A childhood photo of the world’s only female Ducati Master Tech, Hannah Johnson, hanging out with biggol’ bikers.
Let’s Talk A Minute About Motorcycle Safety Gear
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be informative, amusing, and is made up of sassy commentary as well as personal opinion and subjective viewpoints… balanced by objective understanding and a Devil’s Advocate perspective.
A lot of opinions about gear float around in the world- it seems some people, like Evangelical Christians, choose to scream it at the top of their lungs at anyone who may listen. What people seem to fail to understand is the intimate relationship a rider develops between themselves, their motorcycle, and their gear choice. Sometimes it’s not just a state of ignorance and squidlyness- and people need to realize that. When you huff and puff on various motorcycle news outlets- facebook, instagram, whatever… there’s a nicer way to do it than vomiting out a comment about their body splattering on pavement. We all know we can die on a motorcycle- we hear it constantly from people who don’t ride. Do we really need to hear it from people who do? And if yes, then perhaps choose the right direction to take your comments so that they’re absorbed and have a purpose at all. No one is going to listen to the guy spewing garbage, however the thoughtful gentleman or lady who’s genuinely concerned you don’t know how awesome gear can really be may be taken differently.
This is coming from someone who wears full gear… all the time. Now, I’ve been schooled by a minibike a time or two, and there may or may not be photo evidence of me riding a little Honda minibike in booty shorts, a bikini top, and Icon 1000 Elsinore boots at the Dirt N Dip. But when I go out on the road, I pile on the safety equipment. I’ve been fortunate to have learned that one can obtain good looking and functional motorcycle safety gear that is not uncomfortable- this was a huge benefit of working at MotoCorsa in Portland, where they sold high-end Dainese, Rev’It and Alpinestars. Before that I had been riding in a regular ol’ leather jacket, New Rock boots (which happen to look exactly like modern Harley Davidson motorcycle boots, weird), my mom’s old fashion leather gloves, and sometimes… leather chaps. Oh yes. You know why? Because I didn’t know any better, and I sure as hell didn’t have a budget for gear. Before I even bought a bike I bought a full face helmet- I knew I really liked my jaw, and I had crashed enough times on my bicycle as a kid (flying downhill at 20 miles an hour no less) to know I should wear something generally abrasion resistant. But past that- I had no idea the gamut of amazing riding gear available, and no way of obtaining it even if I did.
The first “real” jacket I bought was a Frank Thomas ladies mesh riding jacket (above) from the MotoCorsa used area for a whopping $60. It was summer, I could layer, it had armor. When I put it on and went for a ride, I felt so much more safe and protected… and I didn’t feel like I looked any less cool. Which let’s face it, we like to look good while we ride. If you don’t, that’s cool, but most people don’t want to look like they’re wearing a burlap sack, especially when we’re paying dearly for it. After that I scored a Dainese three season jacket for $200 from the MotoCorsa facebook special. It was a small size, there were two on sale, at the end of the day… there was still one left for me. Score! It is still one of my favorite jackets to this day. My point is- bargain shop. You don’t have to have the best of the best right off the bat, and if you want it, you can usually find it on sale sometime, somewhere. Oh and if not, the price tag is usually worth it… good gear is priceless. But hey- I know all too well the struggles of an empty wallet. Blogging is not the most lucrative business to be in, believe it or not!
Types of Gear
There are a wide variety of gear types- from items for street riding and adventure riding to dirt and off road riding and more. Then there’s the basic categories of gear: jackets, pants, boots, gloves, helmets. But there’s sub-categories too- like gear that includes soft armor, hard armor, some which may or may not actually be CE rated for motorcycling. A CE rating with the correct coding means it’s good for high speed impacts and can save you from having an exploded knee, elbow, or whatever.
Identify what you want your gear to do. Do you want a summer jacket? How long will that last you in your area with the weather there? Living in the Pacific Northwest, it was absolutely necessary to have a multi-use jacket to be comfortable on most rides (unless you wanted to carry extra stuff and layer). Jackets and pants made for riding through multiple seasons are amazingly useful- they often have mesh paneling with removable textile covers, zip out thermal and waterproof liners… the list goes on. There are also very straight forward one-purpose items like leather jackets and gloves- perforated will give you a little bit more airflow but will still get hot on really warm days. Leather is also the most abrasion resistant and best protection for your skin… since it is skin. Some companies treat their materials to make it even stronger like Dainese D-Skin leather, or Dynax textile which is especially resistant to melting, burning, and tearing.
The world is your oyster when it comes to safety gear. And yes, there are companies that make awesome fitting gear for women. One of my favorite examples of this is the Icon 1000 Federal jacket (below) .
