Motorcycle clothing & boots sound simple enough? Well there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
Before we get to the rags we wear when not riding, here’s why there are more to motorcycle gear than just a pair of boots and a pimp suit. For a start motorcycle clothings main objective is for protection and impact protection. But then the clothes must also try and keep you dry in downpours, and cool in hot temperatures and warm for winter. They must be hard wearing, and be able to take years of abuse and the wind ripping at it at speed.
Dress in layers:
This trick we figured out years ago. Most of the bike clothes on offer are made and designed for Europe and colder climates. They just differ from either hot or hell hot when using that thermal quilted liners, as very few brands offer enough ventilation in really hot weather and most of those options were for road riding and not touring.
- Use a airflow jacket or a jacket with proper ventilation that is good for +40degreeC summer use.
- Getting a bit chilly? Wear a thin fleece or Icebreaker thermal liners or a thin jacket. Many new designs today make use of a Gore-Tex inner shell which is years better than those rubbish quilted thick zipp in shells of the past.
- Ice cold: Use the rain jacket over the jacket while still wearing the fleece.
Use a proper motorcycle rain suit.
Although the new inner liners are made from Gore-Tex and are waterproof they have one flaw when it is raining. Eventually it feels like you sit inside an air conditioner. While your jacket is soaking wet with rain and you wear the inner the wind turns the wet jacket into a cold layer and you have less insulations between the rain and cold.
Wearing a rain suit jacket and pants or a one piece will ensure your fleece, t-shirt, jacket act as insulation and the rain jacket stops the wind and water. With a 2-piece suit the jacket can be used as a wind breaker jacket or as a normal rain suit off the bike.
As option KLIM range of technical riding gear has the waterproof Gore-tex as part of the inside of some of their suites. This is quite nice as there is no need to carry bulky rain suites. Their outer layers do not get soaked as with fabrics used by other brand. But their design still offer proper ventilation even in high temperatures.
Which colour for motorcycle clothing?
Black is definitely NOT the colour to go for if you can avoid it.
It gets damn hot and although it shows dirt less than lighter coloured clothes I would prefer to be cooler than cleaner. In Sudan we were able to experience this first hand. My jacket was black and Elsebie’s jacket the light brown sand colour. Besides black is just boring.
There are some super quality brands on the market. KLIM, BMW make some of the best. The price plays a big part of the decision when buying. We can only comment on the ones we have used. We have used the BMW Airflow jackets and bought them in 2005 second-hand. We have now opted to give them a rest and use the KLIM Badlands range as many of our overland friends have used them with only good things to say. BMW and KLIM use some of the best impact protection on the market in their clothes. They stood up well with Africa and abuse.
When choosing a jacket make sure the fabric will be able to stand up to long-term abuse, abrasion and wear. Ventilation is an absolute must and enough pockets. One waterproof pocket for a mobile phone is always a welcome addition. The better brands use D30 which is some of the best quality and latest type impact protection in the jackets.
Many of the cheaper brands are made from inferior Cordura type fabric and the abrasion standards are just not as good to stand when sliding on tar. Not even going into the kind of threads used by brands. There is a lot of science behind what kind of threads and stitching methods to use when manufacturing motorcycle clothing. Some of the type of thread used could eventually rot or is too thin in the first place and not strong enough to hold up to the abrasiveness of a slide on tar or on dirt and the friction. Then there are top-stitching or internal stitching and stitches per centimeter and so on. The bottom line is that cheap Pakistan made jacket might look good but that one day it is suppose to work for you it will fail miserably. Good read on fabrics for motorcycle clothing
Pants with enough pockets is a must. Cargo type pants for maps and personal papers like passports to keep on you. Some of the better quality pants offer a stretch part between the legs which aids in comfort when spending time in the saddle for a long time. Wide leg opening to go over the boot and hip protectors.
Knee protection is vital and one of the most important aspects with regards to motorcycle pants. Knees always tend to get hurt more often in accidents and off’s. Obviously these pads are not really intended for enduro type racing but for on-off road travel they are more than adequate. The pads must also be comfortable to wear on an extended trip.
