As a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructor for the State of Connecticut, I teach riders how to manage risks on the road. I go over how to ensure that their bikes are road ready. I also impress upon them the need to wear motorcycle specific protective gear. This last item has occasionally been a difficult sell.
Part of the problem are Connecticut’s liberal laws regarding motorcycle safety equipment (see the following link): http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/State-Laws.aspx?stateid=7.
My state has no helmet law for licensed riders 18 years and older. In fact, the only apparel specific law is one mandating that eye protection be worn while riding. Such freedom comes with the price tag of increased fatalities for motorcyclists. Head injuries, not surprising, cause the vast majority of them.
What statistics can’t show are the grievous non-fatal injuries that can scar the body for life. The possibility of broken bones, torn ligaments, shredded skin, and so many other injuries might be minimized if protective gear is worn for every ride regardless of how far from home you intend to go (fatalities and injuries caused by impairment from alcohol is a subject for another time.)
So, here is a very brief description of what’s recommended to wear while riding:
- Wear a DOT approved motorcycle helmet on every ride. One with the addition of a Snell rating is even better, but, just having the DOT sticker is fine. Full face helmets offer the most protection, but, open face ones are better than a do-rag. Helmets don’t impair your hearing, vision, or weigh too much. On really hot days the helmet’s venting usually does a decent cooling job. Hey, we should all be able to tolerate a little heat! Remember, one head injury can completely change the course of your life. Don’t gamble with your head. And, wear your helmet’s shield or goggles to protect your eyes.
- Wear over the ankle footwear with rubber soles for good grip in all conditions.
- A sturdy jacket of leather or textile will help prevent very painful and disfiguring road rash during a fall. Some armor is even better.
- Durable long pants or over-pants are highly recommended.
- Full-fingered gloves are essential. Fingerless gloves do nothing. Answer this: when you fall what typically hits the ground first? I like my fingers just the way they are (see my posts on guitar playing!)
- Add reflectors to the back of your bike and helmet. I wear a reflector vest on every ride, day and night. If they can see me, they’re less likely to hit me.
Motorcycling is so much fun and I believe wearing protective gear will extend my riding enjoyment for many years. It’s such a small price to pay for the rewards of riding a motorcycle.
One last comment: do professional motorcycle racers compete in tank tops, Bermuda shorts, and flip flops?