Getting your motorcycle kit
Now that you're on the road, the next thing you need to consider is getting the right kit. Your kit will ensure your comfort and safety when on the road. Outlined below are the head-to-toe items available to complete your kit.
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Buying clothing and accessories
Buying a motorcycle or scooter is only the start when it comes to setting your budget. There are a few other things that you should take into consideration, not least of all some decent clothing to protect yourself and keep yourself warm.
There are three main types of helmet - open-face, flip-front and full-face. The following tips apply in most cases to all of these helmet variations:
- Cheaper helmets tend to be moulded from cheap materials. While being protective, they tend to be to a lower specification, have a shorter life and are more easily affected by weather, sunlight and use. More expensive helmets are made from more costly composites, so they're more resilient.
- Ensure that the helmet you buy displays a sticker stating that it reaches ECE 22.5 standard. Helmets are also listed under the Governments' SHARP (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme) scheme and a visit to the website may be helpful when making a final choice.
- Never buy a used helmet or share a helmet with somebody else. The lining moulds to your head over time and will never properly fit anyone else.
- Always have a visor or a decent pair of glasses or goggles. Always keep your visor clean and free of smudges and oil which will distort your vision. Scratches are a problem too - in strong sunlight they cause flaring and restrict vision. Make sure the visor is fitted properly - some cheaper helmets allow the visor to rub against the shell and cause scratches.
- Always do the helmet up properly using the strap. Even with a tight fit it will soon come off in an accident. Tighten the chin strap, as a loose strap could cause serious neck injuries in an accident. A strap which is too long will flap, causing irritation and affecting concentration.
When buying a new helmet look for:
- A helmet should feel tight around the cheeks (if full face) and hug your head. If it moves at all when you shake your head, it's too big. Wear it for at least five minutes then take it off. Red marks on your face indicate where the helmet may have been too tight.
- A helmet shouldn't be too heavy as it will give you neck ache, reduce your level of concentration and may cause other problems too. If you can't choose between styles and designs of helmet of a similar specification, always go for the lighter one.
- Avoid pudding basin-type helmets as they don't provide protection around the temples.
- A noisy helmet will cause problems with hearing, could cause headaches and even nausea and will affect your concentration and ability to ride. You can't test a helmet for noise in a show room, so research the model and look at how streamlined it is. Sleeker designs tend to be quieter.
Never ride without gloves. You should have two pairs - one for summer and one for winter. You must keep your hands warm and dry in the winter as cold hands reduce concentration. Summer gloves need to provide good abrasion resistance.
Fall off your bike and your hands will probably be the first part of your body to meet the ground. Putting your hands out to protect yourself is a natural instinct, but less than a second in contact with the road can remove the skin from your hands.
- Winter gloves should be waterproof and warm. Gore-tex, Cordura and other similar materials are the preference. Look for good thermal properties and the best water-resistant outer you can afford.
- Winter gloves shouldn't be thick or cumbersome. It's important you can feel the controls and move your hands and fingers when wearing them. Try them on your bike or a machine in the show room. Make sure you can use all the controls easily and effectively.
- Winter gloves particularly should have cuffs that allow you to extend the glove over the end of your sleeves. This will prevent wind and rain getting up your arms.
- Summer gloves should provide good abrasion protection - kangaroo leather is particularly good for summer gloves. Avoid cheap leather items and only ever buy gloves made specifically for motorcycling.
When buying gloves look for:
- A cuff which can be used to cover the sleeve or inner cuffs of your jacket. This will avoid any parts of your wrist being exposed to the air.
- Decent stitching. Make sure the palms are overstitched and that there's good layering on the upper glove. Waterproof seams are essential to keep water out and hands warm.
- Straps, fixings or adjustments around the wrist. If you try on a pair of gloves which you can pull off easily without undoing a fixing or strap, you must assume these may come off just as easily in an accident.
- Check that seams don't chafe against your hand, particularly on the palm and between the fingers. Even a little discomfort when trying the gloves may create a real irritation on a long journey and this can, in turn, affect your concentration.
- Gloves often have reflective panels or strips. Visibility at all points on the bike is good, so try to get some reflective element within your gloves.
- Many sports-style gloves come with Kevlar knuckle protectors and other such adornments. These provide some additional impact protection, but won't provide much additional abrasion protection.
In an accident your feet and ankles are vulnerable. Ankles break and feet get crushed, so protection around the ankle, strong soles and tough leather are essential to keeping your feet protected.
Work boots must be waterproofed and without metal plates or toe caps. These can protect your feet in certain circumstances but are also capable of cutting through your toes.
When buying boots look for:
- Leather uppers and moulded soles, the latter ridged to provide a good grip to the foot controls of the bike. Make sure the boot has a good, durable rubber sole that provides traction and slip resistance. The thicker the sole, the more the boot will absorb the vibration of the bike.
