Discuss: is this acceptable riding gear?

Do you need to wear All The Gear, All The Time?

Posted: 12 September 2012
by Ben Cope

When you head out on your motorcycle, do you have a duty to yourself and wider society to wear All The Gear, All The Time.

Risk: what's acceptable?

Does wearing All The Gear make you take more risks? Or doesn't it make a difference? Do you need to wear leathers, armour, proper boots - the works, just in case anything happens? Is your riding gear a reflection of the risks that are out there or just how you interpret them?

That's me on the left, wearing my daily commute across London gear:

  • Arai Quantum helmet
  • Forcefield Pro L2 back protector
  • An abrasion resistant Alpinestars Quantum jacket with CE armour in the elbows and shoulders
  • Rev'It Sand gloves: off-road gloves no hard armour
  • Jeans from high-street shop Pull & Bear
  • Alpinestars Shibuya thick canvas shoes with reinforced ankle, heel and toe protection

I feel that I've protected myself against the worst, with the least amount of hassle. I get to work, take off the lid, gloves, back protector and jacket and I'm good to go. No need for squeaky race boots, bulky leathers and a rucksack with all my clothes.

Am I asking for trouble? Are we obsessed with safety these days? Is this setting a bad example?

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motorcycle clothing, motorcycle protection, motorcycle commute clothing, commuter kit, what motorcycle jacket should i buy

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I would say yes, my riding gear is pretty much the same. I don't like wearing leathers and then having to carry spare clothes with me; and I like the idea that I can go meet friends for a pint (of coke) at the pub without squeaking and looking like I just stepped off a BSB starting grid.

My gear is:
AGV S4 lid
Dianese Vintage Pele Jacket
Alpinestars 365 Goretex Gloves
Draggin' Jeans - Next Gen
TCX RS-2 Boots (in white so at a quick glance they look like trainers)

The only thing I'd change about your gear is the jeans, I'd at least wear some form of kevlar. Is there a reason why you don't?

As for the whole 'risk compensation' idea, I used to believe in this, however I am now of the opinion that idiots will ride like idiots whatever they are wearing.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 11:22

BMW city jeans retrofitted with soft CE armour do the job for me... or HG fully armoured overtrousers with jeans if it rains. MY HG boots are easy enough to wear under jeans but I change at work into toe-'tectors. HG Gortex armoured jacket. Decent gloves.

Of the kit described I'd change the jeans & shoes for my 20 mile rural ride to work. Across London with your average speed I'd probably not bother.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 12:33

I think it depends on if you are ready or prepared for the inappropriate driving, texting, tweeting, drugged(probsbly), uninsured twat that "didnt see you"
Yes, I wood, good luck!

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 12:41

Sorry to sound contentious.

But surely what the individual rider wears is the the rider's personal choice?

Who is anyone else to dictate you should wear this or that, as long as your helmet meets the relevant regulations.

Otherwise the next step is the removal of personal choice by the authorities and you have to wear EU armoured jackets, trousers, gloves, boots etc etc.

Just ride what you feel happy & comfortable in.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 13:03

If it is acceptable to YOU, then it is acceptable. Who cares what anyone else thinks? What you wear doesn't affect anyone else. If you crash, will you cause someone else any extra damage regardless of what you are wearing? I would never ride in outfits that I see squids wearing, in shorts and a t-shirt, but that is their business not mine. Just as if you want to drive a car without a seat belt, it doesn't adversely affect me.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 13:16

Disagree to an extent. You own better more protective gear. If you have a crash your going to cost society money. More money if your not well protected and need the NHS's help (hospital bed, physio etc). Even more if you cark it and the police etc. are required to investiage your death.

You should always wear every bit of protection you own.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 15:19

Depends on how fast you ride ?

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 15:38

i have spare jeans and shoes at work. no need to carry them in rucksack. wearing full leathers always when riding. changing takes 2 minutes.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 15:58

On a short trip a helmet, gloves and boots should be the only protective gear you need. Or perhaps also an armoured jacket as well. Come to think of it, armoured leather jeans would be a good idea, and also a back protector, just to be on the safe side. In fact if you're that worried about it, best take the car. Sorted.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 16:50

For cooler climate, it is fine wearing all those gear. But in tropical climes, even with all the perforations on you gear, you'll be sweating like a pig even in short distances. You can cool yourself when you have a chance to go fast but that immediately ends when you stop or slow down. Then there is that sticky feeling you always get..

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 18:09

For a commute across london then yes, bar maybe the shoes, doesn't take much to break an ankle which can leave permanent disability, god forbid it be the left ankle. Any motorway or fast road then anything short of leathers is a bad idea.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 22:49

Its fine, just dont come off, simple.

