Motorcycle Gear Choices

I have ridden motorcycles for more than four decades, and enjoy it. Over the years, I have acquired, tested, and worn many different motorcycle gear products designed for wear for rider protection and comfort.

“Back in the day” like all Model T Fords, I could have any color of gear I wanted as long as it was black. Black leather. Denim & leather jeans. Black boots. Black gloves. And that was about it–though even back when I first started riding, I could choose a helmet color that was brighter and more visible than black.

Technology innovations and fabric improvements nowadays affect my choices of what to wear when I ride, as well as my level of tolerance of heat, cold, and humidity.

I always wear motorcycle boots, but above my feet, what I wear varies based on the ambient air temperatures and humidity for safe, protective, riding gear.

Here are my current choices of what I wear and why–

First of all, I am a firm believer in ATGATT — “All the gear, all the time.” I ALWAYS wear a DOT-listed motorcycle helmet, even if riding around the block. While required in the state where I live, I know helmets are not required everywhere. But I am no dummy (or squid either) — I wear a helmet every time and everywhere I ride.

I also wear sturdy over-the-ankle motorcycle boots with good tread for traction. No broken bones about it — you’ll never see me riding while wearing anything else but boots on my feet. Squids who wear sneakers — or worse, flip-flops — are a crash with severe injuries waiting to happen.

I should also mention that I do not ride when it is dark. At my age, I know my eyesight is more limited and I do not see as well in the dark as I did just a few years ago. Since I only ride in daylight, it is okay if I wear black, since visibility is not as much of an issue as it would be if I were riding in the dark.

Where I live (Maryland USA), we have four full seasons with temperatures that range over 12 months from 10F / -12C to 105F / 40C. Due to personal choice (and the fact that I am older and have my limits), I do not ride when it is below 45F / 7C or above 95F / 35C due to my intolerance for cold or heat.

We have “leather weather” temperatures for a few days in February, more day in March, most days in April through mid-May. Then again from mid-October to mid-November. When ambient air temperatures are in the “cool” range between 45F / 7C and 75F / 24C, I find leather comfortable to wear. Leather riding pants, chaps, or breeches with a leather motorcycle jacket feel good as well as are protective.

I find leather uncomfortably hot when temperatures are above 75F / 24C. I can not tolerate heat well. Black leather in full sun causes me to “roast” when temperatures and humidity increase. From mid-May to mid-October, I’m in “summer gear” that is not leather (other than boots.)

When the ambient air temperatures are between 75F / 24C and 85F / 29C, I switch to lightweight Kevlar jeans and ventilated ballistic nylon jackets with built-in armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back. Unfortunately, my body can not tolerate wearing a jacket — even a ventilated one like my new Rev’IT Tornado 3 — when it is warmer than 85F / 24C.

A gentleman I met online who reviews all sorts of riding gear advised that I should wear my Rev’IT gear all the time. He even advised me to get matching Rev’IT riding pants. I tried them out, and just can’t wear them. Their bulk inhibited my ability to get my leg over the saddle of my Harley as well as were just too darn hot despite whatever temperature it was.

Younger riders like many I saw on my “Crazy Awesome Motorcycle Adventure II” last September in Arizona & Utah can — and do — wear “full kit” (ATGATT) even in incredibly hot conditions. Me — I just can’t tolerate the heat. When I get overheated and dehydrated, I quickly become fatigued to the point of becoming lightheaded and could crash.

That explains that in very warm weather (above 85F /29C), I reduce down to a t-shirt and long cotton (denim) pants. I’d rather be upright, hydrated, and alive than fatigued by heat that would be quite troubling and potentially cause me to go down.

These are my choices based on my personal experience, tolerance, health, and age. Everyone is different.

By the way — do I wear leather vests? Sometimes, perhaps as a lining inside a ballistic nylon jacket or over a t-shirt when the temps are in the 80s. But since I do not ride with an organized club any more, I have no need to wear a vest with “club colors.” Vests are more of a decoration for a guy who wants to “look cool,” but in my opinion, don’t do much otherwise.

Summary — I wear fully-protective gear as much as possible, with sturdy motorcycle boots on my feet and a DOT-listed helmet on my head. What goes on or off in between changes with the weather.

Life is short: ride within your tolerances as protected and comfortable as possible.

3 thoughts on “Motorcycle Gear Choices

  1. It’s very intersting to read your remarks on motorcyle gear choices. I ride motorcycles since 1982 and being into leather and boots, I always wear black leather (jacket, pants, boots and gloves) when riding. Living in Germany / Europe temperatures during summer months are usually in the mid 80’s F (between 25-29 C). During this time of the year, I wear leather jackets and pants made of so called Cool-Leather or SRT-Leather (Sun Reflective Technology Leather). This is genuine leather with a coating that reflects sun. It is a technology that really works great. Like you, I can not tolerate heat well and this special leather keeps me cool all the time.

    • Thank you for your comment. I can not find leather jackets with SRT technology here in the United States. It sounds interesting. Riding gear available in Germany is more advanced than we have available in the U.S. Ride safe!

  2. In normal temperatures I wear jackets and breeches made of cowhide. I have a one piece suit made of SRT leather. It’s Australian kangaroo processed in Germany with SRT. I also have one of the rack SRT jacket (cowhide made in Spain). I haven’t seen this kind of leather when visiting North America. I think you are right, it is not available there. As far as I know only some car manufacturers use it for leather seats in convertibles (e.g. BMW).

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