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Timberwoof's Motorcycle FAQ
Safety Gear
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In addition to my motorcycle, what equipment do I need?
Plan to spend $500~$1k on basic safety gear:
  • Helmet - the best helmet for you is one that you can afford, that fits, and that you’ll wear every time you get on the motorcycle. A $100 Snell and DOT rated helmet is just as safe as a $500 one ... but not as comfortable on long trips. Just because a helmet isn’t required in your state, don’t assume that the laws of physics are any different. Get a good helmet and wear it always.
  • Jacket and Pants or Riding Suit - Leather looks sexy and works; Cordura is functional and works; Shorts and a T-shirt are an invitation to skin grafts. Jackets can be had relatively inexpensively at pawn shops or through Internet retailers. Make sure that the leather is good and thick, not the thin garment leather that most stylish leather jackets are made of. A riding suit makes it convenient to follow the rule of “All the Gear, All the Time.”
  • Gloves - Protect your hands. Motorcycle-specific gloves are recommended. Good ones have padding on the back and padded rivets on the palm.
  • Boots - Protect your feet and ankles. If they lace up, tuck the laces in so they stay out of the chain and don’t hook onto the foot-peg when you try to put your foot down.
What additional safety gear is recommended?
  • Wind protection for your eyes, if you wear a 3/4 helmet.
  • Ear plugs. An hour at highway speeds will subject your ears to enough wind noise to cause some hearing loss.
  • Some men wear a sport cup when riding.
  • Reflective vests seem to help people see you better between dusk and dawn and in the fog.
  • Headlight and taillight modulators
What safety gear is recommended specifically for commuters who lanesplit a lot?
Beyond the stuff in the previous list, these things should come in handy:
  • barkbusters for the handlebars -- a kind of bracket that clips on over the front of the control levers, protecting your knuckles from rear-view mirrors and the levers from bending backwards when the bike gets knocked over.
  • headlight modulator -- a device that makes your headlight vary its brightness up and down 4 times a second and makes you more conspicuous.
  • brakelight modulator -- a device that makes your brakelight flicker ~4 times a second for about a second when you hit the brakes.
  • front running lights -- two-filament bulbs in your turn signals to light them up at 5W all the time.
  • a louder horn
Are you sure motorcyclists need all that gear?
Well, some people think I go too far when I recommend riding with all the gear all the time.
“I’d like to encourage moderation on certain subjects. Being an ER Nurse, bikers who don’t wear safety gear drastically increase my job security. I don’t know how many times that my co-workers and I have been sitting around bagging (slang medical term for breathing for a patient who can’t breathe for themselves) some poor organ donor who fell off his bike without a helmet at 25 miles an hour, smacked his head and now there is some pretty gray stuff pouring from his ears, and saying to each other ‘You know, I just didn’t have enough to do, taking care of my five patients having heart attacks and strokes, I'm so glad this trauma came in at this time.’ I mean I am so frustrated when those bikers come in with only a broken collar bone, or fractured ankle, because they were wearing some ‘outdated’ and certainly ‘not effective’ safety device such as a helmet or boots! (For those of you with a crippled sense of humor, I’m writing this with extreme scarcasm.)” — Closed
Where can I read reviews of motorcycle safety gear?
What do you wear?
My riding gear.
Any specific brand recommendations?
This is not an exhaustive list.
Helmet: HJC, Arai, Shoei, Nolan (fit is the most important thing)
Gloves: Held
Pants: Aerostich, Joe Rocket, Draggin Jeans, Tourmaster, FirstGear
Jackets: Aerostich, Joe Rocket, Tourmaster, FirstGear
Boots: Redwing
Suit: Aerostich
Anything else?
ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time.


