Nothing beats the freedom of a bike. When you’re on your motorcycle, riding the open road, feeling the wind on your gear, everything seems right in the world. 

Yes, gear, you read that right. 

Join our Motorcycle Gear & Accessories community to talk about everything and share your experiences.

Almost every motorcyclist is familiar with the term ATGATT — which stands for “All The Gear All The Time,” and most follow it to varying degrees, but WHY should we? And how do we know which gear is best? 

Safety is often a choice, and nowhere is that more prevalent than on a motorcycle. Yes, you can choose to wear jeans while you ride, but don’t be shocked when that denim melts to your skin during road rash. 

To put this in perspective let’s look at a few simple safety facts… 

Everybody Crashes

There’s an old saying that most long-time bikers will agree with, and it goes “there are those that have crashed, and those that will.” Essentially, it doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time rider or Valentino Rossi, if you ride long enough you will experience some kind of accidental meeting with the pavement. Whether it’s due to a mistake on your part, bad weather, road conditions, or another roadway user, sooner or later you will find yourself post-crash. 

With that in mind let’s take a look at what to expect…

Crash Costs — Physically  

Though there is a lot of variance on crash cause and outcome, the data suggests that by far head injuries are the most common result. According to a 2019 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) cross-sectional study of over 4,200 motorcycle crashes —      

“The head was the most commonly injured site of the body, followed by the foot, face, and forearm. In this regard, 59.7% of the admitted patients and 85.4% of total death cases had head injuries. Additionally, 67.1% of the target population had traumas in more than two regions of the body.”

Image: Injury Patterns among Motorcyclist Trauma Patients

After head injuries, foot, face, and forearm are the next most vulnerable areas (which we’ll cover shortly). Road rash is another highly common injury, so common in fact that there is actually a rough equation to calculate how much you could sustain while riding: 

Given the average coefficient of road surface friction, you’ll lose 1mm of flesh for every 1mph you’re traveling at over 30mph. For example, at 70mph (113 kph) you can expect to lose 1.5 inches (38mm) of flesh due to road rash. Even more dangerously, with this level of tissue loss riders can expect potentially fatal complications like bone infections, grafts, and amputations. 

Crash Costs — Money 

Motorcycle gear is expensive, it’s an unfortunate but true part of riding (though select used gear can sometimes be found at a discount). 

A quality set of gear can set you back anywhere from $600-$6,000+ USD. But when you take into account the average medical bill for treatment, surgery, and long-term care (which can range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars), suddenly that total gear cost doesn’t seem so shocking anymore.  

It might seem counterintuitive, but purchasing good gear will save you money (and untold amounts of stress) in the long run. 

By now we’ve established that: 

1) If you ride long enough, you will crash at some point. 

2) When you do crash, some very important body bits will be at risk of serious injury. And,

3) Good gear, while costly, is much less expensive than medical bills and emotional stress.   

To be clear, these facts aren’t meant to scare… Riding is one of the most freeing and rewarding hobbies in the world. It’s an effective mode of transportation, incredible opportunity for self-expression, and rewarding activity to do with friends or solo. 
So the question is, how can you ensure that your riding experience is as safe as possible without literally costing an arm and a leg?

Choosing Motorcycle Gear: Everything You Need to Know 

Choosing the right helmet

Considering the statistic above it makes sense to start your safety journey by buying a good helmet. But what classifies “good?” 

Interestingly, “good” does not necessarily mean expensive. When it comes to a “good” helmet there are a few key things to look for:

Though a lot of motorcycle gear can be purchased used, a helmet should never be one of them. A used helmet might look ok on the surface, but there is no true way to know that the shell hasn’t sustained damage already. A good helmet that meets all of the requirements above can be easily purchased new for anywhere from $200 USD to $400+ USD. The AGV K1 Helmet is a great starting point ($199)

Choosing the right Jackets, Pants, and Suits 

Working our way from the head down, the next piece/pieces of gear that all motorcyclists should have is a jacket and riding pants combination. Studies have shown that most accidents happen close to home, so even if you only ride around town or your commute is short, this gear combination is worth buying (and wearing!). 

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options out there. From textile suits to leather jackets and riding jeans, there are multiple “right” choices depending on your riding style. 

Overall gear should fit well, and be comfortable. After the initial break-in period, no piece of gear should be cumbersome or difficult to wear. Some quality gear can be bought used, and most stores will encourage customers to try on multiple options to find the best fit. 

Choosing the right gloves

Motorcycling gloves are one of the most overlooked and important pieces of gear you can buy, for the singular reason that your hands are attached to your arms. 

Image: Racer glove with wrist slider 

Just like when we trip or stumble, when we crash we almost always extend our arms in an evolution-based effort to catch ourselves. On a bike the force of that hand-on-pavement impact can not only wreck the delicate construction of our hands themselves, but also easily shatter wrists, elbows, and more as the impact’s energy is transferred up the arm – even at extremely slow speeds.  

Good gloves should have palm sliders and some kind of retainment strap around the wrist to keep them in place. Sliders help to shear off the force of an impact by creating a slide zone on the palm, protecting your arms, elbows, and hands. Quality material and construction, especially stitching, can also help to minimize damage in this delicate area. 
Alpinestars SP Air Gloves ($129) is a great example for a protected summer glove.

Choosing the right Boots

Each of your feet has 26 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments — and the pavement wants to destroy them all. 

Statistically speaking, when you experience a crash your feet are almost guaranteed to come into contact with the ground. The good news is that there are attractive, safe, and affordable motorcycle boots on the market to fit virtually every rider’s style. Good boots should have: 

Choosing riding boots is less about buying a particular “type” than it is about finding something that meets the requirements for being both safe, and comfortable. A good boot should have grip, ankle protection, and a strong protective structure. 
The TCX Street Ace Air Shoes ($119) are a great start.

Specialty Gear

A category for the gear without a category! These specialty items and add-on pieces aren’t part of the essentials, but can enhance your riding experience, and safety.  

Unfortunately collisions are often unforgiving, and unpredictable. The best plan as a rider is to be prepared ahead of time by practicing good skills training, buying quality gear, and investing in collision avoidance technology. 

Most quality motorcycle gear will last years to decades, so choose pieces you like, that are comfortable, and that will help you stay safe while having fun.  

Join our Motorcycle Gear & Accessories community to talk about everything and share your experiences.