- A stitched sole is preferable and if possible bonded too. A sole stuck to the leather upper may fall apart under impact or abrasion. The sole should be at least 4mmm thick
- Boots should be flexible. They will get softer and more comfortable with use, but if a boot is too rigid it may lead to discomfort. Test by manipulating them physically in the store rather than just trying them on.
- Where boots are zipped up ensure there's a sizeable flap under the zip - as well as an over flap. This will ensure the zip doesn't let water in, and ensure the hard zip doesn't rub directly on the ankle.
- When you try the boots on, wear a pair of socks that you'd normally wear on the bike. Don't wear two pairs of socks as this will create movement of your foot within the boot, create a false fit, and cause rubbing and blisters.
- A lighter pair of leather boots with strong soles is best for summer. As with the winter boots, they must fit properly - too tight and they will make your feet numb, too loose and you'll find it difficult to maintain control over the gear lever and brake.
- Boots often have reflective panels or strips - they're worth having.
- The higher the boots the more protection from cold and water, as well as offering more impact and abrasion protection.
- Make sure you choose practicality and safety over looks. Non-motorcycle boots can be practical but be careful as cheap items may fall apart or offer little in the way of abrasion resistance. Boots which are hard to remove will cause problems for paramedics should the worst happen.
Jacket and trousers
Jackets and trousers need to provide impact and abrasion protection. Leather provides the best possible abrasion protection - combined with body armour it'll look after you as well as anything. You can buy an all-in-one suit or a zip-together two-piece suit. When buying a leather outfit look for:
- A good fit. The leathers should feel comfortable and fit well, without being tight. Make sure the arms are long enough and that the shoulders let you move within the jacket.
- Stitching should be double or triple and sealed, either with a leather overlap or a plastic coating. Check the inside of the jacket or trousers to see that the leather panels are stitched together under the overlap and not held together by the overlapping leather strips.
- Zips shouldn't lie directly against the skin. There should be an overlapping piece of leather. A zip against the skin will transmit heat from friction if you have a slide and a serious burn could result.
- Leather should be at least 1.2-1.6mmm thick, but if it's too thick it will be uncomfortable and will restrict your movement.
- Kangaroo leather is about the toughest that you'll find.
- Good leather will be treated to make it as waterproof as possible, but you may need to treat it to maintain this quality.
- Integrated body armour is often included and should enhance protection at the elbows, back, shoulders hips and knees.
- Leather is great in the summer, but not so good in the winter. It tends to be less warm and once a leather suit gets wet it can be extremely uncomfortable.
In winter, Cordura, or a similar highly waterproof material, is best. Protection from the elements is coupled with thermal linings, which are often removable to allow for use in the spring or summer - and body armour too. These suits tend to be more adjustable with belts and fitted cuffs utilising velcro and elastic to form waterproof seals at the neck and arms. When buying a Synthetic material suit look for:
- Thermal linings - preferably that zip in and out.
- Breathable inner linings to ensure that you remain cool when necessary.
- High-visibility reflective strips - reflective or fluorescent clothing can reduce the risk of a crash injury by a third.
- Integral CE-approved body armour.
- Plenty of pockets, with flaps so rain water doesn't get in. These should have a fold-over section with separate fixings to ensure water can't run down the jacket and into the pockets.
- Adjustable neck, cuffs and ankles, with Velcro fixings and over-cuffs to marry up with gloves to create a seamless covering for your body. Look for a snug fit around the neck - you'll want to ride with your jacket closed to the neck. If it's too tight it will be uncomfortable, too loose and it will be cold or let water in.
- Make sure the arms are long enough and that the shoulders let you move within the jacket. Check for areas where the material is loose and could flap around, causing noise and discomfort.
- Try any clothing whilst sitting on a motorcycle, to help you gauge its comfort. The temptation is to try on the clothing and walk around, but you'll be wearing it while on a bike...
- You can buy high-quality casual motorcycle clothing. There are heavy-duty denims with a Kevlar weave which provide fantastic abrasion protection. The addition of body armour provides safe motorcycle clothing which can be worn at your destination without you looking out of place.
Over-suits and back protectors
In the summer a waterproof over-suit provides additional protection from the weather. Generally, the more you pay, the better the protection. Cheaper 'shower-proof' lightweight over suits are available, but you can also buy heavier versions which will provide adequate protection in the rain for a reasonable distance.
A back protector absorbs energy from an impact, helping prevent damage to the spine and ribs as well as internal organs which can all be harmed by a heavy external blow.
It's vital that a back protector is the correct size for you - if it's too small, it won't protect the vulnerable lumbar region of the lower back and if it's too big it won't fit comfortably under your riding gear. Label sizes refer to torso length and this can be confusing. If you're not completely confident in taking your own measurements, the best advice is to visit a reputable dealer and ask them to measure and fit a back protector for you.
All content is supplied by the MCITA. All MCITA members comply with Standards designed to ensure a consistent level of safety, service and training quality as an assurance to anyone taking motorcycle training for the first time, wishing to improve their skills or trying out a new aspect of motorcycling.