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There’s something in the air…

From 125 (April 2006) to Hayabusa (Sep 2009)

my bikes and look how the kit has changed!

I don’t quite know what’s going on, but I have been asked by a number of friends recently about how to get in (or return) to biking: the major question has been kit.  What do you need and what’s worth spending money on?

Learning to ride a motorcycle is amazing and when I did my first CBT, I had to borrow everything.  This is not a bad first approach if you’re learning but not so good if you are returning after a break.  So what do you need?

The legal bit – the head

Rightly (or wrongly) the only bit you are legally required to wear is the helmet.  Forget reading reviews, if it doesn’t fit you won’t use it.  You need something that fits your head and something that’s legal, thankfully that’s all that’s sold from motorcycle shops and they will give advice.  I’d love a Schuberth but until they make one that fits my head I might as well have a solid gold Hayabusa for all the good owning one would do me.

The latest helmet, a Shoei Neotec

If you go to a motorcycle shop they will help you get that fit and something that serves your purpose.  Try it on for at least 15 minutes if it passes the basic fit test (i.e. your head doesn’t move if someone else holds the helmet).  For comfort and practicality I enjoy using a flip-front and my latest one finally has a flip down sun visor.  For protection, it has the full face functionality with the ability to talk properly to people.  (I don’t wear the flip-front when racing, they are great but not above 100mph in the event of a crash).

No helmet is completely quiet.  Earplugs are a great idea as for a fiver they protect your hearing and allow you to ride for longer with total focus.

I tend to get white or silver or patterns with those colours (not road coloured) as that’s an easy way of being noticed.

Cost of helmet

Budget for £180 to £400 – that way you get the protection and the comfort.  Look at ear protection too – to start, the roll in the ear plugs are good and only a few pounds.

If not a dual screen – get a sun visor bundled.  Consider a pin-lock for anti-fog (all helmets claim to be fog resistant but a pin-lock system is really effective to the extent some manufactures include them).

If you wear glasses, get your optician to straighten the arms so they fit easily with your helmet.  The trick is put the helmet on and then your glasses.  Glasses do fog when the conditions are right, so during the summer I wear contacts.

The bear essentials – gloves and boots

Gloves and boots are the next piece to consider.  Both your hands and your feet are exposed to the elements and controlling the bike.  I like leather gloves and they all tend to claim to be waterproof.  Thinner gloves in the summer stop your hands from cooking and gives you feedback.  Fit is essential.

The boots are fantastic – goretex has made a big difference here and the styles provide good protection   Again, the fit is important – nothing is going to cause problems more than uncomfortable or painful feet.

Spend time ensuring there are no pinch points and with the gloves, that you can reach the levers.  If you spend time learning without boots the change to proper armoured boots can be a shock – it took me around four hours to get use to it.

Cost of boots and gloves

Gloves – typically £40 to £150

Boots – around £150.

The best of the rest

I love leather but if commuting or touring are likely to come quickly, look to textile suits.  A matching suit should mean the pieces zip together but all should be supplied with zips.

New textile suits are waterproof and often come with different liners (the import one being the waterproof one).  Fit wise, the length should cover the boots and gloves even when sitting on a bike.

Try the kit on – and while doing so, sit on a bike.  You are looking for pinch points and tightness: bear in mind you need to be able to do a shoulder check (look right behind you) while keeping both hands on the handle bars.  The armour should fit on the knees and elbows – if it doesn’t, that set doesn’t fit so look for another set.

If you are likely to ride when it’s colder think about layers.

During the summer I use motorcycle jeans – armoured but allow more air through.  I live in England – waterproofs matter.

Cost of leather

Around £300 for trousers and jacket for a lady but you need waterproofs as well so factor in £60 on top.

Cost of textile

£300 to £600.

Cost of a Viz-jacket

These do make a huge difference, especially at rush hour.  I love the Motrax Visilite bright top hi viz vest as the diagonal zip doesn’t scratch your tank and it covers the major body seems while it’s raining.  £8 or thereabouts.

The snood

There is always a gap between your jacket neck and the chin bar of the helmet and a circular snood stops bugs hitting your neck while doing 30mph.  Do bike safe and you get a great one for free or reuse ski wear.  A bike one is around £5-15.

Luggage

While you are learning, this is not an issue but in the real world where are you putting your belongings?  Ruck sacks and tank bags are great short term solutions and I would check out sailing gear for waterproof options.

Priorities

If that all seems a bit much in one hit the priorities should be:

helmet, gloves, boots, the rest.

Everyone gets a jacket early 🙂 When it comes to waterproofs, when you are riding a bike your legs get wet, your top less so in my experience but then the viz-jackets tend to be waterproof providing that extra layer of rain protection 🙂

Motorcycling is a non-contact sport but if you are in an accident, armour helps.

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