Congratulations on getting your motorcycle license! We bet you’re thrilled, and you probably can’t wait to get your own bike and hit that open road. Or perhaps you already own a motorcycle, in which case, double congrats. Your next step is to figure out what to wear on a motorcycle.
To help you avoid some of the rookie mistakes a lot of new riders make, we’re going to walk you through the basics of motorcycle wear. You don’t necessarily need the most expensive, high-end gear out there. However, you do need to stay safe, so don’t skimp on protection and don’t think your regular jeans and a T-shirt will be enough.
So what do you have to wear when riding a motorcycle? Let’s take a look.
These days, laying your mitts on the proper motorcycle wear is easier than ever. Whether you go for textile or leather, motorcycle jeans vs. adventure riding suits, or track onesies vs. some off-road gear, there are plenty of options out there. For now, though, aim for equipment that is versatile, affordable, and comfortable.
Here is what to wear when riding a motorcycle:
These are your bare essentials, and keep in mind what any veteran rider would tell you: ATGATT, or All the Gear, All the Time. Buy your gear, then wear your equipment every time you get on your bike and ride.
Let’s start with your outer shell: your jacket and jeans or pants. When shopping for motorcycle jackets and pants, look for gear made from durable, abrasion-resistant materials such as leather. If you’re aiming for textile, the label should have names like Cordura, Kevlar, or Dyneema in it.
Your jacket should have armor pads at the back, shoulders, and elbows, and your jeans must have armor at the hips and knees. Don’t buy jackets and jeans from regular retail stores – they may look like motorcycle apparel, but that’s just fashion, not function. Shop for your motorcycle wear in specialized stores and dealerships, not Abercrombie & Fitch.
Do you have to wear protective clothing on a motorcycle, legally speaking? No. But do it for your good, because decent, good-quality motorcycle wear can save your life and your skin.
When it comes to motorcycle helmets, there’s no shortage of many different styles and price ranges. However, do not try to save and buy the cheapest scooter helmet you can find because, in the end, the question is this: how much is your head worth?
Motorcycle helmet technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, and a good quality helmet can prevent serious brain injury or even fatality. In many places, you have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle by law. But even if you live in a state without helmet laws, please, pretty please, wear one anyway. You should wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, even if you’re riding to your grocery store or grabbing a coffee with a friend – all it takes is one inattentive car driver jumping a red light or a slick oil patch on the road, and the unthinkable may happen.
If you’re not sure of what to wear under a motorcycle helmet, wear nothing. Some riders love using bandanas, buffs, and face masks, but it all depends on the type of helmet you have and the sort of riding you do.
Your next piece of the puzzle is what boots to wear on a motorcycle. In terms of style, it’s completely up to you: anything from motorcycle sneakers to full-on motocross boots has its use. However, regardless of what you pick, make sure that your boots are sturdy and have ankle and toe protection. Ideally, don’t just opt for heavy-duty construction or hiking boots but buy motorcycle-specific footwear. This is because you will need that extra protection if your foot gets caught under the bike or if you crash.
Almost there! Now that you have your motorcycle jacket, jeans, helmet, and boots, you’ll need a pair of gloves. Most riders get two pairs of gloves, one for warm weather and one for the colder season, but this is entirely your choice. When shopping for motorcycle gloves, see that they have extra padding at the knuckles and the lower portion of your palms. Your gloves should fit your hands snugly but without restricting movement.
Finally, you’ll need some base layers. Sure, you can wear your T-shirt or jumper underneath your motorcycle jacket. Still, base layers are typically made of thinner, moisture-wicking material that helps you stay cool, dry, and comfortable. Thermal base layers will keep you warm during those colder months.
While a lot of motorcycle wear is universal and can be worn year-round, there are some nuances to hot and cold weather riding. Let’s go over each one briefly and see how you can stay protected but comfortable, no matter the weather.
If you live someplace warm and sunny, we bet that the blue-jeans-and-t-shirt scenario we mentioned earlier sounds really good to you. However, do wear a motorcycle jacket in the summer and dogear up when it comes to protective motorcycle jeans or pants. There are so many summer motorcycle gear options available with integrated mesh panels, breathable fabric, and plenty of vents to keep you cool even when the temperatures soar. Opt for lightweight, well-ventilated jackets and pants, and stay safe on the road.
If you know you’ll be riding your motorcycle in the off-season just as much as during the warmer months, prepare to deal with the cold and the rain. The simplest solution is to buy four-season gear with a GoreTex outer shell to protect you from wet conditions and removable liners to keep you warm during winter. In addition, layer up using several base and thermal layers will help keep warm. Remember to wear a neck buff for added warmth, and if all fails or if you’re riding somewhere with temperatures below zero, consider getting some heated riding gear.