Motorcycle gear: a beginner's guide

As well as taking your CBT test and getting the right motorbike insurance policy, it's important to think about your motorcycle gear.

The right motorbike clothing can offer vital safety protection from the road, noise, and anything that could be flying through the air.

From protective clothing to security features, there's a lot to think about when you first start riding your bike.

Someone wearing biking helmet and leathers riding a motorbike


How much can motorbike gear cost?

How much you spend on motorbike clothing depends on your budget. You could spend thousands on a kit with all the bells and whistles or you could buy the essentials on a budget.

There's no end to the gadgets and gizmos on offer but you don't need to spend a fortune. The only item you legally need is a helmet. But there are other essential items, such as a jacket and trousers, which could make a big difference if you're involved in an accident.

Safety is a key factor when buying your motorbike gear. You want to make sure you're protected when riding your bike and you're lowering the risk of being involved in an accident.

However tempting it might be, it's not recommended to ever buy a second-hand helmet as you never know what's happened to it in the past. Other items, such as a leather jacket or boots, could be picked up second-hand if you're looking to save some money.


Motorbike gear checklist

The decision on what to wear could be crucial. It’s right up there with choosing the right motorcycle and getting the right motorbike insurance policy. So, let's dive into your motorcycle gear checklist. We'll look at the:

  • Motorcycle helmet
  • Motorcycle jacket
  • Motorcycle gloves
  • Motorcycle boots
  • Motorcycle trousers
  • Other motorcycle gear

1. Motorcycle helmet

This should go without saying. It’s the only piece of protective equipment that’s required by law in the UK and could save your life.

You must follow the regulations and wear a helmet that conforms to the appropriate regulatory standard. Most helmets sold in reputable shops need to comply with this.

Some helmets made in the United States have only a US Department of Transportation (DOT) rating. Although that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe, they’re not legal on British roads.

SHARP is a government-backed testing facility that independently puts helmets through rigorous tests. They then give a star rating to each helmet, along with a full breakdown of the test results.

An important part of buying and wearing a motorbike helmet is its fit. We recommend always buying from a reputable retailer where you can have the helmet professionally fitted.

Getting a good fit is vital because a poorly-fitting helmet could prevent it from doing its intended job. If you need to cut back spending on any of your gear, the helmet is the last place to cut corners.

And remember that helmets have a shelf life. If you’re in an accident, you should always replace your helmet before you get back on 2 wheels.

But even if you never have a mishap, you should get a new one every few years.

This is because they suffer a degree of natural degradation over the years. And as with many safety features in life, you only find that out once it's too late.

2. Motorcycle jacket

As a rider, you have a lot of choice when it comes to protective clothing. So you can base your decisions around the style and look you want.

One of the better options is a jacket fitted with armour, which means shoulder and elbow protectors at the very least. A back protector is a good idea, too.

There's a system CE ratings for clothing that manufacturers must comply with.

CE stands for Conformité Européenne or ‘European Conformity’. This European testing process for safety equipment - including motorbike gear - lets you quickly see the rating a garment has.

It’s not a legal requirement for your gear to be CE-rated to a certain level but it could give you more protection. AAA is the best rating, and the scale goes down to B.

The type of riding you do could also have an impact on the type of jacket you choose.

For example, if you’re going to use your motorbike for commuting then a waterproof jacket should be high on the list of your needs.

For all-year-round use it's also worth considering a jacket with a removable thermal liner and some form of venting.

3. Motorcycle gloves

This is an important piece of motorcycle gear kit.

What’s the first thing you instinctively do when you fall? You put your hands out. Again, where and when you do most of your riding might determine what kind of gloves to go for.

Having waterproof gloves is always useful, especially in our weather conditions. Look to get knuckle and scaphoid protection, too, if possible.

As with any clothing, fit is key to use and comfort. Find a glove that fits close without being overly tight. Floppy fingers that are too long can affect your use of the motorcycle controls.

4. Motorcycle boots

This is a key piece of motorcycle clothing that can often be overlooked by new riders. If you can, go for a boot that covers the ankle. Many motorcycle training schools insist on these for use in lessons.

Normal boots should be fine, but dedicated motorcycle boots offer much more protection in the event of a crash.

Look for features such as armour for both the inside and the outside of the ankle and a reinforced toe and heel. A shank in the sole provides great protection, too.

Again, it’s also worth considering a waterproof boot. You should find many on the market that have a breathable membrane built into the boot’s construction.

5. Motorcycle trousers

A word of warning: normal denim wears through in an average of half a second when it makes contact with the road.

Even a low-speed spill could cause nasty ‘road rash’, so abrasion-resistant trousers are an mportant safety feature.

There's a huge choice in the market, and leather, textile or denim with an aramid lining are all good options.

Some riding jeans look and feel like normal denim but can offer up to 11 seconds of ‘slide time’ before wearing through.

It's worth considering trousers that have, or can accommodate, knee protection. If you can add in hip and even coccyx protection then that’s even better.

6. Other motorcycle gear

It’s worth considering other forms of protection for those parts of the body that are high impact. Think about elbow guards, shin guards and knee guards.

  • Goggles to protect your eyes are also advisable. Basic sunglasses aren’t designed to withstand high impact. They don’t fit snugly against your face either, so they might not protect you from something getting into your eyes.
  • Hearing protection. Even basic earplugs can do the trick. These don’t block out all the traffic noise but they do reduce the impact of the constant sound while you’re on your motorbike.

If you’re choosing a full textile kit, or buying gear that looks more casual, make sure it protects you from the elements and from injury. These days there’s a heap of choice and you don’t need to break the bank to kit yourself out properly.


Top tips to buying motorbike gear

First, make a list of the essential items you need to buy, or save ours here to refer back to.

You need to buy a brand-new helmet but other items of motorbike clothing can be picked up second-hand.

Keep an eye on local websites such as Facebook Marketplace or second-hand companies like eBay. You might also be able to pick up second-hand motorbike gear through local motorbike groups or organisations.

If you're buying something second-hand you need to be extra vigilant. A leather jacket isn't a bargain if it's been ripped or has holes in it and won't give you the protection you need.

While it may be tempting to buy all the kit, you only really need the essentials. If you're on a budget, you don't usually need a separate winter and summer kit, for example. Many items also come with removable layers to attach or remove. 


Does my motorbike insurance policy cover my motorcycle gear?

Standard motorbike insurance policies don't normally cover your riding gear by default. But you might be able to buy an extra for helmet and leathers insurance. These policies usually cover your:

  • Helmet
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Any protective gear you use while riding

A good helmet and leathers policy should cover you for replacement gear up to an agreed value. Most helmet and leathers policies stipulate that your gear needs to have been damaged in an accident. Stolen helmets might not be covered, for example.

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