Recommended riding gear
At Travel Torque we take our riding gear quite seriously. If you DO NOT have a full face helmet, an armoured riding jacket, riding boots, riding gloves, knee protection then you will NOT be permitted to join a TT ride. Our experience has shown that riders who do not kit themselves out intelligently and adequately are the first ones who begin to suffer as the days progress. And god forbid should you go down, only a fully protected rider can get up and carry on with only but a bruised ego. And while you're considering gear please remember, this is your body we are talking about. Don't compromise on quality for the sake of price, which we Indians are famous for doing. Following are tips for the kind of gear you should have on you all the time. Long rides or short ones. Because TT believes in ATGATT (pronounced at-gat) 'All the gear all the time'.
HELMET: Of all the body parts that need to be protected first is the head. An unprotected head can shatter if it hits the tarmac at even 20 kmph. So what of riders who believe they are fine with half face helmets. Well, research has shown that 30% of all fatal injuries afflict the chin area. A half face helmet shows your wonderful face to the world but it also makes you an accident waiting to happen. Also a full face helmet protects your face from flying debris and what not. Just ask anyone who has had a bee sting them in the face or a stone hit them in the eye. Remember full face helmets are life savers in the event of a spill. And a word of advice, please don't skimp on quality. Because a quality helmet is not only comfortable to wear (remember you will be wearing your helmet for upto 8-10 hours a day) but it will also save your nut should you go down. As someone asked me once 'what value do your put to your head?'
RIDING JACKET: The second most important piece of gear that you must own is the riding jacket. There are countless styles and functionalities available to you in the market. From full leather jackets to textile jackets to mesh jackets to four season jackets you can have it all. But it can become confusing for the newbie. So what is the perfect jacket? The jacket that you are wearing during a particular season is the perfect jacket. What that means is that each season will require you to wear different gear. In the winter leather works wonderfully. But as the temperatures rise it is prudent to move towards textile jackets with vents or even full mesh as leather will become unbearable to wear. So riders who live in colder climes will need to invest in winter gear and summer gear. As will riders who do a lot of cross country touring, riding from varying climates e.g. the Ride to Goa from Delhi is like riding from winter into summer. And that is where the four season jacket makes a lot of sense. Jackets from brands like Revvit, Dianese, Spidi, Klim, Alpinestars are good choices. These come with inner layers for warmth and waterproofing which can be removed as the temperature rises. And they even have vents for very effective cooling. Or you may ride with two jackets. A leather jacket for colder climes and a mesh jacket for hotter weather. And while you're at it why not go for hi viz colours that attract attention from motorists, another life saving idea. And again don't skimp on quality.
RIDING BOOTS: Your ankles, shins and toes are very vulnerable areas when you're on the road. Ankle high boots without protection may seem adequate in the city but highway debris can be missile like especially when you are travelling at over 100 kmph. Good quality shin high riding boots not only afford you riding protection way beyond ordinary boots but they also protect you from engine heat and silencer burn. Gortex lined boots will give you waterproofing but they can be extremely warm in summer. However in a tropical country like ours it makes sense to own boots that allow for some ventilation as well, but they will not be completely waterproof. It will always be a toss up between snug water proof, winter boots and summer comfort. So it might make sense to have a summer pair and a winter pair if you live in the north. But on a ride like Delhi to Goa where you will experience cold and warm its better to go for ventilated boots rather than gortex. And again don't skimp on quality.
RIDING PANTS: Riding in normal trousers is not recommended at all. Comfortable riding pants or riding jeans with knee protection is the way all seasoned riders head out. Textile riding pants while offering good utility and protection are not very suited to our weather. In the cold months textile pants are great but as we approach spring and summer textile pants tend to get stuffy and make your legs sweat. Experience has shown that riding jeans with kevlar in the hip and knee areas are your best bet. Not only do they look great they offer good protection against road rash. If you combine them with knee and hip protection (purchased separately) then you are A ok. This combination is so perfect even in cold and warm weather that you would be hard pressed to find anything more comfortable to ride in.
