We've all had it happen, and it's usually quite unpleasant. It's that point during your travels when the realization hits that you are completely unprepared for the intemperate weather Mother Nature is force-feeding you. Whether it's extreme heat, cold or precipitation, most meteorological annoyances tend to send the unprepared, gung-ho motorcycle traveler hightailing it to the nearest shelter-usually in the form of a nice temperature-controlled motel room.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Some riders are unsure of the gear needed for even moderate weather, let alone for the extremes. The questions vary: What gear do I need? How outfitted can I get on a limited budget? Do I have to buy different gear for every season? Thankfully, it doesn't take a truckload of cash to get set up with a decent riding outfit. The fancier you get, the more it costs, but even a basic riding ensemble can be augmented by some very inexpensive methods to help outfox the nasty weather in which most of us find ourselves more often than not.
First, however, you need the basics.
Regardless of weather conditions, there are a few items no rider should be without: A helmet, gloves, jacket and boots. Laura Douglas, a paramedic with the Enloe Hospital Flight Care in Northern California, sees the evidence every day. "Of the accidents we go to there are a lot of leg, facial and jaw injuries," says Douglas. "And most of the facial trauma is a result of not wearing a full-face helmet. And of course road rash, which can be very painful. Road rash is basically a skin burn, and when you have a large amount of fluid loss and exposure, you're susceptible to the same infections that a burn victim would be at risk for. The difference we see between riders who wear protective gear and those who don't is drastic." We won't go into the myriad products available on the market, but here are a few points to take into consideration when purchasing gear.
Most DOT- or Snell-approved helmets offer good protection, but like the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. That's not to say a $150 helmet won't do its job, but it most likely won't offer the same level of comfort, fit and protection a top-shelf model will.
Look for an adequately vented helmet that fits snugly (remember, it will break in) and is void of any pressure points, especially in the forehead and temple region.
Jacket and Pants
Whether you choose leather or fabric riding apparel really depends on your needs and preferences. Leather is considered unrivaled in abrasion resistance, but is not as versatile as the Cordura and composite fabric materials that many of today's popular riding suits are made of. These suits accommodate clothing underneath and are generally easy to slip on and off. Several suits advertise 100 percent waterproof fabric, a plus if you'd rather not don a rainsuit when the skies open. Look for impact-absorbent padding or armor in the shoulders, elbows and back.
Helmut Kluckner, owner of Helimot European Accessories, gives this advice for buying a jacket. "One important thing is to make sure the sleeves are not too long," says Kluckner. "If the sleeves are the wrong length, the armor will be in the wrong spot and won't be as useful in a crash. The leather will also bunch up near the wrists and be uncomfortable. Also, beware of hard armor directly underneath the first layer of leather. There should be a layer of foam padding between the armor and leather, otherwise the armor can cause the leather covering it to fail."
When it comes to protecting legs, many riders wear jeans on a daily basis. While better than wearing shorts, jeans offer virtually no abrasion resistance. When purchasing a jacket, it's a good idea to find a model that zips to protective pants, complete with padding in the hips, knees and preferably the tailbone.