Don’t be swayed by fashion when it comes to choosing the best motorcycle gear – it’s your arse you’re saving and how you look is secondary to keeping all of you protected.
I could start off with the expected sexist jibes about clothes shopping. Y’know, how men have to drag their partners through endless changing rooms while they try to find the perfect crew-neck Tee to slot under the zipped hoodie. No? Not a familiar scenario?
Well, right now it’s not a readily available scenario to many of us, but, when we can go shopping, and especially for bike gear, it should be with enthusiasm on all sides. Because as anyone who has experienced a face-to-face interaction with a distracted and now surprised insect at 80-plus km/h will tell you: riding is fun.
It’s also risky. Don’t believe me? Read Chris Harris’ review of the Twista Draggin Jeans.
So while buying the clothes for your everyday pursuit of credibility or sex don’t carry any more risk factor than looking criminally out of season or, like your parents’ dressed you, bike gear plays a crucial role in keeping you looking good; as nature intended, even if she was having a laugh.
But we make tons of mistakes when selecting what we want to wear to protect us in either the elements or when we’ve defied the laws of physics. These errors were pointed out to me while trying on a jacket under the gaze of Daryl Faddy, of Close Motorcycles in Sydney’s Redfern. Daryl has been selling bikes and bike gear for close to 30 years and is critically tuned to wince at the choices we can make. It was through watching me make my pick we realised this story was necessary.
And before we dive in, I asked the obvious question: is there a difference to the way the sexes buy their bike gear? “Yes,” Daryl told me. “Men pretty much buy the first thing they try on that fits. Women prefer to try on as many items as they can, then they will think about which one they actually want. Crucially in this application, women will also take advice on size and fit more easily than men.
Let’s see if we can remedy this situation.
Buying a new motorcycle helmet
Protecting the head; a military move, and common sense. Inadequate cranial protection renders everything else you do less effective. You can have the best racing leathers in the world but put bluntly, if the call centre goes down, then your limbs aren’t taking those calls.
So what do people do wrong? “The main thing I see is purchasing a helmet based on its looks. Or it’s a brand they believe to be or have been told by a friend is the best. However, it is the wrong fit for them,” said Daryl.
Helmets are not a universal design, of course, and not all helmets fit the same. Everyone has a different shaped head – you have to find the helmet brand that fits your head shape.
And it’s not price-dependent either. “Just because it is an expensive helmet does not guarantee the perfect fit for everyone,” Daryl added. This situation can be made worse by lazy salespeople in-store or by a person who has shopped online using their head measurement only. Online shoppers will know the pain that is a size approximation. Yes, Wish, I am talking about you.
According to Daryl, “A good sales assistant will know as soon as you have put the helmet on that it’s wrong. He or she will have asked you lots of questions before and during the fitting. They can see how it sits on your head and then work with you to get the correct and most comfortable fit.”
Anyone new to a helmet fitting will find it weird, especially in a full-face helmet, being so closed in. But a firm fit when new is essential. The helmet’s padding will settle in quickly, and you want it to remain firm; you’re carrying an egg. On a more practical level, a loose-fitting helmet is uncomfortable, too. Even at city traffic speeds, the wind will want to pull the helmet up over your head, much more so if you head out onto the open road. The correct fit will also be quieter.
So what’s the advice? “Find a store with staff who understand the correct fit and are willing to work with you to explain the difference. Somewhere they ask questions about how it feels as well as the visual clues they’re getting,” Daryl said.
Don’t buy from anywhere the advice about your head is: “yeah, that will do” or they only want you to try the most expensive helmets. Remember, helmets are tested against safety performance standards, so high price isn’t an indicator of a universal good fit.
So remember this, “A helmet is something you have to wear every time you ride. Make sure it’s the best fit and it will not only protect you better but be more comfortable and make your ride more enjoyable.”
Oh yeah, and fasten the bloody thing when you put it on.
Buying a new motorcycle jacket
Surely buying a jacket can’t be that technically complex? It can. You’re buying speciality clothing here.
So what do people do wrong? “The most common mistake is the size. A lot of people buy a jacket that’s too big because they want to be able to fit stuff under it in the colder months,” Daryl told me. Guilty as charged. As an ex motorcycle courier in Europe, my layering skills could rival a French Connection autumn catalogue.