Do I need to wear a helmet?
Only if you value your face or the contents of your skull.
Why do I need to wear a helmet?
When you fall, it will protect your brain from a concussion and your face from nasty road rash.
When you ride in certain states and countries, it will save you from a ticket.
If a crazy man in a lab coat and a bow tie were to smash you on the head with a sledgehammer on a Portuguese TV commercial, you would survive.
Why should I wear a full-face helmet?
"I taught the MSF course at Little Creek Amphib Base in Norfolk for a couple of years. I had a disk sander. Every time someone tried to explain to me why helmets are useless, I offered to let them hold their face against the disk sander. None took me up on it." — John P.
Because and Because.
But I like to feel the wind in my hair!
I’d rather miss the wind in my hair than risk the wind in my brains.
But it will obstruct my vision!
My helmet has a new feature that helps tremendously in my sightseeing trips. Instead of being solid all the way around it's got this big hole in the front. It really looks like it was designed and manufactured that way—no ugly scars from a bandsaw or anything, and the edges are nicely finished. There's even a piece of transparent plastic over the hole, and it has a hinge so I can flip that up and down. It's really very cool.
But it will restrict my peripheral vision!
No, it won't. A modern helmet has between 210 and 220 degrees of peripheral vision. Federal standards require 210. 90% of crashes occur with objects within 60 degrees of the center line, or within 120 degrees. No. Most street helmets are Snell-certified, which means that in addition to various impact tests, they have to pass a peripheral-vision test.
But it will interfere with my hearing!
No, it won't. Your helmet will reduce all sounds equally. Any noise that you'd be able to hear over the wind noise and the noise of your motorcycle, such as a horn or siren, you'll still be able to hear.
But it's too heavy!
“A helmet is usually thought to be very heavy, but when one is attacking a castle or something similar, and arrows, bullets, large rocks, great pieces of wood and the like are coming down, it will not seem the least bit so.” —The Book of the Samurai, 11th Chapter. Yamamoto Tsunetomo
A full-face helmet is not all that much heavier than a 3/4 helmet.
But it will injure my neck in an accident!
No, it won't. In one study, helmeted riders suffered neck injuries in 7% of cases while riders without helmets suffered neck injuries 10% of the time.
But it will make me pass out of heat exhaustion!
No, it won't, as long as you take precautions for hot-weather riding. Get a light-colored helmet with good vents. Drink lots of water. Wear a vented jacket. (That is, of course, an argument for wearing a helmet in cold weather.)
Is a full face helmet noisier than open face?
No. But the wind noise at 60 mph is way too loud for your hearing to last regardless of which helmet you wear or whether or not you wear one at all. Wear earplugs.
Is a full face helmet more uncomfortable than an open face?
No, the full face part doesn’t contact your head at all. Unless of course you’re sliding along the ground on your face in which case you’ll be glad you didn’t wear a 3/4 helmet that day. Of course there are good helmets and bad ones. Get one that fits well and has excellent venting and you’ll enjoy the experience. Get a cheap full face and you’ll hate yourself.
What's the difference between DOT and Snell certification?
Comparison Between U.S. Motorcycle Helmet Standards
Snell Labs Tour
Is full face any better than open face for rain and highway riding?
Heck yeah. And for tossed cigarette butts, errant stones, etc.
Any brand and model recommendations?
Arai and Shoei are widely considered to be the best brands. Others go for what’s cheap. Go to a store and try them all on. You’ll find one brand/model will fit better than others. Go with that.
I dropped my helmet. Have I ruined it?
Was your head in it? If all it did was fall off your seat, it’s fine. The expanded polystyrene liner is designed to crush between the hard ground and your head. As long as your head isn’t inside the helmet, no crush. Check the shell for any visible cracks. Stick one hand inside the helmet and with the other hand, squeeze the shell over the impact point and check for any softness or give at all. Tap over the surface of the helmet and compare the sound over the impact point.
What’s the best way to clean the inside of my helmet?
Assuming that the liner isn’t removable, You can sprinkle some baking soda in there and sort of rub it around then vacuum it out. You wont’ be able to get all the soda out but you’ll get enough. Also, you can stuff the helmet with crumpled newspaper when you’re not wearing it. For a really stinky helmet change the paper every couple days. It will take a while but the paper will eventually absorb the odors.
What are helmet ears?
Cute and furry. They attract attention of kids and adults alike.

