Each rider and passenger should ride with the appropriate gear. It may be hot in Florida but shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt are not going to protect you when you’re skidding down the street. Almost all of us are victims of peer pressure and accepting the “Harley Lifestyle” – black leather, t-shirts (especially those dealer Ts), tough guy/gal persona. But the reality is our bodies were not designed to be moving at any speed and grind to a halt by hitting an immovable object or sliding down the street.
While Florida does not require riders to wear a helmet ALL HOG Chapter riders are required to. Your helmet should be DOT compliant, fit snugly and have no obvious defects. There’s a reason these are often referred to as “brain buckets” or “skid lids”. In addition to the obvious head protection a good helmet will also reduce wind noise and reduce rider fatigue.
MSF publications alert us to:
Most crashes happen on short trips (less than five miles long), just a few minutes after starting out.
Most riders are riding slower than 30 mph when a crash occurs. At these speeds, helmets can cut both the number and the severity of head injuries by half.
In the month of Dec I saw 2 riders drop their bikes in a parking lot. In both cases they hit their heads as they rolled off their bike. The one who hit the pavement the hardest was wearing a helmet and was able to shake off the fall quickly. The other one was not able to recover quickly and had scratches deep enough to bleed.
Eye and Face Protection
A windshield is not considered a viable alternative to eye and face protection worn directly on your head. Dust, debris, insects, pebbles, etc., can all travel up and over a windshield and strike a rider in the face. In most cases eyeglasses are not designed to protect eyes from wind and debris and may blow off while riding. If you wear eyeglasses consider goggles, a face shield, or a full face helmet as well. You can’t ride if you can’t see!
Clothing (some this text is sourced directly from the MSF Motorcycle Operators Manual)
The right clothing protects you in a collision. It also provides comfort, as well as protection from heat, cold, debris and hot and moving parts of the motorcycle. It can also make you more visible to others.
Jacket and pants should cover arms and legs completely. They should fit snugly enough to keep from flapping in the wind, yet loosely enough to move freely. Leather offers the most protection. Sturdy synthetic material provides a lot of protection as well. Wear a jacket even in warm weather to prevent dehydration. Many are designed to protect without getting you overheated, even on summer days. Some riders choose jackets and pants with rigid “body armor” inserts in critical areas for additional protection.
Boots or shoes should be high and sturdy enough to cover your ankles and give them support. Soles should be made of hard, durable, slip-resistant material. Keep heels short so they do not catch on rough surfaces. Tuck in laces so they won’t catch on your motorcycle.
Gloves allow a better grip and help protect your hands in a crash. Your gloves should be made of leather or similar durable material.
Hearing protection reduces noise while allowing you to hear important sounds such as car horns or sirens. Long term exposure to engine and wind noise can cause permanent hearing damage even if you wear a full face helmet. Whether you choose disposable foam plugs or reusable custom molded devices, be sure you adhere to state laws regarding hearing protection
Rain gear can make the difference between a miserable wet ride or an tolerable wet ride. Let’s face it, we may be in the Sunshine State but we can pour on the liquid sunshine. I have never met a rider who preferred rain to sunshine but a quality rain suit, designed for motorcycle riding, can make a huge difference.
High visibility gear can improve the odds of being seen. Most motorcycle gear will have some degree of reflective material. Consider adding a reflective vest, at least when night riding. Every little bit helps.
Ride Safe, ride often.
Reference materials from The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF):