If you want to stop your motorcycle from getting stolen, the best way is to chain it to something solid so that it can’t be moved. Chains and disc-locks will slow a thief down, but unless the bike is physically shackled to an immovable object, then it’s easy for them to simply lift your motorcycle into the back of a truck. Once they’ve done that, they can move it to a place where they can cut through any locks with no risk of getting caught.
But what do you lock the bike to? It needs to be something that can’t easily be cut through or moved, otherwise it’s pointless. You need a ground anchor – a hardened steel loop that you can chain your bike to, permanently secured to the ground, or a wall, so that it cannot be moved quickly or quietly.
There are plenty of ground anchors on the market, but how do you know which are strong enough to protect your motorcycle? One of the toughest standards for motorcycle security products is run by the UK’s Sold Secure. This independent testing lab was originally set up by the British authorities to help consumers choose locks and other security equipment that would offer a better level of protection.
So, ground anchors which have received Sold Secure certification are a safe bet.
There are a few different types of anchor. Some are designed to be sunk into wet concrete that then permanently sets to hold them into place, and these are most commonly placed in the ground. Others can be secured into place using masonry bolts that can attach the anchor either to a concrete base or wall.
Kryptonite Stronghold Anchor
This bolt down ground anchor has a Sold Secure Gold rating for motorcycle security, making it about the strongest you can buy. It’s designed to be bolted to the ground or a wall, and comes with two masonry drill bits (a small one for a pilot hole, and another for the correct bolt size) to help you fit it.
Because the bolt heads are sunk into the body of the anchor itself, they are extremely difficult to remove – the heads cannot easily be ground off with an angle grinder. Once this thing is fitted, it’s not going to come out with a lot of noise and mess.
The surface of the anchor is rounded and the shackle folds down flat so that it can safely be ridden/driven over without damaging your tires. It’s just 1.65inches high with a diameter of 7.5inches. The shackle itself is made of 16mm hardened steel-carbon alloy, so it’s not going to be easy to cut through.
Oxford OF440 Anchor Force Ground Anchor
This Sold Secure Gold rated bolt-down ground anchor uses two hardened steel plates to provide a dual-layered hard target for thieves. The plates are secured to the ground or a wall with four anti-tamper expansion bolts.
Once firmly screwed into the base, these bolts then have a ball bearing and steel plug attached to their heads, which makes it all but impossible to remove them quickly and quietly. If a thief tries to take the bolts out, the plugs just spin harmlessly leaving the anchor securely fastened. Even drilling them out would be hard – the only way to get through is to cut through the two separate plates, which would be noisy and slow.
The advantage of this ground anchor is that it’s large enough to run at least two chains through. So if you need to secure a couple of bikes, or you just want to put extra chains on the same bike, this is idea.
Oxford OF442 Terra Force Ground Anchor
Another Sold Secure Gold rated anchor, the OF442 is designed to be sunk into concrete, making it even harder to attack. It’s pretty easy to install this type of anchor, as you can buy a small bag of ready-mix concrete from most hardware stores. You just need to dig a suitable hole, mix up the concrete and then just set the anchor while it’s still wet – within 24 hours it will be ready. Pro-tip – buy more concrete than you think you need, it’s not expensive and it’s far better to have too much concrete than too little for this kind of job.
The shaft of the anchor has two protruding steel bars running through at right-angles, so once it’s all set into hard concrete there’s no way any motorcycle thief is going to be able to pull it out of the ground. The loop at the top is made of 1 inch thick case-hardened steel, which should resist most kinds of attacks, and the inner loop is a little over 2 inches in diameter so most chains should fit through easily.
Choose this anchor if you want the additional ultra security of having an anchor sunk into concrete, or you just don’t want to do the drilling required for a bolt down anchor.
Thieves love motorcycles, they’re popular with both joyriders and professional thieves because they’re relatively easy to steal and resell. The best way to protect yourself is to make it as hard as possible for the bad guys to move your bike.
A good chain and lock will slow them down a lot, and thieves hate being slowed down because it increases the risk of getting caught, so a lot of the time they’ll leave your bike alone and find an easier target. The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit 1415 Chain and Lock is one of the best motorcycle security products currently on the market, as it provides a highly visible deterrent as well as being extremely tough.
Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain
The chain itself is made from manganese-steel, a hardened alloy that is much more resistant to abrasion and impact than ordinary steel. This means that it’s harder to cut through with an angle grinder, and to shatter with a hammer and chisel. The steel used in the chain links is 14mm thick and six-sided rather than round, and this makes it better at standing up to attacks from hacksaws and bolt-cutters.
The chain is wrapped in a protective nylon sleeve so that it won’t scratch your bike’s paintwork when you lock it up. It’s available in different lengths, but the most common is 5ft. This is ideal for shackling your bike to a ground anchor or other solid object, whereas the shorter versions will probably won’t work well with motorcycles.
The New York Fahgettaboudit Disc Lock
The lock can be used to shackle the ends of the chain together, or as a standalone disc-lock. The lock features an oval, hardened steel crossbar which is 15mm thick, designed to resist leverage attacks – where a thief uses a crowbar to try crack open the shackle.
The body of the lock is also made of hardened steel, and is made to be highly resistant to picking and drilling. It’s been tested and approved by Sold Secure (a security product testing lab set up by the British police), as well as Thatcham (a testing lab set up by the British insurance industry). These two standards are internationally respected, and provide a high degree of confidence in the New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Lock’s quality.
Like any chain, this Kryptonite product is not 100 percent thief proof – but the point is that the amount of time and noise it would take somebody to break this lock is more than most professional thieves would risk. Kryptonite rates its own products on a scale between 1 and 10 for security, and the Fahgettaboudit is its highest rated lock and chain.
The total weight of the lock and chain is 15.25 lbs, so it’s quite substantial but not so heavy that you couldn’t carry it around on the bike in a backpack. It comes supplied with three stainless steel keys, one of which has a built in LED light, making it easy to unlock the chain at night. You can register your lock with the company’s KeySafe program, so that if you lose all of the keys you can simply order news ones using a unique code.
This is one of the most popular locks on the market for motorcycles and cyclists alike, and with good reason. If you want a solid lock and chain that will make thieves think twice about trying to take your bike, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Lock will do the job.
Kryptonite is one of the most trusted brands for cycle and motorcycle security products. Founded in 1971, the company invented the concept of the U-lock and has refined its products over 40 years.
The whole point of riding a bike is that you get to wear a bad-ass motorcycle jacket. But even though looking awesome is obviously the most important point, there are other things to consider when you’re buying a new jacket.
If you should crash, it plays an important role in keeping all of your soft squishy bits intact and stopping your brittle bony bits from breaking. This one of the main differences between a proper motorcycle jacket and a flimsy biker-style fashion jacket, and is achieved in two ways.
Firstly, there’s impact protection, which stops your elbows from shattering into a million tiny pieces when you get bounced onto the tarmac. This is provided by body armor inserts in the jacket’s shoulders and elbows. Some also feature padding or armor in the back to protect your spine from being hit.
To state the obvious, armor works by absorbing energy from an impact, so less energy is transferred to your body and the risk of broken bones is reduced. It’s important to pick a jacket with good quality armor, but how?
The Europeans have created a strict standard for motorcycle body armor and, while it’s not legally required in America, it is widely used and provides a good indication that the jacket you’re buying will protect you properly. Armor which meets this standard should protect you from broken bones at typical street speeds. There are two versions of the standard:
EN-1621-1 (also called CE Level 1) covers body armor intended for any part of the body except the spine, so for motorcycle jackets this standard is most relevant to shoulder and elbow armor.
EN-1621-2 (CE Level 2) is a tougher variant of the standard specifically for armor intended to cover the spine, which needs extra protection, so jackets with built in back protectors should meet this standard.
So, If you’re buying a motorcycle with body armor (and you should) look out for these standards – the jacket or its packaging should have these numbers displayed somewhere. There’s no equivalent American rating system at present.
Does this mean that motorcycle jackets which don’t have these standards markings won’t offer enough protection? Not necessarily, but there’s simply no way to know. If you choose a jacket that does comply with these standards, then you can have a much higher level of confidence.
The other thing you need to worry about when you get bounced off your bike at 70mph, is what happens to your body while it’s sliding and rolling down the tarmac. Without proper protective gear, big chunks of skin and flesh are going to get badly shredded.
This is why you need abrasion protection. Traditionally, leather has been a popular material for motorcycle jackets because it offers good abrasion resistance. But not all leather is created equal, and for any motorcycle gear it should be at least 1.2 millimetres thick in order to offer enough protection. Believe it or not, kangaroo leather is the best and strongest available, so a lot of manufacturers use that.
