This is my last bit of advice for new riders. When buying a bike, make sure you budget for quality safety equipment. Good equipment will often outlast the bike, so it is smart to splurge if you can afford it. The minimum requirement for safety is:
- Motorcycle jacket
This is the last place you want to skimp. A helmet is the single best piece of equipment to help you survive a crash. In California, the law says you need one that passes DOT standards. It’s tempting to get a skull cap type helmet, especially during a hot day and you’ve got a cruiser. But you should really wear a full face helmet. You can get the kind that flips up if you want to feel the wind in your face (and the bugs in your teeth).
Different helmets can have a different fit, so the only way to know your fit is to go to a motocycle shop and try some on, preferably with a salesman who knows helmets. Arai, for instance, is a very high end helmet manufacturer and has at least 3 different shapes of helmets for different shaped heads. You may also be one size in one brand of helmet and size in another in another brand. A good rule of thumb is that it should fit so that if you move your helmet, your eyebrows wiggle with the helmet. You want it tight as it will loosen slightly over time, but not too tight that it will give you a headache.
Never buy a used helmet. When you crash, if your head hits the ground – even slightly – you should get a new helmet. You should also replace your helmet, whether you crash or not, every 2 to 4 years. The oils in your hair and scalp can actually degrade a helmet and the padding inside decays over time whether you wear the helmet or not.
Given the price of helmets, this can be daunting. Even I have been known to let my helmet go for longer that I should. All I can say is try. You are putting your life in your own hands if you are wearing an old or damaged helmet.
Gloves should fit snug and cover your fingers. If you buy new ones, you should get them a little tight because the leather will stretch. In a crash, they will save your skin, but more importantly, while riding they will help keep your fingers warm and keep them from getting hit with debris.The main way you control a bike is with your hands, so if you loose control because a large bug hits your hand or it’s cold, you could easily crash.
Make sure they are sturdy and cover the toe. A good pair of steel-toe work boots are fine. Also make sure your pants cover your ankles.
Get a good one with armor inside. Leather is best because it breathes, and it really protects in a spill. If you hate the idea of killing a cow or it’s too hot to wear leather, there are some other good materials out there. Never ride in just a t-shirt. If you’re too hot, you can get a good armored textile jacket that allows the air to go right through.
I have at least 3 different jackets – all with armor. Leather for normal days, mesh for really hot days, and a Gore-tex rainproof one for rainy days.
Optional safety equipment:
Leather pants. Or chaps if you can pull that look off. Nothing beats leather to keep the road rash off your ass. The only people other than bikers allowed to wear leather pants are rock stars.
Knee guards. A knee is a really hard thing to replace. They have some that will go under you pants and are barely noticeable. I have a friend that does tricks on his bike and swears by them.
Heated jacket, gloves and/or pants. They plug into your battery and keep you warm. For long, cold rides, this is awesome.
Go out and get the right gear. Ride hard, but ride safe.