Levels of Gear
You can go casual and comfortable or fully protective and enveloped in high quality well tailored leather. There are awesome options for the person who wants to wear jeans and a stylish jacket, all the way to the folks who want to wear a race suit on the street (there’s a reason MotoGP riders can have horrible wrecks and many times sustain few injuries). For instance I wear UglyBROS riding jeans (website) pretty much every time I hop on my bike now, because they’re comfortable, way less warm than leather, and way easier to peel off after a day of riding in the SoCal sunshine. These jeans have both removable knee armor and hip armor which is great if you do end up hitting the ground.
Then there’s leather and the more “serious” gear items- full hard armor back protectors (the safest way to go), full knee and shin armor (which you can get in separate guards like I used to wear all the time), and racing style motorcycle boots with a hard outer support shell for your ankle and the works. Some folks think this gear is a little “too much” I think it can be incredibly awesome looking. Who doesn’t want to feel and look like a superhero?
What ATGATT Means
The term ATGATT is often thrown around with little to back up what it actually means, leaving anyone who doesn’t already know completely lost. ATGATT stands for “All The Gear All The Time”- meaning exactly what it sounds like. When you ride, you wear all of the gear, all of the time. This includes a proper motorcycle jacket with back, knee, and shoulder armor, pants with at least knee if not also hip armor, and boots with ankle armor (and usually more). Oh, and a full face helmet. Riders who stand by the ATGATT belief don’t ride to the corner market without putting it all on- because that short jaunt could completely mess them up for life. Hey, whether it’s rider error or not (which by the way is exactly what causes most motorcycle accidents) you can’t control everything in the world all the time. Maybe a log will roll out in your path Final Destination style, or maybe someone texting their babysitter in a minivan won’t see a stoplight… you never know! I’ve seen giant bags of trash, couches, tires, tennis balls, soda cans, and so much more in the middle of freeway lanes… it’s a sketchy world out there ladies and gents. We must prepare for it.
Ultimately the choice to layer on protective armor-riddled motorcycle apparel is up to the rider. “Let those who ride decide” is an old phrase that’s lived on through the days. Whenever I see a rider kickin’ back on his hog wearing a half helmet, smoking a cigarette, wearing old work boots and a denim jacket, I think, “At least he’s enjoying himself.” Whereas yes, it still pains me to see a sportbike rider flying around in flip flops- but again, to each their own. Being a dick about it doesn’t do any good. Which brings me to…
Being A Dick About It
It won’t have the effect you want. Your passive agressive facebook comment about how skin grafts are ugly and expensive may be a true statement, but isn’t a positive or helpful way to approach the situation. I am logical, I like to have fun and go fast but also to be safe… and if someone had’ve approached me that way when I was wearing my leather chaps, fashion jacket and gloves, and had just gotten my bike… I would’ve wanted to spit in their face. Who are they to psha my happiness? Who are they to tell me how to live?
The best thing you can do for friends, colleagues, or strangers, is to be helpful and offer educational advice when the subject is broached. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut, I know… I feel you. But it makes a bigger difference in the long run. And people will like you more, too.
So hey, cheers to riding what you want, how you want, in what you want!
If you’re interested in exploring the types of motorcycle gear available- I suggest RevZilla ’cause they’re the best in the biz for online moto shopping.
related: posts tagged gear reviews | more from the personal blog ▲
Posted on September 22, 2014 in Blog, Gear & Gizmos, News & Features by Alicia Mariah Elfving
I love your article!
I totally agree with you. You should be open and try to be helpful when other riders ask you about gear and not go around shoving your gear “laws” on everybody’s faces.
Anyway I am recovering from a tibia fracture due to an accident. I was trying to change lanes and some uneven road made me lose control and fell off the bike. Less-than-a-year-riding accident, I guess.
I was wearing Joe Rocket boots and knee guards a brand I don’t remember. I reason that maybe some sliders on my naked bike should have protected my knees better. I don’t know if that would have helped.
Do you have any advice on the gear I should get once I fully recover and get on my bike again?
Love the article, I wear full gear all the time as I live in Atlanta Ga crazy drivers..I recently got a good pair of sliders Bella jeans w arm our that I love. Good fit, I’m 5’5″ 140 lbs, have trouble finding jeans and pants as I am curvy. Pants are great and good quality and best yet on sale.. Love the article
Thank you for this awesome info! I needed some good, unbiased info about gear – all I could find were articles that left me wondering if the author was being paid endorsement money for a particular brand. Looking forward to reading more of of your work. Keep up the great work!
