Single motorcycle rider driving bike down road on a foggy autumn morning

On The Road

Motorcycle Safety and Technology Advancements in Riding Gear

Motorcycling has changed a lot since the early 80’s when I was a young woman starting out on my motorcycling career. One of the most notable changes is the sheer volume of traffic on our roadways and the introduction of new road hazards like texting and driving. Wearing good riding gear is more important than ever before.

Riding gear technology has come a long ways in 40 years!

Back in the early 80’s, a set of sturdy leather boots, leather chaps, vest and jacket, gauntlet gloves, a bandana and a beanie were considered excellent motorcycling gear.

Today we understand how the body reacts to things like dehydration, hypothermia, road rash and brain trauma much better than we did in the 80’s and our gear has evolved to reflect that knowledge.

The evolution of the helmet

When I started riding you had three choices in helmet styles: beanies, three quarter and full face.

Beanies, which were nothing more than a fiberglass shell with a foam liner and a set of nylon straps, offer limited head trauma protection during a crash. Their main benefit was protection from the sun, small debris like rocks and branches that can fly up from tires and the wind. The three quarter and full-face helmets were big, bulky, heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

Though the names of the helmet styles haven’t changed, the technology behind them has. DOT, CSA, Snell & ECE have strict safety standards in place and ratings from these agencies ensure that the helmet you choose is the safest it can be.

Made from technologically advanced products like carbon fiber and Kevlar®, today’s helmets will more likely protect your brain from severe brain trauma than those made with the materials of yesteryear. They are also lighter, better constructed and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Full-faced helmet technology has probably advanced the most with the introduction of the modular jaw, making it easier for claustrophobic riders to wear full-faced helmets.

Other features like rear view vision, built-in cameras that help to eliminate blind spots, and Bluetooth technology that allows GPS instructions to be announced to the rider have become available.

Hearing loss as a result of “wind noise” continues to be one of the greatest long-term health risks of motorcycling, but here too, advancements in hearing protection (including ear plugs) have been impressive.

Improved Body Protection

Riding jackets and leg coverings have also evolved. Today a rider has a plethora of choice. Some jackets and pants are made with armor, to prevent broken bones.
There are now Kevlar® jeans, Kevlar® riding shirts, socks and gloves help protect one from road rash.

Some motorcycle clothing manufacturers are even starting to add airbags into vests and jackets. They work in combination with sensors within the garment that can detect when a motorcycle makes impact. The built-in airbags immediately deploy to help protect the chest and vital organs.

Riding gloves have also been updated, with some including built in “windshield wipers” to help take rain off of visors. Many offer some sort of armor to protect knuckles and joints from injury.

Thinsulate® and other lightweight insulating materials have meant lighter, thinner liners that do a far superior job of keeping one warm compared to the layering of clothing that we used to have to do to stay warm 40 years ago. Electric gloves, jackets, vests, chap liners and boot liners mean that you can enjoy an extended riding season and be safe while doing so.

Hot weather riding is much more comfortable thanks to technology, too. Moisture-wicking materials, fabrics that draw sweat away from the body to be evaporated through clothing, aid the cooling process. As sweat evaporates, it takes your body heat with it. Hydration bladders and water bottle holders mean dehydration does not need to be a risk as water can always be readily available.

All of these advancements and innovations mean that riders are safer and better protected while having more choice in styles, designs and materials.

Wearing good riding gear can make the difference between arriving home in one piece or not. Remember: dress for the slide, not the ride.