Leather is not very waterproof, once it gets wet it is heavy and uncomfortable to wear and takes forever to dry. You can treat leather jackets to improve their water-resistant, but this doesn’t always work very well. A better option is to wear a waterproof jacket or oversuit on top of leather when it’s raining.
The other disadvantage of leather jackets is that they are not great in very hot or cold weather. In the cold you can at least wear extra layers to warm up, but in hot weather leather can be very uncomfortable – especially if you’re stuck in slow moving traffic on top of a hot motorcycle engine.
There are a lot of options for man-made textiles instead of leather, with many of the big manufacturers using their own brand of special materials. These are usually waterproof, breathable and a lot more comfortable in warm weather.
The disadvantage of textile motorcycle jackets is that they often do not offer the same level of abrasion resistance as good quality leather. But the fact that they are much more practical and comfortable in different weather conditions means that this is a tradeoff many riders are willing to make.
Whatever material is used, it’s important that the different panels that make up the jacket are double-stitched so that it will hold together in a crash. Even the best leather will be useless if the seams tear apart due to weak stitching.
Jackets for all Seasons
Most motorcyclists won’t want to buy more than one jacket, so they need one which will work well in all seasons. If you frequently ride in the rain you should probably avoid leather, and pick a textile jacket with good waterproofing.
It’s also worth thinking about how the jacket’s cuffs work. If you ride in the rain, you want the cuffs to fit over the sleeve of your gloves so that the water runs off, instead of into the glove. Most good jackets feature zippers which allow the cuffs to be opened wide enough to fit over gloves, and often Velcro straps to help keep the jacket cuff sealed tight over the glove so that wind doesn’t get in.
If you often ride in very hot weather, conventional motorcycle jackets tend to get uncomfortably hot, so mesh jackets are a good compromise. These are made out of a man-made mesh textile that allows air to flow through whilst still providing a degree of abrasion resistance, as well as the usual armored padding on the shoulder and elbow joints.
If you ride all year round, through winter and summer, it’s a good idea to find a jacket with a removable lining that will provide extra insulation when you need it. Trying to keep cool in warm weather can be tough, but many jackets feature vents on the chest, arms and back which can be opened (usually with a zipper) to let air flow through.
Finally, make sure you pay attention to the collar of the jacket. If you need the jacket to keep you warm, then the collar should fit snugly around the neck so that heat doesn’t escape and cold air doesn’t blow in.
Popular Men’s Motorcycle Jacket Styles
Classic Leather Biker Jacket
Made popular in the fifties, this is what most people picture when they think of a motorcycle jacket. These days they’re more of a fashion statement than practical motorcycle gear, as they’ve been replaced by more modern designs and materials.
All the same, the classic style is hard to beat if you want to look good. Remember, make sure the jacket is constructed from good quality leather (at least 1.2mm thick) with double stitching. Avoid jackets which look the part but don’t offer any real protection.
Motorcycle Racing Style Jacket
A more modern, sleeker looking variant on the classic biker jacket, this style has a sportier look. This type of jacket usually has more safety features and is more likely to include body armor inserts on the elbows and shoulders, as well as a spine protector.
Like the classic jacket, these are most likely to be made from leather so it’s important to choose a good quality one. Good leather offers better abrasion resistance than most other materials. This type of jacket is best suited to motorcyclists who only use their bikes for leisure in good weather. For commuters or tourers who need to ride in a all weathers, there are better options.
Motorcycle Adventure Touring Jacket
Designed with comfort, convenience and weather protection as priorities, these jackets are designed for riders who spend all day on their bikes and have to cope with lots of different riding conditions.
They can also be great for commuters, but bear in mind that for the sake of comfort some touring jackets might not offer the best levels of crash protection. That said, many of them do feature CE rated armor and good abrasion resistance, so if you find the right one it should do the job well.
Touring jackets tend to feature lots of pockets for storing phones, maps, wallets and other bits and pieces because, if you’re riding on long journeys, you don’t want to rummage around in your bag every time you stop for a coffee break.
Modern Textile Motorcycle Jacket
Built as a practical all-round jacket using modern design and materials. A good textile jacket will provide great crash protection as well as a reasonable level of weather-proofing so if you get caught in a downpour on the way to work you won’t get soaked.
They usually have removable linings and zippered air vents to help you stay cool in the summer months. Textile jackets often have safety features that you won’t find on their leather counterparts, such as high-visibility patches and reflective piping.