Body Armor

Denim jeans are sturdy enough … right?
No. Aerostich dragged sandbags over pavement on various materials used to make motorcycle gear—leather, cordura, chevalier, denim. Leather was the best and denim shredded within a couple of feet. It’s slightly better than bare skin.
Feel Free to Wear Leather.
Do they make armor that I could wear under clothes?
Yes. Check links page.
Is safety gear really all that important?
Riding without gear is a personal choice.
Aww, come on. Is it really that bad?
Yes. Check out Peter Peep. Warning: These images are graphic.
I'm about to restart my motorcycling career, and trying to keep it pretty inexpensive (to see whether I'm in it for the long haul, to reduce the flak from my wife, etc.). But I want to be as safe as I can be, so... What are your recommendations for good bang-for-buck riding gear: riding suit, boots, gloves, helmet. What should I look for and where (other than the obvious eBay) should I look?
Motorcycle Leather Exchange, New Enough Leathers


Does it matter what color jacket and pants one wears while riding?
Bright colors and reflective materials can help make you more visible, but you should still ride as though you can’t be seen. For what it’s worth, apparently cagers can see police motorcycles very well and from great distances.
What color helmet do people see the best?
Look for helmets the next time you drive around. In my experience, white is best. But I got a red one to match my bike and stuck reflective stickers on it.
What’s a headlight modulator?
An electronic circuit that makes the headlights flicker at a rate of about 4 cycles per second during the day to make your motorcycle more conspicuous. This helps cagers see your motorcycle and perhaps decide not to turn left in front of you.
Is a headlight modulator legal?
What’s a taillight modulator?
An electronic circuit that makes your brake lights flicker for a second or two after you apply the brakes. This attracts attention to your motorcycle when you slow down. This helps cagers see you and perhaps decide to stop before they hit you.
Boy, those things would seem annoying as hell!
In the United States, cagers seem to be numbed by the ever-increasing numbers of flashing lights on emergency vehicles, and even with the world’s loudest sirens, they still regularly get smushed by fire engines and ambulances. So you have to do everything you can to compete for attention. Better to have someone annoyed at you than to accidentally run into you because you were invisible.
“I didn’t see the motorcycle until it was too late!”
“Your honor, I request that you revoke Mrs. Grundy’s driver license because she is blind.”
What additional lights can I put on my motorcycle?
Quite a few, actually. Here are the relevant bits of the California Vehicle Code. Here’s the quick list for the United States:
  • Auxiliary driving lights (high beams)
  • Auxiliary fog lights (low beams)
  • Modulated high beam
  • Front side-marker lights
  • Back side-marker lights
  • Modulated red brake light
  • Modulated amber brake lights
  • Modulated amber deceleration light
Other countries don’t allow nearly this much stuff, and in some European countries it’s even illegal to have the headlights on during the day. But cagers there tend to be better-trained than in the US.
No, really. What are helmet ears?
Cute and furry. They attract attention of kids and adults alike.


What can I do about fog on my visor?
Fog City makes a product everyone says is really good for keeping fog from forming on your visor. It's a thin plastic film that you stick onto the inside of the visor.
In case it’s cold and my glasses fog up on the inside, causing me to become effectively blind and a danger to myself and everyone around me, should I use an anti-fog preparation on my glasses?
Are polarized sunglasses any good?
I don’t like polarized sunglasses when riding. The face shield on my helmet caused all kinds of wild rainbow effects, and the windscreen on my R-GS added more of its own.
Are deer whistles useful to have?
They are extremely effective at keeping away rhinoceroses, elephants (gray), wildebeest, unicorns, giant rabbits, etc.
The following questions about their operation and effectiveness have never been researched:
  • Do they actually emit any noise?
  • What frequency sound do they emit?
  • Can deer hear that frequency?
  • Do deer have any concept of a fast-moving high-pitched screaming thing?
  • If you’re supposed to mount two of them on the bumper of your car, how will you get them that far apart on your motorcycle?
  • Would it make a difference?


Will a loud exhaust pipe make me a safer rider?
No. Motorcycle Consumer News has an interetsing article from their book Proficient Motorcycling about that. Here are the PDF files from the MCN site: [Page 1] [Page 2].
Home http://www.timberwoof.com/motorcycle/faq/safetygear.html, updated 20040906