Beyond the mall: How to find female-specific motorcycle gear
By Brittany Morrow
Brittany Morrow, motorcycle safety guru, gives us some tips on getting the right gear.
As females, were taught from birth that many things are valued based on the way they look. We learn to search for colors, fabrics, textures and shapes that look good on our bodies and appeal to our personal sense of style. Sometimes, we might even come across a trend we love so much that it influences our apparel decisions for the rest of our lives. This doesnt just apply to females, but it is a dominant factor in the choices most women make regardless of their lifestyle.
Unfortunately, how we traditionally shop for clothing is actually counter-productive to finding the right motorcycle gear. Fashion in itself isnt the problem; rather, its how we are wired. Were taught to react to trends emotionally rather than reasonably, because fashion isnt logical. When we pick out items based on whether or not they match our bike, whats currently popular, or our personal taste, we might never find something that fits, functions and feels great to ride in. Riding gear is so much more personal, and its not just our style reputation on the line its our lives.
When it comes to motorcycling, theres only one trend that truly matters, and it never goes out of season: not skinned alive.
Newsflash! Long sleeve shirts, hoodies, fake leather, leggings, skirts, high heels, jeans and sneakers are not protective equipment and will do nothing to help prevent injuries in even the smallest crash. What you chose to wear will be based on many different factors, and its important to remember that no two riders are exactly the same. As technologies advance, the possibilities become quite endless. The good news is that there are items out there that fit every riders shape, size, preferred protection level, wallet depth and yes, personal style. What it really comes down to is what youre willing to risk and what consequences youre willing to live with. You might have to do a little digging, but its better than the alternative of riding completely unprotected.
The first step in finding the right gear is to define the type of riding youll be doing. Commuting to work in traffic will require different features than a day at the race track. Ask yourself a few questions to determine a starting point:
Once you know the kind of riding you'll do, start narrowing your search by the features you absolutely require. Heres an example to get you on the right track:
The most at risk group for impact injuries and oftentimes the biggest offenders when it comes to riding gearless. Its never too late to reverse the trend!
This type of riding will require gear that is designed to fit over a normal layer of clothing (for school/workplace convenience). The most important protection you can have is armour in major impact zones: back, shoulders, elbows, chest, knuckles, hips, knees and ankles. These can be added separately as individual pieces that simply strap to your body over (or under) your clothing. Alternatively, this armour can also come as part of abrasion-resistant jackets, pants, gloves and boots. Also extremely important for a commuter with no other means of transport is a simple rain suit with reflectivity.
As for hi-viz vests or other items, they can help you be seen better on the road, but your riding skills will do much more for you than flouro-yellow ever will. The best piece of gear you can have is a fat stack of training completion cards in your pocket.
Heels and a skirt might look great in the office but they have no business on a scooter or moped. Long skirts can get caught in moving parts and cause a crash. Short/tight skirts can hinder the lower body movement needed to ride properly. Heels can slip off the pegs or footrests, or even the ground in a slippery spot. Just say no! Bring a backpack and change on your way out the door.
Just remember, abrasion injuries can be extremely painful, take a long time to heal and are prone to infection. Not so sexy now, right? Dont let convenience be the deciding factor road burns and broken bones are not what any of us signed up for. Only you can decide what youre willing to risk, knowing your options and the real consequences helps make that decision a bit easier.
The female shape is complicated, and oftentimes misunderstood. The real problem is that we expect our gear to fit like clothing, when it isnt supposed to fit like clothing at all. Motorcycle specific apparel is pre-curved to match the seated riding position. Dont expect to be able to downward dog well in your cordura jacket and leather pants, even if you have stretch ballistic panels for better movement. Gear off-the-rack also isnt going to fit perfectly every time, so just accept that a trip to the tailor is normal and a really great investment.
What to look for: If you need space in the chest, look for 'princess seams' which start at the armpit and travel inward towards your chest before dropping down to the waist. If you have an hourglass figure, look for adjustable waist straps and tapered jackets that curve outward in the hip area. Motorcycle specific jeans, leggings and pants should all have slightly wider hips and taper inward as they reach the thigh. If you have larger legs, avoid the 'skinny leg' styles and perhaps even go for an overpant fit to give yourself more room. If you find the arms or legs are too long, head to the tailor! If they are too short, try going a size up and get the item taken in where there is any extra bulk.
Finding the right gear isnt rocket science, but it isnt first year math, either. Just like our body shapes, personal style, and the type of riding we prefer its somewhere in between those extremes. If youre willing to do the work, it will pay off exponentially, and thats something everyone can understand and appreciate.