Buy Motorcycle or Gear First: An Everyman’s Guide

buy motorcycle or gear first

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It’s a question that comes up quite a bit with people who plan on getting started riding motorcycles; Do I buy motorcycle or gear first?

Should I buy motorcycle or gear first?

If you’re planning on purchasing a motorcycle, experienced motorcyclists recommend that you purchase the necessary gear first starting with a motorcycle helmet.

There are two reasons why I would recommend that you purchase some basic gear before you purchase your motorcycle.

Reason number one is just common sense –

Every seen the acronym “AGATT”?

It stands for “All Gear All The Time”. You want to make sure that you have all the gear you need before you throw a leg over

the saddle and head down the road on a motorcycle.

Reason number two is also simple;

Ever get a toy as a kid you were excited about on Christmas only to discover you didn’t have batteries or other accessories to play with it.

Remember that disappointment?

It’ll be the same with your new motorcycle if you don’t get your gear first.

Don’t buy a motorcycle without getting all the gear, or you’re just going to be staring at it longingly for days or weeks on end until you buy all your riding gear. Nobody wants that.

The bottom line is that if you are new to riding buy at least the basic gear first before purchasing your motorcycle.

You need motorcycle gear that’s going suit your personal needs, fits you well, makes the ride more enjoyable and keeps you safe. Quality motorcycle riding gear increases safety and comfort.

I have a saying – “I don’t ride to be miserable”.

Having the right gear determines whether your going to have an awesome ride or be a miserable mess during your ride

What is motorcycle riding gear?

Riding gear is specialized apparel and personal equipment that you wear when riding and traveling by motorcycle.

Whenever you get on a motorcycle, you should always be wearing the five basic protective pieces of gear:  helmet, gloves, boots, jacket and riding pants.

Once thing that you’ll learn when you start riding a motorcycle is that there is always some new piece of gear or device that you’re going to want to make the ride easier or more comfortable. Items like motorcycle seat pads, travel bags motorcycle gps and other cool stuff.

But at the bare minimum you need the five pieces of motorcycle gear and they are:

  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Jacket
  • Riding boots
  • Motorcycle riding pants

Where it can be confusing, is that there are so many variations of these pieces of gear.

We’ll try and break a few of these all down!

Get the best motorcycle helmet that works for you

Don’t kid yourself;

Your motorcycle helmet is the one of most critical pieces of gear you need to protect yourself. But, you don’t need to spend tons of money get a good helmet. You just need to pick the right type of helmet and make sure it meets the basic DOT Standard and has the (spoiler alert: almost all do).

There are three basic types of helmets that are available:

  • Full Face Helmets (this includes modular helmets)
  • Open Face or Three quarter Helmets
  • Half Helmets

Full Face Helmets

Full face helmets offer you the best protection for your head that’s out there and are highly recommended. Modular helmets also fall into this category.

While full face helmets offer the best protection, you can lose a bit of peripheral vision and varies from helmet to helmet.

Open Face

Open face helmets are also known as ‘three quarter helmets’.

These helmets will offer you good protection for your head and good visibility, but no protection if you do land on your face in a crash.

You can remedy that to a certain degree by using face shield on the helmet. It won’t be as sturdy as a full face helmet but it’ll offer you at least some protection.

I recommend getting a mirrored finish tinted face shield similar to the face shield I use. This has the same effect as wearing sunglasses without the irritation of wearing sunglasses under your helmet.

If you’re going to use an Open Face helmet, Always use a face shield with it.

I’m currently riding with the HJC IS-33ii helmet (click the link to check out my review) and I really like it.

Half helmets

Ah yes, the ‘ol brain buckets!

A half helmet is what you wear when you really don’t want to wear a helmet, but you don’t want a ticket.

These helmets offer the least amount of protection but are better than nothing.

The advantages with a half helmet are visibility and cooler during the hot weather. However, you giving up a lot of protection to get those things.

This is also the category of helmets where you’re going to see a lot of non DOT certified helmets. If you buy a half helmet, look at it very carefully and make sure it’s stamped with a DOT certification.

Basics of Helmet Construction

In the United States, motorcycle helmets must adhere to DOT (Department of Transportation) standards in order to be a ‘legal’ helmet.

Motorcycle helmet construction is broken down into four basic parts:

  • The outer shell – Made of polycarbonate composites, fiberglass or other material
  • Impact absorbing liner – generally made of impact absorbing polystyrene. With non DOT helmets this liner can be very thin or nonexistent.
  • Comfort padding – This is the nice soft layer that’s right next to your head.
  • The retention system – The retention system is simply the two D-rings and chin strap you see common on most helmets. Make sure you know how to fasten it correctly, or you’re helmet will come right off in a crash.

