Motorcycles can let you ride free, but they don't have the extra layers of protection a car does if you find yourself in a crash. For better protection, you'll need to find some safety gear created for motorcyclists. We've researched and compiled a list of essential motorcycle safety gear that you need on the wide-open road.
Gear such as jackets, gloves, boots, and pants are typically made from genuine leather to provide maximum protection. Other non-leather materials like cotton offer very little resistance to friction, so wearing non-leathers can result in a severe road rash. Make sure to equip yourself the essential motorcycle safety gear listed below:
- Torso protection (choose one or more)
- Leather jacket
- Chest armor
- Full-body armor
- Wearable airbags
- Protective pants
- Leather gloves
- Motorcycle footwear
- Armor for all joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, etc.)
- Protective eyewear
You'll need to choose different types of armor depending on what style of riding you're into. We'll go into more detail below on what safety equipment you'll want to focus on for each type of riding as well as the pros and cons of each kind of gear. Keep reading, and we'll delve right into it!
7 Must-Have Pieces Of Protective Motorcycle Gear
The helmet is the single most crucial piece of safety gear you need to wear on a motorcycle. It absorbs potentially devastating impacts to the head and face while also shielding you from debris. Shopping for one is an in-depth task because there are many, many different styles and types of helmets. If you get a helmet with a built-in face-visor, you can skip buying an extra piece of safety eyewear. Check out our list of the best motorcycle helmet brands to help you find some quality protection for your head.
Leather gloves are another versatile piece of apparel regardless of riding style, and you want to make sure they feel comfortable. Gloves might seem a bit overkill, but the hands and feet are some of the most easily injured parts of the body during a motorcycle crash. Gloves will also disperse some of the vibrations from your motorcycle and feature gripping material on the palms, so your hands don't slip off if they're sweaty or wet. You can even find touchscreen gloves like AXBXCX motorcycle gloves. Click here to see at Amazon.
Certain armor pieces are essential for racing on closed tracks, but they might be uncomfortable and distracting if you're taking a long road trip on the highway. Below, we've highlighted essential pieces of gear for racing or cruising and provided examples. But first, watch the informative video to learn the difference between armor types and choose the best gear for your riding situation.
While chest armor seems like an essential piece of protective equipment whenever you ride, it's best used on closed tracks or driving behind other motorcycles on a rough road. This armor protects your front, back, and shoulders but doesn't cover your arms. It's best for deflecting any hard debris, such as rocks thrown by other vehicles ahead of you. It also guards your chest if you have a sudden stop and fly into your handlebars.
Chest armor also provides excellent ventilation so that you won't get as hot in chest armor compared to other equipment. However, it doesn't offer all-around protection of your torso. For riding around town, chest armor is usually too bulky to wear along with leather jackets that do protect your arms and elbows. Click here to see PELLOR's Motorcycle Body Vest at Amazon.
A piece of full-body armor protects your entire torso, unlike the chest armor. Most full-body pieces cover the arms and elbows with sufficient padding if you're in an accident, which makes them potentially a lot safer than the chest piece. On the flip side, the full-body armor can become very hot, so you probably won't want to wear it during the summer.
Full-bodies offer some of the best protection besides the helmet. Since all of the armor components are smoothly integrated into one piece, you won't have to worry about the armor sliding out of place. Click here to see the Armor Pro Jacket at Amazon.
Besides the helmet, leather jackets are a motorcyclist's best friend for many reasons; they are durable, abrasion-resistant, water-resistant, windproof, stylish, and feel comfortable. That said, jackets are not the end-all-be-all for safety. Alone, they don't offer any impact absorption or other torso protection that the full-body armor and chest armor can give you. Luckily, you can find many jackets that come with built-in protectors or pockets for armor. Click here to see the Dualsport Enduro jacket at Amazon.
New technology has developed wearable airbags, which are an excellent form of protection on the road. The trade-off is that you'll be spending a good chunk of change on a single torso piece. Wearable airbags are featured on vests or integrated into jackets, which are the best overall protection for your torso. Some airbag jackets protect your neck while others leave it exposed, so you have to shop around and find the right one to suit your comfort.
Leather pants are the best option for safety because they have the best abrasion and heat resistance so that they won't melt to your skin during a slide. Some pants come with built-in knee armor as well, which is super convenient. Wearing all-leather all the time can get pretty hot, though, so let's look at some pros and cons of alternatives to full-leather pants.
Are Kevlar jeans as good as leathers?
