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May is motorcycle awareness month, so the next few columns are dedicated to passing along some core safety riding tips for motorcyclists. Motorcycle safety matters. Today, we’ll dress the rider, and next week we’ll address the road.

Let’s take a long hard look at how fashion (literally) impacts your safety.

When I taught new riders, a large portion of the Intro Night was dedicated to going over acceptable riding gear. From head to toe, the list looks something like this:

Helmet: Like it or not, helmets prevent head injuries in over 65% of all motorcycle accidents, and prevent deaths in close to 30%. And in my opinion, the fuller, the better. Full face helmets offer optimal protection, and technology has made them lighter and far more manageable than in days of yore. Back when I was a new rider (decades back), I swear helmets were made of lead. While short of floating on their own, today’s full face helmets are light, airy and more than manageable. And never, ever, buy a used helmet. They are a one-time deal, and on first impact the effective life of the helmet is over. You may as well wear a beanie (oops! I think my slippin’ opinion is showing).

Bandana: If you’ve ever had a bee fly into your jacket while riding, I’ll need not say more. If you can imagine a bee flying into your jacket, well you now get it too! One word of advice though: if you’re using anything longer than a bandana, be sure there are no dangling bits. You can also buy what’s known as neck protectors, which are like padded braces that prevent your neck moving in unnatural directions, but this is more for the track racer and not really the road rider. A bandana will do.

Jacket: Whether you ride in denim, leather or Kevlar, there is a range of gear available for all kinds of weather and temperatures, from mesh vests to winterized. Look for jackets that have extra padding at the elbow, kidney and shoulder regions. Make sure the sleeves are long enough so that when you reach for the grips, your sleeves don’t ride up to your elbows. Get something that stands out, especially at night. While it might not mean choosing orange gear with pink and red flares, you might consider something with retro reflective strips to increase your conspicuity. And for goodness sakes young lady (that’s the mother in me speaking), zip it up!

Gloves: Again, leather or Kevlar, and look for extra carbon fibre padding over the knuckles. If you (have no life and) follow the gauntlet / no-gauntlet debate, that insipid bee has me throwing my glove in on the pro- side. Oh, and the suede padding on the tops of the index finger is not for wiping the rain from your visor; it’s for (how do I say this delicately?) wiping away the salty drops from the tip of your nose on those colder days. ‘Nuff said.

Pants: Definitely a must!! Make sure your jeans have no rips or tears, and that they are long enough that they entirely cover your boot tops while comfortably seated. Again, think bee. And if you must wear shorts while riding, wear leather chaps over top.

Boots: Make sure they cover your ankles, and that the soles are NOT leather. Leather soles have a nasty habit of slipping on wet roads, and it’s incredibly embarrassing wiping out as you slowly role to a stop-and-flop at that suburban stop sign.

: If you love your passenger (or at the very least hold them in high esteem), then insist they read this list too. If you don’t love your passenger, well, then, perhaps you shouldn’t be playing carny with your motorcycle as the featured ride. Give them a few loonies and make them take a bus. And if you are the passenger and your rider doesn’t care what you wear, pick a new rider to hold on to.

When riding a motorcycle, dressing for success can literally save your hide.

Britt Santowski
Santowski is a former Chief Instructor appointed by the Canada Safety Council. She taught motorcycle safety at the Vancouver Island Safety Council for almost a decade. She now spends her time teaching and coaching, writing and riding. She rides a Honda Magna 650. It’s yellow.

Article Word count: 669
Bio Word count: 45



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