** The following is excerpted from the book, The Perfect Motorcycle: How to Choose, Find and Buy the Perfect New or Used Bike. The information provided here will give you a framework to guide your motorcycle purchases. Space limitations preclude an in-depth discussion of the subject. You can find out about the book at www.theperfectmotorcycle.com. There are also 18 checklists and worksheets available for download at www.theperfectmotorcycle.com/download-worksheets-and-che.html that you can use to supplement the information in the book.
Generally, when we decide what clothes to buy and wear, we choose particular clothes to feel comfortable in public settings, and to look a certain way to portray a certain image to others. We usually chose based on this evaluation hierarchy, from most to least important:
Style Color Fabric Comfort Function Protection
Choosing specialized motorcycle riding gear requires us to flip those criteria upside down. The order of importance of the criteria for choosing riding gear is:
Protection Function Comfort Fabric Color Style
Motorcyclists need protection from weather, abrasion, impact, invisibility, and bad music. Properly-designed riding gear can protect you from the first four. Sun, wind, rain and extreme temperatures are the elements requiring consideration. Weâll need to weigh abrasion protection in your decision, because sliding body parts rapidly along an asphalt or cement surface is an excellent way to remove skin and flesh (which presumably you want to avoid). We all understand the need limit the damage from bouncing against, and getting hit by, stuff.
Itâs a miracle car drivers can find time to spend on driving at all, what with all the other obviously more important activities they need to be doing while the car is in motion. If other drivers can easily see us, though, they are way less likely to do something that will cause us injury, so weâll need to consider how to be conspicuous.
Itâs easy to fall into the trap of choosing riding gear like we choose street clothes. But motorcycle gear is more like the gear worn by fighter pilots, professional football players, or fire fighters, than it is like the rest of the clothes in our closet. Those âclothesâ worn by the professionals mentioned are used to fulfill special purposes. Those purposes are also quite different from each other. You wonât see a guy climbing into an F-16 dressed like a fire fighter, for example.
A difference between a fighter pilot and a motorcyclist, however, is that pilots donât care how they look in their suits, because itâs rare for the pilot to walk around in public in his uniform. The way the professional uniforms look takes a back seat to the function of the garments. Motorcyclists can follow this example. It is a rare rider, indeed, who considers the protection of riding gear as the only criterion (although there are a few of us, and admittedly we look kind of funny walking through the mall while geared-up). But in all cases, protection should be the first criterion.
Plan to Upgrade
Motorcycling has a rich, vivid history and has developed a strong culture. Aviation and sports are two other disciplines that also have a colorful heritage. The motorcycling environment has changed, if for no other reason than in just the last thirty years, traffic has increased to a point where there are twice as many vehicles per mile of road. Change is also hard to deal with when it involves letting go of a product that has served you well, and that identifies you as a member of a group.
Technology keeps improving, and smart engineers keep designing great new products to make those activities safer. All professionals equip themselves with the latest and best gear available. Professional motorcyclists, too, use the best protective gear available. But your typical riding environment is much different than professional racersâitâs worse! All the traffic they have to deal with is about the same size as they are, and going in the same direction. You donât have a paramedic standing by every couple miles. And, most competitive environments have been designed without hard, immovable objects (trees, telephone poles, guardrails, mailboxes, and the like) within striking distance of the riding area. If you consider yourself a serious rider, keep in touch with advances in riding and plan to upgrade your gear, when something measurably better comes along.
A phrase used by some veteran motorcyclists is ATGATT, which is an acronym that stands for âAll The Gear, All The Time.â Even the best gear wonât protect you if itâs at home in the closet. Even if you are going on a short ride, even just to the store, you should put on your protective gear.
Because of factors beyond anyoneâs control, if you ride long enough, the question is not if you will need the extra protection of specialized riding gear, but when you will need it. No one plans to have an accident, of course, but they happen to even the best riders. Like all aspects of motorcycling, keeping your balance is important. Just because you want to believe you wonât have an accident, weâre all bound by the same laws of physics and probability. Keep your arrogance and vanity in check, and suit up. Riding is risky enough without tempting fate by riding naked.
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