It’s really important to wear the right clothing when you’re riding a motorbike. Whether you’re riding a moped or a high-performance bike, having a crash can be extremely serious – but having the right equipment will help to protect you.
Safety helmets and eye protection are crucial for safe riding so there are legal requirements to make sure you’ve got the necessary protection.
Visors and goggles
If you wear a visor or goggles when you ride, your visor or goggles must comply with either
- a British Standard and display a BSI Kitemark
- a European standard that offers a level of safety and protection at least equivalent to the British Standard; carries a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark (ECE 22-05).
A visor or goggles will protect your eyes from wind, rain, insects and road dirt. See GOV.UK for the visor and goggles standards.
Keep your visor or goggles clean so you can see the road clearly all the time. To clean your goggles or visor, wash with warm soapy water. Never use solvents or petrol because these will damage the surface.
If your visor or goggles get heavily scratched, you’ll need to replace them: scratches can distort your view and cause dazzle and glare.
Do not wear tinted glasses, visors or goggles if you are riding in the dark or if there is poor visibility, e.g. in foggy weather.
When you buy a helmet, make sure it fits snugly and comfortably. Your helmet will get looser as your wear it so if it’s loose when you buy it, it’ll become too loose and could come off in a collision.
If your helmet has any damage or has a serious impact, you’ll need to replace it. You cannot always see damage but the helmet may not protect you in a crash. For this reason, never use a second-hand helmet or try to repair a helmet.
- British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI (British Standards Institution) Kitemark
- UNECE Regulation 22.05
- any standard accepted by a member of the European Economic Area that offers a level of safety and protection equivalent to BS 6658:1985; it must carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.
Your clothing will protect you from cold and wet weather: if you get cold and wet while you’re riding, it’s difficult to concentrate properly. Your clothing will also give you some protection if you fall off your motorbike.
Motorbike clothing can be made from leather or synthetic materials such as nylon. Think about whether you need all-weather protection from your clothing (synthetic materials are better for this), or whether you’d prefer greater protection and reduced wind resistance (leather is better in this case).
Whatever your clothing is made of, make sure you look for extra protection for your shoulders, elbows and knees. Try on different types of clothing for fit and comfort, talk to clothing suppliers about what you need and buy the best clothing you can afford to make sure you’re as well protected as possible.
Do not buy second-hand kit. It may be cheaper but you do not know what's been done to it, so it might not protect you if you have an accident.
Protection for your hands is really important: never ride without gloves because if you fall off, even at low speeds, you could seriously injure your hands.
Your hands can get very cold when riding: you will not be able to operate the motorbike controls properly if your hands are too cold.
Leather is the best material for gloves because it’s tough, supple and water resistant. When it’s used with modern materials, it can be used to make waterproof gloves. Cheap gloves will not give you as much protection.
You’ll need to wear good boots or stout footwear when you’re riding a motorbike. Wearing sandals or trainers will give your feet no protection if you fall off.
Motorbike boots protect your feet
- from cold and wet weather
- if you fall off
- from knocks and bumps while you’re riding.
They can be made from leather, rubber or plastic: leather gives the best protection if you’re involved in a road traffic incident.
Make sure your boots are comfortable and that you can operate the foot controls easily when wearing them. Try on lots of different boots and buy the best you can afford.
Many road accidents involving motorcyclists happen because another road user did not see the motorcyclist. Using visibility aids will help others to see you. Remember you need to be visible from the side as well as the front and back.
Fluorescent clothing and light or brightly coloured clothing will make you easier to see during the day. Having your headlight on dipped beam will also help. At night, reflective material will make you more visible.
Noise and cold
Riding a motorbike is very noisy – the engine and air turbulence around your helmet will make a lot of noise, which can be tiring and can damage your hearing permanently.
Wear ear plugs to protect your ears from noise; you can also reduce noise by using a fairing or windscreen to direct the air over your head. Some helmets are designed to reduce the noise caused by wind turbulence.
When you’re riding in cold weather, you can quickly get really cold, especially your hands and feet. This will affect your concentration and your ability to control your motorbike.
Try wearing thin extra layers inside your gloves and boots to keep warm. If you do lose feeling in your hands or feet, find somewhere safe to stop and warm up before you carry on riding.
There’s more information about motorbike clothing and protection in The Official DVSA Guide to Riding – the essential skills and Better Biking – the official DVSA training aid DVD (TSO Shop).