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The Street Motorcycle Protective Gear Guide

>> Ashley Benson

"Protective armor," sound like you're going to war? Well, when you hop on a motorcycle you kind of are going to war. No matter whether you're riding through the mean streets of the city, through the back streets of the country or on the race track, riding a motorcycle means that you're at war with a number of obstacles that could leave you hurting. Anything from a texting teen behind the wheel to some unexpected bad weather can turn your amazing ride into the worst day of your life in seconds. And it's moments like those that you'll be glad that you armed yourself with all the right protection.

Hopefully, you already know that this means investing in a good riding jacket, the right type of helmet and some good gloves. But when it comes to protection, you'll always want to have more than you need, rather than need it and find out that you didn't have enough. So while that jacket may have some built in protection and those jeans may seem thick enough, don't wait for a crash to find out that they don't hold up against the asphalt or that car that didn't see you coming.

There is a lot of additional protective armor out there in the market but a lot of it is geared towards off-road riding and the challenges that come with it. So knowing which protective gear is good for street riding can be a little overwhelming. But the first thing that you should keep in mind before buying a chest protector or some knee guards is that there really is armor made specifically for street riding and wearing something that is made for off-road riding might not only get you weird looks from other riders, but may not give you the protection that you wanted when you bought it. Gear for off-road riding is made for much different obstacles such as crashes at much slower speeds and debris whereas a street rider will get up to some seriously higher speeds (especially on the highway). When buying protective gear, if you're not sure whether or not it'll work on the street, check to see if it has a speed rating, and if it does, how high of a speed that the gear will protect you at. Most off-road gear won't protect you at the higher speeds that you will be riding at on a street bike.

Back and Chest Protectors

A whole lot of important stuff is all wrapped up in your torso. From your spine to your kidneys, protecting it all can be the difference between losing your life and walking away from a crash. We fully believe in the power of chest, back and waist protectors of all shapes and sizes. Our favorites are the protector jackets. These wonderful little inventions are perfect for wearing as an extra layer underneath your riding jacket and give great protection to all of the areas of your torso. This Spidi Defender Armor is so light that you'll practically not even know it's there but still offers extra shock and impact absorption. On the other hand, the Alpinestars Bionic 2 Protection Jacket is great because it not only protects your front and back, but has some serious armor for your elbows and shoulders as well.

Another great way to keep your spine safe are the spine protectors that attach around the waist and are worn under your jacket. These little guys don't offer as much protection but still put an extra layer between your spine and the street. Their biggest upside is how they won't cut down on your range of movement or get in the way at all as long as you buy one that fits properly. But since most come with adjustable waist straps, it's pretty easy to get them cinched up around your midsection.

If you don't want to add an entire extra layer to your riding gear, another option for spinal safety is the armor inserts for your jacket. Many jackets already come with a removable spine protector insert but you should always check to make sure that it gives adequate protection. If it's not, it's easy to buy a better insert that meets standards and replace the inadequate one. This is especially important if you choose not to ride with any other additional spine and back protection and buying one like this Joe Rocket CE Rated Back Pad is super cheap and well worth it.

When buying any of these little gems, there are a few things to look for. Always buy a protector that is CE certified. Just as helmets need to be DOT certified, anything that protects your back should follow some serious standards to make sure that it does the job. In order for back armor to be CE certified, it must fall under one of the European Standard EN 1621-2:2033 levels (level 1 or level 2). This ensures that the back protector will absorb the shock from a certain amount of impact. The only downfall to any of these protectors is that they don't guarantee to keep your torso safe from any damage that can happen due to twisting of the body.

Support Belts

If you find yourself going on a lot of long rides, you'll find that you not only need protection for accidents but from that annoying ache in your back as well. One great way to avoid this uncomfortable issue is with a support belt like this Alpinestars Touring Kidney Belt. These belts are specifically designed to protect your tender kidneys and lower back from the vibrations that can really get on your nerves (literally) on long rides. They provide stability and comfort and some also feature a CE certified lumbar protector to ensure that your spine is safe.

Technical Undergarments

In a crash, technical undergarments won't be the difference between life and death (that's what all that other armor is for). Instead, these little pieces of motorcycle wear will protect you from discomfort. Hot or cold, there's not a whole lot you can do about the temperature outside when you ride. And since we forgo the comfort of an air-conditioned or heated car to enjoy the freedom of a motorcycle, we need other ways to keep ourselves comfortable. Technical Undergarments like these Alpinestars Summer Tech Performance Tank Top help to regulate your body temperature, wick away moisture and reduce muscle fatigue while the Alpinestars Thermal Tech Pant will help to keep your legs warm on a cold day without bogging you down.

Riding shorts like the EVS Nitro Circus Impact Riding Shorts feature padding to help keep you comfortable and protect your gluteus-maximus from vibration. These shorts can really help to keep you comfortable when riding. You do need to keep in mind, however, that the padding that is built into shorts like these is meant to keep you comfortable and not necessarily meant to protect your legs in the event of a crash. We recommend wearing them under a pair of riding pants that offer protection and armor and not relying on these shorts to keep you in one piece if you crash.

Elbow and Knee Protectors

There aren't a whole lot of these on the market for street riders. Many people would prefer to wear a jacket that has built in elbow armor or some riding pants that have the knee protectors already attached. Not only can this be more convenient, but you reduce the chance of the pieces sliding around in a crash. If you hit the ground, the impact may move the armor from the area it's supposed to be protecting since it's not attached to anything.

However, if you choose to ride in ordinary jeans or find yourself falling in love with a jacket that just happens to be lacking a little in the elbow department, it's better to get the separate knee and elbow protectors than to ride without any protection in those parts of you body.

And if your jacket offers a place for armor inserts like shoulder armor such as this Joe Rocket CE Rated Shoulder Armor, spend the extra few bucks to get the armor and adorn your jacket with it. Trust us, they're not offering the insert capability just for the heck of it. It's also not a bad idea to check the armor that may be removable that your jacket came with. Sometimes you'll find that your jacket's armor is a little on the weaker side or not CE certified and you may want to replace it with something slightly heftier.

Ear Plugs

One of a rider's biggest enemies is fatigue, especially on long rides. One of the largest contributors to this issue is the noise caused by rapid air flow past a rider's helmet. Many helmets on the market may save your noggin in the event of a crash, but they commonly exceed the safe levels of noise that your ears can handle. This means that, over time, you may find your ears ringing and your head not too terribly happy with you. And with motorcycle riding, you want your head to be at its best performance. This is why we recommend the use of a good set of ear plugs like these Hearos Xtreme Protection Series Ear Filters to help cut the noise.

How you choose to protect your body isn't the most important part, it's that you're actually doing it. It can be easy to brush off the need for protective gear and think that an accident would never happen to us. But accidents do happen and being prepared is the only way to ensure that you'll walk away from a crash. After all, we've all heard the "that spine protector saved my life" stories.

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