Tag Archive: beginner

The Head-to-Toe Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycle Gear

(CC0 License – Public Domain)

There’s a lot for new motorcycle riders to be excited about: learning how to ride, choosing a first motorcycle, and finally hitting the road and experiencing one’s surroundings as they can only be experienced from the back of a bike.

But as exciting as all of this is, it’s also serious business, and there’s more to getting started than just getting licensed and buying a new bike. Being properly outfitted in protective motorcycle gear is as crucial to motorcycle safety as proper training.

If you’re a beginning motorcyclist looking for some guidance on getting properly outfitted to ride, the following rundown should give you everything you need to get started finding the gear you need to ride in safety and comfort.

The Helmet

Helmets are undoubtedly the most important piece of safety gear any motorcyclist can wear. Even a minor fall off of a motorcycle can result in a serious head injury if the rider isn’t wearing a helmet, to say nothing of more serious accidents. Here are the basics of what to look for in a motorcycle helmet:

  • DOT Certification: The U.S. Department of Transportation has a specific standard for motorcycle helmets (the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard no. 218), which outlines minimum performance ratings for metrics like impact absorption. Motorcycle helmets that meet this standard will feature a DOT sticker on the back or inside; don’t buy a helmet without this sticker.
  • Fit & Retention: A motorcycle helmet should fit snugly, but without being so tight that it’s uncomfortable. This will prevent the helmet from coming off or under-performing in an accident. Here’s a good basic test when finding a good fit: securely strap on the helmet and, gripping it from the back, try to pull it off over your head. With a helmet that fits properly, you won’t be able to.
  • Comfort: Discomfort is distracting, and no one wants to be distracted while they’re riding.
  • Style: Fashion should probably be the least of anyone’s concerns when shopping for a motorcycle helmet, but there are some choices when it comes to style. Full-face, open face, motocross, and half-helmets are all options. Full-face models offer the best protection, but many riders prefer open-face or half-helmets for comfort reasons.

The Jacket

What helmets do for your head, a good jacket does for your arms, shoulders, and torso. There are a lot of options when it comes to jackets, and it’s important to know what to look for.

  • Leather vs. Textile: A high-quality leather motorcycle jacket is about more than just looking cool. Leather offers excellent abrasion resistance, but might not be the best option for shock absorption. Many modern textile jackets are made from materials like Cordura or Kevlar, which also provide protection against abrasions, and are often a lot cooler than leather in warmer weather.
  • Armor: Armor and textile jackets are both available with built-in body armor to protect against falls. At minimum, look for a jacket with armor in the shoulders, back, and elbows with at least a “CE” safety rating.
  • Fit: A good motorcycle jacket should fit snugly without restricting movement. When trying on a motorcycle jacket, zip it up completely and try to approximate the position you take on your bike. If it’s too snug in the arms and shoulder to hold comfortably in the store, you can be it will be too snug on the road.

The Pants

Motorcycle pants protect your lower extremities from abrasions and impacts – shins, knees, hips, and bottom are all dependent on good motorcycle pants in a fall. Here are some of the most common options for motorcycle pants.

  • Leather: Leather pants, like jackets, offer superior abrasion resistance. However they’re often relatively uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. Most leather pants lack additional armor.
  • Textile: Textile riding pants are made with abrasion-resistant materials like Kevlar, and more often feature built-in-armor in high-impact areas like the knees and hips. As with jackets, these often feature better breathability than leather. Many manufacturers also make Kevlar and armor-reinforced denim jeans that strike a balance between style and safety.
  • Overpants: For commuters and others who don’t want to get to their destination with just armored riding pants, motorcycle over-pants are armored, abrasion-resistant pants designed to be worn over regular street clothes or denim motorcycle jeans.

The Boots

Footwear might not be as important for safety as a helmet or jacket, but it is a concern. Motorcycle boots provide protection to the ankle, shin, toes, and sole in the event of a crash, as well as offering improved grip and comfort on long rides when compared to normal street shoes. Here are some of the most common options for motorcycle boots.

