A Guide to Motorcycle Safety Gear and Clothes

How to Protect Yourself on Your Bike

One of the most important but sometimes overlooked aspects of motorcycle riding is safety gear. Though it can be cumbersome and awkward, this gear is the only thing between you and the road in an accident. Imagine sliding across the pavement at 50 mph wearing shorts and a T-shirt and you'll begin to understand why some people say you shouldn't expose any part of your body on a bike that you wouldn't expose to a belt sander.

Going from head to toe, here's a breakdown of key safety equipment, plus some off-road options:

Helmets

Motorcycle racer going fast
Daniel Milchev/Stone/Getty Images

An old saying goes: If you have a $20 head, buy yourself a $20 helmet.

A proper, Department of Transportation-approved helmet can go a long way toward saving your skull in case of an accident. Even if you don't want to protect your brain, helmets also offer shelter from wind noise and turbulence.

Eye Protection

Harley Goggles
Photo © Harley-Davidson

Eye protection not only keeps wind from making tears streak down your face; it also keeps debris and bugs from flying into your eyes. Visors in helmets offer built-in eye coverage, but some riders prefer to wear separate eye protection so they can enjoy a tinted field of vision that's removable when the sun drops.

Ear Protection

Earplugs
Photo © 3M

Are earplugs safety equipment? Absolutely! Wind noise on a motorcycle can become extreme at highway speeds, and your hearing can suffer damage after repeated exposure to loud sounds.

Check local laws about ear protection before you plug up; some states require custom-molded earplugs, while others have specific rules governing how you can cover your ears on a motorcycle.

Jackets

Retro Motorcycle Jacket by Icon
Retro motorcycle jackets tend to feature old school graphics and patches with modern construction; spend more, and you can get emulate the colors, styles, and logos featured on classic racing schemes. Photo © Icon

A wide variety of jackets is available, offering many options for upper body protection. From armored race gear to ventilated summer wear, jackets can reduce or prevent abrasion injuries and look very cool in the process.

Gloves

Motorcycle Gloves
Photo © Alpinestars

It's a basic human reflex to try to break your fall by extending your arms, so hands can suffer considerable damage when a rider is thrown off a rapidly moving bike. Protect your palms, knuckles, and fingers with sturdily constructed, well-padded gloves, preferably the gauntlet styles that extend past the wrist.

Pants

Motorcycle Pants
Photo © Rev'It

This is one of the easiest places to get lazy when it comes to buying motorcycle gear. Just throw on a pair of jeans, right? You've donned a helmet, gloves, and jacket; why would you skimp on lower body protection? Pant styles range from touring and dual purpose to sport and casual. If you've decided to skip the Ninja Turtles look, there are plenty of other casual options.

Boots

Motorcycle Boots
Photo © O'Neal

From motocross and road racing to traditional cruiser styles, there are loads of ways to protect your feet on a motorcycle. Don't underestimate the importance of keeping your feet firmly planted on the pegs and of protecting your shins from pebbles.

Neck Protection (Off-Road)

Alpinestars Neck Support
Photo © Alpinestars

Though they're still in their infancy, neck support devices offer the possibility of preventing or reducing severe spinal column injuries from spills involving head compression. Testing in on-road situations has been less successful than off-road applications because devices that limit head rotation also reduce visibility, but there may come a day when these devices become widespread.

Elbow, Shin, and Knee Guards (Off-Road)

Motorcycle Safety Guards
Photo © Shift

Typically worn beneath jerseys while riding off-road, these guards protect key body parts such as elbows, shins, and knees from impact. They also can be effective for street riding worn in combination with less protective outer layers, such as Kevlar-reinforced jeans, though they don't offer the complete coverage of full gear.

Roost Deflector/Chest Guard (Off-Road)

Roost Deflector
Photo © Fox

These devices tend to be made of lightweight plastics and offer impact and abrasion resistance to the chest area.