Riding a motorcycle is just not as easy as driving a car. Let’s face it, there is all this safety gear, exposure to the elements, lack of practical storage, etc. However, there are things that can make the driving experience more convenient.
Cyclists can debate endlessly about my personal choices or even the need for many of these things, but over decades of riding SoCal and reviewing bike gear in the media, I have acquired gear that I have acquired. I like and use regularly. New riders can get a taste of what some seasoned riders have adopted to make everyday cycling more convenient. And more secure.
So what are my favorite things?
I’m a guy with a full face helmet. I have been wearing Arai helmets for years; their basic shape fits my oval-rounded head without any hot spots or pinch points. Helmets from top brands aren’t usually discounted online, so I rely on well-trained salespeople at major riding equipment stores for a proper fit. Personal fit can be fine-tuned by swapping out replaceable inner pads.
Once on the move, no one wants to stop and rearrange a poorly fitted helmet. Coping with two hours of highway work with a sore ear can make a biker cry.
Leather is my go-to material for casual everyday riding. The abrasion resistance is good and helps protect against impact. Leather can be warm in hot weather, so there are variations that mix breathable textile panels for air circulation. My everyday pick in town is a moderately priced perforated leather jacket by Sedici from Cycle Gear. It’s decently cool on the move and it was a good price. Their convenience makes them my first choice, sometimes paired with matching perforated pants.
For hot weather or long days, I invested in Motoport Ultra II Air Mesh equipment. Dupont Kevlar Mesh is not cheap, but it is very breathable, well shielded and great for abrasion. Worth the price when the Santa Anas is blowing and I need to ride. I rode mine through Arizona in the summer.
If I am traveling for several days, this is my choice. Street clothes can be worn underneath, unlike most leather clothes.
Motoport USA products are made locally in Escondido, so custom measurements are easily secured by appointment. The initial cost is comparable to custom leather, so a custom fit is worth it.
Good leathers are expensive. Google Langlitz Leathers if your pockets are deep.
Many choices of boots are available at local equipment stores. Options include everything from dedicated trail boots to low riding shoes that look like dress shoes.
Track boots can be found in a myriad of fluorescent colors with abrasion sliders and cam lock buckles – ideal for the track but uncomfortable for prolonged walking. Riding shoes look like high top sneakers. They are popular and visually inconspicuous, but offer less ankle and shin protection.
I’m looking for an intermediate balance, so I wear Redwing work boots with non-slip, oil-resistant soles and steel toe construction. They are available in different widths, so they are comfortable to wear all day. For a few dollars, Redwing replaced the laces with full-length zippers that make it easier to fit.
Exaggeration? May be. But dropping a motorcycle on the sidewalk can put your feet in heavy metal danger.
Hands are remarkably delicate and fragile things. They are anatomically packed with muscles, tendons, ligaments, and sensory nerves that make them very painful if injured.
Remember, your brain will put your hands on the ground to protect you. Thus, over the years, I have collected many pairs of dedicated gloves.
I have three current favorites. Depending on the time of year or the bike, I go for an expensive pair of race-grade CF full armor full-sleeve gloves, a pair of 20 year old Thurlow cold weather gloves, or a new pair of Elkskin Ropers from Aerostich. – the same gloves worn by the CHP motorcycle officers. Very Steve McQueen-ish on vintage bikes, too.
My prescription glasses don’t fit well in my helmet, so I wear cheap plastic eye protection from Aerostich which has a bifocal diopter close to my prescription. Insects, dirt, stones and even rain hurt. Sight is important. Protect yours.
A stretch turtleneck tube seals the collar of my jacket against cold or rain. They are inexpensive and fit in a pocket. If the weather warms, I rinse it off with cold water for wind-driven relief. It can also be used as a COVID mask.
My sense of direction is not the best, so I rely on a GPS when moving away from familiar areas. In addition, weather conditions and road closures are good to know in advance. Smartphones will do, but my old Garmin 550 is easily wired to the 12v harness and moved from bike to bike.
Belt bag / carry everything
Call them fanny packs if you like, but they look more like an extra pocket. My non-cycling friends laugh at me for carrying mine off the bike, but it’s handy for carrying dedicated “little ones” – all those things I might need when I’m away from the garage at home. Things like sunglasses, sunscreen, a few tools, maybe battery backup for bikes with fragile battery systems.
Aerostich messenger bags are a wonderful thing. They were designed for messengers / cyclists on bikes, they fit well and are easy to slip on over jackets etc. Their contents remain available while backpacks are difficult to carry and even worse to access. Messenger bags are available in four sizes. One will suit your bill.
Everything that fits your bike. On-board tool kits are increasingly rare on new bicycles. At a minimum on new bikes I wear a Leatherman and owner’s manual.
My vintage bikes include a few running wrenches, a plug / ratchet, tape, wire, and an AAA card. If you’ve owned a bike long enough, you’ll know what you need. Longer trips will require more.
BlueTooth or Wi-Fi communication equipment are more and more common. Get your GPS prompts audibly, stay in touch with your fellow travelers, warn of dangers or distractions. Equipment improves and range improves. I appreciate Sena.com 20S, but Cardo Systems gets good reviews. Share them and associate them with a friend.
This ubiquitous modern artifice goes without saying. It’s a camera, GPS, and lifeline that covers all emergencies with full contact details for everyone and everything. Who has stored phone numbers? Where is the nearest phone booth?
My cell phone is still rolling in my jacket pocket, safe from any separation anxiety.
Farkles are a number of additional motorcycle doohickies that make riding more convenient, enjoyable, or easier. RAM Mounting Systems manufactures an almost endless number of brackets that will anchor a GPS, garage opener, radar detector, on-board video camera and even tumblers. The claw clips will hold a cell phone.
Farkles abound and they are fun. Personalize your ride.
At the end of the line
Motorcycle safety lessons tell us that we should always “dress for the accident”. That’s good advice, but everyone is responsible for choosing their own level of comfort and safety, and I don’t expect my choices to increase anyone’s level of protection.
These are controversial political / social times. Personal security and individual freedoms are the subject of endless debate and there is no “one way” for everyone. However, there are many choices of equipment that offer different levels of protection. Do your research and make your own choices.
But remember, we don’t ride our motorcycles on our own.
Our loved ones, neighbors, friends, family all share our experiences, good and bad. I owe it to the people around me to live my lifestyle as safely as possible.
ATGATT is an acronym taught in security courses which stands for “All Hardware, All Time”. I strive to be ATGATT every time I ride. It is easier to ride this way if your equipment is easily accessible.
It’s my choice.
Michaud is a San Diego-based motorcycle writer and restorer. Send an email to [email protected]