The shrink-it-and-pink-it problem writ large

Weekends are for ranting, you guys.

Guys? No. I meant ladies

I’m going to add my voice to this repeated holler, and loud for the gear manufacturers in the back: Can we please, finally, get some decent riding gear shaped to fit our bodies that is the same class of abrasion resistance as the men’s stuff? That is as adjustable? As waterproof? That has as many POCKETS?

I get it, the industry likes to think that the pressure is all from women who want to look good in their gear. While that may be true of occasional riders, or the odd pillion, those of us who put serious mileage on our bikes in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions need serious gear. And I’ve seen a LOT of men’s gear, so I know it’s quite possible to look good AND be well-protected.

“Just buy men’s gear!” I hear some of you shout. Well, I have. A lot. I started riding over twenty years ago, and choices were awfully slim for a woman rider. Because I was an ignorant baby biker, I started out in a men’s Wilson’s Leather (folks, this is fashion leather only and don’t let anyone tell you any different) traditional men’s “biker” jacket that would billow in the wind and threaten to pull me right off the bike at speed. I ended up at a local leathery (hey, New Englanders, remember Walter Dyer?) and gave them entirely too much money to custom-fit a mandarin-collar riding jacket for me. It didn’t have any armor, but I thought I was doing it right.

Leather, I soon found, especially leather that’s not purpose-built for riding, doesn’t breathe, is extremely cold in the winter and extremely hot in the summer. I moved on to textiles. What a revelation!

Still, men’s gear is too big in the shoulders, too small in the hips, too big in the waist… You get the idea. In short, we have different bodies and need our gear to be different, too. I have heard from so many men, that women’s bodies are, on the whole, entirely too variable to fit good gear to us. I think they’re just short-circuited by our boobs, honestly. Guys, please: take a look around at your male friends’ bodies and tell me they’re not all completely different. This argument is horse-puckey.

20 Years of Hunting for Jackets

I’ve spent the last twenty or so years hunting for the Perfect Gear. I haven’t quite found it yet. The pockets are still too small, the legs are not long enough, the adjustability is not there, and it’s all lighter-weight cordura than the men’s stuff (I’m looking squarely at you, BMW and FirstGear). But I’ve managed to acquire some pretty kick-ass pieces, and Olympia and IXS manage to rank near the top of my decent, armored, well-fitting non-track-day gear list.

Aerostich! I hear some of you yelling. I do, I hear it from here. They are fantastic at men’s stuff, but while they have recently made a cursory attempt at making riding suits for women, I dare you to try to find out what their women’s “size 10” even means without literally calling the company. They link to a size chart from their women’s product pages but it is mysteriously devoid of information for women. I did call them, though; a suit for me would run north of $2,000. Would it be worth it? From my male friends’ reports, probably. Am I willing to gamble that kind of dough on a suit sight-unseen and self-unfitted? Nope, I am very much not, especially having seen exactly one woman wearing a one-piece ‘stich who did not look like she was in a potato sack.

Klim!” a single voice shouts into the room. Well, it used to be that Klim offered exactly one jacket & pants outfit for women. To their credit, they’re now up to two! Maybe I’ll try them on someday. If I can find them.

Helmets, gloves, and boots: for the most part, “unisex” works there (women’s heads tend to be a bit more oval, and our hands and feet thinner BUT). Jackets and pants? I cannot imagine this is too much to ask. Ill-fitting gear will move around on pavement contact, whereas gear that fits well will not, and armor will stay where it is supposed to, and do its job much better. Gear that fits well will be comfortable and will not dig in and distract us from the task at hand. Certainly, we are better off by a longshot than we were 20 years ago, but we still have so much further to go.

Ladies, speak up. Talk to manufacturers’ representatives when you go to large motorcycle events. Fill out those online surveys they send around. Make noise.

But most importantly, wear your gear! This rant? This is NOT me giving you any excuses not to wear your gear. Even though it wasn’t perfect, all my gear made it so that I just rolled on to work an hour after stuffing my KLR under a Volvo a couple of summers ago, with only a couple of small scratches on me.

Tell me, dear readers, where you have struck gold and where you have struck out when it comes to riding gear for women? Did you find the color you were looking for? My only goal (okay, beyond fit and armor and pockets) is “not black” since it roasts me in full sun. What are your riding gear goals? What’s your unicorn?