Although they might not look as cool as leather jackets to most people, modern textile jackets are great for everyday practicality and that makes them ideal for commuters who need to ride their bikes to work.
As with all motorcycle safety gear, don’t be tempted to cheap out and save yourself some money. That instant we all hope will never come, when something goes wrong and you feel yourself being thrown off your bike at speed, you’ll be glad of every last dollar you invested in your gear.
A motorcycle jacket is supposed to protect you from death or serious injury. So don’t buy a cheap jacket just because it looks good. Spend a little extra on one with the best protection you can afford.
And if you are unlucky enough to have an accident, always get your jacket checked out by a professional – if it looks damaged and you can’t get it safely repaired, then replace it with a new one.
Doing routine maintenance or repair work on a motorcycle usually means you have to get down on your knees to get to all the important stuff. This makes things difficult and uncomfortable, before long your back and knees are aching and you just want to quit.
But there’s a solution – you can use a motorcycle lift table to raise the bike up to a more comfortable level, providing you with much easier access to the engine and other components. Lift tables used to be expensive items, which meant they were mostly reserved for professional motorcycle workshops, but now they’re much more affordable.
What is a motorcycle lift table?
A motorcycle lift table is a large flat piece of steel plate which you can wheel the bike onto, with a wheel-chock (also called a wheel-vice) at one end that locks the front wheel into place, securing the bike in the upright position. Most models will also feature metal d-loops which allow the bike to be further secured with tie-downs.
Usually the steel plate that forms the table will have a textured surface which makes it easier for the motorcycle tires to grip, and less reduce the risk of slipping. Also, most lift tables will feature a ramp so that the bike can be wheeled on or off easily, and this can often be removed for convenience once the table is in use.
Once the bike is safely secured to the table, it can be raised up to a suitable level, using compressed air, hydraulics or some other system. Air operated tables will require a suitable compressed air source, so might not be ideal for everybody, whereas hydraulic systems are self-contained. Most hydraulic lift tables are foot operated, with pedals to raise and lower the the table.
Lift tables are rated for different weights, so owners of large touring or custom motorcycles will need to ensure they choose a table that can safely handle such a heavy bike.
Some high end motorcycle lift tables feature a built in jack or center-stand, which allows the user to raise one or both of the wheels so that they can be removed for tire servicing. Most tables also feature a ‘drop-out plate’ which, when removed, makes it easier to take off and replace the rear wheel.
Do not confuse lift tables with other equipment for lifting bikes, such as a motorcycle jack, which is a much smaller device that sits under the frame or engine block to raise it off the ground. Jacks are good for taking wheels off and servicing tyres, but don’t provide the stability that a lift table does. If you’re going to be doing a lot of work on the bike, a table is the best option because it won’t wobble or tip when you’re applying a lot of pressure to troublesome bolts and suchlike.
At the time of writing this table is listed at under $500. It uses a hydraulic lift, which requires no external air or power supply – you just use a foot pedal to raise or lower it. It can be raised to its full 30 inch height in under 20 seconds. Despite the low price, the table is fully featured. It has a diamond plate steel base, adjustable wheel vice, drop out plate, and d-loops for tie downs.
The table itself measures 86 and 1/2 inches by 26 and 3/4 inches, and it has a lifting capacity of 1000 pounds. Once raised to the desired height, the table can be mechanically locked into place for extra security.
At the time of writing, this table is priced at under $600. it uses an ‘air over hydraulic’ system, so you will need a compressed air supply for it. This table has most of the features that you’d expect from a high end product: a sturdy tire-vice at the front to hold the bike upright, a ramp, a drop-out plate, d-loops to attach tie-downs.
Don’t be fooled by the “light duty” name either – this table has a 1000 pound lifting capacity, and an 86.5 inch table length, so it can handle most motorcycles. It can be raised to a maximum height of 30 inches.
At the time of writing this table is priced at just under $1,100. If you want to work on really big bikes, you need extra lifting power, and this high end table can lift up to 1,500 pounds. It also has a large table area than the other tables too, 105 inches long and 24 inches wide.
The table features a ramp, adjustable wheel vice, and drop out plate. It also includes an integral center-lift to make it easy to lift the wheels off the able for easier tire servicing. It’s air operated, so you’ll need a compressed air supply with a minimum of 90psi.
This is the pricier option, but if you have a larger bike it’s worth the investment.
