As I set off for work at some ungodly hour this morning I was quickly reminded of riding with suitable clothing for the weather conditions.
Although not a cloud in the sky, it was colder than a sociopath’s soul and the temperature was regressing as I trundled along on my trusty steed. Although my core was still madly warm, it was the usual extremities than would suffer…even my heated grips and seat were struggling to match the oppressive nip in the air.
People often think that wearing appropriate motorcycle riding clothing is all to do with safety however first and foremost it should be about comfort. If you’re comfortable on a ride, then you’re more likely to be more focussed on the more important things like reading the conditions and anticipating potential hazards.
Some people also think that appropriate rider clothing means that you must be wearing racing leathers or the most expensive textiles on the market…however that could not be further from what reality would dictate.
When we think of the archetypical ‘biker’, we might think of boots, jeans and a leather jacket as a base line image…however that was not how it started out. Early riders wore thick clothing just to keep themselves warm and some wore workman’s overalls or oilskin jackets to protect from the rain.
It was only later when the traditional leather jacket (What we would regard as traditional now) was adopted and that was an evolution of the WWII AirCrew Bomber Jacket. Which in many peoples eyes is still the best option as it had a thick fur lining for warmth and leather exterior for wind and rain protection. Being thick, it would also protect against body and skin in a crash scenario too.
The point is, that the clothing was functional and had been adopted from other uses to suit a new set of conditions. Bikers were finding more ways to adopt clothing to suit riding styles and applications…and that is still true to this day.
We might think of bikers as wearing a kind of uniform that is more to do with style or to identify themselves as part of a larger group. They wear a worn leather jacket, jeans and boots…they are more traditional. They wear racing leathers…they are emulating racing heroes and optimising safety measures over style considerations. They wear adventure textiles…they have bought into the function and form concept of comfort and long distance riding, with a sprinkling of copying adventure riding trail blazers too.
One of the limiting issues with ‘acceptable’ motorcycle clothing, especially modern incarnations is that it is cumbersome to wear and is not particular functional when away from the bike. Racing leathers are great when out on the track perhaps but not so when you want to park the bike up and go socialising with friends.
One of the reasons earlier bikers started to change their everyday appearance is actually more to do with practicality rather than setting a new fashion trend or purposely trying to be different. There really isn’t much point in carrying two sets of clothes around with you if you’re a biker.
So people would naturally start wearing their biking clothing as their everyday clothing too, so their everyday appearance would become synonymous with the archetypical biker. If you always wear boots regardless of your environment, then getting onto a bike and having to think about sturdy footwear isn’t an issue anymore. The same principle applies to harder wearing trousers and thick or padded jackets.
When bikers start to wear the same clothing for riding and for general activities too, then you get to the point of a true hop on-hop off mode of transport that becomes a freer lifestyle too…ultimately you get freedom in what you wear and where you go.
Einstein famously wore the same style clothes everyday because he did not have to think about what clothes to wear. In so doing he could apply more thinking time to his life works. Whilst all bikers are not as blessed as Einstein, the same principle can be applied. Bikers do not need to think about functional riding clothing and social clothing anymore, as they have merged into one style.
For much of my life I have adopted this philosophy wherever possible. My riding clothing is usually what I would normally wear elsewhere too…or at least I would still feel comfortable wearing it in other given situations.
However, I would not feel comfortable wearing racing leathers or over stylised adventure clothing whether on the bike or out and about socialising or doing my shopping either.
We have a situation now where there are ample options to ride around is everyday looking clothing but have safety elements included within it. Kevlar jeans, padded shirts, padded dress jackets etc. The safety clothing industry has caught up with the biker notion of riding in what you would normally wear and for it to be functional in all situations.
Some people will always lean towards what they believe is to be the ultimate riding clothing and equipment, but for me comfort and everyday appearance is what I favour most. Built in safety layers is a bonus but my crash avoidance is my focus…being comfortable helps me achieve that. Now all I need is to find a practical way of keeping my fingers warm on a freezing morning ride…and I’m golden.