Guide to Motorcycle Safety Gear
As a motorcyclist, there is little standing between you and the open road. While this may be a thrilling and exhilarating aspect of riding, it is also dangerous. Riding in the open air means braving the elements, as well as dodging road debris. It means riding without the protections of airbags and seatbelts. It is for these very reasons that motorcycle safety gear was invented.
Motorcyclists are vulnerable to the elements. They are also susceptible to many bodily injuries after a motorcycle accident. That is why it is so important to wear appropriate safety gear whenever riding. This safety gear will protect you from the elements and from suffering serious and catastrophic injuries. Properly fitted safety gear will help you stay comfortable in a variety of conditions. It will also help or reduce injuries if you are involved in an accident.
Time and time again, studies have shown how important motorcycle safety gear truly is. Motorcycle helmets, kevlar jackets, sturdy boots and goggles are just some of the safety gear that can literally save your life in a motorcycle accident.
At Rainwater, Holt and Sexton, our Arkansas motorcycle accident attorneys know the importance of wearing safety gear while riding. We also know that the type of gear you purchase is critical. Staying safe and surviving an accident starts before you even start your engine. That is why we have compiled a list of the very best safety gear for Arkansas motorcyclists.
The most important safety gear you can wear is a DOT-approved helmet. Numerous studies have shown that wearing a helmet can protect motorcyclists from suffering serious head injuries. In fact, according to the NHTSA, helmets saved the lives of 1,870 motorcyclists in 2017 alone. A properly fitted and approved helmet can reduce the risk of suffering a head injury by 69 percent. It also reduces the risk of suffering a fatal injury by 42 percent.
A proper fitting motorcycle helmet protects your head in numerous ways. The outer shell helps protect your head from abrasions and from penetrating injuries. The inside shell contains an impact-absorbing liner. This liner absorbs some of the shock from the crash by collapsing under the impact. Lastly, the soft foam liner next to your head keeps your head comfortable and keeps the helmet snug.
When picking a motorcycle helmet, there are three main styles or designs: full face helmets, open face helmet and half helmets.
Full Face Helmets
The full face helmet offers the most coverage and protection you can buy. This protects you from all the elements, as well as the environment you are riding in. A full face helmet cuts down on wind in your face and in your ears. It also deflects debris or bugs while you are riding. Tinted shields can also help avoid eye fatigue during daylight hours. However, you should only wear tinted shields during the day. Clear face shields must be worn at night.
Full face helmets also have a chin bar. This bar protects the chin from suffering a serious injury in an accident. According to a recent study , the chin encounters 50 percent of severe impact during a motorcycle accident. This can result in serious and disfiguring injuries.
New features include better ventilation to help sweat evaporate, visor defogging and even Bluetooth speakers.
Full face recommendations include:
Open Face Helmet
The open face helmet or ¾ helmet covers the top, back and sides of your head. However, your face is exposed to the elements. These helmets are popular for many riders because they offer the head protection of a full face helmet but leave visibility unchanged. While they are structurally as safe as a full face helmet, they do not provide the same level of coverage. Your chin is open and vulnerable to injury. In addition, your face and eyes are exposed to the elements, bugs and road debris.
Open face helmet recommendations include:
- ILM Motorcycle Dual Visor Flip Up
- Scorpion EXO-CT220 Neocon
- Shark Street Drak
- TORC Open Face Series
- GLX M-14 Cruiser
- LS2 Rebellion
The half helmet only covers the top of your head. This provides minimal protection and coverage. However, these helmets do provide great airflow. There are some half helmets that meet DOT approval. You will likely need to provide your own eye protection in the form of goggles since face shields are not available for many half helmets. There are also minimal features on these helmets and most do not come equipped with Bluetooth speakers or other features.
Half helmet recommendations include:
Motorcycle jackets aren’t just a style choice. They can protect you from serious injury during a crash. The best motorcycle jacket will offer full coverage for whatever the open road throws your way. Jackets can protect you from the harsh effects of the sun, as well as the pelting rain or sleet. Most importantly, jackets can help protect you from serious road rash or abrasions if you lay down your bike or get into an accident.
