Best Gear for Beginners: Two Schools of Thought


When I decide to invest in a new hobby or interest, the philosophy I use is generally to start simple and work my way up to complex from there depending on my interest level.

Others begin at full throttle, diving in with both feet right from the get-go. If you have the money to spend that’s great, but most people don’t risk so much right away.

I suppose a third way would be a hybrid of the two schools of thought where you approach some areas of interest more intently while moving ahead cautiously in others?

Selecting Your First Riding Apparel

When it comes to starting out as a new motorcyclist I would encourage my strategy with the emphasis being on buying gear that will keep you safe, warm and dry in that order of importance while being affordable. It’s nice if it looks good too and luckily there’s a great variety to choose from on the market to suit your fancy.

I would avoid spending thousands of dollars on a big name and ultra tough gear as much as possible until you’re really committed to making riding a lifelong pursuit and going to ride a ton. Take a look at some of the riding gear from Klim or Rev’It and it’s clear you can spend your savings in minutes if you aren’t careful. It’s fantastic stuff, but not necessary for most riders commuting to work or riding around on the weekend.

You can get good protection for much less money as you’ll see in this write-up.

What Gear?

Helmet: This is a very important item to get right because a head injury will change your life drastically. What you’re looking for is a full face helmet that is minimum DOT approved and better yet SNELL approved. A sticker on the back will tell you whether it is or not. Full face helmets offer the most protection, two the eight times better than any other style.

What’s your face worth to you?

Jacket: You’ll need a motorcycle specific jacket, not just a sturdy coat. More on that later

Pants: Many people just wear jeans, but in a slide regular denim wears away in no time and people are exposed to very painful road rash.

  • Leather and Nylon motorcycle pants are readily available, as are kevlar reinforced motorcycle jeans.

Gloves: You can use regular leather work gloves on a bike, but there are better-suited motorcycling ones on the market that are worth spending extra on.

  • Whatever you can find that allows good dexterity, wind protection and has a long cuff (gauntlet design) to tuck inside your jacket sleeve is ideal. Finding truly waterproof gloves can be very challenging.

Boots or Shoes: Don’t overlook the importance of a sturdy boot or shoe. Your feet will take a beating while out riding and especially in a crash scenario.

  • Look for good ankle support and a beefy sole with good grip material on it. Avoid steel/safety toe work boots or shoes because you won’t often have room to get it under the shift lever on a bike due to the added thickness.

Venting

In all your gear a good thing to keep in mind is breathability.

You’ll be riding in hot weather while wearing several layers of protection. If you’re too hot you won’t want to wear the gear so you want venting options.

At the same time, a waterproof layer is invaluable. The best of both worlds is either special material (like Gore-Tex) that breathes and is waterproof or a well-vented item with an outer covering that is waterproof and can be taken on and off easily as necessary.

What to Focus On?

Safety first!

Any gear you look at should at a bare minimum be tight fitting in order to protect from wind flap and ensure that it doesn’t slide up your body in the event of a crash leaving your bare hide in harm’s way.

It also should have double thick leather, nylon or armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back areas. Jackets for motorcycling always need to have longer than normal sleeves on them in order to accommodate having your arms outstretched to reach the handlebars. Don’t substitute fashion leather jackets in place of a bike jacket for this exact reason.

Hi-Viz or high visibility colors and/or material on dark colored gear is a good idea. Take any help you can get in being seen by car drivers out on the road.

Where to Buy

There’s nothing wrong with buying used jackets, pants, boots, and gloves so long as they’ve been cared for and it’s a great way to save money for spending on the critically important helmet.

Helmet

Scorpion EXO-R420

PERFORMANCE FEATURES:

  • Advanced LG® Polycarbonate Shell
  • Ellip-Tec® II Ratchet System
  • EverClear® No-Fog Faceshield
  • KwikWick® II washable Anti-Microbial Comfort Liner
  • Quick Release Cheekpad System
  • DOT/SNELL Certified
  • Aero-Tuned Ventilation System
  • Vent/Lock Lever
  • KwikFit® Cheek Pads Accommodate Eyeglasses
  • Communication System Speaker Pockets
  • Price: $149 to $205 depending which graphics kit you choose.

The EXO-R420 is a new helmet for 2018 that is SNELL M2015 approved, meaning the highest testing standards of safety have been passed. For a helmet that only costs $150, this is impressive!

It’s fairly light at 3lbs 8oz too and has decent air venting to keep you cool. The emergency quick release cheek pads are a nice touch and a feature you usually only see on more expensive helmets. Ditto for the cutouts in the foam liner for speakers and Bluetooth communication systems.

This helmet potentially could be what you stick with for many years instead of upgrading because it’s so well thought out and comfortable too.

See this review from Revzilla for all the details;

Jacket and Pants

Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0

WATERPROOF TEXTILE JACKET (Outer Layer)

  • Waterproof treated Rock Tex™ 660 outer shell
  • Variable Flow™ ventilation with laser-cut waterproof zippers
  • Multi-point Sure Fit™ adjustment system
  • Outer shell folds into self-contained pouch
  • 360° reflectivity
  • Extended mandarin collar (neoprene lined)

MESH JACKET (Inner Layer)

  • Heavy duty polyamide Free Air™ mesh
  • C.E. Certified armor (shoulders & elbows)
  • Removable spine armor
  • Ultra-low profile neoprene collar
  • Removable fleece vest warmth liner
  • Multi-point Sure Fit™ adjustment system
  • Pockets for eyeglass & face shield storage
  • Reflective Stripes
  • Available in Men’s and Women’s sizes in short and tall.
  • MSRP Starting @ $259.99

Versatility and excellent value for your money are what you get in the Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 Jacket and pants combination.