Batteries are the unsung heroes of motorcycle components. They sit quietly tucked away, getting on with their job and never really get noticed until they go wrong, and then suddenly you realize just how important your motorcycle battery is.
For the most part, modern batteries are pretty reliable – they can sometimes degrade over time, or if you leave them drained for too long without keeping them charged up regularly, and occasionally they can be killed by very cold weather. But even though the traditional zero-maintenance lead-acid battery (used by most motorcycles) is fairly bulletproof, there have still been some improvements in the design.
Gel motorcycle batteries are one of the most popular upgrades. A conventional battery contains a liquid electrolyte (sulfuric acid) and even though the battery is sealed, it still needs to be positioned correctly to keep that liquid acid where it needs to be. A gel battery, as the name suggests, does not contain liquid but a gel electrolyte, which does not splosh around.
The key benefit of using gel in a motorcycle battery is that it allows the designers to fit the battery into different positions in the frame because it does not need to be upright like a traditional battery. A gel motorcycle battery can be on its side or upside down with no problems. This means there’s more flexibility in the way the bike can be designed, which is especially popular among sports bikes and custom café racer builders.
There are other benefits to gel batteries too. The electrolyte cannot evaporate or get spilled, and are better at coping with vibration and high impacts, making them safer. Gel motorcycle batteries have a shorter recharge time than ‘wet’ batteries, but they are more likely to fail if they are accidentally overcharged, so for this reason you should always ensure that you only use a battery charger that is designed to work with gel batteries.
Another plus point for gel batteries is that they cope well with deep-discharge, so they can recover from being completely drained better that wet batteries, although this will still degrade their life if you do it too much. Gel batteries can also hold their charge better, so do not lose power as quickly if they are left charged up but unused.
Typically, gel batteries are more expensive than conventional motorcycle batteries, although as they become more widely used prices are falling thanks to economies of scale. It’s also worth noting that they have a shorter life-span, so might not last as long as other batteries. Another drawback of gel batteries is that they do not perform as well as other batteries in cold conditions, and can lose power under freezing point more readily that different types.
Are there alternatives to gel batteries?
While gel batteries offer several useful benefits over conventional wet lead-acid batteries, they might not always be the best option. Another type to consider is an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery, which uses spongy glass matting to store the electrolyte, rather than suspending it in gel.
The end result is a type of battery which has many of the same benefits of gel, but without many of the drawbacks listed above. AGM batteries cope with extreme temperature ranges a lot better, so if you live somewhere cold they’re a better option.
AGM batteries perform better than gel in situations where a quick burst of energy is required, for example, cranking a starter motor.
So, with all the same benefits as a gel battery, but with fewer disadvantages, our advice is that AGM batteries are a better alternative. And that’s reflected by most motorcycle manufacturers, which typically favor AGM over gel batteries as OEM equipment in their bikes.
Brake pads are one of the most important parts of your motorcycle, right up there with your tires. Like tires, good quality brake pads will improve the overall handling of your bike, but it’s when you need to do an emergency stop that they really matter.
If you have to scrub off a lot of speed quickly and safely, you need to know that your brake pads are up to the job so you can brake with confidence. Pads are consumable items, because they wear out over time, so they need to be checked and replaced regularly otherwise there’s a risk they will fail to work effectively in an emergency.
A brake pad consists of a flat metal base with a pad of material that is used to grip the brake disk tightly and slow the wheel’s rotation. That material wears down slowly, and you need to replace the pads before the material is entirely gone or else the bare metal base will be forced against the disc during braking, which will fail to slow the bike down and damage the disc.
On most motorcycles it’s easy to take the dust cover off the brake calipers to inspect the pads visually. If the pad material is worn down to 2mm, or the wear indicator is no longer visible, then it’s time to replace the pads. A brake caliper uses two pads, and you should replace both at the same time, and if your bike has two calipers on the front wheel it makes good sense to do both calipers at the same time too.
Again, as with tires, pads come with different types of material that will affect how the braking works. You can buy softer pads with more stopping power, and these will wear out more quickly, or you can buy lower-friction pads made from a harder wearing compound. Your motorcycle manufacturer will recommend what grade of pad to use, and for most riders it’s best to stick with that.
If you want to use a more powerful brake pad than is recommended for your bike, make sure you also have very good tires that can cope with more aggressive braking. Also, spend time practicing and getting use to the feel of the pads, because it takes skill to control a motorcycle under heavy braking.