Road rash is a serious injury and it occurs when you slide across the concrete or road after crashing your bike. Any exposed skin can be scraped away or become embedded with gravel, dirt and glass. Depending on the severity of the abrasion, you may lose several layers of skin, as well as fat, muscle and even bone. This is a serious and sometimes disfiguring injury. Serious third-degree road rash can require skin grafts and surgeries to heal. A good, strong and sturdy jacket can protect you from suffering the worst kinds of road rash.
There are numerous types of jackets you can purchase and each one offers you different levels of comfort and protection from the elements and injury. When choosing the right jacket, here are some things to keep in mind.
Thickness and durability. In general, the thicker the motorcycle jacket, the better the protection. Choosing one with 1.4mm thickness will give you the most protection from friction and road rash. However, even a lightweight jacket will still offer you some protection. A jacket with a 1mm thickness is better than a fleece or shirt.
Comfort and style. It is important that your jacket is comfortable and one that you think is stylish. Top rated jackets can offer you protection against all the weather elements while keeping you comfortable. Lighter weight jackets with good ventilation will be perfect for warm summer rides, while thicker jackets can keep you warm and dry during the rainy season.
Right fit. The right fit jacket should not be too loose or too tight. It should fit snugly but offer you enough flexibility to maneuver your bike in and out of dangers. When trying a jacket on, be sure you wear the type of clothing you would normally wear when riding. Test it out by moving around in it. The right fitting jacket should not pinch or ride up when moving.
Bright and Reflective. A good motorcycle jacket will come with bright and reflective strips on parts of it. This can improve visibility in poor weather and at nighttime when riding. Whenever possible, choose bright colors so that others can recognize you on the road.
Types of Motorcycle Jackets
There are numerous types of motorcycle jackets to consider. Each jacket offers differing levels of protection and comfort. Some of the most common types of jackets include:
- Cruiser. These jackets are the most comfortable and fashionable but offer less protection because they do not have body armor.
- Sport. These jackets are thick and contain lots of armor and padding. They are form-fitting and aerodynamic.
- Touring. These jackets are best for long rides, so they are more comfortable. They often come with features, such as removable liners and layers.
- Adventure. These are often made of strong nylon to offer maximum protection. They are best for riders on unpredictable terrain
- Off-road. These motorcycle jackets are often windproof and waterproof. They offer best protection in a variety of conditions and are made for comfort and durability
- Leather. Leather motorcycle jackets are a classic for a reason. Leather provides excellent protection, as well as style and comfort.
- Textile. Textile motorcycle jackets offer less abrasion resistance but they can make a great layer for colder weather. The best textile jacket consists of both nylon and polyester.
- Mesh. Mesh jackets provide excellent air flow in hot and arid climates. Many now include padding to help protect you in case of an accident.
Jacket recommendations include:
Motorcycle Pants Recommendations
It is easy to overlook the importance of good quality motorcycle pants. Many riders do not consider pants as an essential safety gear but they are! When you lay down your bike or get into a motorcycle accident, your legs, knees and hips will absorb much of the impact. Wearing tough motorcycle pants can help protect your body from injury, and protect you from the elements while riding.
When choosing the right pair of motorcycle pants, safety experts recommend that you choose ones that are durable, yet flexible. There are many different types of pants that can meet these demands. However, the best pant for you will depend largely on the type of riding you do. If you commute to and from work, a sturdy pair of riding jeans may suffice. However, if you do a lot of fast riding you may need to choose leather pants.
In addition to the type of riding you do, it is important to choose pants that will offer you the most comfort through different riding seasons. Mesh pants, for example, are great when riding in hot weather because they feature large panels that improve airflow and keep you cooler.
