Is it possible to ride a bike, in safety gear, while still looking good? I’d like to think I make a decent go at it. With a little simple guidance to quality, practicality and crash-ablity, you can too. Here’s the stylish motorcycle gear guide for men in 2014. With it, you can crash a bike and walk away looking good.
If you just want to look like me, here’s the cheat sheet. The Wes-replica jacket is a Vanson AR3 ($550). I wear Deth Killers Asphalt-Resistant Jeans ($250), Corcoran Jump Boots ($120), and an Alpinestars Bionic Air Back Protector, the strap-on kind ($140). To that, add whichever ECE 22.05 helmet fits your head in either plain black or plain white. I like to wear an American Apparel Flex Fleece Hoodie ($50), and can usually be found with Racer Sicuros ($240), on my hands. There you go, put $1,500 or so on your credit card and job done.
The rest of you, who want to have your own style, while still riding in some semblance of safety, read on.
“Do you, like, ride a motorcycle?!” Asks random pretty girl at a party/bar/any social setting. “No way, my mom says they’re dangerous.” You respond. She giggles, you smile and there you go. It can be a good look, this biker thing, provided you don’t let it turn you into Cosplayer in search of a Con. Think Marlon Brando or James Dean, not Nicky Hayden or Jorge Lorenzo.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in head-to-toe Alpinestars, Dainese or Aerostich anytime I’m out doing something dangerous or even just commuting on the highway, but if you’re using motorcycles as transportation, there’s going to be times (likely a lot of times) that you need them to transport you somewhere full of normal people. And normal people don’t think skin-tight leather onesies are a good look.
This is the guide for those times. When you’re not dragging knee, pulling wheelies, jumping sandy gulches or battling SUVs full of texting teen moms. This is for when motorcycles are just an awesome way to get from point A to point B.
You have a few allies in this war against ugly motorcycle gear. Accept their help.
Color: Nothing says “biker” like black leather. You can pull black off without looking like a Schprocket or an asexual hipster. That’s because you have:
Shape: Big shoulders, narrow waist. Those are the ideal proportions of a manly man. You get to wear shoulder armor. Get a jacket that fits you right and you’re going to make every other guy look like a pansy.
Fit: Unfortunately, it’s easy to end up all baggy with your motorcycle gear. Don’t let that happen. You’re better able to define proportions and body type (even beyond what you’re naturally working with) thanks to motorcycle gear. A jacket’s shoulders should fit closely to your body without being restrictive, the torso should follow the natural taper towards your waist and that waist should fit closely to your own. And, whether it’s jacket or pants or anything else, it should fit you without bunching or excess material or sagginess.
Height: Boots don’t just keep your feet and ankles safe, they add inches. Tall is a good look for us guys.
A Seam Ripper: These handy little devices will allow you to quickly and easily remove sewn-on logos, patches, stripes and other add-on ugliness.
A Sharpie: Use one of these permanent makers to black out the brightly colored tribal fairy dragons that inexplicably find their way onto most motorcycle gear. Literally just color them in with a standard felt tip sharpie. It works.
Leather Lotion: Turn an average-looking item of leather motorcycle gear into something that looks and feels expensive in under five minutes. Sound too good to be true? Well, you are going to smell like a meat rendering plant until it dries. We like to use Pecard’s, but anything will do. Don’t hesitate or wait, just soak any item of leather motorcycle gear in lotion and be amazed as it looks more expensive while also better forming to your body. Works even better on old, distressed leather, accentuating the character while bringing it back to functional life.
Accessories: Biker jackets are cut short, so they don’t bunch up when you sit down. But, when you stand up, they can sit above your belt buckle, revealing skin. A long T-shirt or hoodie worn underneath will fix this, covering that odd gap and visually lengthening your torso, making you look slimmer and taller. And, a hood flopping around behind the helmet may look odd on a bike, but it drastically softens the look of a leather jacket off the bike, helping it appear more casual while aiding fit. You can otherwise break up the visual blockiness of big items of gear and soften the whole thing with a hanky in a jeans pocket or even a scarf. Bonus points if you have the appropriate level of Erol Flynn to pull of an Aerostich Silk Scarf.
That’s the little stuff, now onto the big items.
They should always match the color of your belt and jacket. So they’re probably going to be black. Our basic rule for determining if a boot is going to protect your feet in a motorcycle crash is to grasp it by toe in one hand and heel in the other and twist as hard as you can. Does the result look like your foot would remain intact? If so, you’re good to go. Look like you’d end up with foot sausage? Don’t wear it. You also want strong (but not guillotining steel) toe and heel boxes, a sole with good grip and solid support for your ankle. Embrace the biker look and go with a full-on boot rather than a riding sneaker. A boot will be more versatile (they work with shirt and tie or t-shirt alike) than sneakers while providing exponentially more protection and, with proper care (see leather lotion), will last many times longer. Make sure they lace up securely and tightly, well above your ankle; because you really want them to stay on when you crash.
Want to go all future function? If you’re wearing a technical jacket with external armor and geometric shapes, then a pair of Dainese Torque Ins are the best accompaniment we’ve seen. They’ll absolutely fit under your jeans and you’ll benefit from GP-level protection.
