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Motorcycle Buyer's Guide: Protective gear


by Pascal Bastien ,

As you've certainly learned through your motorcycle training, safety on two wheels is directly tied to the rider's skills, experience and behaviour. Vision, caution and discipline are also keys to making it out alive.

While most of us comply with the basic safety principles, many are still forgetting a very important aspect of rider safety, especially on hot summer days, and that's using proper protection from head to toes.

It all starts at the top
I see too many bikers cruising around in shorts, running shoes and a large T-shirt that flaps in the wind. Others rely on a half-helmet that protects neither the face nor the chin against the elements or the dangers of a fall.

Nothing beats a full-face helmet, no matter what type of motorcycle you ride or how high the temperature gets. And Snell M2010 or ''Norme E22'' certified helmets should be the only option. Lighter than ever before thanks to new materials, they feature a removable visor and air vents to enhance comfort and make them easy to use. They will isolate you from the wind, noise, insects and road debris. Select the right size for your head (the one that offers a snug fit).

Helmets are the one thing that you shouldn't buy on the cheap, much like life insurance. How much is yours worth?

Man without protection on a motorcycle

Air Bag
Everyone knows that a good jacket and pants effectively shield you from the elements as well as in the event of a crash. Consider the unpleasant and painful alternative: having the emergency staff at the hospital brush away the tiny rocks and other dirt particles that got stuck in your skin.

Again, choose a jacket that fits your size and features protective shells around the shoulders, knees and lumbar area. A 2-in-1 model with an outer layer that you can take off on hot days is a great idea. You should know that leather offers more protection and reduces drag, while vinyl and other synthetic materials general provide superior comfort.

Five years ago, Hit Air came up with the Air Bag system that inflates as soon as the rider is thrown from the motorcycle. Pricing starts at a little over $400, and you can reuse the Air Bag thanks to a parachute-like folding technique and available gas cartridge.

2012 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim front 3/4 view
Photo: Sébastien D'Amour

Like body armour
Leather, vinyl or Kevlar jeans do a nice job of protecting your legs. Some high-end models incorporate knee pads and extra barriers for the hips.

If you can no longer tolerate the heat, get a bionic vest with long sleeves. This unique new product will improve your comfort when riding under a scorching sun while protecting all your upper body parts including the ribs, collarbone, spine and even coccyx.

2011 Yamaha FZ8 front 3/4 view
Photo: Yamaha

Safety and style
Finally, you need a good pair of solid shoes with reinforced tips and soles, preferably some that cover the ankles. Also, you should wear snug-fitting gloves with padding over the knuckles and non-slip material inside the hand for a better grip on the handlebars and levers.

I don't want to scare you or take away the fun you have on two wheels. In fact, it's quite the opposite: adequate protection builds confidence which in turn allows you to make quicker decisions and reduce risks.

2009 BMW HP2 Sport front view
Photo: Matthieu Lambert

Evidence shows that apprehensive riders don't control their bikes as well as more confident riders, particularly in emergency situations. Their brain is more focused on dealing with the fear than performing the required manoeuvres. So take command of your motorcycle, and remember to wear proper gear. You'll even make a fashion statement in the process, like a wise warrior on a steel steed.

Have a great season, and ride safe!