It stands to reason that riding a motorcycle exposes the rider to greater risk than when they are driving their car. Without the protection of a ton of steel, a rider’s head, arms, and legs are vulnerable and most prone to injury in a crash. Besides keeping you warm and dry, protective clothing and equipment can keep you safe. The use of reflective materials and bright colors makes it easier for you to be seen. To ride safe you’ll need a helmet, eye protection, protective and reflective clothing, gloves, and correct footwear.
Helmets are the most important piece of safety equipment for a motorcyclist to reduce the extent of head injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a non-helmeted motorcyclist is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury and 15 percent more likely to suffer a nonfatal head injury than a helmeted rider if involved in a crash (NHTSA, 2000).
The state requires all riders under the age of 21 to wear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet. A person over 21 years of age may operate or ride upon a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear securely fastened upon his or her head. However, if that is the choice, the person must be covered by an insurance policy providing for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle.
Florida requires the use of an eye protective device when operating a motorcycle. Even if your bike has a windshield, proper eyewear helps protect your eyes from insects, dirt, rocks, or other airborne matter. The wind can cause the eyes to tear and blur vision, and good vision is imperative when riding.
- Choose good quality goggles, glasses with plastic or safety lenses, or a helmet equipped with a face shield.
- Eyewear should be scratch free, shatter proof, and well ventilated to prevent fog buildup.
- Use clear eyewear at night since tinted shields reduce contrast and make it more difficult to see.
The clothes you pick for riding should be designed to protect your skin in case you fall. Proper clothing will also protect you during bad weather.
- Look for durable jackets made especially for motorcycle riders from special synthetics or leather. Jackets with reflective trim or accented with bright colors can also help make you more visible to motorists.
- Always wear long pants (not shorts) when riding. Pants should not be baggy or flared to prevent tangling in the chain, kick-starter, foot-pegs, etc.
- For the best protection, leather chaps or specially made synthetic pants, are recommended.
- Upper body clothing should be brightly colored. Some riders wear lightweight reflective orange or yellow vests over their jackets.
- Retro-reflective material used on your clothes, helmet, and motorcycle will help make you visible to other motorists, especially at night.
Summer riding calls for technical fabrics that will protect you during hot weather.
- Ventilated Jackets – Look for a ventilated jacket with protective features — i.e., jackets that are equipped with open weave fibers, and quick dry fabrics, and strategically placed protective materials add safety without sacrificing maximum airflow.
- Mesh Pants – Good summer riding pants use air mesh panels to allow for maximum air ventilation, and some provide rider protective padding as well.
Durable gloves make it easier to grip the controls, help protect your hands from the elements, and help lessen injury if you fall.
- Choose non-slip gloves to improve grip.
- Leather gloves are an excellent choice. So are special fabric gloves with leather palms and grip strips on the fingers. Gauntlet-type gloves will keep air out of your sleeves.
- The right gloves are available for all kinds of weather. Look for insulated gloves and glove liners to suit different types of riding conditions.
- Look for lightweight summer motorcycle gloves with features such as:… venting systems with air intake vents on the digits: many reputable brands make vented leather or fabric glove styles. Some open and close, so you can control the air flow…. moisture-wicking fabrics: lightweight mesh gloves, with mesh webbed in between each of the fingers and on the backs of hands, are one of the most popular styles for summer riding.
Proper footwear will protect your feet, ankles, and lower parts of the legs.
- Specially made leather motorcycle boots are best. Durable athletic shoes that cover the ankles are a good second choice.
- Sandals, sneakers, and similar footwear should not be worn. They provide little protection from abrasion or a crushing impact.
- Avoid dangling laces that can get in the way or get caught in moving parts.
Personal Protective Equipment Links
- MAC Gear Up Campaign (Web)
- Motorcycle Council of NSW INC (Web)
- Survival Guide for Hot Weather Motorcycle Gear (Web)
Resources and studies related to helmet performance, usage, and laws:
- How to Choose the Right Helmet (Video)
- Summary of Novelty Helmet Performance Testing (PDF)
- How to Identify Unsafe Motorcycle Helmets (PDF)
- Evaluation of the Repeal of the All-Rider Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Florida (PDF)
- Do Motorcycle Helmets Interfere with the Vision and Hearing of Riders? (PDF)