  • Touring Boots: Touring boots are probably the most popular style of motorcycle boot. Generally tall to provide ankle support and shin protection, these boots are designed for commuting and long rides.
  • Short Boots: While not as protective in most cases as touring boots, short boots are often more comfortable, and offer a sneaker-like style and fit without completely sacrificing safety.
  • Cruiser Boots: Cruiser boots are heavy-duty boots designed for long rides on v-twin cruiser-style bikes. Heights vary, but typically cruiser boots offer great grip and superb protection against impacts and abrasions.

At the end of the day, the best motorcycle gear for you is what you’re most comfortable in – provided it offers at least a minimum amount of protection. Those just beginning will need some time to find out just what that is, but that’s all a part of the fun.

Riding Your First Motorcycle

vulcan-900Many people, men and women alike, believe that motorcycles are easy to handle. After all, most of us mastered a bicycle by the age of eight and like a bicycle, motorcycles have two wheels as well. How difficult can they really be to manage on the road? The average person can get a bicycle up to around 30 mph on a flat surface. A pro cyclist can get to around 50 mph. A motorcycle can go from zero to more than 60 mph in under 4 seconds. That’s a steep increase over a bicycle, and one that should be your first clue that riding a motorcycle is going to take quite a bit of practice to get right.

If you are in the market for your first motorcycle or you know, as many riders do, that your life will be enriched through the travel options that owning a motorcycle will bring, you should take a few things into consideration before making your purchase and before hopping on the seat to take it for a spin. A motorcycle does not come equipped with an airbag or safety features like an automobile, and until you have been through some training, you simply do not want to just “hop on” and try to ride away into the sunset. A simple mistake when driving a car may end with a small scratch or even a slight fender dent. Making a mistake on a motorcycle can end your life. Be aware though that while riding a motorcycle is often thought to be dangerous, so are many other things in life and you can control the danger level by gaining experience and learning to be safe.

Before you ride your first bike, you may want to consider taking a motorcycle safety course with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) as they offer safety courses nationwide for motorcycle owners and those interested in riding. Taking a course is not mandatory, but (more…)

Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment

Author, speaker and motorcycle touring business owner Liz Jansen has written an inspirational book entitled: Women Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment, 50 Inspiring Stories of Adventure and Self-Discovery

Interspersed with the author’s own personal story of triumph, growth, discovery and overcoming adversity on her path to discovering her true calling are 49 other stories written by women who explain how integral motorcycling is in their lives and how they got their start.  The stories come from women of every profession and background from a stunt woman and mother of 3 to a policewoman responsible for training motorcycle police, to the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, as well as politicians, activists, authors, artists, businesswomen and musicians. Each shares her unique story in her own words.

Some of the stories involve women who were raised riding while others tell a tale of discovering it later in life. Having discovered riding at age 33 I can relate to the women in the book who shrugged off convention, faced their fears and refused to quit until they became competent riders. I run a motorcycle group with over 100 members, 30% of whom are women and I’ve had the opportunity over the years to hear some of their stories which mirror many of those shared in the book.

On a personal level the motorcycle has been an agent of change in my life as well so much of the book resonated with me. I saw a lot my personal history in the stories, particularly the learned fears and personal traps I’d set for myself that stopped me from becoming all that I was capable of becoming.

People take many paths to empowerment. Sadly, some never make the journey to becoming what they truly are meant to be; but for many the motorcycle is the catalyst for that change which then spills over into other areas of their lives. The women in this book illustrate that point beautifully in story after story. I was moved and inspired and often nostalgic when thinking back about my own fumbling beginnings on the bike, what riding has meant to me and how it has changed my life.

A common sentiment by the women who share their stories is that they reject being called “brave” or “courageous”. They own that they have all the same fears as everyone else; but of course the very definition of courage is the taking of action in spite of fear. So these women in fact personify courage and bravery; yet they are like so many empowered people: humble and quietly inspiring. Another common thread is that each woman, once empowered, felt the strong urge to pass that feeling on, to “pay it forward”, and help others feel it too. Once again that is a sentiment I connected strongly with.

I highly recommend Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment to not only women riders; but to everyone who rides or knows a rider, anyone who is considering riding and particularly to anyone who is unfulfilled in their current place in life, feels the universe has more in store for them and wants some inspiration to begin their own journey towards empowerment and personal growth.

