General question

Q. I am interested in buying a motorcycle, but have never learnt how to ride one so would like to do that before I make the financial commitment. Will appreciate any advice you can give?

A. If you are not sure that you will stick with motorcycling, or simply don't know what sort of bike to buy, then start learning on someone else's bike and see how you go from there. I can provide a bike that you can learn on (as can most motorcycle rider training schools). If, later you decide to get your own bike, I offer advice on what you should buy and can continue teaching you to ride on your own bike.

FAQs about protective motorcycle wear

Q. Do I need to have my own helmet and protective clothing if I want to learn how to ride a motorcycle?

A. most motorcycle schools will provide at least helmets and gloves for their students (I certainly do). Otherwise there is no need to purchase any special clothing to begin with. Just make sure you wear full body covering ie. jacket to suit the weather or at least a long sleeve shirt (preferably one made of sturdy material), long pants, enclosed shoes or boots. Your first lesson(s) will be held in a car park or quiet cul de sac and you are unlikely to go a lot faster than walking pace. Of course, if you wish to buy your own gear at any stage, I can offer advice in this regard also.

Q. If I buy my own riding gear, do I need a set of O'Neals/Dainese/Alpinestar sort of stuff? I don't plan to do track days at the moment - I just want to know what's recommended for daily wear (leather will cook me during the 40 degree summers - especially leather stuff that is at least 1.3mm thick as recommended for motorcycle gear).

A. In summer for street riding I just wear a lightweight cotton jacket with kevlar lined sleeves, a pair of kevlar-lined cargo pants and motorcross gloves. You gotta be practical - no sense dying of heat exhaustion! When it's cooler I wear a leather jacket, road sport gloves and fully-lined kevlar jeans.

As an aside: Many riders looking for maximum safety look to race leathers as the answer. However when you consider that road riders are more at risk of suffering impact injuries rather than injuries caused by sliding down the road, arguably full race leathers may not increase safety on the road as much as they do on a race-track. Thus I'd advise a new rider to rather invest their hard-earned cash on an advanced rider course/defensive rider course and learn how to ride more safely - rather than on a couple of cows' worth of leather gear.

Ultimately the level of protective gear worn is a personal choice - the law only requires that you wear a helmet.

Q. What about gear for the rain and the winters?

A. Just buy a cheap raincoat from a camping store (sized to fit over your jacket) and pair of plastic overpants. You can buy purpose made waterproof overboots or apply waterproofing your boots.

Q. I read somewhere that the best protection/armour is provided by something called POLYNORBONENE or Norsorex. This is CE certified. Where can I find gear (jackets/pants) with this stuff?

A. Never heard of it. For the best protection buy leather motorcycle gear with plastic armour inserts.

Q. How do I know the protection provided in pants and jackets is any good?

A. Ask other riders, use common sense and read reviews. If it sounds too good to be true - it probably is.

Q. I have a pair of Scarpa hiking boots with ankle protection. Do I need to buy a pair of biking boots?

A. Not for general riding. I also have a pair of Scarpa boots and they are stronger than most cheap touring boots and much more comfy to walk in.

Q. Any opinion re: kevlar-lined Jeans. Seems scary to me - just a layer of kevlar. of course there is Kevlar and there is kevlar.

A. The trouble with some kevlar-lined jeans especially the 'cargo' style is that they are only partially lined. I have a burn scar on my hip as a result of sliding on a part of my kevlar-lined cargos that was unlined. I recommend you get jeans which are fully lined. I have also crashed in a fully-lined pair as well and that time I came away without a scratch.

Q. Finally, any suggestions for gear for my wife?

A. The same as the general recommendations I made already but perhaps go with proper leather pants rather than kevlar jeans. Less chance of scarring from friction burns. Scars may look cool on guys but not on girls.