Girls As Passengers: Put Some Clothes On!
I’ll warn you, this post may sound a bit preachy. Ok, maybe really preachy. I truly do loathe wading into the debate of what constitutes appropriate motorcycle attire but I have to get this out there. As this has been the hottest July on record, I’ve seen things on a daily basis that made me cringe.
This post isn’t aimed at licensed, experienced riders. You folks know the risks of riding a motorcycle, if you choose not to mitigate those risks with good quality riding gear, that’s fine by me. The decision to ride is an extremely personal one, and so is the decision of what to wear. This post is aimed at young girls riding as passengers, who may very well know absolutely NOTHING about motorcycle safety. Consider this post a public service announcement, if you will.
Girls, listen to me. When you get on the back of a bike, the ONLY thing you have any control over is what you’re wearing. Good motorcycle gear can mean the difference between walking away from a minor crash and spending time in the hospital receiving skin grafts from extreme road rash. If you don’t believe me, read Brittany Morrow’s story, the “Road Rash Queen” who miraculously survived falling off the back of a GSX-R 750 at highway speeds, then spent months recovering from her injuries. She’s started a blog to share her story in the hopes that she can convince others to wear all the gear, all the time.
Ok, so you’re dating a guy who rides a bike and you want to hop on the back. Awesome. But let me tell you one thing: you have to take this seriously. It is not like being in a car. There’s no seatbelts or airbags, no steel cage for protection. All you have is what you wear. So here’s a rundown of what you SHOULD be wearing.
I noticed that the majority of you wear full-face helmets, which is great…except if it belongs to your boyfriend’s brother and it’s too big for you. A poorly fitting helmet can fly right off your head in the event of a crash. A helmet should feel quite snug on your head, if you can get it off without unbuckling it, it’s too big. Even chewing gum should be difficult. Oh, and make sure any helmet you buy is DOT approved.
A good motorcycle jacket will literally save your hide in a crash. Again, it needs to fit properly to do its job. A jacket that’s too big will ride up as you’re sliding down the road, exposing your back and sides to the asphalt. The best jackets are armoured leather, with zip-out liners and vents that can be opened on hot days. Textile jackets don’t quite provide the same level of protection, but are 100 times better than a hoodie, or a t-shirt. Textile is also much more comfortable on hot days.
Think about what you do instinctively when you’re falling. You put your hands out to catch yourself. That’s why it’s so important to wear leather gloves whenever you’re on a bike. Leather work gloves can work in a pinch, anything is better than bare skin.
I wear armoured textile pants or armoured kevlar jeans when I ride, though most people just wear jeans. Jeans are ok, but you will get road rash through jeans. Again, they’re better than shorts. If you plan on doing a lot of riding, invest in a pair of good motorcycle-specific pants. Not only do they protect against road rash, but they’ll prevent you from burning your legs on the exhaust.
Sneakers don’t qualify as appropriate motorcycle footwear. Boots should be sturdy leather, and need to cover the ankle at least. Wear flipflops on a bike and you run the risk of losing your feet. Seriously. Google it if you have a strong stomach.
I know this sounds really expensive, especially if you just started dating a guy with a bike and you just want to jump on the back with him and go downtown for a coffee. But look at it this way, you’re making an investment in your safety, and if you have enough interest in bikes that you want to be a passenger, you’ll probably want to get your own bike someday. When that day comes you’ll already own the gear.
The best place to start looking for gear is nlclassifieds and kijiji. People are always selling almost-new bike gear because they don’t ride anymore or the colours don’t match their new bike. I bought my first motorcycle jacket at Value Village, a sturdy leather jacket I found in the men’s section. For boots, try Walmart. Even work-style boots are better than sneakers. Screaming Eagle and Natural Riders are here every year, their prices are competitive and they have a decent selection. Check out the local dealerships, they sometimes have great deals on non-current styles. Finally, if you can’t find anything suitable locally have a look online at sites such as Revzilla, MotorcycleSuperstore and CanadasMotorcycle. The selection for women is light years ahead of what it used to be, and there’s gear to suit every taste.
To the guys who take their girlfriends on the back of their bikes: please make her aware of the risks involved with this method of transportation. Better yet, if she refuses to dress appropriately don’t let her on the bike. Do you really want your first meeting of your new girlfriend’s parents to take place at the hospital, where you have to explain why YOU walked away from a low speed slide while SHE is covered in road rash and has third degree burns on her leg from being caught between the road and the exhaust pipe?