Wearing good gear matters

Wearing good gear matters

Riding a motorcycle on the road is an enjoyable pastime that many in the world are passionate about. All good riders know that even with the best skills and experience the pleasure comes with a risk of crashing. To minimise this risk riders chose to wear protective gear but up until now the only way to tell if the gear is any good is to test it the hard way. Now we have MotoCAP – a Motorcycle Clothing Assessment Program to test gear and give us an indication of how our gear will perform in a crash. Hopefully this article will help you the next time that you or someone you know is looking for new gear.

Chris Hurren

Whilst writing this article I started listing off the different classes of motorcycles in my head. Everyone knows sport, cruiser, standard and tourer but if we drill down even further, we have café racer, naked, scrambler, classic, sports touring, scooters, dual sports, enduros and adventure bikes. The clothing we wear when riding is often selected for appearance and functionality, but importantly the gear needs to be selected to fit the bike. You are unlikely to find a rider on a big Harley cruiser in a replica Valentino Rossi race leather with matching full-face helmet, gloves and boots. You may however see them in boots, black leather pants, orange/black HD leather jacket, black gloves and a mat-black open-face helmet. Each type of bike has a style and the clothing that we wear will inadvertently fit in with this style. MotoCAP gives you the power to determine the best performers within a style.

Clothing types are now as varied as motorcycle types. Rollback time 30 years and you had very little choice as a rider as there were only leather or textile gear options available. Today, riders have a choice of a variety of clothing types including hoodies, jeggings, cargo pants, denims, mesh jackets, riding shirts, touring gear and the list goes on. With such a wide range of different types of protective clothing styles and look it is getting easier to get gear that matches the style of bike being ridden or the personal style that the rider likes. Whilst the range that a rider has to choose from has increased so too has the range of protection levels. Some of the new styles of gear can be quite low in protection so it pays to know what you are buying in advance of going into a store. MotoCAP helps you to compare the protection levels of a new product such as ladies jegging with a more known product like a pair of textile riding pants.

One of my mates always rode in a tailor made one-piece full racing leather suit, riding boots and good gloves. They nicely matched his 80’s Yamaha RZ500 and he loved the feeling of protection he got from the full leathers. He had the money at the time and chose gear that was going to give him the best value for his money. His gear matched his bike and suited his riding style which was mainly longer weekend rides for leisure. He tells me he only had the one off which was a low-speed low side due to loose stones on a corner. His gear protected him admirably from road rash. This crash was in the 90’s and his gear was pre-armour. He had bruising that a modern version of the same race suit would have prevented with its armour. If he upgraded his old suit with high quality armour and re-enacted the crash, the only injury he would have received would be to his pride and bike.

Another of my friends always wore a Brando style black leather jacket and textile gloves. He was young and money was tight so he normally wore normal denim jeans and shoes. He rode that Yamaha RZ250 everywhere as it was all he had for transport. His high-speed high side was a big crash but even so he only had abrasion damage from the waist down. The gloves, jacket and helmet had all done their job. Not much was left of his denim jeans and his road rash was significant. The slide even wore through the three layers of denim in the waistband of his pants. His elastic sided work boot on his left foot quickly parted company giving him no foot protection. Even as an experienced rider, there was nothing he could do when a log of wood that had fallen off a trailer appeared in the middle of the headlight beam. I look at his crash and surmise what the difference a $200 pair of protective denim jeans and similar priced riding footwear would have made in his situation.

Both of these examples are crashes from the 90s and are typical of what happens when we come off a bike. We have little control of if, when and where a crash will happen. Like the log of wood in the middle of a dark road, the unpredictable nature of when a crash could occur can only be counteracted by the vigilant wearing of good protective gear. Wearing any type of motorcycle protective gear is better than riding in normal clothing. Research has shown that wearing good protective gear can reduce your probability of injury by 30%.

MotoCAP is there for those who want to know about the protection levels of what they are going to buy. MotoCAP purchases gear in-store and online and tests it for protection and breathability. The results of more than 250 jackets, pants and gloves are free online for anyone to view (www.motocap.co.nz). MotoCAP is independent of manufacturers and all garments are tested in the same way so you can compare one against another. See how a protective hoodie performs when compared with a textile tourer jacket.

Spending more money does not in most cases make you more protected. When you look at the protection score calculated by MotoCAP and compare it with the cost of the garment there is no relationship. MotoCAP gives you the power to select gear that will be both protective and value for money. A three-star leather jacket worth $400 will have the same protection as a three-star textile jacket worth $1,300. When using MotoCAP remember to work out three options that you are happy with on paper. Go into a store and try them on. Pick the one that is most comfortable as you are better to have a slightly less protective garment that you wear every day than a highly protective garment you wear some of the time. Remember to try it with your other riding gear and test it in store both on and off a bike.

I know of riders that have paid almost $4,000 just for their jacket, pants and gloves. Protective gear can be expensive, but a rider can purchase good gear without breaking the bank. A good safe kit for riding out on the open road can be purchased for under $1,000. One of the best value combinations for protection is a leather jacket combined with a pair of protective denim jeans and a good pair of long gloves. There is a three or four-star option for each of these and prices are under $500 each. This combination is a comfortable, fashionable kit that would not look out of place on most road bikes. Leather is not always the best in a hot environment so make sure that what you select has vents that can be opened to allow airflow into the jacket.

To work out which helmet to add to the ensemble above look at www.crash.org.au or www.sharp.dft.gov.uk for helmet performance and comfort ratings. Crash has more Australian based helmets listed, whereas Sharp has more information on European helmets. There is not a rating site for riding footwear, so look for footwear that extends up past the ankles. Impact protection over the ankles and shins is also desirable. Laces should be avoided as they can come loose and get caught in chains and wheels that could cause a crash.

Summer is coming and the riding season is upon us. Enjoy your ride and remember to use the MotoCAP website next time you or a friend need to buy new gear.