Brake Pad Grades
The different levels of friction of brake pads is shown using a grading system of E to H, with E having the least stopping power and H having the most. Motorcycle brake pads are often graded with two letters which show the pad’s friction level when it is cold and when it is warm. In the past brake pads often did not work as well until they warmed up, but that’s not really true any more so even though we still have the same grading system it’s rare to see pads graded with two different letters.
In most cases, motorcycle brake pads will be graded HH, but check your manufacturer’s recommendation to be sure.
Brake Pad Types
The main difference between the different types of brake pads is in what kind of material the pad is made from.
Sintered – sintered pads have a very high level of metal particles in the braking compound. This provides great stopping power, and these pads are usually recommended for everyday road riding and for high performance bikes.
Semi-sintered (aka semi-metallic)– these have a lower level of metal particles in the braking compound and provide consistent braking regardless of temperature. Recommended for touring.
Organic (aka NAO, non asbestos organic) – often contain a material such as kevlar as an alternative to hazardous asbestos which used to be common in brake pads. Organic pads provide a smoother braking feel to sintered, and some riders prefer this. Can suffer from brake-fade where the pads lose efficiency under frequent heavy braking, so not recommended for sports riding.
Ceramic – the pad material contains ceramic particles, which provide different characteristics to metal sintered pads. They provide great cold performance and are less noisy than sintered pads. Ceramic pads are seen to offer the stopping power of sintered pads, with the same smooth feel as organic.
Brake pads are critical, so it’s important to buy from a trusted supplier. While there are a lot of brands in this market, we highly recommend staying away from the cheaper, unknown makes and sticking with those that have proven track records.
It’s always advisable to buy OEM pads from your bike manufacturer, but the third party brake pad brands we also recommend are:
The greatest advance in rider safety gear in recent years has been the development of inflatable motorcycle airbag jackets, vests and suits. Based on the same airbag technology used in cars, these vests automatically and instantly inflate in the event of an accident, providing a cushion of air to protect you.
Wearable airbags have been around for a while but have only recently begun to see higher levels of adoption from riders. This is largely thanks to greater visibility of the safety devices in professional motorcycle racing. Several racers have credited airbags with helping them to survive high speed crashes with no serious injury. As with many motorcycle related innovations, once they were tested in the crucible of motorsport, airbag vests became more popular with road riders.
With 4,000 motorcyclists killed every year on American roads, and 90,000 injured (according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) anything which can improve safety should be welcomed. According to a report from Research and Markets, global sales of airbag jackets are expected to increase by over 5 percent year on year between 2016 and 2020.
The report also points out that, at present, the relatively high price of these products are deterring many would-be customers. This is understandable, since even the entry level products cost close to $500. While there’s a clear safety benefit, that’s still a lot of money for many riders to spend on top of what they’ve already sunk into their other protective gear. It’s also worth noting that so far there had been little independent research into the effectiveness of these products, so motorcyclists might well wonder just how much additional safety they would provide.
There are three main types of motorcycle airbag products:
Airbag Vests – these harness-like devices are designed to fit over your current jacket. The main advantage is that you can use the vest with whatever jacket you choose, so you can use it with your summer or winter gear, and keep it when you buy a new jacket. The downside is that you have another item of gear to put on
Airbag Jackets – these are much the same as a standard motorcycle jacket, but with built-in airbags. The benefits are that all of the airbags are concealed from view, so the styling of the jacket isn’t affected, and you only have to put on a single item of gear rather than a separate jacket and vest.
Airbag Suits – full race-suits with integral airbags provide a high level of protection, at a price. Primarily designed for racers and track-day riders they are the most costly option but will give you the greatest chance of survival in a high-speed crash.
How do motorcycle airbags protect riders?
Although there are various designs, airbag vests, jackets and suits all offer approximately similar protection. They all feature a large airbag to cover the rider’s back and spine, another to cover the chest, and an inflatable collar around the neck. This last one obviously helps to guard the neck from direct impact, but also helps keep the head straight and prevents the helmet from compressing downwards onto the body. Some products feature additional airbags over the shoulders and legs.
The vest, jacket or suit is fitted with a small compressed air canister, and tethered to the bike with a lanyard. If you are thrown from your motorcycle, the lanyard activates the canister, which blasts air into the airbags. It takes milliseconds for the pockets to fill with air, so by the time you hit the ground or another vehicle you are cushioned from the impact.
