bike or take it on long trips, you probably need waterproof boots. Leather that isn’t waterproofed can actually absorb a lot of water and leave you soggy-footed and miserable.

Jacket of All Trades

Looking cool is a good reason to wear a motorcycle jacket, but it’s not the most important one. A well-made motorcycle jacket is designed to keep you warm, protected and comfortable on your ride. Not every leather jacket with a vague James Dean vibe is an actual motorcycle jacket, so here’s what to look for: 

  • Built-in Armor: A motorcycle jacket with built-in padded armor in sensitive areas like the elbows and back is a smart investment. If your upper body hits the pavement, your armor can save you from a bad case of road rash, or even from a fractured elbow or vertebra. 
  • Material: Obviously, leather is the classic choice for a motorcycle jacket, and it’s popular for a reason. Leather is resilient, stylish and can be made waterproof. But textile motorcycle jackets are also increasingly popular, and advances in materials have made the good ones comparable with leather. 
  • Insulation: Consider your climate and whether you need an insulated motorcycle jacket. Remember that riding at highway speeds can get really cold, even on warmer days. If you want to buy just one jacket, lots of models are available with zip-out liners so you can customize the warmth level to your needs.
  • Ventilation: The most comfortable motorcycle jackets often have ventilation in areas like the back and underarms, where riders tend to get sweaty and need some air circulation. 
  • Pockets: If you’ve got stuff you like to keep easily available while riding — chapstick, gum, maybe your phone — get a jacket with a few extra pockets.

Gloves You Love

A rugged pair of motorcycle gloves is another essential motorcycle safety gear piece for the well-equipped rider. What should you look for from a pair of motorcycle gloves? 

  • Palm Grips: Gloves with grip materials built into the palms will help you keep a firm hold on the handlebars. Materials like goatskin are common choices for their superior grip and durability. 
  • Palm and Knuckle Armor: Some of the best protective motorcycle gloves include armor built into the palms and knuckles to help protect your hands from injury in a crash. 
  • Ventilation: To prevent your gloves from getting stuffy and sweaty inside when you ride, choose gloves with ventilation features. Many include vents in areas like the backhand and between the fingers to keep your hands comfortable. 
  • Insulation: Cold, numb hands can become a big problem if your gloves aren’t warm enough. If you’ll be riding in chilly conditions, get a pair of insulated gloves. To really turn up the heat, sneak some disposable hand warmers into them.

Pants for Your Stance

We know what you’re thinking, and no, you definitely don’t have to wear chaps to ride a motorcycle. But there’s a reason they’re a thing: Because you really should have a tough pair of pants for riding a motorcycle. Consider the following: 

  • Material: Leather is the classic material for motorcycle pants, and it’s still many people’s preference because of how tough it is. But it’s definitely not the only choice, and pants made from various sturdy, reinforced textiles are popular and tend to breathe better than leather does. 
  • Style: Choose the right style for how and when you ride. Jeans and khakis with reinforced fabric and armor are popular for those who ride to work or social events and don’t want to go around looking like they’re about to do a MotoGP race. But if you do plan on riding at track days, definitely get some proper racing pants. 
  • Heat Resistance: Protecting your legs from the engine’s heat is one of the most important functions of motorcycle pants, so look for something with fabric that’s treated for heat resistance. 

Tuning In to Motorcycle Intercom Systems

Once upon a time, motorcycle hand signals were the only way for motorcyclists to communicate. And while hand signals are still a workable option if you like them and feel confident using them, motorcyclists have the power to keep ourselves a lot safer with today’s wireless motorcycle communication systems

These powerful wireless communicators attach to your motorcycle helmet and allow you to form a voice communication network with other riders, so long as those riders also have compatible helmet intercoms. Being able to chat with your riding group on the road is tons of fun, and it’s a great way for new riders to get real-time feedback from more experienced people in their riding groups.

But it’s also a really useful and powerful tool for keeping yourself and the people you ride with safe. Instant real-time voice communication allows you to keep each other alert and coordinate strategies with the rest of your group for dealing with traffic and road conditions. A helmet intercom system that pairs with your phone also allows you to stay in touch with your network while you’re on the road, including emergency contacts if necessary. 

Cardo Systems has designed our motorcycle headset systems to define the gold standard of motorcycle communication. These are some of the ways that we do it:

  • Next Gen Technology: The best motorcycle headsets use cutting edge tech to deliver the best experience possible for you and your riding group. Cardo’s Packtalk models are the first motorcycle communication system to use Dynamic Mesh Communication, a next gen technology that forms stronger and longer range networks than Bluetooth while remaining compatible with it. 
  • Hands-Free Operation: Your helmet intercom should include voice commands that allow you to operate it without fiddling with controls when you should be focused on the road.  Cardo intercoms include full voice command functionality that allows a rider to activate the headset’s functions with a simple “Hey Cardo.” 
  • Phone Pairing: A helmet communication system should offer the ability to pair with your phone and access multimedia functions while you’re riding. Making and receiving calls, streaming your favorite music and podcasts and navigating with a GPS are all a snap thanks to Cardo’s voice interface.
  • Crystal Clear Sound: Invest in motorcycle helmet speakers that can deliver the audio experience you want. Cardo has collaborated with the audio innovators at JBL to deliver Bluetooth motorcycle speakers that create the new benchmark for motorcycle audio.

Other Motorcycle Safety Gear Accessories

There’s a range of other motorcycle safety gear out there that can help you ride more safely and more comfortably, including:

  • Earplugs: A quality pair of earplugs will help cut the noise from the wind and the road. They’ll help protect your hearing and minimize the distraction from road noise.
  • Riding Suit: Some riders, particularly track and sport riders, choose an all-in-one riding suit to protect their body while riding. One popular option is jacket and pants sets that attach to each other with a zipper for maximum coverage and protection. 
  • Thermal Underlayers: Rocking a set of thermal underlayers is a great idea when you’ll be riding in the cold. Get some moisture-wicking ones to help keep your body dry as you ride.
  • Knee Pucks: Another track day staple, knee pucks will keep your knees intact when you’re doing your best Valentino Rossi impression in the corners. However, it never hurts for any kind of rider to have some extra knee protection, even if you’re just riding the roads.

You’ve learned how to protect your body, but do you know how to protect your bike? Our guide to motorcycle maintenance will show you the basics. And before you go, don’t forget to take a peek at Cardo Systems’ complete range of motorcycle headsets.