Customers walk in and announce, ‘I want a summer jacket I can use in the winter by putting jumpers under it, so I need it to be big enough to fit many layers under it’. Great, logical thinking. However, in doing so, you now have a jacket that isn’t going to offer the correct protection when it doesn’t have all the jumpers under it. Unsurprisingly, motorcycle clothing designers have thought of this.
Summer jackets are ventilated and of a lighter material to help keep you cool. Winter jackets employ lining layers and need a firm fit to keep you warm. “If you want to put something under it for extra warmth, get some thermal wear,” Daryl added.
All-season jackets have removable layers and are the jackets that cause the most sizing headaches for buyers. They need a very snug fit with all the layers in to allow for a proper fit when the liners are removed for warmer weather. Given that a large range of bike gear now comes fitted with removable armour, you need to consider that as part of the fitting.
So what’s the advice? A caring and knowledgeable salesperson will, again, be asking questions. What kind of riding do you do, for instance, will make all the difference to buying the right gear. As will a fair assessment of body type, in the standing and sitting position. In terms of the body armour, a properly fitting jacket will ensure the armour stays in the right place if you’re unlucky enough to fall off.
As Daryl points out, “Firm fitting [clothing] will not ride up if you are sliding along the road. An oversize jacket will do this and can cause you to tumble more as it gathers. With the exhaustive range of styles available, you should be able to tick all the boxes in terms of protection, style, functionality.”
Buying new motorcycle boots
Not everyone extends to buying boots as part of their bike gear. But you should extend to shoes! Thongs are not suitable footwear at any time, nor are trainers for motocross work, and full-on motocross boots will get on your nerves around town. Essentially, buy the right footwear for the application.
What do people get wrong? Simply, wrong boots for the application.
So, what’s the advice? Make sure you buy the right type of boot for you and the type of riding you’re doing. Style and functionality can work, and they will tick the comfort box as well.
Buying motorcycle jeans and leathers
What do people get wrong? Most of what I see is being done right in this regard. Jeans wise. Leathers are a personal, more specialised item and those buying them are usually doing so with some experience.
So, what’s the advice? Work with your local store to get the right fit.
Buying motorcycle waterproofs
There are few things more uncomfortable than a long ride in the rain on a motorcycle with rubbish waterproofs. Normally, it starts with a groin issue, possibly a soggy neck, and you’ll get cold.
So what do people get wrong? “Strangely,” says Daryl, “most people actually get this right – except for how to wear them.” Eh? How’s that work? “Again, too big or more importantly, they buy a one-piece oversuit when a two-piece outfit would work better for them. And these days most jackets are waterproof so you can normally get away with just waterproof trousers.”
You’d think that might be straightforward, but Daryl reckons “Pants are the most common for incorrect application. People wear them too low because they assume they should sit around your hips like normal pants.
So, what’s the advice? “Wet weather pants are designed to sit high, above your waist, just below your ribs, so there is a good overlap of the pants/jacket to stop the rain getting over the top,” Daryl told us. “Low-slung pants can leak at the seams in the crotch because they are under tension when not worn correctly.” This common mistake is responsible for most complaints about waterproofs leaking and it reduces clothing lifespan.
If you’ve complained as ‘My pants leaked not long after I got them’ it’s almost 100% incorrect fitment. These are not fashion items; get the size right so then they fit and work better. Ask about how they should be worn.
Buying motorcycle gloves
So what do people get wrong? You do wear gloves, don’t you? Have a look next time you’re out – many two-wheeled enthusiasts seem to have stopped wearing them. Why? Your hands are going to be the first things to lose skin when you hit the deck.
Wearing the right gloves is very important. If they are the correct fit and style for your riding, you’ll want to wear them all the time, and this is a good thing. Depending on the type of riding and how often you ride will help a good assistant get you into the right gloves.
What’s the advice? More often than not, you will need two pairs: Summer and winter.
“While this may seem an expensive way to do it,” says Daryl, “If you buy the right gloves, they will last a long time. This way, the cost is averaged out and well worth it for keeping your hands not only protected but warm in the cooler parts of the year.”
Noticed a theme? “Good gloves, like the rest of the gear, if bought right, can make your riding so much more enjoyable and, more importantly, keep you protected.”
I asked Daryl if he’s spotted any possible trends through what people ask for, “I do get a few who want a ventilated winter glove they can use for the summer.”
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