Buy The Best Motorcycle Gloves

Here’s a quick question for you –

Whenever you fall down, what’s the first body part that a human use to shield themselves from a fall?

You guessed it, you’re hands.

I used to wear cheap crappy gloves and skimped in this department until I started giving a lot of thought to how important my hands are.

I made the firm decision to keep my hands and decided I was going to spend money to protect them.

What motorbike gloves to get

Having a good pair of motorcycle riding gloves is required if you don’t want your hands severely injured in any type of motorcycle accident.

Remember this;

It’s human nature to try and catch yourself when you fall to prevent injury when you fall to the ground. Remember all those times as a kid?

If you’re going to just be a poser and pick your gloves (or any of your gear for that matter) strictly for looks you’re asking for trouble. Those that have had accidents with thin crappy gloves usually wind up with a lifetime scars and permanent injury.

As important as gloves can be, there are no government certifications or standards for motorcycle gloves. When you’re looking to purchase gloves, there are a few basic things that you should keep in mind before getting yourself a set.

What motorcycle glove features should I look for?

Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when you’re looking for motorcycle gloves:

  • Reinforced palms – You’re palms may be the first thing that hits the ground and slides on the pavement.
  • Knuckle/finger guards – Rocks and debris hitting your fingers at highway speed hurt… a lot
  • Stick to leather – Whenever possible, stick to leather gloves specifically cowhide. Cowhide leather takes longer to break in, but is generally more durable.
  • Get Gloves that go past your wrist – While you may not want full gauntlet gloves, you do want your gloves to go past your wrist bone.
  • Control – Ensure that your gloves will not get in the way of being able to operate the controls of your motorcycle effectively
  • Weather Conditions – What weather conditions will you be riding in? For me, I ride in hot weather all the time so I like my gloves to ‘breathe’. I purchased a second set of gloves specifically for cold weather and switch whenever I need to.
  • Wrist straps – Good well designed gloves have wrist straps to keep them in place if your crash. Get gloves with quality  securement and non elastic straps.

Get a Motorcycle Jacket

Next in line after getting yourself a good helmet and gloves, is getting yourself a good motorcycle jacket.

Just like your helmet, your motorcycle jacket is one of the pieces of gear that your should be riding with every time you take a trip on your bike.

It’s a no brainer;

Your motorcycle jacket provides protection to your upper body in case of an accident as well as the elements.

Let’s face it;

Style is going to be an important factor that riders consider when they buy their motorcycle jacket. That’s fine, but make sure you don’t get too caught up in it. It’s easy to get starry eyed, but keep your safety in mind first!

Types of Motorcycle Jackets

Picking a motorcycle jacket can get confusing because there are several different types as well as different materials they’re made out of.

Basic motorcycle riding jackets are:

  • Leather
  • Mesh
  • Textile

The features and style will vary depending on the kind of riding your doing.

What I recommend for motorcycle jackets

For motorcycle touring, I recommend getting a motorcycle jacket that hangs below your waist versus most motorcycle jackets that stop at your waist. This was a mistake I made with my first jacket.

Why is that?

Having a jacket that hangs over your waist helps keep your midsection and back warmer and dryer in bad weather by keeping things covered. The jacket will channel water (and wind) over your waistline and not funnel it into your pants.

And by into your pants, I mean down into your butt. Yuck.

Things to look for in your motorcycle jacket

Everybody’s taste is a bit different, but here are just a few things to think about when you’re buying a motorcycle jacket:

  • Does the jacket have built in armor. The elbows, shoulders are usually the areas that are armored. More expensive jackets have armor in the spinal area.
  • What abrasion resistance does the jacket have?
  • is it waterproof? You don’t want water soaking through the jacket
  • Does it have good venting – In warmer weather, you’ll want air flow through the jacket specially if you happen to be wearing a cool vest underneath.
  • Decide on material – Do you want leather, mesh or textile? Some more expensive jackets you can get a mixture of these. For example, my jacket has in inner shell that’s mesh but the outer shell is textile (like Joe Rocket jackets for example)
  • Reflective material – If you don’t mind the look, getting a jacket with reflective material built into is always a good idea, specially if you’re riding two up. People can see the reflection off of the passengers jacket in addition to lights and reflectors on the motorcycle.
  • Color – I know we all want to look cool in a black leather jacket, but that’s not the best color choice if your trying to stay visible to other motorists. Just something to keep in mind.