Great article and highlights the constant battle i have between wanting to be safe on my bike but still look good.
I do think there is a space for others to advise you that what you’re wearing may not be safe, if they genuinely know and can be respectful.
When i started riding i didn’t even wear gloves! I thought i was being safer as it meant i had better feeling of the grips. It took a friend, with 20 years more riding experience than me to point out this was dangerous, he asked me: “if you come off whats the first thing you’re going to put down on the floor to catch yourself”… So i went out and bought a pair of gloves!
It sounds like you recognize that you too started riding in gear that was less than safe and maybe we are both lucky not to have had accidents at that early stage whilst ill-equipped, i feel lucky that somebody who knew better than me took the time to tell me i needed to wear safer clothing whilst riding.
I am still the only girl i know who rides with her skirt or dress over her armored textile trousers, but at least that way i can be safe AND pretty!
I love reading your blog, i am the only female motorcycle rider amongst my group of friends so its good to know i’m not completely alone! Please keep up the good work,
All the best and ride safe,
Awesome bit about gear, it was fun to read!! I recently suffered a motorcycle crash and was so very thankful to have my full-face helmet, which saved my face and possibly, my life. I misjudged a curve, went wide, panicked and looked where I wasn’t supposed to (i.e. the ditch) and wound up there, hitting a tree with my face. Suffered a broken nose, fractured ankle and bumps and bruises BUT had I not been wearing ATGATT (which has always been my way of riding), I would have had worse facial injuries, or even be in a much worse predicament.
Every time someone asks me why I’m wearing so much gear when it’s hot out, I tell them I never go out without the proper gear. You NEVER know. We take chances every time we get on our bikes. This narrows them a little 🙂 Thank you for your blog, I love it!
I think i look just as cool in my Kevlar jeans and leather jacket as I do in my superhero suit. All i gotta do is ride my sexy bike. Let’s not get mixed up about which of us is REALLY adding the “cool” to this relationship.. . But hell, sometimes on a hot day ill go out gearless and feel some wind. We all do it sometimes, so let’s play nice. Besides, most of the people i see going gearless on the regs are the park-and-polish types of rider anyways. Why invest thousands in gear if you’re not even really getting up on it?
I bought a pair of the UglyBros Twiggy jeans because they looked comfortable and multipurpose. I was disheartened when I got the pair in the mail and discovered their brand is geared toward petite girls. Even their largest size didn’t fit my 5’9, 160lbs muscly frame.
I mentioned my problem to a sales girl while shopping for new riding boots this weekend. She was a tiny girl and pointed out that she had to go up 2 sizes from her normal jeans to fit into a pair.
I wish those UglyBros pants would fit my big old muscly legs. But it looks like they are built for skinny boys.
is there another company that sells womens riding jeans like UglyBROS riding jeans ? I have curves and literally I am 1″ to 2″ bigger then the jeans available. Bummer!!
This is a great article. When I had my wreck, I was only wearing one piece of gear, a Bell full face helmet. Luckilly, the rest of me, only had bumps and scratches, where the helmet was cracked and dented. Proof of the need for good gear. Now, I have multiple helmets, several jackets, gloves and stumbled on this post while searching for riding jeans. After that, boots. I would also say that Revzilla is top notch and just about the best place to get gear, and they have regular sales, yeay!
I’m so happy to have just read this! I’m about to take the motorcycle class next weekend and have been bike shopping for my first bike so of course I’ve been looking into what gear will be appropriate as a commuter. I’ve come across so many frightening comments while looking into gear that if I wasn’t signed up for the class I may have chickened out. I’ve also seen so much frumpy gear it was awesome to see these kick ass jeans and that RED JACKET!!! Thanks for writing!
Ladies out there that don’t like uglybros fit, i decided against ordering bc of similar reviews. I just bought a pair of gogo gear kevlar leggings. Finding them were pure luck. They are incredibly comfortable!and stretchy! feel like equestrian pants. They do not give “coverage” like jeans would in that you can see your shape but I wouldn’t trade them for anything else (i also own bilt cargos and draggin jeans and the go gos are the best by far)
they also come with knee armor!
Thank you for posting this and passing along the luck 🙂 ! I have been looking for something like leggings for a very long time. I ordered my Gogo leggings yesterday..praying for a good fit.
Good article about gear. Thankfully the manufacturers now make gear for women. When I started riding 20 years ago, buying ladies gear equated to hoping you could find men’s gear that fit. I even bought kid’s dirtbike gear as well – no complaints there though, it’s cheaper 😉
Rev It Jacket, kevlar pants with knee and hip armor, full helmet, Astar gloves and boots. Stay safe!