In general, motorcycle pants come in two fits: relaxed and sport. Relaxed fit pants are best for street riding and touring. These offer flexibility and comfort for long hours on the bike. Sport fit pants are best for high speed track racing. They fit tighter than relaxed pants and are designed to hold armor in place. Even though sport fit is tighter than relaxed fit, neither should restrict your movement or cause discomfort.
Types of Motorcycle Pants
- Riding jeans. Riding jeans are more than just jeans. These pants often have knee armor and Kevlar built right in.
- Mesh pants. These pants are best for riding in hot weather. While they are more comfortable, they will not be as durable as riding jeans.
- Full textile pants. These pants provide the most protection and features in textiles. They are often waterproof, wind-resistant, and include thermal liners. Many of these can also handle crashes at high speeds.
- Leather pants. Leather is the preferred choice for riders who want to go fast. It is durable and offers significant protection in accidents. They are often worn by sport riders because of this.
Motorcycle pant recommendations include:
Motorcycle Suit Recommendations
What happens when you need more protection than just a jacket and pants? Motorcycle suits come in a wide range of styles, fits and colors. These versatile all-in-one pieces can give you the maximum protection from the hard surfaces of the road, as well as the elements. When you get into an accident, an all-in-one suit will not separate or ride up, exposing your skin.
According to the Hurt Report , covering the body with leather or an abrasion-resistant fabric like Kevlar provides the highest level of protection while riding.
When purchasing a motorcycle suit, it is important to be comfortable without adding too much bulk. You should be able to move freely while riding and maneuver your bike in a variety of positions. You may also want to choose suits that can detach at the waist so you can separate them if you head to a restaurant for lunch.
It is also important to consider these features when choosing a motorcycle suit:
- Material. Motorcycle suits come in a couple different leathers and fabrics. There are textile and Kevlar suits, as well as leather suits made from cowhide or kangaroo hide. Leather is often the preferred choice for many riders.
- Ventilation. Some suits come with ventilation built in. This is important when riding in warmer months and can help you from getting overheated while riding.
- Waterproof. If you live in a rainy climate, consider getting a suit that is waterproof to help you stay dry while riding.
- Additional Safety Protections. Some suits come with extra back and chest protectors. These will offer you significantly more protection during high-speed accidents.
Motorcycle suit recommendations include:
Motorcycle Boot Recommendations
What you wear on your feet is important when riding. Motorcycle boots must protect your feet from crashes, while still allowing you to ride all day. In fact, according to the CDC , 30 percent of all non-fatal motorcycle injuries were to the leg and foot. This means not just any boot will do. You must take time to find the right fit and style and sometimes that means investing a little money into your footwear. After all, your motorcycle boots must be comfortable to ride in and walk around all day, while still offering maximum protection.
What to Consider When Buying Motorcycle Boots
There are many things to consider when buying motorcycle boots. It is important to take your time and choose the boot that is best for you, your bike, your style of riding and your climate.
- Type of Riding. When choosing the right motorcycle boot, it is important to consider the type of riding you are doing the most. If you are racing, you need a racing specific boot with molded ankle protection and Gore-Tex material. If you are commuting to work, you might want a conservative and stylish leather boot that can fit a variety of situations, such as around the office or out to dinner.
- Material. Many motorcycle boots are made out of thicker leather with a high abrasion resistance. Some boots are made of more breathable materials though. If you purchase leather, be sure it is treated leather so that it can repel water.
- Closures. Motorcycle boots come with a variety of closures. Some come with laces, while others come with velcro straps. This is a personal preference. However, be sure that the closures you choose will not get snagged on the bike or come undone while riding.
- Stitching. The best boots will be held together with either double or triple stitching. This ensures that your boot doesn’t come apart during a bad accident. It also ensures that your boot stays durable through all conditions.
- Soles. The soles of your boots are extremely important. Your sole will help you grip while riding and prevent you from slipping when you get off the bike. Your soles should be oil resistant no matter what type of boot you buy.
