RULE 1: LOWER THE RISK
Motorcycles are dangerous. That’s a big part of the reason you want one, and a big part of why I ride and write about them. Offsetting that danger with quality motorcycle gear can be not only a smart choice but a stylish one too. My Vanson leather jacket bears the scars of half a dozen crashes—crashes in which it saved me from injury. When I wear it, I don’t just look like I bought a nice leather jacket; I’m wearing the danger. If you want to look like a biker, be a biker. Real safety gear will allow you to ride more, ride better and walk away with stories, not broken bones.
RULE 2: WEAR A MODERN HELMET
Retro helmets, bubble visors and bandannas look really cool on Instagram. But these getups are uncomfortable, unsafe and noisy and offer poor ventilation. A modern helmet will be stable at high speeds, quiet on long trips, cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s cold and safe in a crash. If you get it right, it will look menacing too. New, smaller sport helmets, such as the Icon Airframe Pro and the Shoei RF-1200, offer improved aerodynamics and lighter weights—and less of that dreaded Q-tip look when you’re wearing one.
RULE 3: BOOT UP
Test any item of footwear you’re considering wearing on a motorcycle by grabbing the heel in one hand and the toe box in the other and then twisting as hard as you can. That’s what will happen to the boot in a crash. Does it look like something you want your foot in? Your feet and ankles have to support hundreds of pounds of bike and rider on uneven, often slippery surfaces. Get an over-the-ankle boot with good support, good traction and strong, thick soles. My World War II–style paratrooper boots wrap my ankles, have a steel shank and look better than any of the bullshit thin-soled stuff out there.
RULE 4: PROTECT YOUR LOWER HALF
I recently visited a friend in the hospital who has a fractured pelvis. He’s not going to walk for a few months, because he crashed his bike at 30 mph while wearing skinny jeans. It’s easy to throw on a leather jacket; protecting your lower half takes more effort. There’s a raft of so-called motorcycle jeans out there that include some Kevlar for abrasion protection, but only armor that covers the knees and hips can help prevent serious injury (it would have saved my buddy’s bones). In town I wear a pair of armored uglyBROS jeans, but I zip on an Aerostich Roadcrafter suit for anything fast or dangerous.
RULE 5: RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE
Figure out what works for you and own it. Don’t simply buy into a look you see on someone else, on social media or in a glossy magazine. Prioritize function first. Utility will always be cooler than faking it. I used to be self-conscious about being the guy at a party with helmet hair and padded shoulders, until I realized I was the only guy in a leather jacket who actually belonged in one—and looked like it. And you can too.