In India, the concept of wearing special clothing specifically for riding motorcycles is an often laughed-at idea. Most riders don’t wear even a helmet for starters, let alone full riding gear. The reason behind this, rather than the absence of strict laws, is the lack of awareness. Most riders just don’t know how dangerous riding a two-wheeler actually is. Just because you think you ride safely doesn’t mean that you won’t crash. Your fall off a motorcycle could be caused by any of a multitude of external factors that aren't under our control, such as slippery roads, an invisible pothole, an unmarked speed breaker, or even another manic road user.
So, how does wearing riding gear help? Let me explain in the simplest possible way. Riding gear is basically clothing and accessories that are reinforced with armour to protect you in the event of a fall when riding. They minimise the chances of potentially life-threatening injuries to a great extent.
Wearing riding gear does not guarantee that you will survive every time you fall, but it improves your chances of survival by a big margin, compared to riding without any protective gear. Yes, it is a country that is hot for most parts of the year, and riding gear is more often than not heavy and stifling, but as the old biker adage goes, wouldn’t it better to sweat than to bleed?
Let’s get up to speed on the basic riding gear that every rider should ideally wear, why they should wear it, and how they work.
The helmet is the most important riding gear that anyone who straddles a two-wheeler must wear, be it an 80cc moped, or an 800cc sports tourer. It protects by shielding the skull from the forces of impact in the event of an accident. A helmet is vital because even the slightest of impacts can injure the brain badly, and could potentially lead to paralysation or even death.
While there are a variety of helmets available in the market, care must be taken to ensure you buy the right size for you. A helmet should always have a snug fit on your head. The padding must press against your cheek for a proper hold; otherwise, it could come loose in an impact, rendering it useless.
When purchasing a helmet, don’t get swayed by the pricing. A decent helmet from a well-known brand should set you back by around Rs 2000. If you think you are saving money by buying a cheaper helmet, you’d be very wrong. Helmets are priced according to the level of protection and features they offer, so the really cheap lids could possibly do more harm than good.
Gloves protect the hands, which are in most cases the first parts to get injured in a crash. Riding gloves are usually made of leather, and are provided with padding and armour to protect the fingers, knuckles, and the wrist. This works the same way a jacket does, by absorbing and dissipating the impact forces, and by preventing road rash.
When you buy a pair of gloves, remember to wear them and test their size by clenching your fist. If it is tight, go for the next size. Continue this till you find a size that fits perfectly when with your fist clenched. A good pair of street riding gloves should cost you around Rs 2000.
A riding jacket is made of thick textile or leather, and is armoured at the elbows, shoulders and back. In case of a fall, the armour protects your body by dissipating the force of impact on a hard surface, and it also prevents your skin from severe abrasions and puncture wounds.
There are many types of jackets available, but for Indian weather, it is best to get a mesh textile jacket. This type allows sufficient air-flow to prevent excessive perspiration in hot weather conditions. Leather jackets are best for cold places, but they can also be used in the summer, provided they have sufficient ventilation. Riding jackets start from Rs 4500, but make sure you get ones made by reputed brands, which are equipped with CE-certified armour.
Our feet do most of the work when riding a motorcycle, so it is absolutely imperative that they are protected at all times. Under no circumstances should you ride a bike wearing flip-flops or sandals; shoes that cover that entire foot are a minimum requirement. If you really want to protect your feet, you should invest in a good pair of riding boots. These are boots are harder than the ones made for daily use, and are reinforced at the heel, ankle, and toe sections. Riding boots have tall and stiffened ankle covering to prevent the foot from flexing backward too much in a crash, whereas the armour protects the toes and heel.
With prices starting from Rs 3500, riding boots aren’t cheap. You can use normal leather boots or even sneakers, but they won’t offer even half as much protection as purpose-built riding boots.
Riding pants are, like riding jackets, pants made out of a thick abrasion-resistant material, with armour reinforcement at crucial places. In the event of an accident, when you fall, the pants ensure you don’t scrape your skin on the road, and the armour on the knee and shin areas keep them from being fractured.
If you go on long road trips on your motorcycle regularly, we suggest you to invest in a good pair of riding pants, which should cost around Rs 6000. As an alternative, you can wear a good pair of knee guards over your jeans, but you’ll lose out on the abrasion resistance.
Riding gear isn’t just for those who ride high-performance bikes or those who tour long distances on a motorcycle, it is meant for all riders. You are just as likely to fall from a motorcycle when you are riding slowly, commuting to work, or on a trip to the grocery store. If you are on a motorcycle, the danger of you falling off is present at all times. Wearing riding gear wont't alleviate that danger, but you'll be prepared to face such an eventuality.
As an added bonus, riding gear also instils in you a sense of confidence, so you can concentrate better on riding, and avoid simple mistakes that can be caused from being over-cautious. This makes you a much safer rider, which further reduces your chances of falling.