Choose the right gear

Choose the right riding gear and you won’t just be safer, you’ll enjoy your riding more.


Helmet choice is a big deal, perhaps the biggest of all among all the gear you’ll buy. So it’s important to get it right. The type of helmet, construction and fit are the topmost criteria, and it’s always worth paying attention to credible test results.

Your first choice is between full-face and open-face. Some riders favour open-face lids because they enjoy the breeze, the smells, the ability to talk easily, the look, or they may feel a bit claustrophobic in a full-face. But to put it bluntly, open-face helmets cannot offer the protection of a full-face.

If you can get used to wearing a full-face, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour. The front of your head is highly likely to meet the tarmac in a crash, with obvious consequences. Whatever type you choose, here’s what to look for:

  • an approved safety standard. You’ll find the relevant helmets for New Zealand standards listed by the NZ Transport Agency
  • correct fit for your size and head shape. It should be in firm, comfortable contact with your head all over, with no pressure points (check with glasses if you wear them)
  • do up the strap then try to roll the helmet forward off your head - it should not be possible. There should be minimal movement in any direction
  • good coverage – a helmet should cover your forehead but not the brow (looking up you should just be able to see the edge of the brim)
  • a design that doesn’t hinder your peripheral vision - including looking up, which you tend to do on a sportsbike
  • a great site to check out is called Sharp Helmets - The Helmet Safety Scheme.



  • never buy a second-hand helmet. It may have damage you can’t see
  • helmets don’t last a lifetime. You need to replace them every three to five years
  • after a crash or a drop on a hard surface throw it away and buy a new one
  • pillions need correctly fitting helmets too.

Jackets, pants or one-piece

Because they are the largest part of what you wear, style may appeal over substance. Resist it. Experienced bikers appreciate good gear (and it doesn’t always have to cost top dollar). The main things you want are abrasion resistance and weather protection.

What to look for:

  • international standards, like BS, CE, Snell or JIS
  • abrasion resistant leather or textiles like kevlar and cordura
  • built-in armour in elbows, shoulders, back, knees and (preferably) hips. If there’s no back protector or it’s just a foam pad, use a separate one
  • warmth, ventilation, light weight, and waterproofing
  • a smooth exterior with few snag points
  • minimal openings and joins
  • no metal buckles or decorations - they can twist and penetrate you in a crash
  • a snug fit. If it’s too tight and uncomfortable it can be distracting and impede circulation. You should not be able to slide or twist armour away from the joint it’s protecting
  • concealed zips or fitted below the surface of the garment to prevent contact with the road
  • fastenings on the inside of the wrist and ankle.



Impact protectors

The construction of your jacket, pants or one piece aims at abrasion resistance. Impact protectors (or ‘armour’) are what stands between you and serious injuries to bones and joints.

Knee, elbow and shoulder protectors come in six shapes, and two sizes. Choose which best fit your body.

Some of the most debilitating and deadly impact injuries are to the spine.

Some of the most debilitating and deadly impact injuries are to the spine. This is where back protectors and lumbar protectors come in. A top quality back protector is one of the best bits of protection you can buy. A foam pad in the back of your jacket is no substitute.
What to look for:

  • CE, Snell or JIS standard markings
  • comfortable fit
  • make sure a separate back protector will actually fit under your jacket or leathers.


When you come off a bike, like in any fall, the first thing you do is put your hands out to protect yourself. Protective gloves are a must. Cold or wet hands also interfere with your control, so you need weather protection too.
What to look for:

  • international standards, like BS, CE, Snell or JIS
  • good feel through the fingers
  • cuff extends at least 50 mm beyond the wrist
  • impact protection over the knuckles
  • lining layers such as Kevlar
  • abrasion-resistant material on palm and fingers
  • secure fastenings so you can’t simply pull them on and off
  • no metal studs, which can turn into searing hot points with friction
  • low friction material on the heel of the hand to protect your scaphoid joint (wrist)
  • a join between the two outer fingers to protect your vulnerable little finger.


With gloves it’s an idea to try before you buy to check the following:

  • can you feel and operate all controls and switches?
  • can you adjust your visor?
  • is there any tightness on finger tips?
  • is there any bunching?


Feet and leg injuries are among the most common in riding accidents. Choose proper motorcycle boots with built in armour.
What to look for:

  • international standards, like BS, CE, Snell or JIS
  • comfortable fit (on bike and walking around)
  • secure fastenings (boots that pull on or off are useless)
  • at least 160mm height from the inner soles
  • inner boot with protective cups for ankles and toes, and strong shank in the sole
  • impact protection for shins and ankles
  • strong, thick leather
  • oil-resistant soles
  • no steel toe caps (you won’t have enough ‘feel’ for the controls)
  • waterproof (wet feet quickly become cold then numb).


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