Looking for new gear? Here’s MotoCAPs Chris Hurren with his 5 top tips!
Five top tips for riders:
- Try gear on a bike before you make a purchase.
- Make sure that it works with your other gear.
- Make sure that there are at least two durable fabric layers in critical places
- Check that armour is good and upgrade if needed
- Check how it performs on MotoCAP
Wearing any type of protective motorcycle gear is better than riding in normal clothing. The question is, which gear is the best to buy? There is a myriad of protective motorcycle clothing options available on the market and little information available on their effectiveness, making it hard for riders to be confident in their choices.
MotoCAP (www.motocap.co.nz) is a good place to go to get the low down on clothing that you may want to buy. MotoCAP purchases clothing in store and online and tests it to assess its protection and breathability. Gear is purchased in shops across Australia and New Zealand. All results are provided free online on the MotoCAP website. Although not all gear is rated on MotoCAP the range is increasing all the time. As a rough guide when you are considering buying gear, two protection stars or better for around town and three stars or better if you are heading out on the open road.
You are best to buy gear that you are going to wear every time you get on the bike. It is highly unlikely you will wear one-piece racing leathers on a café racer for a five-minute ride down to the dairy to get more milk for example.
The gear you buy needs to match your bike as well as your style. It needs to be simple and convenient enough to put on and not hinder you on or off the bike. You are better to have a three-star jacket that you wear every time you ride than a four-star jacket that rarely comes out of the cupboard.
A piece of gear is never worn just by itself so always try on gear with the other gear that you would wear with it. This includes your shoes/boots, gloves, pants, jacket and helmet. A good example is motorcycle pants. I have tried on many motorcycle pants that will neither fit inside or over the top of my favourite riding boots.
We get gear to wear riding a motorcycle but when we try it on in store all we tend to do is walk around a bit. Gear should be tried out on a bike. When you buy that next pair of pants try throwing a leg over a bike while wearing them. If you are buying gloves try using the throttle, levers and other controls. Most stores also sell bikes and I have never been refused by a salesperson when I ask if I can try what I am wearing on one of their bikes.
When buying any type of motorcycle gear, you really need to answer the following questions:
- Does it fit well and is it comfortable to wear?
- Do you like the look of it? Is the style right for your bike?
- Have you worn it with your other riding gear?
- Does it feel right siting on a motorcycle?
Things to look for and ask yourself for each garment type
Jackets only need to work when we are riding the bike as we can take them off and stow them at the end of a ride. Leather jackets offer the best protection from road rash, whereas textile jackets can be more appropriate if you ride in all weather conditions. Some textile jackets are more suitable if you are riding in a hot environment as they allow airflow through them to aid cooling. These include riding shirts, denim and mesh jackets.
Most jackets are supplied with armour in the elbows and shoulders. Back armour is not as prevalent and manufacturers have a habit of supplying jackets with a bit of thin foam in the back armour pocket. These thin foam layers provided almost no energy absorption in a crash and should be removed and replaced with a good CE approved back protector.
Ask yourself the following questions when buying your next jacket.
- Is there armour in the elbows, shoulders and back?
- Is the armour comfortable and does it provide discomfort when you move your body?
- Is the armour too small or low in protection? If so see if you can get a deal on upgrading it.
- Is the jacket a good fit so that elbow and shoulder armour does not move out of position?
- Does the jacket have a CE back protector? If not ask for a deal on adding one.
- Are there at least two layers of protective fabric present in the elbows and shoulders (textile and denim jackets)?
- Does the leather feel thick and is not too thin, soft and supple (leather jackets)?
- Are there zipped vents to control airflow for cooling? Good locations for vents are in the upper chest, side seams and on the back.
- Is the jacket too short or ride up your back when in a riding position?
Protective pants pose a unique problem as they must be comfortable to wear both on and off the bike. No one wants to change their pants when they get to their destination. When you are riding the motorcycle protective pants should look and feel right and be comfortable sitting in a coffee shop or walking around all day at the Burt.
