We’ve all seen them: guys splitting lanes in a tank top and shorts, whizzing between cars with nothing but epidermis and back hair between them and the unforgiving pavement. Just because it’s hot out now doesn’t mean you have to risk your tattooed hide every time you ride. Modern safety gear is both road-rash-resistant and well-ventilated. As they say, all this stuff is cheaper than skin grafts.
Alpinestars BNS Tech Carbon
Alpinestars BNS Tech Carbon Neck Support
You need your neck. I don’t know about you, but I use mine every day. While most riders accept the value of helmets, boots and leather jackets to make riding safer, and while HANS devices are an accepted and required component of auto racing safety, there’s a whole category of neck protectors for motorcycle riders that could spell the difference between a simple fall off your bike and something far more serious. While a HANS device for race car drivers primarily prevents whiplash, a motorcycle rider’s neck support system has to protect from many different angles of impact, even the straight-down pile driver position. You never know how you’re going to land in a motorcycle crash. The idea is that the neck protector distributes the force of an impact from your neck onto the Alpinestars BNS (Bionic Neck Support) and from there to other parts of your upper body. There are medical terms for the five directions of impact that could hurt your neck, I’ve seen the diagrams and the videos, and none of them look pleasant.
Thanks to carbon polymer construction, the BNS weighs only about a pound and a half. It opens in the front, hinges at the rear and you just pop it into place around your neck. You can add a couple of somewhat ungainly flexible straps under your arms that are supposed to help hold it in place, but the instructions say you can also wear it without the straps. It does not attach to the helmet and won’t touch the helmet until it’s needed. It is adjustable but mine came just the right size for me. With it on, head movement for looking around is far less restrained than a typical HANS device used in race cars. It is also easy to wear, largely unobtrusive unless you’re trying to stare directly at your belly button and potentially worth its weight in medical bills. There are other devices from EVS, Atlas and LEATT that are all variations on the same theme. Without sounding like your mother, you really should get a full set of riding gear to protect you from head to toe, and if you’re going to do that, throw in an extra $289.95 for the motocross-oriented BNS Pro, or $349.95 for this BNS Tech Carbon. Your neck, and perhaps the rest of your extremities, will thank you.
Easy on the Eyes
Flying Eyes Sunglasses
Everybody wears sunglasses when they put on a helmet, right? Unless you’re taking the night stint at Le Mans, you are probably driving, riding or flying out in the blazing, blinding sun. The problem is you can’t slide a full-faced helmet on over your glasses, you have to put the helmet on first then try to jam the glasses into the helmet. This ends up damaging either the helmet liner or the glasses or both. I know, I just dropped a couple hundred bucks on new prescription sunglasses after painfully jamming the old ones into one too many a helmet. If only I’d know about Flying Eyes Optics, glasses made especially for wearing with a helmet, or under the big earphones you wear when piloting your private jet.
Flying Eyes slide effortlessly -– and I mean effortlessly -– around your ears and into your helmet or under your headset. Thanks to “micro thin templates” – the template is the part of the glasses that slide back over your ears — there is no resistance when putting them on. Likewise, they don’t push on your temples and cut off circulation or cause pain. They are pain-free and easy to use. You probably spent three grand on that helmet IMSA requires you to wear, why not spend $169 more for glasses that will make your life and your racing/riding/flying pain-free and vision-enhanced? They are even prescription-compatible. Contact flyingeyesoptics.com.
The $399 Shoei RF-SR motorcycle helmet is anything but entry-level, with most of the safety features found on more upscale brain buckets: three air intakes and two exhausts, a flip-down shield that can be swapped out quickly and still blocks 99% of UV rays from your flying eyeballs, dual-layer, multi-density liner construction, Shoei's fiberglas MultiPly Matrix AIM+ Shell construction and a patented quick-release system. You should also equip it with:
Shoei Transitions photochromic helmet shield
Shoei Transitions Photochromic Pinlock Shield
The age-old question of how to limit the sun when you’re out riding or racing has had many answers. Some riders carry sunglasses that they jam into their helmets when it’s bright out, then swap for regular prescription glasses as the sun sets. A lot of motorcycle helmets now come with internally-mounted flip-down sun shades that block the sun when you’re out during the day. But to operate them you have to fumble for the little lever and flip it down, or up, depending on whether you’re going into or out of sunlight. Shoei offers a unique solution: the Transitions Photochromic face shield.
