Learning Center

Gear Up Before You Rev Up

person riding motorcycle wearing helmet

Choosing the right motorcycle safety gear can enhance your ride.

While protective clothing won't help you avoid an accident, it can make a big difference if you do hit the pavement.

Helmets

Safety experts say wearing a helmet is the smartest move you can make when riding a motorcycle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent.

NHTSA studies also show helmets saved 1,829 motorcyclists' lives in 2008, and 823 more could potentially have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

When choosing a helmet, look for a Department of Transportation (DOT) label to indicate it meets federal safety standards.

Helmets protect your head in four ways, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

  • Outer shell – stops penetration and abrasion.
  • Inner shell – slowly collapses under impact to absorb the force of a blow.
  • Foam and cloth liner – keeps the helmet snug and comfortable.
  • Retention system (chinstrap) – holds the helmet on your head in the event of a crash.

Eye Protection

When dirt, pebbles and insects are flying in your face at 55 mph, you need some protection. Some motorcycles have windshields to keep debris from hitting a rider, but the MSF says that's not enough to protect your eyes and face from injury.

Ideally, choose a helmet with a face shield to protect your eyes and face. Another choice – one that only protects eyes – is goggles with plastic or safety lenses. Both a shield and goggles can also protect riders' eyes from tearing up from the wind.

Your eye protection should be shatter-proof and well-ventilated to prevent fog buildup. Only use clear shields or lenses at night since tinted ones reduce contrast and make it more difficult to see.

Body Protection

The type of clothing you choose to ride in can have a big impact on your riding experience. There are three main purposes for motorcycle safety gear:

  • Comfort and protection from the elements.
  • Injury protection.
  • Visual cues for other motorist through the use of color or reflective material.

The MSF recommends such clothing be made with a durable material like leather or an abrasion-resistant fabric to help reduce injury in a crash. For a comfortable ride, choose apparel with longer sleeves and legs, and that's fuller across the shoulders.

It's important not to wear loose fitting clothing like wide-flared pants or scarves. These items could get tangled in your cycle's chain, foot pegs or kick starter.

The NHTSA says upper body clothing should be brightly-colored and reflective to make you visible to other motorists. Consider wearing a reflective orange or yellow vest over your leather jacket.

Gloves

Gloves can protect hands from blisters, wind, sun and cold. Plus they can help prevent cuts, bruises and abrasions in a crash.

Choose gloves with a non-slip grip so you can keep a firm hold on the controls. If they fit too loosely, it may be hard to operate the controls. If they're too tight, you could lose circulation and feeling in your fingers.

Gauntlet-style gloves will help keep cold air out of your sleeves.

Footwear

Your feet face many hazards when you hop onboard a motorcycle, so proper footwear is important every time you ride. The MSF recommends over-the-ankle type boots to protect against burns from hot exhaust pipes and flying road debris.

The sole should be made of rubber-based material to help keep your feet on the pegs. Footwear made with durable material will also provide protection in case of a crash.

Weather Protection

Keep rain gear with you when you ride so you can be ready for sudden weather changes. The protective apparel is designed to fit over your other safety gear and closes tightly around your neck, wrist and ankles.

Adverse weather can make a motorcyclist harder to see, so the NHTSA suggests wearing brightly colored rain gear to increase your visibility.

Of course, protecting yourself on a cycle involves more than proper safety gear. Contact an American Family agent today to get a motorcycle insurance quote.

 Additional Motorcycle Safety Resources

These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards.