Riding a motorcycle obviously leaves the rider and pillion exposed to the elements and it is a personal choice whether to wear protective clothing. That protective clothing can be in the form of multilayered ‘normal’ clothes or ‘proper’ motorcycle clothing and made of various materials such as leather, textile or composites with extra padded protection or armour protection on the limb joints and down the spine.
The choice not to wear protective clothing is something I would not recommend because of the terrible consequences ‘IF’…and it is a big IF…you are involved in an accident, even a low speed accident may cause very severe injuries. However I will concede that it may be acceptable or appropriate to wear minimal protective clothing when riding at very slow speeds and at slow cruising speeds but always wear multiple layers or a motorcycle jacket to protect the torso.
The problem is that most riders do not ride at very slow speeds. Even urban riding at 30mph, let alone riding at much higher speeds, is a significant speed with regards to causing injuries and when a rider chooses not to wear any protective clothing at all or rides with barely any clothes on, then it might be argued that they have not considered the consequences or are purposely ignoring the potential consequences…indeed it is a personal choice!
Most riders, if not totally encased in padded leather, will be wearing varying levels of protective clothing, even if they believe they are not. From wearing over the ankle sturdy boots, or thick trousers or a thick jacket, may offer some protection. The only advice I would strongly advocate is speed vs protection. If a rider believes that they will be riding at a higher speed, then they should seriously consider wearing more and suitable protective clothing.
The choice of clothing gets wider every year, with new styles and technologies allowing a rider to either ‘appear to be protected’ or ride with protection but ‘appear to be unprotected. Many motorcycle clothing products are available these days that look like fashion clothes but are made of abrasion resistant material and have armour padding incorporated within them.
For the rider, who chooses to wear appropriate clothing, is then subject to other dilemmas such as what’s right to wear today? Many forms of clothing are only suitable for seasonal riding: summer or winter etc. Some are more suited to riding in the rain or wet, some for the cold and some for hotter temperatures. In some parts of the world where there is consistent and stable weather conditions then the rider is not subject to these dilemmas on a daily basis. Indeed in the consistently hotter and drier areas, it is noticeable that many riders wear little protection and especially in hot holiday destinations where bike rentals are popular, this is also the case…but riders beware!
Some clothing has multi seasonal qualities, which may mean that it has built in multiple and detachable layers that are either waterproof and breathable which gives them the best performance latitude.
More so in the areas of the world where the weather is inconsistent and very changeable, the rider faces the clothing dilemma and invariably gets it wrong, possibly not for the whole journey but for a part of it.
Spring is one of those seasons that keeps the rider guessing and particular to this season is when many riders will be getting on the bike for the first time since the winter break. It is noticeable that the ‘bike meets’ or ‘bike nights’ start to get popular again and the sunday ride, destination mecca locations also witness the surge. Knowing that the weather is changeable, riders who make longer journeys will often still wear warm waterproof clothing to hedge their bets but only to find that the rest of the day’s ride is bathed in warm sunshine, which leads to the rider and pillion getting uncomfortably hot. This is quite evident when seeing riders walking around showing the telltale signs.
Other riders will be waiting for the sun to come out and the roads to dry out, so that they can wear the lighter clothing, but soon realise that although it may appear to be warm and sunny, actually on the ride it is actually still quite cold. Also quite often, the rider did not expect a change in the weather, and soon get caught out in the rain.
All the possible permutations are really something that all riders face and it is somewhat of an occupational hazard but it is also what riding is all about. It is about constantly evaluating and making decisions, which sometimes we get right and sometimes we get wrong.
Whether getting caught out in the rain…well consider taking waterproof over trousers and jacket in a back pack next time which can be rolled up into a very small bundle.
Whether being cold on warm day…well consider wearing multiple layers or thin base layers beneath the motorcycle clothing.
Whether wearing heavy duty clothing on a dry day…well consider reinvesting in multi seasonal clothing with detachable layers so that the protection and comfort can be modified and controlled throughout the day.
What’s right to wear is not only about protection but it is also about comfort and it is about the physiological effects of the body and the rider’s ability to maintain concentration.
If a rider is either too hot or cold or gets wet or any combination then that in itself may lead to a lapse in concentration during the ride.
Getting hot, cold or wet may cause the rider to feel tired which may lead to distraction and a lapse in concentration.
Getting hot and failing to take in fluids may lead to the rider being dehydrated which will affect the decision making process. It is a popular misconception that when you are thirsty you should drink to avoid dehydration…the fact is that if you are thirsty then you are already dehydrated. The key is to take regular fluid intake throughout the day before getting thirsty to avoid getting dehydrated and the amount required will increase as the temperatures rise.
The same principle applies to food. Do not wait until you are hungry to eat! Eat at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels and minimise any detrimental effect on the decision making process.
Being comfortable on a ride, especially a long ride, is actually just as important as being protected. Being comfortable by wearing the appropriate clothing or carrying ‘just in case clothing’ on the bike will help to avoid lapses of concentration and distraction.
For the rider, having a good understanding of what to expect during the whole journey and being prepared for that journey with appropriate clothing for the forecast weather and having an eating and drinking plan will provide the best means to maintain concentration levels and ultimately good decision making throughout the whole day.