Shoei makes the shield and Transitions Optical coats it with photochromic technology. Remove your existing shield then snap this one into its place -– the transfer is quick and easy. Then gaze in wonder as the Transitions unit automatically changes tint as the sun brightens or darkens. “When Transitions shields are exposed to UV light, trillions of photochromic molecules in the shield begin to change structure,” Shoei says. “This reaction is what causes the shields to darken. The molecules constantly and smoothly re-calibrate so the optimal amount of light reaches your eyes whether you’re in bright sunlight or under cloud cover.” It’s a simple and painless transition that requires no input from the rider, while keeping glare and too much sun in check. Priced at $169 at Shoei.
It's two helmets in one!
AGV Sportmodular motorcycle helmet
I first saw these flip-up helmets on the motorcycle Polizei in Germany back in the 1980s. Seemed like a clever and practical way to have the best of both helmet worlds – flip up the whole face shield when stopped and writing tickets, flip it down again when underway for maximum protection. AGV has taken this idea and maximized every aspect of it. The shell and chin guard are carbon fiber, for instance, contributing to the whole unit’s remarkable light weight of just under or just over three pounds, depending on shell size. It also provides safety “on par with AGV’s Pista GP R” racing helmet. The chin guard raises by pulling down on a red plastic tab then flipping the whole chin guard assembly and face shield straight up. Ah, you think, I can breathe.
Raising the regular face shield requires that you push in a little tab before lifting, which is difficult to do with a glove on because the button is so small. Likewise the chin guard release is a separate tab that you reach in and pull down. Both are more awkward to operate than they should be for gloved hands. But the helmet is profoundly well insulated from noise and cold, having undergone “thousands of hours of wind tunnel testing.” This would be ideal for touring bikes and for anyone else who wants protection and comfort for their noggin. Prices start at a surprisingly reasonable $749.
Dainese Summer Riding Gear: Racing 3 D-Dry Jacket
At $399.95 this sport fit jacket (i.e. for skinnyier riders) will keep you cool all summer. Air intakes in the shoulders and the length of the sleeves, along with air exhausts in the back, mean air is flowing through all the time, keeping you cool. The waterproof D-Dry inner membrane will keep you dry inside when a summer thunderstorm hits. A removeable thermal lining extends your riding season by several months. It’s only $399.95, which is less expensive than a lot of Dainese jackets. Get it with this:
It's the back, Jack
Pro Armor back protector
When your back’s up against a wall, or the asphalt, you will appreciate the Dainese CE-certified Pro Armor. The rest of the time you’ll appreciate the fact that it bends and stretches both longitudinally and laterally. You put it on by pulling up the shoulder straps then velcroing the kidney belt around your middle. After a while you’ll forget it’s there. Until you suddenly need it. Possible ad slogan: Dainese, we’ve got your back.
Pants make the man
When I first put these on they still had the thermal liners in them and man, it was like sliding on two snugly sleeping bags over each leg. You could wear these all winter and your legs would be the last things they’d find of you, still warm. Pop the sleeping bag liners out and you have a remarkably comfortable pair of all-summer pantalones. Because they’re Gore-Tex they are unstoppable, at least by the weather. Protective pads in both the knees and hips, along with abrasion-resistant fabric everywhere else, mean your lower extremities, up to and including your raging buttocks, will be preserved no matter what. Sure, they cost $599.95, but it’s half your body they’re protecting.
Foot protection for motorcyclists used to mean cowboy boots or wafflestompers. Today’s biker can wear protective high-topped shoes like these that are almost as comfortable off the bike as on. With rigid ankle inserts on a shoe certified to CE-CAT II standards, these Dainese Raptor Air Shoes are as protective as they are easy to walk in. There is ventilation and even a sole that doesn’t slide around once you’re off the bike. The only thing I’d change is to add a pull-up loop on the heel and do without the rather loud white contrasting section – like Johnny Cash, I prefer just black.
They fit like a glove
Carbon D1 Short Gloves
The impressive thing about these gloves is the mixture of material that makes them up: suede, lamb and goat skin coupled with carbon composite knuckles and polyurethane inserts in the palms and fingers. Their relatively thin palm and inside finger material means they are less likely to bind when you operate the clutch or twist the throttle, which means smoother takeoffs from red lights, among other problems averted. They were my go-to gloves on long rides in hot weather because they don’t get too hot, and what heat your hands produce in them is dissipated quickly. The only thing I don’t like is the flap that covers the Velcro closure and gets in the way every time you try to cinch them closed. But the flap might help keep them on if you were sliding along the ground and needed all the coverage you could get. $159.95.