CE RATED ARMOUR PROTECTION: CE rated armour is the difference between a shattered bone and a bruise. From chest to back to elbows to shoulders to hips to knees, armour is available for all body parts. Well almost. Most riding jackets are supplied with CE rated armour at the shoulders, elbows and back. If they are not then they will have a pocket at these locations for inserting after market armour. Moving lower it is imperative that your knees are protected because they are extremely vulnerable in a crash. Products from manufacturers such as Knox, Alpinestars offer a wide variety of armour. For instance you can wear a knee guard over your pants such as the bionic knee offered by 'Alpinestars' or go for one under your pants such as the one offered by 'Knox'. Many concepts and designs are available in the market and you can mix and match it to suit your gear. So experiment with styles and fits but remember above all, do not ride with gear that has no armour. A five lac hospital bill or 10,000 in armour? You decide.
HYDRATION BACK PACK: This may seem like a trifle but experience has shown that sipping water constantly not only keeps fatigue at bay but also saves time while riding. This is because riding in our climate is extremely dehydrating and while you may think that stopping every 2-3 hours for road side tea (Chaai) will suffice, it will ultimately catch you on the wrong foot. Know this that your body may loose upto 5 - 6 litres of water during a 10 hour ride in summer. And if you do not hydrate your body constantly with ORS (oral rehydration salts) you will end your day with a blistering headache or worse with an accident. This is because dehydration = fatigue = loss of concentration = accident. And with another day of riding ahead of you the downward spiral only gathers momentum until you are reduced to a whimpering motorcyclist of your original self when you arrive at your destination. And while you're looking for a hydration pack why not get a bright coloured one that adds an extra element of visibility to the motorist behind you.
RIDING GLOVES: Riders who ride without gloves are like boxers who come to the boxing ring without gloves. It may make you seem a tough cookie but in reality you are playing a different sport. Your hands are the weakest part of your body and the most tactile. Protect them. Small stones can shatter your knuckles without warning ending your ride there and then. You should always tour with at least two pairs of gloves. A warmer leather glove for morning rides and cooler mesh gloves for the afternoon. This is more so when you ride from Delhi to Goa. A leather, gortex or textile windproof pair for the cold mornings in the North and a Ventilated textile pair when the temperatures and humidity rise as we ride south. Non ventilated leather gloves will get very sweaty and make you miserable in the heat. While ventilated gloves worn in the cold will make your hands numb delaying reaction times when you have to hit that brake. Also ensure that your gloves have knuckle and finger protection. Very important when stones and debris come flying from car wheels. And again don't skimp on quality.
PROTECTING THE NECK: In your quest for suiting up adequately it is important not to forget the details. For instance the neck is an area often overlooked by riders. Because of the carotid artery and the jugular vein the neck is very prone to heat loss during the winter or over heating during the summer. And if the neck becomes too cold the blood vessels constrict and this can lead to a black out. Similarly in the summer if the neck becomes too hot the blood vessels dilate leading to excess blood to your head causing severe head aches. In the winter your best friend is a wind proof fleece lined balaclava that you can tuck in under your jacket collar into your middle layer. Be smart enough to buy a riding balaclava such as the one from Knox, as regular ones are too thick to go under your helmet. Similarly during the summer you can beat the heat with a cotton neck gaiter. And remember no matter how hot it gets keep the neck gaiter on as it also offers protection against insects and flying debris.
COMMUNICATION SET: A good communication set makes life easier and lots more fun when you're riding in a group. It becomes critical if you must keep in touch with the ride leader or road captain as you can exchange information with ease and in real time. And you can listen to music and answer your phone calls while riding your motorcycle. A word of caution, do maintain a normal volume while you listen to music while riding otherwise you might not hear that big truck bearing down on you behind your back, even if its blaring its horn.
AND FINALLY WHEN YOU HAVE IT ALL IN YOUR BIKING CUPBOARD REMEMBER TO WEAR ALL YOUR GEAR AND SPEND TIME ON THE ROAD BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT FOR A LONG RIDE. BECAUSE YOU DONT WANT ANY NASTY SURPRISES 2,000 KMS FROM HOME. BECAUSE A COMFORTABLE RIDER IS A SAFE AND HAPPY RIDER.