Its not really that good, and I do it often.

But if I know I'll be putting it in, I gear up. When I think Im not going to put it in, I do anyway. Im a disaster waiting to happen :) but at least I know it.

Posted: 12/09/2012 at 23:32

My bike tops out at 53mph. Yes, it's a 125 with those red 'L' shaped things on. But wherever I go I suit up in full protective textile gear - RST jacket/trousers, TCX boots, armoured gloves, the lot.

I made a promise to myself that if I started learning to ride I would give myself the best chance I can. The gear I own might not be the best, but the best I can afford, and God forbid should I bin the bike I would hope the gear I have will mean I come off better than if I was wearing jeans.

That's my choice though, that may not be the right choice for everyone. I've been sat at a petrol pump when a 'big biker' pulls in with jeans and a t-shirt, and I'm sure they look and me and have a little chuckle.

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 08:51

Thoppa - So if a rider gets T-boned riding at 30mph, they will come off worse for not wearing something like full race leathers?

Some interesting comments here. Personally, I feel that riding should be dictated by other factors other than what someone is wearing. If a rider is pushing their own ability on the road, choosing to wear better gear is the wrong way of hedging the risk before you end up in one.

I always wear kevlar jeans, but I own leathers for track days. The leathers have better protective qualities, but if I get into the kind of accident where the jeans wear through/fail to protect me, then I'm pretty sure having full leathers would make little to no difference.

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 10:31

The trouble with Ben's gear is that he's got the protection in the wrong place. If you look at the statistics, the lower down your body, the more likely it is to get injured. The exception to this is the head, but that's what helmets are for.

I'd suggest adding a pair of decent trousers. Kevlar jeans would be one option, but if you want to get very spendy then the Kushitani EX413 jeans, which are leather that looks like denim, would be my choice.


I'd probably go for something a bit more durable on the boot front too.

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 12:09

Szmolo - t-boned by what ? a cyclist ? a steamroller ? It's all about risk assessment, as Ben said. But he hasn't given us enough info to make that assessment.

These are always futile discussions where the nanny bikers try to scold the lunatics, who couldn't care less what the nanny thinks.

I'm with David. If you really worry about it, then why ride ?

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 12:35

After a low speed accident that left me with "only " a badly sprained ankle now I always wear proper bike boots. Three months of not being able to walk properly and five years later I still get some pain from it. Just saying.

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 17:17

I add armoured jeans to a very similar combination. So I would say, yes you are adequately protected, but I am better protected because I use biker jeans.

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 18:23

Essentially, as people have said above, if you know you are going out to have it, then suit up. If not, gloves, decent leather / textile jacket, good shoes / boots, and a decent pair of gloves and of course lid.

Whatever you feel comfortable and safe in, imo, is fine. I do get VERY irate at people I see on bikes in shorts and t-shirts over the summer though. But, that's their problem frankly. They'll realise why they shouldn't do it the moment they contact with the tarmac...

Posted: 13/09/2012 at 21:49

I Live in a warm climate - generally the days are 22+ C in winter to about 34+ C in summer.
This is with 90*+ humidity ALL YEAR ROUND !!!!!

I ALWAYS wear good gloves ( you really need your fingers in life - so I got the best gloves I could afford ) alpine stars with hard armour.
The best helmet I could afford - Shoei ( cause I got a million dollar head )
The best boots I could afford - sidi vertebra ( have you seen Mick Doohan walk ? )
A good quality vented leather jacket with protection ( forearm, shoulder )
And my dianese rucksack with inbuilt back protector.
I realize it is my choice whatever I wear or don't wear and have been knocked off in town low speed wearing all this and jeans with the only injury road rash to my knee......... so I guess if I had been wearing draggin jeans i may have been completely injury free.......

Mindless bikers who choose not to wear protection other than a helmet? Again that is their choice. Their pain when they fall off.......... Cost to the community ? Public perceptions ?
They obviously don't consider such things..... But twats will be twats regardless.....

Don't even get me started on brain dead Harley riders with no f<#*{~<<\ mufflers..... And the rest of their anti social behavior .......