But what if you forget to detach the tether before you get off your bike? Will it inflate as you walk away? No – the airbags will only activate if the tether is pulled with sufficient force, so simply walking away from the motorcycle won’t do it. You’d need to be thrown from the bike in order for it to work.
Some manufacturers, such as Dainese, don’t use a lanyard at all, but instead rely on electronic sensors to detect a crash and automatically inflate the airbags.
Motorcycle Airbag Manufacturers
The main players in this space fall into two categories . There are wearable airbag specialists, who often provide similar products for other markets such as horse-riding. These companies usually only offer vests.
Then there are the established motorcycle safety gear brands, who have added airbag products to their product lines. If you’re looking for airbag jackets, or race suits, these are the brands you need to be looking at.
Hit-Air is a Japanese company which began researching airbag-vests for motorcycle riders in the mid-nineties, finally launching its first product in 1999. The company’s safety products are widely respected and this is reflected by the fact that emergency services around the world use them to provide protection for their motorcyclists.
As well as offering a range of vests and jackets with its own label, Hit Air supplies its equipment to other motorcycle safety gear manufacturers to sell under their brands. The jackets come in a range of different designs, including the sporty HS-5, to the adventure styled EU6, pictured here.
A French company founded in 2001 by an aviation entrepreneur who wanted to improve safety in the light aircraft industry, Helite quickly became one of the early leaders in the airbag vest business. The company now provides wearable airbag gear for skiing, aviation, equestrian and motorcycling applications.
For motorcyclists, Helite offers an airbag vest (either high viz yellow or black) currently priced at $629, or a range of airbag jackets priced between $699 and $999. The company sells through a network of dealers across America, or you can buy directly through the online store.
A Chinese manufacturer which offers airbag vests and jackets for motorcycle and equestrian applications. The company has an official US importer, and its products can also be found on Amazon.
While we’ve no reason to doubt the quality of these products, we should point out that Moto Air is the manufacturer we were least able to find good information about. When it comes to motorcycle safety gear, trust is important and the company would do itself a big favour by establishing a more professional web-presence with better quality information about its products and technology. Moto Air products come at a good price, but there are certainly some question marks hanging over the brand.
One of the most respected brands in the motorcycle safety gear market, Dainese is widely used among racers and serious motorcyclists. The company entered the airbag jacket market a couple of years ago with it’s D-Air system which, unlike other manufacturers, does not use a lanyard attached to the bike to detect a crash, but instead relies on electronic sensors.
This has the obvious advantage of not having to tether yourself to the bike, it does mean you’re depending electronic systems which need a battery that has to be kept fully charged.
At present, the only such product available in America is the high end Dainese D-Air Misano Perforated Race Suit, designed for racers, track day heroes and road riders with a lot of spare cash. The suit uses such advanced technology that Dainese will require customers to register with them in order to ensure that it is properly maintained and working correctly. Other D-Air products are available in international markets, but right now there’s no news about when American customers will be able to buy them.
A motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment any rider will ever buy. Your brain needs the best protection you can afford, so it’s worthwhile getting the best motorcycle helmet possible. The moment you spot that car pulling out of a junction in front of you, you’ll be glad of every penny you spent on your helmet.
The manufacturers are constantly improving their designs, making their helmets safer, more comfortable and with better features, so here we present some of the best new models for 2017.
Bell has recently updated its popular Star range of helmets, and this is the top end model in the new line-up, designed specifically for racers and fast road riders. Obviously it has a big price-tag, but you’re paying for the very best in track-focused head protection. The helmet is incredibly light at just 1500 grams and has a highly aerodynamic outer shell design.
The helmet is compliant with all three of the most current motorcycle helmet safety standards so, in terms of keeping your head intact during a crash, this is as good as it gets.
This carbon-fiber beauty is one of the coolest looking motorcycle helmets for sports riders currently on the market. It’s also one of the top models from trusted brand, AGV, As well as meeting all the leading safety standards and providing race-focused design, the helmet has exceptional ventilation, ensuring good airflow even when the visor is down.
On a practical note, the lining can easily be removed for cleaning, which is good news for those of us who get a little sweaty in the warmer weather.
Updating Schuberth’s respected SR1 helmet, this new model updates the design for 2017. The new helmet has greatly improved aerodynamics, and reduced wind noise (unusual for sports helmets).