Motorcycle boots also come with a variety of safety features, including:
- Built-in shifter pads
- Lace retention designs to prevent snagging
- Ankle protection
- Torsional stiffness to prevent flexing
- Oil-resistant sole
- Triple stitching seams
Motorcycle boot recommendations include:
Motorcycle Gloves Recommendations
Motorcycle gloves are more than just a cool accessory. A good pair of gloves will help you ride better, while protecting your hands from injury. Gloves can help you shift, brake and grip the handlebars better. They can also protect your hands and fingers from getting crushed or disfigured during an accident. They should have retention straps that keep them secured tightly, as well as armor protecting the backs of your hands and palms. Gloves should also be waterproof and insulated to protect you from the elements while riding.
Motorcycle gloves are typically made out of two materials: leather and textile. Some are 100 percent leather or textile materials, while others are a hybrid of the two. Each material offers substantially different benefits.
- Leather gloves. These gloves are popular for a reason. They are durable and comfortable when they are properly fit. They tend to mold themselves to the riders hands’ making it easy to grip the handlebars and shifters. They are not always the best choice for year-round riding, but if you are heading to the track, leather will provide the best protection.
- Textile gloves. These gloves are manufactured for many different riding conditions. They are waterproof and versatile and can be worn year round in many climates. The downside is that textile gloves do not mold as easily to your hand and can feel bulky when riding.
- Hybrid gloves. These gloves offer the best of both worlds and can include a variety of features, such as stretch panels or thermal liners. Many are breathable and durable, offering both comfort and protection.
The type of riding you do will determine the type of glove you purchase. In general, there are five main categories:
- Street gloves. If you spend most of your time riding a street bike, you should consider purchasing a pair of street gloves. These have shorter cuffs for comfort and touch screen fingertips to help with navigation and devices.
- Race gloves. These gloves are for racers who need maximum protection. They are typically all leather and use a gauntlet design to keep gloves from slipping in high speed crashes. They also have higher knuckle protection and reinforcements.
- Touring gloves. These gloves are comfortable because they are made to ride in all conditions and for long periods of time. They come in either textile or hybrid material and offer a variety of features, including waterproof and breathable materials.
- ADV gloves. These gloves are for adventurers and dual riders. They are typically short and often made of textile material. They offer superior dexterity and protection for transitioning from street riding to off-road trail riding.
- Dirt gloves. These gloves are short and light and offer minimal protection. They are not for street riding, but typically purchased by dirt riders because of their thin and breathable material.
Motorcycle glove recommendations include:
Motorcycle Body Armor Recommendations
If you are looking for additional protection beyond what a jacket or suit will provide, you can purchase body armor. Body armor is designed to offer padding and impact resistance where you might need it the most. This includes around the waist, back and chest, as well as shoulders and elbows. Armored vests, back protectors and even airbag systems are now available for the high speed or adventurous rider.
In order to offer the most protection, body armor should fit you snuggly, but still allow you to move comfortably. If you can’t turn your bike or maneuver out of a dangerous situation quickly, then your armor is not fit properly.
When trying on body armor, be sure to take you riding clothes there and try them on together. This will give you the best idea of how your new body armor will fit with the clothes you already ride in.
It is important that the body armor you choose has a CE-rating if you are purchasing an international brand. This means that it offers the most protection possible and can protect your lungs, ribs and heart from suffering extreme damage in an accident. While American brands are not required to indicate a CE rating, many do include this rating to let you know that they meet certain safety standards.
Types of Body Armor
There are numerous types of body armor you could choose to purchase, including:
- Armored vests. These fit over the torso and offer chest and back protection. They are best for making sure you do not suffer rib and chest injuries during an accident. They can work well underneath jackets.
- Armored suits. These are great for racers or those riders looking for maximum protection in all-weather riding. Suits often have strategic protection and padding in the places you need it most. Kevlar options are best for summer months, while textile ones offer better protection from rain and wind.
- Armored pants. These pants are different from regular riding pants because they offer additional armor around the hips, pelvis, legs and knees.
