Motorcyclists enjoy the freedom of riding in the open air and feeling a part of everything around them. However, there are some drawbacks to being exposed to the environment. Other vehicles usually surround the operator with a compartment or "cage" that helps to protect and keep the occupants comfortable. Motorcyclists must rely on the clothing they wear to protect and keep them comfortable.
The Motorcycle Safety Programs recommends that all riders wear protective gear that is designed specifically for motorcycling. Properly designed gear will not only protect the rider in the event of a crash, but will also keep a rider comfortable in most weather conditions.
There are several many manufacturers that produce and suppliers of high quality riding gear. Although leather riding gear provides the most protection, it can be very expensive uncomfortable in warmer weather. The Motorcycle Safety Program recommends that riders consider the new textile riding jacket systems for better comfort and versatility. These jackets consist of a mesh material that allows air to pass through and have armor in the critical impact areas. In most cases this style of jacket includes a removeable thermal and rain liner.
All riders should wear gloves when riding. Gloves provide for an excellent grip of the controls, even if a rider’s hands are sweating, or in the rain. Gloves should be full-fingered and can be made of leather or a synthetic material.
Denim jeans are probably the most popular type of pants worn by male and female riders. Regular denim is lightweight and does not have the durability required for the riding environment. The Motorcycle Safety program recommends that riders consider special riding jeans that are lined in the critical areas with Kevlar or leather. Riders should shop around and decide what riding gear meets their needs and purchase the highest quality they can afford.
A rider's feet are their landing gear. The Motorcycle Safety Program recommends a high boot with a low heal that has rubber soles. A well designed boot helps a rider comfortable operate the motorcycles foot controls as well as providing a good grip on the road surface when stopped.
Research indicates that bright colored clothing riding apparel helps other vehicle operators to see the motorcyclists. Wearing bright colored protective gear can help avoid a crash. Riders should shop around and decide what riding gear meets their needs and purchase the highest quality they can afford.
*In Maryland, individuals may not operate or ride on a motorcycle unless they wear a helmet that is certified to meet the standards established by the Department of Transportation. Helmets provide protection; they do not prevent crashes. Helmets protect the wearer's head and brain by reducing and dispersing the force created by a blow or impact during a crash. A helmet has four basic components that work together to provide protection:
- Outer shell - The outer shell may be composed of polycarbonate, thermoplastic, Kevlar, carbon fiber, graphite, fiberglass or a combination of these materials. It is designed to resist penetration and disperses the initial blow to the shock-absorbing liner.
- Shock-absorbing liner - the shock-absorbing liner is a firm expanding polystyrene system about one inch thick that helps absorb the impact and disperse the shock.
- Comfort liner - This liner improves the helmet's fit and overall "wearability". This liner may be terry cloth, velour, brushed nylon or micro fiber. In addition to comfort, this liner keeps the helmet snug to the wearer's head.
- Retention system - The chinstraps secure the helmet to the wearer's head. The chinstraps must be fastened so the helmet can function properly.
*All helmets sold in the United States for use by motorcyclists since 1973 must comply with the Federal Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218). This standard is the minimum standard for helmets required to be worn by motorcycle operators and passengers in Maryland. The helmet manufacturers test their helmets and certify their compliance with the federal standard by permanently affixing a DOT label to the helmet. The manufacturer affixes the DOT on the back of the helmet so that it is easily visible. Consumers should not purchase a helmet unless it bears the DOT label applied by the manufacturer.
*An improperly fitted helmet will not do its job and may prove to be very uncomfortable when you are riding. Take the time to fit your helmet properly. Try on several helmets from different manufacturers and in various sizes. Do not purchase a used helmet. A helmet should fit snugly, not tightly.
- Approved eye protection *
*In Maryland, individuals may not operate or ride on a motorcycle unless they are wearing an approved eye-protective device. Motorcycle operators and passengers must wear an eye-protective device that is in compliance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration regulations on impact resistance, 21 CFR Section 801.410(d)(2). Eye-protective devices include face shields, goggles, and spectacles. Most eyewear sold over the counter complies with the FDA's impact resistance regulations. Motorcycle operators and passengers should wear clear (non-tinted) eye-protective devices when motor vehicles are required to display or use their lights.
- A long-sleeved jacket or shirt
- Long pants. Must be made of a sturdy material. Baggy, loose fitting, sweat and warm-up pants are not acceptable.
- Full-fingered gloves.
- Over-the-ankle shoes/boots. Footwear with low heels and non-slip soles are preferred.
NOTE: If you do not have the proper gear you will not be permitted to ride. The course Instructors will make the final determination if a rider's gear is acceptable.
If you wish to find out more information about helmets or other protective riding gear, please feel free to call the Program Office and ask to speak with the Program Manager or Training Specialist.