Get a pair that fit well and is good enough to live in for an extended periods.
The bottom line is with motorcycle clothing there is no second chance. Get a proper brand that is tested and back up their products. As for warranties, I understand BMW offers a 2 year warranty and KLIM a lifetime warranty as example.
In France going into Switzerland we figured our off-road gloves are not really that well suited for winter use. We now carry a spare winter/waterproof gloves with us. It actually makes good sense and do not take up much space. MX gloves are not suited for use as they are too thin and will not give proper protection when hitting asphalt.
Motorcycle off-road overland boots:
Protection for ankles are as important as the ability to live in them for months at end. But then there are also the off-road boots which offers much better protecting to legs and ankles but they are generally not waterproof and not that nice to live with when you have to walk with them. These inbetween boots offers a good compromise between safety and having to walk and use them on extended trips.
Falco, Sidi Adventure and other brands offer excellent protection, are waterproof all for a decent price and you can walk a short marathon with them.
Our newest pair the Falco Avantour has seen their fair share of riding and in the end turned out not to completely keep up with the use and abuse of overland adventure biking. We hoped they would last but in the end Falco does not use Gore-tex and superior quality fabrics on their boots. The Sidi or Gearne is a much better boot and we have used them in the past.
For now we are back in Sidi Adventure boots.
The peak helmets work best for overland trips. The visor helps when it is raining for days on end and unlike with off-road helmets with the goggles do not suffer from fogging up as badly.
The main reason for the peak is when riding into the sun especially in dust and sunset.
There is no excuse to be using a high end quality helmet anymore. Enough have been said written about the benefits and advantages of helmets. Obviously there are different quality helmets and investing in a 100$ helmet in the hope to save a few bucks can only turn into tears when the that helmet does not perform as intended.
Also the weight of a helmet is extremely important. Using a helmet every single day while riding in Sudan heat or for 8 hours on end can get tiresome. The Arai XD4 weighs around 1.6kg, the KLIM KRIOS is 150grams less and the KRIOS is 300grams less than the Shoei and the Schubert E1 is 235grams heavier than the KLIM KRIOS as example. It all sounds like nothing but when you are doing a long stretch in hot climate offroad working and still having a 1.6kg weight on your head it add to fatigue.
Ventilation is another aspect to consider when looking for an adventure dual sport helmet.
Use a good quality helmet!
Everyday Clothing & personal items to take with:
- Go commando and you score on weight, otherwise 3 pairs underpants is enough.
- Three t-shirts. The real Marino wool shirts are the buzziness! But you pay for them. They do not stretch or stink up like cotton t-shirts and last a lifetime if looked after. The fake cheapie technical shirts some outdoor shops sell in South Africa is utter rubbish. You can just as well wear a plastic bag.
Shirts like the First-Ascent brand was cut for some sub-specie of humans as they never sit properly and the fabric is more plastic than technical. The cheap option is to use MrPrice or Walmart cheap shirts and use them as bike oil rags after a while. They do not ventilate or absorb sweat as well.
- Technical long sleeve pants and a short sleeve pants. We found the Capestorm works great and last much longer than any other brand we have tried. The refuge Summit fabric they use is durable, comfortable and UV resistant, and it is good at moisture management and breathability which helps keeping you dry and cool. They are not cheap either but is bulletproof stuff.
- Hat – whatever your liking.
- Fleece top or any warm jacket that can be used as warm liner inside the motorcycle jacket.
- Flops, or Keene sandals. Wearing them with socks will give that real German tourist look, but who cares, right?
- 3 pairs of motorcycle socks
- Quick drying towel (do not settle for the smallest – a bigger one doubles as an extra blanket or beach towel) Shandali is currently rated as one of the best.
- Buff – great for all-weather and a nice accessory.
Some stuff to remember besides your normal goodies:
• Sunblock general use.
• Lip balm (IP15 and higher recommended)