What To Wear When Riding a Harley

Someone from Vermont, USA, searched, “What to wear when riding a Harley” and landed on this blog, but in a post that did not answer that question. This post will.

I ride a Harley, and I ride with other Harley riders and observe what they wear, too. So let me give you some suggestions from the point of view of a regular Harley rider who appreciates clothing that gives him freedom of movement as well as provides comfort and protection when he rides.

First-off, let me state that what Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders wear is no different from what any other motorcycle rider wears. Contrary to popular belief and internet-driven ubiquitous images, there is no single “Harley Rider Style.” It’s all about functional clothing and boots–no more, no less.

You may think that Harley riders choose Harley-branded “motorclothes” and boots. But the seasoned Harley owner knows that “HD” really means “hundred dollars” — the minimum additional mark-up for Harley-branded gear. While Harley-branded gear looks good, you can get equal or better quality vests, jackets, chaps, and boots from alternate sources at significantly less cost. One of my current favorites for excellent quality affordable biker gear is Fox Creek Leather of Roanoke, Virginia, USA.

Now, let me approach this question from a perspective of what the rider requires to enjoy his ride, not to “look good” or impress others. My perspective, therefore, is “function and comfort.”

Above all, whatever a rider of any make or model of motorcycle requires is clothing that allows him to move easily while operating the bike. Two major joints require unrestricted movement: the hips and shoulders. Non-riders would be amazed how much a motorcycle rider moves his hips, and it is not a kabuki dance. A rider frequently extends his legs straight down to maneuver the bike into a parking spot or at a stoplight. He swings his leg up and over the saddle while mounting or dismounting. He swings his body at the shoulders while mounting/dismounting, too, as well as uses his body through shoulder movement while countersteering, which is a primary method to control the bike while in motion.

Riders require jackets that allow freedom of movement in the shoulders. Descriptions such as “bi-action” are frequently used. Most good quality traditional motorcycle jackets are cut with ample room in the shoulders to allow free movement.

Ease-of-movement applies to a rider’s pants, too. While most riders wear regular denim jeans, it should be recognized that not all jeans are cut the same.

Designer and slim-fit jeans fit tightly in the crotch, which restricts hip movement. I saw a young dude who bought a Harley and was wearing designer jeans try to swing his leg over the saddle of his new ride and end up on his ass. He was not able to raise his leg high enough, kicked the bike, lost his balance, fell down, and became the butt of a lot of laughter. Designer jeans? Fuggetaboutit.

Best jeans: natural-rise, relaxed-fit Wranglers. Why Wranglers and not Levis? Wranglers have the rolled leg seam on the outside, while Levis have that thick seam on the inside. When the seam is on the inside, it can rub against the bike’s tank and eventually damage the paint, and cause some pain for the rider.

Some riders are secure and confident enough to wear leather jeans while riding. I do. However, I know from experience that some leather jeans have more room for hip movement than others. What do I choose? Those that allow hip movement, rather than fit tightly in the crotch. Yeah, you may see images on the ‘net of guys in tight leather jeans — but they are showing something else for other reasons. They are not true motorcyclists. Believe me, I know of what I am speaking!

Other riders have the knowledge (and perhaps courage) to wear motorcycle breeches like cops wear. Breeches are great, because they are specifically designed for motorcycle riding. They are made of material that stretches in the right places, has extra padding in the seat and thighs, and is durable. Breeches are designed to fit inside tall boots. Some guys fear wearing tall boots like that because they are too conscious about the opinion of other men and do not own the proper boots. Okay, fine… then wear jeans.

One other thing — what else do serious riders wear when riding a Harley (or any other motorcycle)? A helmet that has a DOT label on it. Seriously, riding without a helmet is stupid. Even in states where helmets are not required by law, the rider who knows that he is invisible to cage-drivers always, always wears a helmet.

There is much more to share about what to wear when riding a Harley or any other motorcycle. Click here for the next installment about — what else from ‘Booted Harleydude’ — Boots!

Life is short: choose comfort, form, and fit over style.