I carry a laminated card in my tank bag with some of my favorite quotes printed on it. One of them is by Robert Louis Stevenson who said: “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life” . Each of the stories presented in this book reminded me of that quote, which is so much a part of me. This book is a gift Liz Jansen has given the world.

Ride safe.

Free Book Giveaway: One winner will be chosen at random from comments left for this post. Comments must be left by Tuesday May 29th at noon. The winner will be announced Tuesday May 29th at 3pm.

Buy the book (paperback or kindle):

5 Tips for buying a helmet (guest post)

This guest post fits nicely with the general theme of this blog. Thank you to Emily Murray for contributing it:

The 5 Things to Look For When Purchasing a Motorcycle Helmet

Modular (Flip Face)

Helmets are the safety belts of motorcyclists. While those of us who argue that the wind in our hair while riding is one of the best things about being on the road, helmets reduce the risk of head injuries and can be the difference between life and death, when in an accident. Current laws in most states require riders, especially those younger than 18, to wear a helmet. You can be safe and still look stylish. When purchasing a helmet, knowing what to look for can help you find one that will effectively protect you at all times.

Full Face

1. The right fit
The helmet you purchase must fit your head snugly. A helmet that moves around on your head can be noisy while riding and it can allow wind to enter. Ultimately, an over-sized helmet may come off during an accident. Measure the circumference of your head right above your eyebrows. Ask the sales person or helmet manufacturer whether this measurement is equivalent to a small, medium, large or extra-large helmet size.

2. Reflectivity

Half Helmet

Helmets are available with many designs and come in a wide variety of colors. Many people choose a bright-colored helmet to make themselves more visible to others while on the road. Motorcyclists must abide by state reflectivity requirements when it comes to the helmets they wear. Some states require helmets to have reflective strips on them so riders are clearly visible during nighttime and harsh weather conditions. Contact your local DMV for more information regarding your state’s requirements.

3. Comfort
The comfort of a helmet is essential to make your riding experience a more pleasant one. If a helmet irritates or hurts you after wearing it for 25 minutes, it can make you lose focus of the road and trigger accidents. A vent and padded straps can help to improve the comfort of the helmet.

4. Penetration and Impact

The helmet you choose must be hard and sturdy enough to withstand blows from flying objects. A helmet that’s easily penetrated can ultimately result in a fatal injury or accident. When your helmet is hit by a flying object, it must have the capacity to absorb the shock.

Dual Sport

5. Vision
Before purchasing a helmet, make sure you can easily see sideways when wearing it. Even though a person’s peripheral vision is commonly 90 degrees to both sides, a helmet with a 105-degree peripheral vision is ideal.

When you find a motorcycle helmet you like, make sure it meets safety test standards of the US Department of Transportation. You can recognize these helmets by the DOT sticker placed on the inside or the back of the helmet.

About the author: Emily grew up on the back of her dad’s Harley and while she lives in a state that doesn’t have a helmet law, she never rides without one. She is also a contributing writer for Jafrum, a site that offers the latest riding clothes.

Ride safe.

Training saves lives

Many studies show that over 90% of motorcyclists who are involved in accidents are either untrained or trained by someone they know. Knowing how to operate the controls of a motorcycle is simple enough and can be taught quickly; however, learning how to master those controls and implement them in a real world scenario takes specific training and practice. Venturing out onto the road having had no formal training is foolhardy at best and in today’s distracted cell phone happy society it’s downright dangerous. If you have anyone at home who cares about you the best thing you can do to ease their minds is to wear adequate safety gear, be a serious rider and seek out formal training from someone experienced and competent. Only after you’ve been trained and you can operate the controls of a motorcycle without thinking about the physical actions involved should you venture out into traffic.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is the best place to start; but the waiting times can be long before a class has an opening. I can provide both closed course and on-the-road training at a location of your choosing to help you get ready to ride confidently in traffic. My rates are reasonable and I can train novices as well as experienced riders and can also pick up where the MSF course leaves off, with specific on-the-road training.

Feel free to contact me if you are interested in training.