- Armored boots. Any heavy-duty motorcycle boot reduces the risk of suffering an open wound foot injury by 73 percent. However, armored boots take it one step further. They have built-in support and more protection for the toes, ankles and foot. A steel toe insert offers even more protection. As a result, armored boots reduce the risk of suffering an open wound foot injury by 90 percent.
Recommendations for motorcycle body armor include:
Elbow, Shin & Knee Guard Recommendations
There are times when riders want a little armor in just the right places. If you are not looking for a full body armor or suit, armored guards may be the best choice. There are a variety of elbow, knee and shin guards that can give you additional protection where you need it most. These guards allow you to wear your regular riding clothes, but add protection when you want it.
For example: let’s say you spend most of your time commuting to work. You may already own a protective jacket and riding jeans. However, on the weekends you like to hit the open dirt trails and do a little adventure riding. Armored pads and guards can give you that protection and versatility.
When looking for armor, you may choose ones with a CE level rating. A CE level 1 armor is thinner and lighter than level 2 armor. However, it is also less protective. Any level of motorcycle body armor can protect your joints from serious injury. This comes in especially handy when you run your motorcycle into a track barrier or are hit by debris on the road. For maximum protection, your armored knee and elbow guards should fit snugly and secure without hindering your ability to move while riding.
Recommendations for elbow, shin and knee guards, include:
Eye Protection Recommendations
If you choose to ride with a full face helmet, you may not think you need additional eye protection. However, this is not necessarily the case. Additional eyewear, like goggles, can protect your eyes from impact and offer an additional layer of protection.
Wearing eyewear that is rated for impact protection is important. It is also important to find eyewear or goggles that have padding from debris intrusion. A kicked up pebble or insect can cause significant amounts of eye damage, including corneal abrasions and lacerations. This can even result in partial blindness.
In addition to offering protection from debris and impact, eyewear can protect your eyes from the dangerous effects of the sun, as well as the wind. Squinting into the sun can make it difficult to see obstacles on the road or even other drivers. Tinted eyewear can offer similar benefits of sunglasses, while offering the additional protection motorcyclists need.
When choosing the best eye protection for riding, consider the following:
- Polycarbonate lenses. These lenses are impact-resistant, shatter-resistant and filter 100 percent of UV light.
- Greater lens curvature. The greater the lens curvatures, the more you will be protected against sun, wind and impact.
- Correct fit. Rubber grips can help keep your eyewear in place and straps can help secure goggles.
- Hydrophobic lenses. These lenses are helpful to shed sweat, rain and dust.
- Polarized lenses. These lenses can reduce the blinding effects of glare on the road. Glare from sun, snow and other reflective surfaces can make it difficult to ride safely.
Recommendations for eyewear includes:
Hearing Protection Recommendation
Even when you wear a helmet, your ears are being bombarded by sound while riding. The road noise, cars nearby and wind can impact your hearing. Riders should consider wearing earplugs when riding to reduce ear fatigue and help them when riding in traffic or on long rides. However, the right kind of hearing protection will reduce the wind noise, while also allowing you to hear the traffic around you. Why is wind noise bad? Wind noise is a constant noise. This type of sound can cause a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS). TTS can cause temporary hearing loss and partial deafness.
When choosing the right hearing protection, you want to determine which type of ear plug would be best for your type of riding. You can choose between disposable, reusable, corded and custom molded ear plugs. Each one offers differing benefits. Custom molded ear plugs are designed for maximum protection because they are customized to fit your ear precisely.
The best earplug for riding should have high ratings. NNR (Noise Reduction Rating) is an American ISO standard for noise reduction. SNR (Single Number Rating) is an international rating. Both are classified by their ability to reduce decibel volume. Choose one with a high rating. That one will offer better noise suppression.
Recommendations for hearing protection include:
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? We’re There When You Need Us
If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident, we can help. With six offices in Arkansas and Tennessee —Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant and Memphis—our motorcycle injury lawyers are easily accessible when you need help.
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Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story. We want to help you through this difficult time. Call us today!