Safety is not one of the natural advantages of riding a motorcycle. In fact, motorcyclists are more than 26 times more likely than car passengers to die in a traffic accident, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. While its risk can be part of the appeal of motorcycle riding, new technology has made motorcycle gear–such as jackets, armor, and helmets–a little safer, keeping riders protected so they can better enjoy the thrill of motorcycle riding.
Wearing shorts and a tank top while riding a motorcycle may be comfortable, but it won’t protect you in an accident. NHSA spokesman Rae Tyson said in an interview with Motorcycle.com that some of the worst crashes he’s seen “have been with people who fell off the motorcycle … wearing short sleeves, or shorts, or a tank top, etc., and it’s not a pretty sight. Last time I checked, your body was never designed for that.”
Whether it’s tightly woven nylon, loose mesh, or thick leather, each motorcycle jacket material has its advantages and disadvantages when factoring in not only protection but weather, price, comfort, and appearance. Just remember that not all jackets are made equal. Try out this online buying guide to help you know what to consider.
One important consideration is the technological innovations that can keep you safe, like those in the Italian Acerbis High-LED jacket. This jacket boasts several LED strips sewn into the sides, rear, and front of the jacket. Though bright enough to pierce fog as well as the darkness of a night ride, the strips consume little energy. A great touring jacket, the Acerbis High-LED could help keep you safe over long distances when driving at night. Other ideas for staying visible at night can be found here.
The most protective jackets, though, are jackets with armor.
Armor worn underneath your clothing helps absorb impact during a serious crash. The newest, possibly most advanced armor is made of D3O materials.
D3O molecules are loose enough to be flexible and comfortable when worn as armor, but they lock up closely on impact. The harder the impact, the more closely they lock. This shock absorption material was tested and proven in the 2006 Olympics and has since entered the motorcycle market and advanced on to usage in US Special Ops Forces and a branch of the French armed forces. D3O is perhaps best demonstrated in the King Cobra–a level 2 protection motorcycle jacket. While some riders have complained that D3O gets stiff in the cold, the Xergo range limb protectors have been marketed to fix this problem.
If the more established European CE standard of armor still appeals to you, then take a look at the Alpinestar Atem jacket and suit. Alpinestar applied armor more extensively than ever to a jacket to protect more parts of the body for longer and was tested and proven through an abrasion test, impact cut test, and burst strength test.
Remember that armor must fit snugly and securely under your jacket to be effective, and that after a serious crash, you will most likely need to replace any used or damaged armor, since most pads can absorb that much shock only once in a lifetime.
Try this on for size: A full-face motorcycle helmet with a display that shows not only what’s in front of you but what’s behind you and includes visual and audio GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a smartphone companion app. While the special introductory price of $1,399 makes owning a Skully AR-1 a luxury, the helmet might be well worth it as far as lives saved (even if its futuristic, Tron-worthy commercial disinterests you).
Inspired by a motorcycle accident he suffered after glancing up from the road to read a street sign, Skully CEO Marcus Weller designed the helmet hoping the 360-degree view would give riders constant awareness of their surroundings. Whether it proves more of a distraction than safety measure remains to be seen in 2015, when the helmet will be released.
We looked at other innovative helmets in our post Technology Meets Style, featuring the Aria Vector-2 Hawk Graphic helmet and the Bell Star Carbon Custom Fit helmet.
In your experience, what has been the best protective motorcycle gear for you? Leave us a comment below.
Top photo courtesy of: Insomnia Cured Here
Middle photo courtesy of: KeyboardSpellbounder via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom photo courtesy of: HelmetDesign