Riding a motorcycle is a fun and rewarding past time but even the most experienced rider knows that there are risks to riding. Mixed with vehicle traffic and obstacles on the road, the threat of crashing is always on the riders mind. That’s why it is so important to wear the proper protective gear. You are more likely to survive and possibly even walk away from an unfortunate incident. Always dress for the crash rather than dressing for the ride. Here are 10 areas of your body that should be protected when you ride a motorcycle.
The best way to protect your head is to wear a helmet. When you crash you can’t control whether or not your head impacts the ground and you are 47 percent less likely to be killed and 67 percent less likely to receive head injuries if you are wearing a DOT approved helmet. Many time injuries to the head and brain can cause life-long debilitating, injury’s that could can be prevented with a helmet. Today’s helmets are light weight and comfortable and come in a variety of styles and designs to fit the type of riding you do. Many states have mandatory helmet laws, but whether it is the law or not, the helmet is the most important piece of riding gear you should wear. One note, if your helmet is ever involved in a crash it must be replaced. Many insurance companies will include this cost in your claim.
Many riders choose to wear a helmet that is not full-face, meaning it only covers the top and sides of the head. While these helmets satisfy legal requirements, they lack in providing protection to vital areas of the face. Remember, when you crash you can’t control what your head is going to do and the majority of impacts occur on the chin and the side of the jaw. If you are not wearing a full-face helmet, your face, jaw and teeth are vulnerable. In addition, a full-face helmet will protect your face during the ride from wind, cold, sunburn, and insects, which can give you quite a jolt when they impact your face at 60 miles per hour. It will provide you will a safer, more comfortable ride.
Your shoulders are a potential impact point when you crash and even a minor crash could result in a dislocated shoulder or broken clavicle. It’s important to make sure your riding jacket or body armor includes impact protection in the shoulder areas.
When riding the road your leather or mesh jacket should provide adequate protection as long as you never impact your handle bars. Severe chest injuries can occur if you impact the motorcycle’s dash. So, to be as safe as possible wear a chest protector. This piece of equipment is essential if you are dirt bike riding or trail riding. Although there are many styles to choose from they often come in vest style and may include shoulder protection as well as spine protection.
Which brings us to the next vulnerable body part, the back. Your back can suffer severe road rash and possible spinal injury, such as hyperextension, if it is not properly protected. Investing in a spine protector is the best way to prevent back injury. Their layered design allows flexibility when bending forward in a comfortable riding position, but prevents the back from bending too far back. Some jackets will come with hard neoprene padding in the back which may be adequate protection in a minor fall, but they can easily slip out of place and are completely worn after one fall. Invest in a back protector made from sturdy, hard material that will not wear out after only one slide on the pavement. This type of gear can be purchased alone or as a complete set of body armor which includes a chest protector.
Next we come to the hips and buttocks. At times these areas of the body are vulnerable to impact, but for the most part, your hips and butt are going to get the most slide time on the pavement if you crash. Mesh or cloth riding pants are helpful, but your best protection will come from leather. Pants made from a sturdy riding leather with extra padding in the hips will allow you to slide across asphalt without suffering from road rash, and the impact will leave only a scratch, allowing you to continue to use the pants without compromising their integrity. There is a reason why professional motorcycle racers wear leathers, because it is simply the best protection against road rash. By the way, leather chaps, although very popular in the cruiser crowd, do nothing to protect your hips or butt.
When you fall, it is a basic human instinct to reach out and catch yourself. That’s why you need to protect your arms and elbows. Motorcycle riding jackets will come with padding or sturdy material build into the arms to protect your elbows and your forearm from impact and slide trauma. You can also purchase separate elbow armor that straps to your arm. It is important, if you’re wearing a jacket, that the elbow padding fits tight against your arms and will not slide up your arm during a crash. Some mesh jackets that provide layers for warmth, will come equipped with adjustable straps on the arm to insure your elbow pads are in the proper position.
Hands are particularly vulnerable in a crash and riders run the risk of experiencing nerve damage or loss of fingers in a crash when not wearing proper gloves. A good motorcycle glove will be made of leather, be long enough to cover your wrist joint and include knuckle protection. Some glove will come with carbon fiber protection over the knuckles and over the outside of the hand near the little finger and on the heel of the hand. These are the parts of the hand that are most likely to impact the ground during a fall. Motocross gloves have less knuckle protection because of the fact that there is no asphalt and dirt won’t cause so much damage. But no matter what style of riding you do, never go without full fingered gloves.
Your knees are another huge impact area and are extremely vulnerable in a crash. Riding in shorts leave your legs open to any punishment the road can dish out and denim jeans, while providing some protection, will only go so far in a slide and will offer no impact protection. When selecting riding pants whether leather or mesh, make sure they have hard knee padding and make sure the pants fit properly. Knee pads will do not good if they slide out of place during a crash. Your pants should be snug, but comfortable. Individual knee pads are also a good investment as they also offer chin protection, are jointed to make them flexible and adjustable to ensure a proper fit. Knee protectors are a good choice when you don’t have riding pants and you can wear them under your jeans.
Flip flops, sandals, high heals, and canvas tennis shoes do nothing to protect your feet and ankles. If you are going to wear tennis shoes, leather will offer more protection but it is highly probable that your shoes will come off in a crash leaving your feet exposed. A low top tennis shoe also does nothing to protect your ankles, which are extremely vulnerable to road rash. High top leather shoes offer good protection but you can be better protected with a good pair of motorcycle boots. Boots come in a huge variety of styles from those that look like a tennis shoe, but come with extra protection around the ankles, to boots that prevent rotation of the foot reducing broken ankles. Good motorcycle boots are comfortable and many times fashionable and are well worth the investment.
While wearing proper riding gear is not a requirement, with the exception of the helmet in some states riding gear comes in cool styles, is comfortable, and it’s smart. There’s a saying that goes around in some riding groups; ATGATT or All The Gear All The Time. Aside from avoiding a crash all together, wearing the proper riding gear is the safest move you can make.