Is A Motorcycle Helmet Really Enough To Protect You?

By: Robert Thomson

Most states have laws on the books that enforce wearing a motorcycle helmet. When looking into online forums, blogs and articles, many people talk about the safety issues of going without a helmet, argue about whether helmets really save lives and so on. In fact, there is so much focus on helmets, that other protective gear gets passed by and ignored.

Is this oversight intentional or accidental? Do people not talk about the other protective gear because they think everyone uses it, or because nobody thinks about it? Is the helmet really enough?

Think about it. A motorcycle helmet can only protect so much. Although they can keep your head from serious injury, what protects the rest of your body in an accident? Motorcycle helmets are great, but not great enough to save your skin.

This is where protective gear comes in handy and why wearing it is important. Here are just a few types of protective gear you may be missing out on:

- Eye protection - For those that wear full-face helmets, you're already covered. However, if your motorcycle helmet doesn't have a face shield, you need to protect your eyes against insects, rocks, dirt and anything else that might hit your face while driving. Make sure you get goggles or glasses that are scratch free and shatter proof. In the event of an accident, a shattered lens can cause severe damage.

- Jackets - Have you ever wondered why so many motorcycle riders wear leather jackets? It's not just a fashion statement. Leather is much more durable than other types of material. While a leather jacket in and of itself may not stop serious injury, it can protect you in the event of a spill. Some wear jackets made out of Kevlar for more protection or even armored leather jackets with armor in the elbows, shoulders and back.

Before buying a jacket, make sure that it will be comfortable while riding. Sit down and mimic riding your bike to see how it will fit. Your jacket should close tight around the neck and wrists and have good ventilation (zippered vents work well for this). As well, it shouldn't ride up in the back.

- Safety vests - Some would rather not wear a bright jacket, preferring to wear safety vests over the jackets. Safety vests are brightly colored with reflective patches on them for night driving. They may not protect your body if you have an accident, but they do lower the possibility of having an accident.

- Pants - Heavy pants are often worn to combat the possibility of getting burnt on a hot engine. However, whether you wear them over your jeans or by themselves, motorcycle pants are another excellent form of protection. Specifically designed for motorcycle riding, these pants are leather, Kevlar or other synthetic materials. Like the jackets, some have armor at the knees and hips.

- Boots - The right boots are especially important for protecting your feet, ankles and calves. Heavy-duty leather boots are the best protection you can get. You want slip resistant soles and short heels, so your feet can grab the ground as well stay on the motorcycle peg. You also want the ankle support to be at least 6" tall. Not only will this strengthen your ankle against breaking, but taller boots will protect you from burns.

- Gloves - Last but not least, gloves should always be worn, no matter the weather. Leather, Kevlar or ones with carbon fiber knuckle protection are great to have. However, they can't be too bulky or you may not be able to feel the controls.

While gloves may not seem like protective gear, consider that most people throw out their hands first when they fall. This means that, rather than elbows, knees or head hitting the pavement (protected by the above equipment, of course), it may very well be your hands. The skin, bones and tissue of your hands are near as hardy as the rest of you. It's quite possible to scrap off deep layers of tissue, shatter bones and worse. Reinforced gloves definitely lower the possibilities of severe injuries.

If you're a beginning rider, you probably have motorcycle helmets on the brain. However, even though helmets are always a good idea, going without the rest of your protective gear isn't. Get dressed before you ride!

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