Kevlar jeans feature an additional protective lining inside that makes them more abrasion resistant, but a two-lined pair of pants can still make for a hot ride. They are far better than wearing traditional clothing on a motorcycle, but they are still not as good as leathers. There is a recent rise in single-layer, comfortable protective jeans that use strong fibers, but leathers are still the best choice for bikers. Click here to see ScorpionExo Coverts motorcycle jeans on Amazon.
Are leather chaps good protection?
Wearing leather chaps over pants provides much better abrasion resistance than other apparel, but the chaps can leave your pelvis exposed to friction depending on the style. Chaps are not the best choice by themselves either because they don't offer any impact protection. So, you'll want armor for your knees at the very least. The good news is that some leather chaps have built-in armor or pockets similar to full-leather pants. The most significant benefits of chaps are that they are a lot cooler than full-leather pants and removable, so you don't have to wear motorcycle leathers wherever you go.
Motorcycle boots are the best choice for footwear while riding because they protect your feet rather than just covering them. Most motorcycle boots and shoes include hardened toe and heel boxes, reinforced soles, and padding for the ankle. They also use straps for a tight fit or to secure the laces, so they don't get caught up in your bike.
Motorcycle shoes have most of the qualities that the boots do, but they don't provide as much protection for the ankle and shin. You won't want to wear knee protectors in addition to shoes because knee protectors are practically useless if they're not an extension of the boot for full leg coverage. Click here to see O'Neal's New Logo Riders motorcycle boots at Amazon.
While leather is king for motorcycle apparel, it doesn't absorb impacts by itself. You'll want some armor pieces on the major and minor joints like your shoulders, knees, and elbows. Not all armor is created equal. Some pieces sustain multiple impacts, but others will crumple to absorb the blow and be useless afterward. Cheaper options will unfortunately sacrifice some safety for the price but having any armor on is better than wearing none.
Knee and elbow protectors are a cost-effective choice. The hard casing on the outside protects your joints from blows, and the soft foam interior softens the impact. They're best used in tandem with good motorcycle boots, which then acts as an extender to cover the entire leg.
The main issue with these protectors is that they don't prevent your joints from twisting or bending in the opposite direction. Like many other armor pieces, they're a bit bulky so you might have trouble fitting it under your pants as well. Click here to see Moto knee pads at Amazon.
Knee braces are the better option compared to knee protectors because braces offer support to prevent the knee from twisting or bending in the wrong direction. They are usually sleeker as well, so they can fit better under your pants. In exchange, knee braces are more expensive than protectors. Click here to see the Leatt X-Frame knee brace at Amazon.
Leather apparel with integrated armor is the most reasonable option in terms of everyday use and adequate protection. You might want to double-check the included armor because some pieces are flimsy. The good news is that you have the option to either put new armor pieces into a slot or wear an outer strap-on version. It's important to remember that armor pieces can still slide out of place worn with a leather jacket or pants, even inside of dedicated pockets. Ensure that the leather apparel is comfortable but not too loose to minimize the risk of the armor sliding out of place.
How do motorcycle back protectors work?
Motorcycle back protectors spread the impact across the entire armor piece rather than the brunt of it directed to your spine. You'll want a back protector that will cover as much of your back as possible while remaining comfortable. The full-body and chest armor will likely include some built-in back protection. Consider finding back protectors if you're wearing a leather jacket that doesn't already include protection.
Do glasses count as motorcycle eye protection?
Standard glasses and sunglasses can easily shatter on impact, and the shards can fly into your eyes. Specific motorcycle glasses do exist, including prescription versions. Many of these glasses are shatter-resistant and have curved lenses, which increase your peripheral vision on the road.
If you're riding at higher speeds, have a good pair of motorcycle goggles instead since they hold up against the wind better. Many riders have multiple motorcycle glasses and goggles to suit the riding conditions and their preferred style. You can find packages with several pairs of googles too. Click here to see Birdz Eagle triple pairs at Amazon.
What should you not wear on a motorcycle?
Wearing multiple layers is fine, but never wear street clothes on a motorcycle. They offer no protection against the road if you fall off your bike or crash, and the intense friction will tear through the light material and scrape off your skin. You'll want to look for genuine leather apparel, which has excellent abrasion resistance and can contain built-in pockets for additional armor.
Make sure you check off every item on this list before you ride your motorcycle. A helmet is necessary for all situations, and gloves, pants, and footwear made for bikers. Choose which type of torso protection best suits your riding style, and acquire multiple pieces for different situations. Now that you have everything you need to ride safely, you can focus your efforts on customizing your gear in various ways, like decorating your helmet with decals, mohawks, or even cat ears.