The eternal conundrum. By opting to wear any sort of casual riding pant (denim, Kevlar, a mix, whatever) you absolutely are sacrificing safety in pursuit of comfort and style. Regular denim, no matter how tough, will not protect you in a motorcycle crash.
Having said that, there are some jeans that build back in a modicum of safety. Go ahead and dismiss all “Draggin Jeans” and similar from established gear manufacturers. Without exception, every pair we’ve ever seen is absolutely hideous and many suffer from that unfortunate logo-bloat which plagues all riding gear. You really don’t want a giant embroidered star on your butt.
The key item in your collection, you can go a few directions with your jacket, allowing you to personalize your style. Whether you go simple, clean and classic (like me), baroque adornment (think Schott Perfecto), vintage style (RSD Enzo) or futuristic function (Dainese G Speed Pelle), think quality and subtlety. Nothing looks cheaper than cheap leather, while conversely, nothing matches the look or feel or intent of the quality stuff.
Throwing modern jackets into the mix, it can be hard to set firm rules for determining leather quality. You should be able to see a nice grain, without visible flaws, the stitching should appear and feel strong (and include hidden seams for strength) and any adornments such as logos or external armor should be subtle and of a quality equivalent to that of the jacket; embossed rubber logos bad, titanium shoulder sliders good.
Jackets are expensive. Take the time to shop around, comparing materials, construction and fit. A good leather jacket can last a lifetime, make sure it looks and feels and smells and wears like something you’ll want next to your skin for that long.
For riding, you’ll want high quality, CE-rated body armor in the shoulders and elbows. A back protector can always be worn separately, a solution which creates a greater area of coverage and often leads to a better fitting jacket because there’s no weight pulling the rear jacket panel down.
Oh, and speaking of panels, fewer is better. Seams are a weak area, they tend to split in a slide. Any jacket should, at a minimum, use a single panel across the main area of the back. A notable exception is the Vanson, which is so ridiculously thick and strong, its seams are probably tougher than the leather on lesser bike wear.
Gloves come off and go in your helmet. So don’t compromise protection here. Your hands are the first thing to touch down in a crash and the palms are the first part of your hands to hit. So, prioritize palm sliders over knuckle protection and make sure you spend enough to have high quality materials like good leather or even kangaroo skin. There’s no reason you can’t wear high-end race gauntlets day in, day out. But you may want to find similar protection in a glove that’s faster to take on and off. Please, just make sure they match your jacket’s color; this isn’t the place for Rossi reps.
Your Sun-and-Moon might look good on the track, but it’ll make you look like you’re carrying the world’s worst manbag if you take it with you off the bike. Want to retain good visibility while still looking good? Just get a plain white helmet. High contrast, high class.
You and I both want to wear a black visor when it’s daytime, but we need a clear one for coming home after dark. Stick it in an old wool sock and keep it in a Kriega tailpack (along with your Basic Motorcycle Toolkit, Xena Disc Lock Alarm and can of Fix-A-Flat) and swap it before riding home. Please don’t ride with a tinted visor of any kind at night, it’s just plain dumb.
An ECE 22.05 rated helmet will be better at preventing concussions than a Snell equivalent. Icon, AGV and Schuberth all sell high quality helmets made to that standard here in the U.S.
45 percent of all impacts occur to a helmet’s face region. Wear a full-face helmet. Losing your jaw is not a good look.
Find a good tailor and use him. Clothes that fit you are clothes that look good. If you’re having leather worked on, find a tailor that specializes in such and ask them if they can replicate the hidden seams; most can. A good tailor will also be able to add or change the position of armor in a jacket or jeans. And tailors are amazingly cheap.
A note on “fashion” leather jackets. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s not the same leather, it’s not held together the same way, it will not protect you in a crash and it looks cheap. Motorcycle jackets made for motorcycling only are all you should ever wear.
If you’re adding armor, don’t be romanced by the allure of D3O. It’s an exceptionally hard material to work with and requires a very form-fitting (think spandex) fit in order to stay in place, due to its thinness. A much better, nearly as thin alternative is Alpinestars Bio Armor. A full set of that is widely available for around $30, positions itself much better on your joints and is so easy to sew into a non-armored jacket.
Just some hopefully helpful answers to questions I get asked regularly.
Can I wear a separate armor rig under a street fashion jacket?
No. It’ll be a pain in the butt, look dumb and likely won’t fit. Just man up and buy a real motorcycle jacket. Fashion leather, no matter what it costs, is cheap junk.
Is there real (ie. trackworthy) motorcycle gear I can wear into the office?
No. If you want to ride to the office in the best possible protection, get off your bike and then go right into a meeting without changing, just buy an Aerostich Roadcrafter. It zips off in under 10 seconds and is designed not to wrinkle a business suit worn underneath. Riding in hot weather? Buy the Aerostich Roadcrafter Light.
But I don’t want to look like a biker!
So why are you riding a bike? The bus is cheaper. The whole point of this article is that you don’t need to go all sausage creature to ride a bike around town.
This stuff is so expensive!
So buy a cheaper bike. The gear is as much a part of riding as the machine you’re sitting on.
Are girls impressed by motorcycles?
No. And if you plan on putting one on the back, you’d better have full gear for her too. Paying for them to take a taxi home is going to win you more points than scaring them or putting them in hospital.
Now, what about you? What tips and tricks do you use to look good in motorcycle gear?