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Risk Hierarchy: Information - Rider Ed - Driver Ed - Conspicuity - Bike Defect - Ultra-Defensive Riding - Crash Avoidance - Injury Mitigation - Crash Scene
Protective jacket and pants combination, or Riding Suit, coverall style
Wikipedia on Motorcycle Safety Clothing. We rate various types of gear on comfort, conspicuity and protection. Comfort is important in both cold and hot conditions, as exposure and heat stroke are safety issues. As conspicuity is a factor for avoiding crashes in the first place, we are willing to trade conspicuity for protection. The Maids study found benefits in the reduction of injury from protective gear, although many riders with protection were hurt or killed. You can at least expect a reduction in road rash from protective gear in a crash.We point out that good gear is about the only available defense against crashes with deer or other large animals. We've investigated and can't come up with any defensive riding strategy that works with deer, which seem to be responsible for a couple of hundred fatal crashes per year.
|Kangaroo or other race-quality leathers||Way too hot||Not bad with right layers||Not good, need rain gear||OK||Not so good. Many leathers come in black only||Best available|
|Way too hot||Not bad with right layers||Not good, need rain gear||OK||Not so good. Many leathers come in black only||Very good|
|Cordura coveralls or separates||Good, the best ones are vented||Not bad with right layers||Good, you won't need to pack rain gear||Good||Available in high vis, most have autoreflective panels.||Very good 1050 denier cordura has similar abrasion resistance to leather|
|Denim and air-mesh kevlar with safe-seam||Good, though hot compared to regular denim||Not as good as leather or cordura||Not good, need rain gear||Good||Not so good.||Very good Kevlar can have similar abrasion resistance to leather|
|Perforated polyester summer riding jackets and trousers||Good||Bad||Not good, need rain gear||Good||Available in bright colors and with autoreflective pathes and piping.||Ok with good armor, least resistant to abrasion of all.|
Whatever type of ridewear you choose, we like armor in as many places as we can get it. These would include shoulder, elbow, back, hip, knee and shin protection. There is a lot of good armor out there, the best is CE rated and we also like the dual-density foam pads sold by reputable manufacturers. The Maids study claims major reductions in injuries from protective gear.
We note that a cordura riding suit with 1000+ denier patches in critical areas, with safe-seams stitching and gore-tex liner. a full set of dual-density armor in a high-vis color with autoreflective patches scores well on every measure. They're custom made and pretty expensive, but you get a lot with it. I've worn one down to 35 degrees F, and up to 118 degrees in Memphis. Fairly comfortable both times. It is zipped on over street clothes, whereas most of the other options, at least those involving trousers or joined combinations need to be changed into. The manufacturers point out that these suits don't offer as much protection as race leathers, but these suits are a fair compromise in the comfort and conspicuity areas.
The secret to cold-weather riding is to layer. You can use regular cotton long-johns, but I find it hard to do a head check with michelin-man layers inflating my leathers or coverall.
Our favorite technique, learned from glacier climbers, is to use multiple, very light layers. We like an inner layer of silk interlock combinations, followed by medium-grade winter sports polyester thermals, a regular street layer of jeans and shirt, and a winter polar fleece. You'll be warm almost down to freezing with a wind-proof outer layer.
There's electrical thermal wear, neck sealing devices, hoods and masks for under a helmet, body armor suits and various separate armor pads available.