Yesterday, we talked about May being National Motorcycle Safety Month, and how motorcyclists and vehicle drivers must “share the road.”  We know that there are careful drivers and careless ones; but the roads need to be free from distracted drivers and/or riders.  Today, we want to mention the several types of gear that motorcyclists need.  It’s advised that upon purchasing that long-dreamed of “bike”, one allows another $500 to $1000 to outfit themselves with the appropriate gear – gear that will keep them safe, while looking cool!  In the past, motorcyclists wore all black; however, studies have shown that by wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing, risk of a crash was reduced by 37%, by using headlamps all the time, the risk was reduced by 27%, and by wearing white helmets compared to black, the chance of collision was reduced by 24%.   Vests that are high visibility may be worn over jackets to increase being seen. 

Here are some other items of “personal protective equipment” for safe riders:

  •          Gloves.  Choose gloves that have surfaces that help maintain grip and control.  Some have a carbon fiber shell over the knuckles and padding on the palm.  Some gloves are designed specifically for riders.
  •          Pants.  These should be made of Kevlar, cordura, or a thicker leather than  popular leather jackets.  Ones made of Kevlar, ballistic nylon or cordura are cheaper than leather and easier to maintain, waterproof, and cooler in warm weather.  Also, some pants come with padding, removable liners, and reflective materials.
  •          Jackets.  Choose a quality jacket, preferably one with some type of reflective material, and that has special padding for spine, elbows, and shoulders.
  •          Boots.  Boots come in lightweight styles, but are very tough.  They should have rubber soles, reinforced and plastic caps on ankles and toe area.
  •          Goggles or Full Face Visors.  Be sure to choose excellent eye protection.  Goggles or visors keep bugs and debris out, and you need that added face protection that visors offer.
  •          Earplugs.  After you ride for a while, the noise from the wind, etc. can possibly damage your hearing.  You will still be able to hear horns, sirens, etc. while wearing earplugs.
  •          Vests.  Vests are made from sturdy and reflective materials that deflect light in all directions. 
  •          Off-road neck protection.  Although this is something new, these devices offer the possibility of prevention of or may reduce severe spinal column injuries from spills involving head compression.  On-road testing has not been as successful as off-road due to the fact that the devices limit head rotation, and therefore, visibility.  Someday they may become more popular among off-road riders.
  •          Helmets.  Now, for a very important piece of every rider’s gear!  It is a proven fact that helmets save lives.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all helmets sold in the U.S. meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.  This standard meets the minimum levels of performance that helmets must have to protect the head and brain in the event of a crash.  You can even customize your helmet with some high visibility decals!

We’re not through about helmets, yet.  Do not purchase novelty helmets.  Many riders know that they are unsafe, but wear them anyway.  Helmets that meet the minimum Federal safety standard have an inner liner usually about one-inch thick made of firm polystyrene foam.  You should be able to feel its thickness. Unsafe helmets normally contain only soft foam padding or a bare plastic shell with no padding at all.  Helmets that meet the DOT standards have sturdy chinstraps with solid rivets, and they generally weigh about three pounds.  Be sure to check the manufacturer’s label and look for the DOT sticker on the outside back of the helmet.  Labels inside the helmet showing that it meets the standards of private, non-profit organizations such as Snell or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are good indicators that the helmet also meets the Federal safety standard.  To date, the NHTSA has not seen a novelty helmet that has a phony DOT sticker in addition to a phony Snell or ANSI label, but always check for those labels.   And remember, helmets won’t protect your noggin if you don’t wear them! 

This last message applies to all drivers and riders – do not drive or ride and drink alcohol!   Alcohol affects skills essential to ride a motorcycle, such as balance and coordination.  Alcohol abuse plays a big role in motorcycle fatalities; the percentage of intoxicated riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated vehicle drivers on the roads.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages all who drive or ride, to be smart and sober riders/drivers.  

Last, to all our motorcycle-riding friends, the rule-of-thumb: “ALL THE GEAR, ALL THE TIME!”  Ride safely, and watch for the traffic, as it watches for you.