Best Geared Biker

Revit13My motorcycle club leader is trying new ways to get members to attend regular monthly meetings. Last month, she organized having a technician from the local Harley dealership show us how to check and maintain engine oil. That was a great thing for all of us to learn and employ as we ride our Harleys.

For the most recent meeting, the subject of a meeting reminder email was “Leather and Lace.” In it, she said,

My challenge to you is to attend the meeting tonight dressed as a safe motorcycle rider. Our safety officer will be critiquing your outfit so make sure you show off your leather and safe riding apparel because you just might win a gift card!

I have to say that the vast majority of riders in my club are safe riders, but they wear what most bikers wear: denim. Denim jacket, denim shirt, denim jeans. They also wear leather jackets (sometimes) and perhaps a vest and chaps.

Fortunately, these guys (and gals) also wear boots. While I may not be that thrilled with the quality of boots some of the men wear (poorly constructed boots made in China with the H-D label), at least they wear boots and not sneakers or worse.

When it came time for the contest, the Safety Officer briefly described the qualities of safe motorcycle gear from the DOT-approved helmet to eye and ear protection, gloves, jacket, protective wear for the legs, and (of course) sturdy, over-the-ankle BOOTS for the feet.

Rideblogpost2When he was talking about jackets, he described that newer synthetic fabric jackets made with ballistic nylon (Name brand: Cordura) have as much as a four-times lower kinetic friction coefficient than leather. What this means in layman’s terms is that in a crash, a human body wearing a textile jacket slides more easily while leather catches on rough surfaces such as asphalt or concrete road surfaces. When the force of stopping due to friction exceeds the durability of the garment, the garment tears and exposes the body to abrasion. This type of “road rash” can be severe and break bones, too.

I learned something — that in the potential event of being knocked off my bike, I want to slide, and I want to be wearing a garment that facilitates sliding. So my decision to buy a “High-Vis” jacket and wear it now most of the time was not only because of its way of making me easier to be seen by cage drivers, but also because it is made of ballistic nylon and also has built-in shoulder and elbow armor.

Ridenseek2Then we got to the discussion about protective wear for the legs. Rarely, a street biker will wear nylon (Cordura) riding pants. Some vendors offer “riding jeans” — denim jeans made with ballistic nylon fibers, such as “sliders” or the like. This type of jeans-looking riding pants are better than fashion jeans which offer zero protection in a crash. (Well, long pants regardless of what they are made of are far better than shorts.)

Most street bikers, if they wear lower-leg protection, will choose to wear chaps. Leather chaps add to the tough biker image and they provide protection to the legs much better than jeans. However, they do not provide any protection to the butt or the crotch.

In my case, I often choose to wear breeches — leather breeches when it’s cool, and ballistic nylon breeches (like cops wear) when it is warm. I like how breeches look, fit, and feel. Plus, breeches give me — Booted Harleydude — a great reason to display my patrol boots as more than fashion BLUF wear.

However, it’s always a balance to decide what gear to wear. If I’m just running around on errands on a nice sunny warm day, I may choose to wear jeans and my favorite biker boots with jeans over them. If I am commuting to or from work, I will wear chaps over dress slacks and shined-up motorcycle boots. If, however, I am going for a longer ride, or leading a ride for my club, I will opt for the breeches and tall boots. My choices vary based on the weather, my comfort with the route, and how long I will be out and where I will be going.

Contest results

Among 50 people in the room, the Safety Officer selected three of us to stand before the group and demonstrate our riding gear. I was among them.

One guy had a great ballistic nylon jacket, gloves, full-face helmet, and sturdy engineer boots. However, he did not have any protective covering for his legs. That is, he was wearing only denim jeans.

The other guy had a 3/4 helmet, protective eyewear, ballistic nylon jacket (though black), gloves, chaps, and sturdy harness boots. He was pretty well fully geared.

Then there was me — I had my 3/4 helmet, protective eyewear, lime green ballistic nylon jacket, gloves, and leather breeches with a reflective stripe down each leg, worn with my All American Patrol Boots.

All the rest of the group were wearing jeans. Other than their boots and a few with leather jackets, everyone else did not have any other protective gear with them or wore it to the meeting.

Who won?

Ahem, I did! Goes to show that I practice what I preach and wear what I display on my website as practical and safe gear for riding.

Does this mean that I will be discarding or giving away all of my leather jackets? Nope… but when I commute to and from work (when I am exposed to dangerous heavy commuter traffic) and when I am out on long rides on unfamiliar routes, I will be much more likely to gear-up with my ballistic nylon jacket instead of one made with leather. I’ll save the leather jackets for wearing while riding on short jaunts around the ‘hood, and also to wear when I’m not on the bike. After all, I wear leather often, even if I am not on my Harley.

Life is short: gear up and ride safely!