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A motorcycle tour is fundamentally different from a car road trip. It’s much more exhilarating, and you feel powerful and free. However, there is a downside to this adrenaline-pumping experience. On your bike, you are more exposed to the elements and to the dangers of the road.
In order to feel comfortable and stay safe on a motorcycle tour, you need the right protective clothing. While you can sometimes get by wearing regular jeans and hiking boots, specialist motorcycle clothing offers better protection from the weather and the dangers.
In most countries, motorcycle helmets are mandatory when riding on the road. However, these laws allow you to choose from a wide variety of different types of helmets. It’s up to you to choose what your priorities are when selecting your ideal bike helmet.
Even if motorcycle helmets are not compulsory where you live, wearing one is a good idea because it can save your life. Some modern helmets of various different types are Bluetooth enabled. With a Bluetooth helmet, you can safely answer your smartphone while on the move and hear directions provided by a dedicated motorcycle navigation system.
Full-face Motorcycle Helmet
A full-face motorcycle helmet provides the most protection with coverage all around your head including your face. These incorporate a fixed transparent visor covering a small cut-out area around your face that may be clear, colored, or tinted. Good-quality full helmets will offer ventilation and enable you to hear surrounding traffic.
The negative aspects of full-face helmets are that you can’t feel the wind in your face while touring the wilderness, your view is a little restricted, and some riders feel claustrophobic wearing full helmets. Competition motorcycle riders usually opt for full-face helmets for maximum protection.
Modular (flip-up) Motorcycle Helmet
The modular helmet is a variation on the full-face helmet where the visor and chin bar can be flipped up away from the rider’s face. Modern designs of the flip-up helmet provide comparable safety and ventilation to a full-face helmet. Professional riders who need to communicate with people face-to-face immediately when they halt, such as traffic police officers, prefer flip-up helmets.
The disadvantages are that flip-up helmets can be more expensive than full-face helmets, are slightly heavier to incorporate the hinge mechanism, and may provide slightly less protection because they are not of a uniform construction like full-face helmets.
¾ Motorcycle Helmet
A ¾ helmet lacks the chin bar and visor of a full-face helmet. Some ¾ helmets do incorporate a detachable sun visor to block sun glare. ¾ helmets provide significantly less protection than full-face helmets.
In some countries, it is mandatory to wear glasses or goggles with a ¾ helmet while riding your motorcycle. On tour, you risk the possibility of bugs or grit hitting your face at high speed and causing pain.
On the plus side, ¾ helmets are more affordable, lighter to wear, and let you feel the wind in your face as you ride. This makes them popular with tourers who want to feel in touch with nature as they explore the great outdoors.
½ Motorcycle Helmet
A ½ is similar to a horse-riding helmet and only covers the top of your head. It offers great ventilation, and you can really feel the wind in your face, but it provides the least protection of any helmet.
They are inexpensive, lightweight, and can express the rider’s individuality. However, you must wear glasses or goggles while riding and some ½ helmets are not DOT approved. It is difficult to find ½ helmets with modern innovations, such as Bluetooth speakers.
No matter how good a rider you are, you cannot account for the actions of other road users. If someone knocks into your bike, you’ll be grateful for the protection of a high-quality motorcycle jacket.
Your motorcycle jacket protects you against the elements and provides a buffer against abrasion during accidents. It is like lightweight armor for bikers.
Sometimes you need your jacket to keep you warm and dry, but sometimes you need ventilation and cooling. For this reason, you can buy motorcycle jackets for all seasons.
Leather provides great protection and is the traditional material used to make motorcycle jackets. However, recent developments in composite fabric materials mean that many of the best modern motorcycle jackets are made from synthetic materials.
Likewise, traditional leather motorcycle jackets come in a classic style everyone recognizes, but more modern jackets offer superior safety. This improved protection comes from extra padding or durability in key locations likely to suffer most in an accident and high visibility options.
Many riders opt to use motorcycle jeans when riding their motorbike, but there are other options. A range of specialist motorcycle pants feature protection from the elements, are ventilated, offer superior padding in locations where friction is most likely to occur in an accident, and increase your visibility for safety.
Just like bike jackets, motorcycle pants are available in a range of different materials and styles. Typical materials are denim, leather, synthetics, and Kevlar-lined. Some pants have removable linings so that you can add layers in winter and remove them for summer.
Often motorcycle pants are designed to be worn over regular pants or shorts. If you ride your motorcycle to work, they protect your smart work pants from dirt and rain.
Motorcycle pants designed for motorcycle sports often have much more visible and effective padding, including knee pucks designed to touch the ground. Some tour bike riders who would never dream of touching their knee to the ground on a sharp curve wear these sporty motorcycle pants simply because they look cool.
Motorcycle Rain Gear
On long rides, the rain can be a pain. Riding over long distances with wet clothes that chafe and make you feel too cold is not only uncomfortable but can be distracting and so dangerous. However, you can protect yourself with specially designed motorcycle rain gear.
Motorcycle rain gear is made from durable and waterproof materials. For superior protection and comfort, you should ensure that the fabric is waterproof and not just water-resistance. Because waterproof textiles can be slick, often the fabric used specifically on the seat of the pants is designed to grip your motorcycle seat better.
Rain gear made from PVC offers fantastic waterproofing, but it is not very breathable which can make it uncomfortable for touring. Better quality rain gear uses materials and designs that are simultaneously waterproof and breathable.
When it’s raining, visibility is low. Rain gear often comes in high-visibility colors and with reflective strips to maximize the motorcycle rider’s visibility to other road users.
Dedicated motorcycle boots offer increased torsional stiffness, superior ankle protection, good grip, and oil-resistant soles. Since a trapped foot is relatively common in motorcycle accidents, motorcycle boots are specifically designed to be more durable and protect your ankle bone in an accident.
Other common design features include padding where your boot pushes against the shift lever, covered laces or buckles to prevent tangling, and triple stitching. Some include steel toecaps for added protection.
Whether made from textiles or leather, motorcycle boots feature high abrasion resistance. Some top-range boots even offer replaceable shifter pads and heels so you can swap them out when they become worn instead of buying new boots.
It is more important with boots than with any other item of motorcycle clothing to ensure that they are a good fit. This is especially true when you’re touring and may want to wander off for a hike somewhere along the road. Don’t forget to account for thicker socks in winter when choosing boots to fit your feet.
Motorcycle gloves are an essential piece of protective clothing when you’re on a motorcycle tour. When it’s cold outside, and you take into account the wind chill factor too, it’s easy for your hands to grow numb so you lose the ability to work some of the most important controls on your bike handlebars. Heated winter motorcycle gloves prevent this problem from ever arising.
In the event of an accident, it’s natural to hold out your hands to protect your face and body. Motorcycle gloves lessen the inevitable damage to your hands.
Just as with other items of protective clothing, motorcycle gloves come in leather, textile blends, or synthetic materials. Many glove designs feature additional padding to protect your fingers and knuckles in the event of a collision.
Because you need to manipulate levers and buttons while riding, it’s important to ensure you choose motorcycle gloves that are the right size for your hands. You may decide you need fingerless gloves to operate the touch screen on your smartphone or motorcycle GPS unit, but touchscreen-compatible gloves offer more protection.