Leather and most protective denim pants give the best protection from abrasion when sliding down the road. Textile pants are more suitable for riding in a wet environment. Denim and mesh pants generally have higher breathability and are more appropriate for riding in a hot environment.
The knee and hip are at high risk of impact damage in a crash and are often the least protected part of the body. A large proportion of pants do not come with hip armour, or even the pockets to put hip armour in. Knee armour, when supplied tends to be big, bulky and inflexible. A large proportion of riders chose to ride without any armour due to comfort and look of the armour.
There are now several new flexible armours available in the market. These are highly suited to use in pants as they are flat in structure and bend with the pants, increasing both the comfort and look of the armour and pants. It is highly likely that you are going to have to upgrade the armour in your pants so be prepared for this when you negotiate with the salesperson.
Ask yourself these questions when buying your next pair of pants:
- Do they work both on and off the bike?
- Is there armour in the knees and hips or at least pockets to fit aftermarket armour?
- Is the armour too small or low in protection? If so, see if you can get a deal on upgrading it.
- Is the armour comfortable or does it provide discomfort when you move your body?
- Are the pants a good fit so that the knee and hip armour does not move out of position?
- Are there at least two layers of durable fabric present in the knees, sides of the legs and seat of the pants (textile and protective denim pants)?
- Is protection provided by a second protective fabric layer in protective denims? Single layer protective denim jeans typically have lower abrasion protection levels.
- Does the leather feel thick and not too thin, soft and supple (leather pants)?
- Are the pants too short or do they ride down when in your riding position?
Like jackets, gloves can be removed after a ride and stowed, so they only need to work when you are on the bike. Long gloves are better than short as they have added wrist protection and most have better wrist retention systems. Off-road or motocross gloves should be avoided as they offer almost no abrasion protection in an on-road crash.
Ask yourself the following questions when buying your next pair of gloves:
- Is there hard armour in the knuckles?
- Is there soft armour or a hard slider in the palm (opposite side to the thumb)?
- Is there at least one extra layer of abrasion protective material along the outer side of the little finger and the lower part of the palm of the glove?
- Have you selected longer gloves with armour in the outer wrist?
- Is the fastened glove difficult to remove when you try to pull it off by the fingers?
Armour has come a long way since it first started to appear in our motorcycle clothing. Armour is designed to reduce the peak force being transferred into the hard to fix parts of our body (elbows, shoulders, hips and knees). It works by crumpling under impact, like a helmet, absorbing and spreading the force that would normally go into the body.
In the early days of armour, a garment with armour meant that it had a bulky inflexible bit of foam or plastic stuffed into a pocket. Armour could be uncomfortable both on and off the bike and as a result tended to be removed. This has changed dramatically in the last 3 years. Manufacturers are now starting to compete in the armour space and are generating new styles that breath and bend as well as absorb more energy.
If you have an old favourite jacket or pair of pants you can quickly improve their protection levels by putting in some new armour in the elbows, shoulders, hips and knees.
Websites can lack information on armour performance so if in doubt, then it is probably best to go down to your local store to make sure the armour is right. All good armour is certified so it makes it easy to sort the good from the bad. Testing is normally done at 22°C however a T+ on the armour shows that the armour also passed at a 40°C test temperature and a T- shows that armour passed testing at -10°C. Sizes vary with manufacturer. A small piece of armour will not be as protective as a larger piece of armour so aim for bigger when you can. A simple way is to look at the size differences in the installed and aftermarket armour as a guide.
Things to look for when you are upgrading your armour:
- CE certified to EN1621-1:2012. (Look for the motorcycle symbol)
- Where possible get CE Level 2 armour as it provides higher protection.
- Make sure it is big enough for your body size. A rule of thumb is Size B armour is suitable for anyone who wears a large or higher shirt size.
- If you ride in a hot environment look for T+ tested armour.
- If you ride in a very cold conditions look for T- tested armour.
Get something comfortable that you will wear every ride. A comfortable CE Level 1 armour is better than no armour at all.
Hopefully, this advice will be of some help to you. Enjoy the summer months and being out on the bike.