The Jacket is two jackets in one. There’s an outer waterproof layer that can be removed when it’s hot out leaving behind the inner mesh jacket. Excellent airflow is available through the mesh without compromising protection because of the back, shoulder and elbow armor in the inner jacket.

There’s also a removable insulating layer of fleece that can be removed for hot weather. That makes this a 4 season riding jacket.

There is a very handy pocket on the inside of the jacket that will fit a second visor for your Scorpion helmet too. You can bring a tinted one along while wearing the clear one on cloudy days or at night and vice versa.

I really like the fit and finish of the Alter Ego jacket. It’s well designed for strength, protection, is very much waterproof and while it’s not the least expensive jacket on the market I think it’s definitely appropriate for a beginner to spend this amount of money on a good jacket like this that you won’t need to upgrade.

This video goes through all the features and shows how it converts.

Alter Ego 2.0 Pants

The matching pants to the jacket above are more of the same quality and versatility. They’re constructed of the same 600D Nylon textile as the jacket, but instead of having a waterproof exterior, there’s an internal liner that keeps you dry. It works very well as long as you have it pulled down to cover your footwear.

FEATURES:

  • Rock Tex™ 600 outer shell
  • Waterproof liner (removable)
  • Large Free Air™ Mesh panels with removable cover on legs and seat
  • Height adjustable C.E. rated knee armor
  • Melt resistant material on lower leg
  • Two-way leg zippers
  • Sure Fit™ adjustable waistband
  • Reflective stripe
  • MSRP Starting @ $179.99

I’m not a big fan of having the waterproof layer on the inside of the jacket or pants as is the case with these Alter Ego 2.0 pants. If you have it removed for warm weather riding and it starts to rain you’ll have pull over, then remove your boots and pants to install the liner.

I find this very inconvenient, but in the case of the Alter Ego liner, it breathes so well that the waterproof liner can be left in comfortably in everything other than the hottest weather. This is because of the large section of the outer shell that can be removed to allow cooling airflow as you can see in the photo below.

These pants offer decent protection in the form of knee armor too and the zippered lower legs make wearing tall riding boots no issue.

There’s no thermal liner included, but these are over pants and so you can choose what degree of insulation to wear under them.

Gloves

Here’s a tough area to keep costs down while getting what you need out of the equipment.

Finding gloves that protect your hands from wind, rain, rocks and whatever else the world throws at you is very challenging. I’ve tried numerous ones and often been left unsatisfied. When you’re riding it’s vital to keep your hands in good shape otherwise you’ll lose control or not be able to ride comfortably.

Spending some money on a premium glove is worth it because otherwise, you’ll end up spending lots more on several different pairs in a vain attempt to find ones that work for you. That’s why I’m recommending some expensive ones that I know will protect and are waterproof too.

Rukka Virium X-Trafit Gore-Tex

I’ve very thoroughly tested these gloves in a range of temperatures and in extremely wet conditions and I can’t say there’s anything better on the market that I’ve found. They breathe well in hot temps and keep you warm in cooler ones.

They aren’t really cold, winter capable or extremely hot weather appropriate gloves, but you can’t have everything. They function very well in temperatures ranging from 50 degrees up to about 80.

They have armor where you need it (knuckles, fingers, and scaphoid) without being in the way and everything is double stitched and put together cleanly, in such a way as to not cut off circulation to your digits. They’re comfortable, strong and good looking too.

There are special inserts on the tips of both thumbs and index fingers that allow you to use smartphones while wearing the gloves. See the white stripes in the photo above? That’s them.

There are also rubber bumps all over the palm and fingertips to help with grip. Rukka really puts a lot of research and development into the Virium gloves and they’re an absolute winner.

I know it sounds crazy to spend $179 on just these Rukka gloves, but your hands will thank you for it if you choose to do so.

Have a look at Revzilla thoroughly reviewing the Virium gloves in this video:

Boots

FirstGear Kili Low

Here’s a casual looking, motorcycle specific boot that checks all the required boxes needed to keep your feet and ankles safe on the bike as a beginner rider.

Made of thick layers of leather with armor built in the heel, toe and ankle area this low cut boot is also waterproof!

FEATURES:

  • Lace-up style fit with hook-and-loop ankle strap
  • Leather upper
  • Hard ankle and toe box protection
  • Toe shift patch
  • MSRP $119

The really nice thing about these boots is they are comfortable enough to wear even when you’re not riding and just walking around. They look like running shoes but protect like motorcycle boots.

It’s a great combination of features at a reasonable price point that gives peace of mind to the wearer.

Watch Revzilla’s Anthony give the full story on the FirstGear boots in this video:

Final Thoughts

Ok, so there you have a list of excellent gear choices not JUST for a beginner rider that comes in under $900. These choices would be great for any rider regardless of experience.

The gear I’ve recommended offer excellent protection on the bike and will keep you warm or cool depending on what weather you’re riding in.

That’s the main goal here: versatile gear that meets all needs at a reasonable price.

Many new riders forget to factor in the added cost of quality gear when they buy their first bike. It’s important to get what you need to keep the riding experience positive. Having sub-par gear will end your enjoyment instantly when the heavens open and a deluge of freezing cold rain soaks you to the bone.

$887 seems expensive until you start to look at a lot of the other gear out there where you can’t even buy one jacket or one helmet for $800, let alone completely outfit yourself.

Have fun out there and keep it rubber side down, my friends!