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 01:51

I agree those of you who say what you do or don't wear is your business right up to the point where you expect the rest of us to pay for the skin grafts, busted bones and associated medical care. If you want to ride in shorts and tee shirts take out private medical insurance and save the rest of us some cash.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 08:51

I wear an Aerostitch suit.
one across the body zip and off it comes complete with full armour.
Best biking gear Ive had in 50 years

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 09:45

Yes I,m an "oldie" 52 :-)I started riding with belstaff wax gear, 2nd hand Kangoln helmeit & Doc martins. These days full textile gear for most Journeys. But just Occasional days(sun out)rare in UK, it great not to dress like a power ranger,but to be one with nature:-)(hopfully not the tarmac & ditches) :-) each to their own. aint that what bikings about. amen :-D

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 10:21

I would say that is pretty good gear except the jeans. It's up to you what you ride in but in my opinion if you are going to wear jeans then it should be kevlar ones. I had a big crash about 9 years ago and I was wearing leather trousers and a textile jacket. I ended up breaking the femur in my left leg, toes in both feet and smashed a finger in my left hand to pieces. All this despite wearing full protective gear, everyone was pretty certain that I had I not been wearing the gear that I did that I would have died!

It doesn't matter whether you ride a 125 or a 750, crashes are still just as nasty and they hurt!

If I'm not wearing full leathers then I will wear kevlar jeans and a leather/textile jacket. Personally I can't understand how people can ride in just jeans and a t-shirt, it's their decision to loose all their skin but it seems mad to me.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 10:41

Safety is always an issue, the best. slowest, most careful riders might never fall off, but that doesn't stop every other road user trying to drop you. In the USA last year, I was surprised to see many riders in shorts , t-shirt and no helmet, doing 70-90 MPH on the freeway. The USA offers the 'I have the insitutional right to spread my brains all over the place, and my health insurance will pay'. So safety is replaced with personal choice. (despite the nil laws, I never rode without my lid for over 8500 miles) In the UK the law dictates that we wear helmets not for our safety, but for the NHS who pay for the outcome. The rest is still optional so we see, shorts, track suits, and the whole nine yards of options. Pretty soon the full metal jacket scenario will be added, you watch.
Personally, I wear a biker spec jacket, boots, gloves and helmet, and now and again wear leather or material padded pants, or one in a while jeans. Thats my choice, and being 54, I still remember the helmet laws coming in, and despite the pre-law days when most riders wore helmets,it was take in good faith my most. Any fall is going to hurt, so why not reduce the amount of damage, and ride again.
Pretty soon we will all have to wear hi-vis if the French law is copied.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 10:47

OK, let's play "What If" for a moment. We all know the NHS is under financial pressure and bike accidents tend to cost a lot of money.

What if the government were to bring in a law stating that all bike insurances must include a premium to cover medical expenses in the eventuality it could be shown the rider wasn't wearing the appropriate protective clothing?

How would you all feel about someones right to ride around in shorts, tee shirt and flip flops then?

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 10:54

depends on the journey - shorts and tee is fine, just don't fall off. scratching? full leathers (but still, don't fall off).

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 10:55

@Sock - that mentality is worse than the full-time t-shirt wearer in my eyes. Surely you have views one way or the other, but to change those views based on distance is bizarre.

So do you plug your seat belt in when you nip to the shops or is it 'okay because it's only half a mile away'? Next it'll be okay not to slow down for a 30 zone because you're 'only going to be in it for 5 seconds'.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 12:32

If I am in a 30 zone for 5 seconds, what is the point in slowing down?

But in all seriousness, best to wear what your feel comfortable in.
If you are comfortable then you will have more fun and be more relaxed and therefore ride better.

Personally, I wear racing leathers, boot & gloves.
for 3 reasons,
they are comfortable for me,
I feel safe in them
and they are a bright colour so I can be seen by others motorists.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 13:25

evil ken? Just how old are you!!!!!!

If you think medical expenses is a trivial excuse think about sliding down the road on your bare skin like a grape down a cheese grater, listening to the snap of bones as they pop through spurting blood vessels? Then when it's all over and they've finished digging all the gravel, dog shit and all the other crap from the road out of what's left of your arms and legs, you get to look down at the place where your feet used to be and wonder if there's a market for second hand trainers.

Yes, and I don't want to pay for some half wit cripple to live off me and mine for the rest of their life because they were too vain or stupid. Forget all the "Live fast, live free" bullshit and grow up.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 13:46

Just because those shoes are made by AStars doesnt mean its acceptable. Screaming pain with a snapped ankle is much louder than squeaky boots.
I had a woman pull into my path, I didnt hit her as I was actualy below the speed limit but I endo'd onto her bonnet with my shin slamming into the fender/bonnet edge. I was wearing my sidi vertebras at the time and thank goodness. that shin would have been broken otherwise.
Offroad gloves on road? Rather use duct tape

What gear you wear has no bearing on the "risks" one will take. Presuming a guy that wears his track 2 piece on a commute to work is going to be rounding corners with his knee down is uniformed profiling.

My kit
Shark RSR2
AlpineStars full leather and armoured jacket
Full leather RS Taichi GP-WRX racing gloves
Back protector

Jeans. AXO leather pants zipped to jacket for a commute
Dainese Torque out boots

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 14:36

I always wear proper boots, have shoes at work that I change into.