Finding Motorcycle Pants That Suit You

Everybody likes to wear only jeans when they ride but the fact is, is that jeans will do very little or nothing to provide any protection in an accident.

The thing is;

If your wearing a good pair of motorcycle pants, you’ll have more protection and can limit injuries to your butt, thighs, knees and hips.

When you’re looking at getting yourself a new set of motorcycle pants the first things you need to start is deciding how the pants will be suited for:

  • The season you’re riding in – I typically ride in hot weather
  • Your riding style – Are you touring, riding a sport bike, etc.
  • Season you’re riding in and the whether or not you want to ride in any foul weather.
  • Staying comfortable when and whenever you ride
  • Keep you protected in case of an accident in high impact areas of your body: Thighs, hips, knees and butt
  • Once you’ve figured out all of that, the next step is to decide what you want the motorcycle pants to be made of.
  • There are a lot of options out there to choose from, but here are a few:
  • Leather (pants/chaps)
  • Synthetic or textile
  • Kevlar/Denim combinations

Leather Motorcycle Pants

Leather pants protect against abrasion in an accident, but don’t protect against impact. For that you’ll need leather pants with armor built in to all the right places.

The downside is that in hot weather leather pants can be really uncomfortable. You’ll want to make sure the garment is vented or has some other way to keep you cool.

Synthetic or Textile Pants

Synthetic motorcycle pants (like nylon, kevlar or polyester) will be more flexible, lighter and thinner than leather.

Keep in mind synthetic/textile pants all alone will not protect against abrasion as well as leather. The pants can melt from heat and tear when scraped across a roadway surface.

It’s not a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind when you’re looking at buying a set.

Just like leather, you’ll also want to make sure than have armor in high impact areas.

Kevlar/Denim Pants

A lot of riders (myself included) are not big fans of the look of motorcycle pants generally and prefer the look of denim. Denim is also cooler than leather or textile materials which makes it the most comfortable.

The motorcycle apparel industry answered and came up with riding jeans that are re enforced with kevlar and extra padding in all the right places.

Denim/kevlar pants won’t do as well in an accident as leather or textile pants ubt do provide much better protection than just typical store bought jeans.

Motorcycle Boots: Last but not least

The last additions to your gear is getting yourself a good set of motorcycle boots. When deciding which boots to wear while riding consider the following:

  • Allows you to access the bike foot controls like the shifter.
  • Keeps not only your foot protected, but also your ankles.
  • Feel comfortable on your feet. Remember, you’ll be walking around at your destination
  • Suits your riding style.

In a nutshell, you want protection, control. comfort and suitability.

Motorcycle Boots Keep Your Feet Protected

Remember that the main purpose is to keep your ankles and feet protected while you’re riding.

Having a good pair of boots is going to be your best defense against the road debris you’re going to encounter out on the  highway, and trust me there’s a lot of it. Rocks, broken glass, insects, tire treads are just a few kinds of debris you’ll encounter.

Let’s not forget our favorite;

Crappy weather.

A good pair of boots will protect you from wet and cold weather.

What about getting in an accident? A nice set of boots can go a long way to either preventing or minimizing injury (like cuts, abrasions and broken bones) in your shins, ankles and feet.

Personally, I prefer motorcycle boots with laces versus boots that just slip on. I’ve seen many an accident where the forces at work pulled people right out of their clothing.

Stay in Control

Even if your boots are armored, have thick soles or are thick for riding in the cold they should still allow you operate the foot controls on your bike easy.

You should be able to apply non slip, firm pressure to your gear shifter and rear brake pedal.

The boots should also have an aggressive sole on the bottom to help keep your feet from sliding out from under you when your holding the motorcycle up (At a traffic light for instance).

Do Boots Suit Your Riding Style?

No matter when, where and how you like to ride your motorcycle your boots need to suit your riding style.

If you’re touring or planning on spending time at a destination consider the following:

  • Your daily travel mileage
  • The seasons you ride
  • Weather conditions you ride
  • Are the boots flexible enough for walking?
  • Will the boots look or match well with your other gear?

Your boots should help you stay in control of the motorcycle and keep your feet comfortable whether you’re at highway speed, sitting in traffic or checking out a new travel destination.

What should be the first piece of motorcycle gear I should buy?

Should you buy motorcycle or gear first? You really should have all of your gear before you get started riding. But if you can only afford to get just a few pieces of gear to get started, I’d start with the following:

  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Jacket

I want to reiterate that you should purchase all of the appropriate gear before riding. But if you’re on a budget, those are the first few things you should buy.

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