Reviewers have praised the quality of the SR2’s visor, providing excellent clarity as well as low fogging with the excellent ventilation system. As well as an all round excellent design and light weight of just 1300 grams, this is a very competitively priced helmet compared to others in the same class.
This latest model from Nexx is one of the lightest motorcycle helmets on the market, weighing in at just 1270 grams, lighter than many far more expensive options. There are two versions available – this one is made from a composite shell, and there’s also a more expensive carbon version which costs twice as much.
Even the cheaper version meets all of the necessary safety standards, although it doesn’t score quite as highly as some of its more costly competitors. Nevertheless, for under $300 this is a great value helmet that offers enough protection for most road riders.
Nothing ruins a motorcycle ride more than cold wet feet, and as as the weather turns bleak you need a good pair of winter boots to keep your toes toasty.
Your fancy sports boots might look good in the summer, but at this time of year it’s more important to keep out the rain and cold. Here are our favorite winter motorcycle boots for 2017, to keep your feet warm and dry so you can ride all the way through winter.
They’re not cheap, but if you want the ultimate weather and crash protection from a trusted brand, these boots are the best. Alpinestars drew inspiration from its popular off-road boots to build a boot for road riders to cope with poor weather conditions. They’re made with a leather outer and Gore-Tex waterproof membrane.
All over impact protection will help you to stay in one piece in the event of a crash, but is also designed to keep the boot flexible it’s easy to operate the bike’s foot-controls.
A great sub-$200 winter boot from Alpinestars. The boot is designed with comfort as its main priority, offering the flexibility riders need to precise control of the gear and brake pedals.
This boot is constructed from leather, with a waterproof but breathable membrane and easy access velcro straps. Although it doesn’t offer the advanced protection features of some of the more expensive products, this is still a great, durable boot, ideal for commuters rather than speed-junkies.
If you’re on a budget, or simply looking for a more classic style boot, the Tour Master Vintage provides good winter protection at a low price. It’s constructed from tough leather with a waterproof membrane, and features an oil proof sole to help keep your feet from slipping on spills.
This is not a fashion boot – it’s the real deal, well built and designed to protect riders if they should have an accident, with
Temperatures are plunging, but you’ve still got to ride, right? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, and a good pair of winter gloves will make riding in the cold much more enjoyable.
These are pretty much the ultimate winter gloves. They’re electrically heated to keep your hands nice and toasty, with three different heat settings, along with 3M Thinsulate material. They also feature carbon fiber knuckle protection so safety isn’t compromised.
The gloves are touch-screen compatible, so you can continue using your sat-nav or cellphone without taking them off. Starting at $155 for the smallest size, they’re not cheap, but if you want the best gloves to keep you riding through the coldest months, these are worth the money.
Designed for the winter sports-touring rider, this glove provides cold weather protection with the flexibility needed by performance riders. The glove has a leather outer, with stretch panels to allow comfortable, responsive access to the handlebar controls. Insulation is provided by a fleece lining and H2OUT waterproof membrane.
If you’re the kind of rider who doesn’t let winter slow you down, this is the glove for you. Available in three size options, starting at $145.
A great value sub-$100 glove, made of goatskin and textile mix, with GORE-TEX membrane to get the cold rain out whilst staying breathable to avoid the uncomfortable sweatiness you get with some winter gloves.
A double suede panel on the palm allows flexibility and good grip. A flock patch on the thumb allows riders to wipe rain and dirt from the helmet visor. Reflective piping on the back of the gloves helps increase your visibility during the dark months. For the price, this is a good quality glove.
Another excellent value winter glove from IXS. The outer shell is made from goatskin and textile mix, with inners consisting of a tri-fleece lining and soltoTex waterproof membrane.
The palm is leather, and there’s additional leather padding on the knuckles. For riding in the rain, there’s a rubber blade on the thumb to wipe your helmet visor clear. Don’t be put off by the low price – IXS is a trusted brand and the gloves meet all the required safety standards.
You never want to cheap-out when it comes to safety gear, but sometimes when you’re on a tight budget you just have to work with what you’ve got. These all-textile generic winter gloves should keep your hands warm and dry, and offer a basic level of crash protection.
If you can afford to spend more we’d recommend the IXS gloves, but if times are tough then these low-price alternatives will keep you riding in the cold. Just take it easy out there – winter is dangerous for bikers, and if you have to cut corners with your safety gear then you can at least use extra caution so you don’t have to test its crash-worthiness.