Many people think of motorcycles as mere recreational vehicles, but for many of the 8.5 million Americans who own motorcycles, they are also a means of transportation to and from work. On International Motorcycle & Scooter Ride to Work Day, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company encourages you to dress for success when you ride by wearing gear that provides comfort and protection.
Matt Williams, senior claims adjuster at Grinnell Mutual, knows how important dressing for success on the ride can be. He walked away from a motorcycle crash in 2003.
"I slid about 100 yards down the interstate, face first with just a thin face shield protecting my face from the asphalt. My motorcycle-specific jacket was torn at the shoulder and elbow," said Williams, who has also taught motorcycle safety for more than 15 years. "My gear allowed me to walk away from the wreck."
From helmet to boots, the right gear will provide comfort and protection from abrasion, impact, and the elements.
Head and eyes
"Your helmet will be one of your most important purchases," said Imre Szauter, government affairs manager for on-highway activities for the American Motorcyclist Association. "Don’t skimp on it, but you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to buy a good one, either. If your helmet is sized properly and has the features you’re looking for, it’s money well spent."
When selecting a helmet, visit a dealership or store and try it on. You may not know how the helmet purchased online will fit."If your helmet is uncomfortable, try a different one," said Williams. "Everybody’s head is a little different."
The American Motorcyclist Association recommends purchasing a DOT-compliant helmet because it will provide an acceptable level of protection. Replace your helmet after an impact or every three to five years. Helmets come in a variety of styles, from half helmets to a full-face helmet with a flip-up shield. Many states require riders to wear a helmet and eyewear.
"In the Midwestern states where Grinnell Mutual insures motorcyclists, helmet laws range from no regulations to full helmets and restrictions on the kind of padding they have," said Pam Bryan, director of commercial underwriting at Grinnell Mutual. "Many states also require eye protection. A grasshopper to the eye can be devastating."
Upper body and hands
A jacket and pair of gloves should provide a balance of fit, comfort, and protection that is right for you and the length of your ride. It’s especially important to think about protecting your hands from heat loss while riding, especially in cool or wet weather.
"As the motorcycle is moving, the wind accelerates the loss of heat from the body. Your hands are often the first to get cold on a ride," said Szauter. "You don’t want to lose the mobility you have in your hands, because they help steer the bike and operate controls."
Lower body and feet
At a minimum, wear sturdy jeans or some leg protection. Boots designed for riding will be comfortable while providing foot and ankle protection.
"Jeans will not provide much protection for abrasion or impact, but they’re certainly better than shorts," said Szauter, who sometimes rides his sport touring bike to work.
Eventually, you will stop your motorcycle and put your feet on the ground. Shoes or riding boots with quality soles allow riders to plant their feet well and hold the bike upright, especially on wet or oily roads.
Enjoy the ride to work
Whether you ride to work or ride for pleasure, wearing comfortable gear that protects you will help make every ride an enjoyable one.
"Prepare for the worst and hope for the best," said Williams. "If you’re out there in shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops, and no helmet, how have you prepared for the worst?"
For more tips on how to enjoy motorcycling and other recreational activities safely, visit the Front Porch blog at grinnellmutual.com.