If you’re a beginner motorcycle rider, it might be hard to figure out which brands of helmets, jackets, gloves, and boots are legitimately good brands for sportbike riders. As with equipment for any activity or sport, there are many to choose from, with varying degrees of price, quality, and cool factor.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it mean that brands not appearing here are bad. It’s just a list of the brands that we like, purchase, and believe in. Also keep in mind that it’s critical to purchase gear that’s specifically made for motorcycle riding; for example, work boots and gloves are not going to fare well in a crash.
But enough already, on to the list.
Pro tip: get a full face helmet, period. That is unless you want your jaw shattered in an accident while wearing a silly half-helmet. Here are the brands we know, like, and use.
- Nolan / X-Lite
Keep in mind that each maker has a range of products, some nicer (and more expensive) than others. And make sure the helmet you’re buying meets current DOT (USA), ECE (Europe), Snell (independent), or similar standards in your country. Those standards are crucial because they require the manufacturers to meet appropriate rigidity and impact absorption standards that make survivable accidents actually survivable. These brands in particular perform well in the UK’s SHARP helmet safety testing.
Jackets / Pants / Leathers
Pro tip: nothing protects better than leather. If you have the unfortunate experience of a spill, leather will help protect you against abrasion. Think of the scrapes and bleeding you’d get just from jogging and taking a spill; now imagine going 65 MPH and taking a spill in a t-shirt. Get leather stuff; get perforated leather stuff if you live in a warm climate.
- RS Taichi
Pants are often overlooked for some reason; a lot of new riders think it’s ok to just wear jeans. It’s not. If you go down on the freeway, sliding for 50 feet in jeans is going to end badly. Get leather pants that have a chance of surviving that type of abrasion.
Pro tip: get leather full gauntlet racing-style gloves that go past your wrist. They offer more surface protection than wrist-length gloves, and there’s less chance they’ll slip off if you crash and are sliding on your hands. Plus racing gloves tend to have extra protection for the palms and pinky fingers, areas that tend to take it the worst in a spill.
- Joe Rocket
Pro tip: get full height boots that go up to your shins. You’ll get extra protection for your ankle, and they’ll resist being pulled off in a slide if you crash. Do NOT wear sneakers or work boots, and for f***’s sake do not wear shoes with laces. A friend of mine used to ride in sneakers; one day he pulled into his driveway and went to get off the bike, but his laces got caught on the foot peg. Unable to free his foot, the bike went down on that side, and the blunt peg went through his foot. Yes, through his foot. Surgery and months of rehab followed. Get the damn boots.
These are simply the brands that we know, like, and use. Just because some brands aren’t listed doesn’t mean they’re not good; it just means we don’t use them. The reasons can be substantive (poor safety scores in the aforementioned UK SHARP ratings), or subjective (some brands might be perceived as “cheesy” by some of us), but just make sure you’re getting motorcycle-specific gear that meets the appropriate safety standards and will protect you as well as possible.