My commute is fast country lanes so I have a textile armoured oversuit which just goes over my jeans, fine all year round apart from the hottest days.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 15:17

Not for me but I did ride in similar in the 80's. Always scares me when I see people ride without gloves or decent ankle covering boots/shoes but hey, it's their skins! Totally agree with opinions about costs for NHS care and Police response to how you are attired. If you can't be bothered about protecting yourself to the best of your ability or bank balance, then why should they care about how they deal with you? Was surprised to see someone on his Rossi rep R6 in full kit the other day riding without gloves! Rather try to keep all my digits thanks!

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 15:56

At speeds of 35 and under (typical for the city), it might even be overkill. As long as you don't hit a solid object at those speeds, you'll at worst get a little road rash on your legs, and possibly a twisted or broken ankle if it gets caught under the bike.

I've ridden my SH300 scooter in the city in everything from t-shirt and jeans to full textile suit; the minimum I wear is gloves and helmet. I've also crashed at both extremes, and all in between. My regular kit, informed by the 6 odd urban accidents I've had over the years, is helmet, gloves, armoured jacket, normal jeans, and boots with ankle protection. I've never had jeans tear on me at the speeds I went down or slid over bonnets. But I have twisted both ankles. The only road rash I've had apart from ankles is a slight patch on my arm when I low-sided in a t-shirt (leaning over too far for a corner and levering off hard parts).

You'll definitely walk away much easier from wearing stiffer boot protection. But I don't think it's worth the risk / reward tradeoff. If I had to change my shoes into boots everywhere I went in the city, I'd go mad.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 16:03

I really think that proctective clothing is a personal choice and a comfort issue also. Just Make sure your head is well protected and PUT YOUR GLOVES ON! sorry its my bug bear!

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 17:05

Talk aut begging the question..

Seriously, it all depends on the type of riding you do; If ts a slower city wide crawl to work or a few pints with your mates cross town, then minimal protective gear may be an acceptable risk to carry. If its a jaunt through the countryside or better yet, a spirited ride anywhere with your mates, then put on the leathers, BP, gloves, helmet etc. Make it fit for purpose.

Bottom line is that the best protective gear in the work will not protect you from the worst kind of crash. We all just weigh the risks and take our chances. Being smart enought to adequately mitigate those risks is where the wisdom and safety is in riding.

Personally, I've suffered a couple nasty crashes and had my taste in road rash; you'll normally find me suited up where it's resonable do so..

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 17:20

Congratulations on getting just two thing right - you bought a white helmet and a good back protector.

1) You spent 450 odd quid on the name "Arai" which is only a 3 star rated helmet. An HJC/Caberg 5 star lid could be yours for 100 odd quid.

2) You have an abrasion proof jacket which could be upgraded to a waterproof one for little extra and it will still have "street cred". Try riding when your wet and see if can still concentrate.

3)A high vis vest from say Oxford products is a godsend - no excuse, it packs down to nothing under your seat.

4)Upgrade your jeans to kevlar lined ones - you will change your mind after the nurses have used a vegetable scrubbing brush to get the denim out of your skin/backside.

5)No hard armour on the gloves?? Why not, you've bought motorbike style gloves so buy the right ones.

6)Footwear not bad but at least wear some short boots like Dainese Scarpa Asphalts - again you'll change your mind when you break your ankle or toes. You can still wear them all day long and not look out of place.

All of the above you could of bought for less money than you spent because you probably thought an Arai helmet (only 3 star Sharp tested)will give you street cred.


Posted: 14/09/2012 at 17:21

Talk about begging the question..

Seriously, it all depends on the type of riding you do; If its a slower city wide crawl to work or a few pints with your mates cross town, then minimal protective gear may be an acceptable risk to carry. If its a jaunt through the countryside or better yet, a spirited ride anywhere with your mates, then put on the leathers, BP, gloves, helmet etc. Make it fit for purpose.

Bottom line is that the best protective gear in the world will not protect you from the worst kind of crash. We all just weigh the risks and take our chances. Being smart enought to adequately mitigate those risks is where the wisdom and safety is in riding.

Personally, I've suffered a couple nasty crashes and had my taste in road rash; you'll normally find me suited up where it's resonable do so..

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 17:22

F'ing auto correct. You get my point..

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 17:24

Put on all you can when I got wiped out by a twin wheel transit I had all the right gear on, the police where on my side strat away because thay sawe as a proper rider not some Chav. I got the top comp as I had all the right gear and with out it I would be in a wheel chair now so it's up two you life in a box or a wheel chair or ten mins putting you gear on.

Posted: 14/09/2012 at 19:58

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