Motorcycles offer a handful of perks—a more exciting way to travel, better gas mileage, and mental health benefits are only a few! However, these machines are also notorious for being one of the more dangerous methods of travel.

In 2019 alone, there were more than 84,000 motorcycle injuries and over 5,000 fatalities. Riders should take all precautions to ensure that they are putting safety first. This means riding responsibly, following the rules of the road, and of course, wearing proper safety gear.

Whether you’ve just bought your first motorcycle or whether you’re a long-time rider who’s looking to practice better safety habits on the road, here are eight pieces of motorcycle safety gear you should never go without.

1. Helmet

As head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents, the helmet is the single most important piece of motorcycle safety gear you should wear. According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA), wearing a helmet reduces your risk of dying in a crash by 37%.

When shopping for a motorcycle helmet, there are three basic types to consider. A full helmet is regarded as the best option, as it offers complete coverage of your head and face—including your eyes.

A ¾ helmet covers the top, back, and sides of the head, but may leave a portion of your face exposed. Finally, a ½ helmet offers the least coverage, only protecting the top and partial sides of your head. If you opt for a ¾ or ½ helmet, you may need to supplement it with separate eye protection gear.

Remember, 47 states have helmet laws of some kind, so a helmet is the first piece of motorcycle gear you should invest in!

2. Eyewear

If you don’t have a full-face helmet, you’re going to need to purchase eyewear that will shield your eyes from dust and debris. Unfortunately, your average pair of sunglasses won’t get the job done, as they aren’t rated for impact protection.

There are motorcycle glasses—in styles similar to sunglasses—that are impact-resistant yet don’t infringe on your peripheral vision. These units are both lightweight and stylish.

If you’re looking for the highest level of protection, however, invest in a pair of motorcycling goggles. These goggles offer plenty of padding, a thick lens, and a strap that will secure them to your head.

3. Ear Protection

Especially over a long trek, ear protection is critical. The sounds of traffic, wind, sirens, and horns can begin to take a toll on your hearing after only a few hours of riding.

Despite the protection it provides, even a full-face helmet doesn’t protect your ears from the ambiance of wind and traffic. For this reason, all riders should wear earplugs when riding.

You should be able to find a simple pair of earplugs at your local department store or motorcycle shop. Earplugs will help negate the sound of wind brushing over your helmet and reduce the levels of horns and sirens without jeopardizing your safety.

4. Jacket

Working down from the head, the next piece of safety gear you’ll need is a jacket. Regardless of whether it’s 40 degrees and raining or 100 degrees with not a cloud in the sky, a jacket is a must-have every time you ride.

In the event that you are involved in a collision and are tossed from your motorcycle, a padded jacket can help soften your impact with the pavement—potentially preventing severe damage to your skin, limbs, and organs.

Today, jackets come in a variety of styles and colors but are typically made of leather or synthetic materials. As a rule of thumb, the more padding your jacket has, the better!

5. Gloves

When we trip, our natural reaction is to use our hands to break our fall. In that regard, motorcycle collisions are no different—riders will typically put their hands out to protect the rest of their bodies.

The difference is that motorcycle accidents typically involve more forceful clashes with the pavement and can leave a rider’s hands with nasty abrasions, lacerations, and fractures.

A high-quality pair of leather gloves will offer ample protection for the rider’s fingers, knuckles, and palms. Not to mention, they look stylish and will provide insulation during the winter months!

6. Pants

When it comes to pants, many riders opt for jeans because it provides more protection than a pair of shorts. While this is true, jeans still lack proper protection.

Rather, jeans or shorts should be supplemented with a pair of motorcycle pants. These come in leather, denim, textile, and other sturdy materials and can be worn over an existing layer. They provide ample ventilation, additional padding, and abrasion resistance that you’re unlikely to get with your average pair of pants.

As an alternative to motorcycle pants, many riders opt for motorcycle suits. These units protect not only your lower body but also your torso!

7. Boots

Motorcycle-specific boots offer significantly more protection than your average pair of sneakers.

First, they typically extend to the mid-shin. As a result, they provide shoring for your anklebones so that they are less likely to break, twist, or contort during an accident.

Second, this type of footwear features zippers, buckles, or laces on the inside of the boot—helping to prevent incidents where laces get tangled or caught on the motorcycle.

Finally, motorcycle boots are made with high-quality leather and other abrasion-resistant materials that provide maximum shielding for your feet. Whether your foot gets pinned underneath your motorcycle or whether it clashes against the pavement, you’re more likely to escape without serious injuries.

8. Guards

Elbow, knee, and shin guards are perhaps the most overlooked pieces of motorcycle safety gear; yet they play a crucial role in protecting your major joints and bones during a collision.

One of the biggest misconceptions about this gear is that it is uncomfortable and restrictive. However, many of today’s elbow, knee, and shin guards are made from materials that are relatively thin and lightweight.

What’s more, modern guards can be adjusted to better fit the contours of your body—limiting any restriction to your movement.

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