My friend Kevin Morris at Ridergroups.com has produced a series of quality training videos every rider should see. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve ridden enough to be completely competent and believe that you need no further instruction. However, all of us, no matter our level of experience can benefit from the videos Kevin has produced. I urge you to take a look. I learn something new from every episode and I’m sure you will too. Here is episode #2.
My friend Kevin Morris at Ridergroups.com has produced a series of quality training videos every rider should see. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve ridden enough to be completely competent and believe that you need no further instruction. However, all of us, no matter our level of experience can benefit from the videos Kevin has produced. I urge you to take a look. I learn something new from every episode and I’m sure you will too. Here is episode #1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago, Bud Miller, the founder of this site, and I went for a motorcycle ride. Bud introduced me to some beautiful, nearly deserted back roads, which were literally minutes from my home. Under his watchful eye I got to hone my skills in this sport I love.
I was not doing very well at first, (more…)
Be Wary of Gaps
Here in Pennsylvania, it’s still legal to use a cell phone while driving. There is a ban on texting but I’m not sure how enforceable it is since it’s still legal to make and receive a call. I’ve noticed that anyone intent on texting or calling when stopped in traffic will often leave a considerable gap between themselves and the car in front of them. It serves as an alert to me that an inattentive driver using a cell phone may be behind the wheel.
The fastest lane is usually the one you’re in
I see this every morning on my commute; everyone thinks they’re going to get there faster if they swerve from lane to lane whenever a slight gap opens up. Every morning it seems that when I ride in my lane and stay there, I end up right next to the guy who’s been meandering through traffic.
After a few close calls commuting I’ve altered my hand positions slightly. My left hand has two fingers on the clutch lever and thumb on the air horn. That saves me some time in heavy traffic and keeps me from missing the horn in an emergency. It takes a bit of getting used to but works like a charm.
My right hand always has two fingers on the front brake lever, again to save time and give me the instant use of both brake and throttle when necessary.
Yellow Line Crossovers
More and more lately I’ve noticed impatient drivers swerving around other cars who are making turns. Often they swerve into the oncoming lane. It’s something to watch out for and make lane position choices about in traffic. I try to stay visible but in the case of a car approaching you and turning right you have to watch out for the trailing car swerving across into your lane.
Look up ramps for mergers
I always give a look over my shoulder and up ramps checking for mergers before they suddenly appear in my mirror. Some ramp angles are so subtle and gradual that other cars are often driving parallel to motorcycles just before they merge. A quick head check up the ramp can save a rider from an incident.
Sometimes you just have a feeling
The other day I was previewing a route for a group ride I have scheduled and found myself behind two other vehicles. The lead vehicle was driving slowly, maybe 40 in a 55. The second car was obviously impatient, as was I; but we were in a section of double yellow lines. The second car got tired of waiting and passed. I had a split second where I considered following him but I held back. As the passing car began to merge a huge deer ran out from the side of the road. Had I followed I doubt I’d have missed the deer. Sometimes you just have a feeling, I always try to defer to those feelings.
I’ll post more as they occur to me. What are some other tips that we can all use to make us safer on the road?
Last Week, I wrote a post called Tips & Tricks Part 1. Here is another installment with a few observations that occurred to me today while commuting 40 miles in the rain.
Wait for it: When pulling out from red lights, I try to wait a heartbeat after the light turns green. Frequently, and especially on the morning commute, people run red lights. Waiting a second or two puts me in better position for a car running a light to pass me by before I pull into an intersection. Also, on four lane roads it allows me to use the car next to me as a block for any car that may approach from that side.
Swerving around traffic: This one is a question of vision. As the saying goes, “Never put your bike anyplace your brain hadn’t been two seconds earlier.” Swerving around a turning car means you’re doing just that. I’ve learned its better to slow up, let the car in front make his turn without altering my course, then accelerate when the space is clear and I can see what’s ahead. It also stands to reason that the bigger the vehicle I am following, the more it can obscure. You’ve heard the term “nature abhors a vacuum.” Well, the same can be said of motorists at rush hour.
Tapping the brakes: There’s a point on my commute where an intersecting road is hidden around a sweeping curve. It’s impossible to see if someone may be pulling out into my lane until I am midway through the turn and very close to the intersection. The speed limit is 45 in that section, so as I approach the turn I tap the brake lever to at least try to get the attention of any car behind me. It’s another example of how commuting allows you to learn the route and its hidden dangers, which is an excellent training aid for touring.
Accepting wave outs: I’m always cautious when another motorist gives me the “go ahead” wave. The most important consideration is whether or not you have clear vision ahead and to both sides. I’ll politely decline a wave-out and wait if I can’t see well enough and believe it’s possible I may be surprised. Another consideration is that it may be possible other motorists failed to see someone has waved you on and may try and fill the vacant space at the same time you do.
Watch the rims: I try to watch the rims of cars waiting to pull into traffic to see if they are moving or not. Quite often it’s difficult to tell if a car is beginning to pull out by looking at the car or the driver. Most rims are light colored and have holes in them that create contrast. If I glance at the rims, it’s much easier to detect movement and may give you a bit of extra time to react.
I’ll post more as they occur to me. What are some other tips we can all use to make us safer on the road?
I’ve seen this video a few places now and thinks it’s something every rider should see so I’m re-posting it here. It’s the pilot of a series of videos on accident avoidance from the rider’s perspective. This one deals with a driver pulling out in front of a motorcycle he failed to see and how we, as riders, can be sure we are seen.
This is a fantastic video, a collaboration between Motojournalism and Traction off-road E-rag, about off-road riders Paul Rodden and Larry Murray, both former enduro champions who are still going strong into their 5th decade of riding and racing. These guys can keep pace with riders less than half their age and refuse to let age dictate their ability. For more information and additional scenes visit Motojournalism. Thanks to my buddy Marty for another great find.