To see the LAWS for protective riding gear requirements in the United States, click here to open the chart in .pdf form provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Motorcycle Riding Gear

windchill chart
Wind Chill Chart

Many riders wear leather gear to help protect them if in an accident, but leather provides protection from many elements you encounter while riding. The rider and passenger need the same gear.  The passenger is enduring the exact same conditions and risks as the driver, therefore, the passenger must have full gear protection.

Quality leather gear will help protect you from injury. Manufacturers offer a large variety of materials for motor-cycle gear.  Studies and statistics prove that cowhide leather provides the highest level of protection.  The weight of the leather should be at minimum 1.0 mm. Leather gear also protects you from the wind, rain, and sun. Dehydration from exposure to the wind and sun can happen quietly while riding your motorcycle.  Leather is another “skin” that will help you retain hydration and creates a barrier that inhibits evaporation of your body fluids.   Leather gear also helps protect you from road debris and bugs. Trucks and cars can throw stones while traveling on the highways and bugs are always a nuisance.  Without leather it hurts and can even cause injury when you get smacked with a bug or a stone, sticks, etc…  With leather gear on it is unlikely that flying debris will hurt or cause injury.


Leather Jacket – As just stated, it is essential to protect your skin and bones!  In hot weather a heavy leather jacket can get uncomfortable.  I can suggest the Summer Riding Jacket from Fox Creek Leather.  It is thick leather but the lining and other features make it remarkably comfortable in very hot weather.  I currently have a medium weight Harley-Davidson jacket, and the summer jacket from Fox Creek Leather, but I am planning to get a heavy weight jacket for winter riding.  I just can’t fit enough layers under my other two jackets to be comfortable in the winter.

Leather Gloves – It is very important to protect your hands from debris and weather conditions, especially in cold weather. Even if you ride with a windshield, the hand grips are typically exposed 100% to the elements, including bugs & stones. The leather also protects your hand from abrasion.  An extreme amount of blood can be lost through the palm of your hands. There are times when it is really hot that gloves are uncomfortable, while safety experts don’t recommend it, I have to admit that I wear fingerless gloves when it is hot.  They don’t provide complete protection but I feel they are better than nothing, at least I still have protection on the top of my hand and the palms. I recently started wearing Fly Racing gloves on my ATV and absolutely love them. They have become my motorcycle riding gloves as well. Not great in the rain, but neither are leather gloves. 

Riding Boots – Over the ankle boots with anti-skid soles are recommended for riding.  A quality, thick leather will help protect you from all the weather elements and road hazards. Your feet are literally inches from the pavement, you need adequate protection. An anti-skid sole helps with stability when you put your feet down.  Gravel, oil, and rain, all make for slick conditions.  When you put your feet down at a stop you do not want to lose traction and your balance. You want the boot to come over your ankles for protection from burns from your pipes and debris hitting you while riding.  Our personal experience has proven the harness, pull-on type boot to be the most comfortable. They also have plenty of length to cover a large part of your lower leg and the toe area isn’t so thick that it causes problems with getting under the shifter.

Leather Chaps – Thermal underwear, denim jeans, and chaps make riding comfortable. The leather is also providing protection from abrasion if you are in an accident.  However, chaps do not provide the best protection if you are riding in the rain.  You will inevitably end up with a wet rear with chaps! I recommend lined chaps, if you have ever worn unlined leather gloves then you know the leather can bleed on your skin, unlined chaps will do the same thing on your jeans.

Head Gear – Helmets are recommended for the ultimate safety. Each state has their own laws concerning helmet wear and each rider has their own personal thoughts on this. Regardless if you ride with a lid or not, you will most likely at some point, ride in a helmet law state. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a comfortable helmet, but there are many options for riders to choose from.  Check out J&P Cycles, Dennis Kirk, Amazon, etc… for huge selections. They have great prices (usually 20%-40% lower than the local HD dealer).

If you do or don’t wear a helmet, a skull cap or dew rag is almost always a necessity.  It helps from sun burn and dehydration.  And helps keep your hair in check, somewhat. I find the $2.00 skull caps from Walmart or Dollar General to be the most comfortable and seem to stay put really well.

Eye Protection – Many (most) states have a law that if you have a windshield you do not need eye protection. That is ridiculous!  The windshield does not protect your eyes
adequately. Buy a good pair of riding glasses.  There are googles and glasses to choose from.  From personal experience I recommend riding glasses with the removable foam. I wrote a review on a pair that you can read on the product review page. Riding glasses protect you from BUGS, dirt, wind, and UV from the sun, an absolute necessity!

Leather Bandana – In my opinion this is a necessity, but not all riders have them. A leather bandana provides excellent protection to your face while it is raining, it completely takes the sting out of the rain drops when they hit your face.  In really cold weather the fleece lining feels amazing on your face and keeps it warm.  In chilly weather, around the neck, it keeps the chill off your neck and provides an extra barrier from wind getting in your jacket from the neck hole.  I highly recommend this!

Leather Vest – A leather vest is great for your event patches, pins, etc…  I also wear mine under my jacket on really cold days as an added barrier between my core and the cold. For me, I appreciate the additional pockets for storage as well.  When you are off your bike in the hot weather and don’t want to haul your jacket around, the vest is perfect for your phone and whatever else you have to carry with you.

Rain Gear – You can definitely use your leathers as protection from the rain.  But as I said before, chaps will almost always guarantee a wet rear. I always used my leathers for the rain, but our trip to Sturgis in 2011 changed my mind!  I was the only one in our group that didn’t have rain gear, and the only one wet, freezing, and miserable when we were pounded by rain and hail storms while riding Needles Highway.  I am glad to announce that I now have a rain suit!!

When shopping for riding gear, please do not skimp and buy ‘fashion’ leather.  It can get expensive gearing up for the ride, but it is your safety you are spending money on.

Fashion leather or cheap knock offs will not provide you the protection you need to be as safe as possible.

Ride Safe!!

Author Pam@ridersinfo

Pam@RidersInfo ~ August 2012

100% Merino Wool Sheepskin Motorcycle Seat Cover
Rain Gear -vs- NOT!
Leather chaps (I practice what I preach)
I purchased a new pair of boots, Barlyn 7″ Engineer Motorcycle Boot”, before our 2023 trip to Sturgis. They are Harley-Davidson brand and I bought them on Amazon. They are great! A little heavier than my harness boots, but I need something with a rounded toe. If you have a tapered toe and have issues with numbness in your foot while riding a long time, I recommend the Barlyn Engineer Boot. Made a world of difference for me.
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