Looking good on a Bike - by Christopher PaulPosted by daryl
Back in the fifties it was easy.
All Marlon Brando had to do was don a pair of Levi’s, a white T-shirt, a Schott Perfecto jacket, a pair of cowboy boots and a cap, and he was the leader of the gang.
Well, today there’s such a wide variety of gear out there that, at times, it’s difficult to know what you should wear to make an impression.
Of course, safety and equipping yourself with the right level of protection for the type of riding you are doing must always be of paramount concern but, let’s face it, we all want to look the part and, frankly, in the biking world it’s far too easy to end up looking foolish, so here follows our tips and hints for looking good on a bike.
Let’s start with leather.
We all have a leather jacket; it’s a motorcycling staple and no self-respecting biker should be without one somewhere in their wardrobe. And we’ve got nothing against leather pants either. Leather provides a good level of abrasion resistance and it fits snugly. So it’s rightly popular.
But don’t get carried away. Leather does little to keep you warm on the bike. It doesn’t provide great protection from the wind and, when it rains, it absorbs water like a sponge. As a result it becomes horribly uncomfortable and you freeze your nuts off!
In truth, it’s not that much better when it’s belting hot. You can get sticky and sweaty and your skin can’t breathe.
Basically, if you get up in the morning and it’s sunny, and if the weather forecast says that it’s going to stay sunny all day, you can then risk putting on your leather jacket and even your leather pants. But if it doesn’t, don’t! don’t risk it.
Which brings me to the contentious subject of racing leathers.
Now sports bikes, especially race replicas, are a bit passé these days. So it’s difficult to look cool on a 190mph behemoth.
Looking cool is about a certain level of understatement and it’s difficult to appear as though you’re not trying too hard when you’re sat astride a lairy, race-inspired, pseudo-racer.
After all, who on earth can ride, and where on the road can you use, a bike that develops nearly 200bhp? It’s a bit of nonsense really on our roads, and not really what real world biking is about.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a powerful bike that accelerates like a rocket and makes a great noise as much as the next guy, but modern sports bikes are just a little bit embarrassing; the two wheel equivalent of a large gold medallion. Very un-cool.
But the worst sin, in our view, is to ride your sports bike on the road wearing wear a one-piece leather race suit on the road.
Wear a set of leathers if you’re a full or part-time racer, or if you’re on a track-day.
Don’t wear a set of leathers of your over thirty and weigh more than ten stone.
There is nothing, simply nothing, that looks more ridiculous than a beer gut tightly constrained in a leather suit. And what do you think you look like when you try and walk over to the cafe or the kiosk to get yourself a bacon sandwich. Ridiculous. That’s what you look like. Especially, if your suit is multi-coloured or carries race graphics!
A one-piece suit was not designed to be walked in. It’s designed to get you from the seat of your bike to the seat your pit garage. That’s all. And no your bottom does not look good in it. It looks saggy, horrid and a bit sad. More Quasimodo than Jon Bon Jovi.
Anyway, I’m glad I got that off my chest. We really don’t know why so many people buy leather suits. They’re impractical, they’re uncomfortable and shout ‘look at me’ in a way that is totally, totally lacking in sensibility.
The next motorcycling ‘faux pas’, in our view, is to wear manufacturer branded gear.
Wearing a BMW adventure suit on your 1200GS, a Ducati racing jacket on your Panigale or a Triumph branded helmet on your speed Triple tells everybody you’ve got no imagination, no sense of independence, and indeed no sense of style.
Okay, so it might have been convenient, and even financially sound, to finance your clothing when you financed the bike, but do you really want to look like an advertising hoarding for a motorcycle manufacturer? And what will you do with your gear if you change bike in a few years’ time.
We’re quite into off-road and adventure riding here at Motolegends, and we’re big fans of the machines offered by both BMW and KTM, but there’s nothing less authentic than a biker who looks as though he’s ticked every box in the accessory and apparel catalogues. I really don’t understand why so many GS riders feel obliged to wear BMWs standard off-road suit. There’s nothing wrong with its quality, but eight out of ten owners seem to wear it and it’s like a uniform. It’s about as far from the spirit of adventure and the freedom of the open road as it’s possible to conceive. Come on guys, get a grip, be your own man, not a mannequin!
Looking cool on a motorcycle is about wearing the right gear for the right conditions, it’s about wearing the right gear for the kind of bike your riding, and it’s about looking as though you threw on whatever came to hand when you left the house, even if it took you hundreds of pounds and many hours to achieve that look.
If you’re touring or commuting, go textile and buy the best you can afford, but do your research first. There are some terrifically effective technical brands out there that will do a wonderful job in protecting you in everything from a tropical rainstorm or a baking desert, to a snow covered mountain top.
But, with some exceptions, you tend to get what you paid for.
A jacket and pants from an unknown name may look the business and seem identical in design to the more expensive gear you’ve seen on the internet or in the stores, but looks can be deceiving.
That £150 jacket and those £100 trousers just won’t provide the safeguards when you need them too. The best gear out there employs the best fabrics and the latest, patented technologies. The research that goes into developing them is not cheap, so the cheap gear that sometimes seems to dominate the UK market doesn’t utilise them. Much of the time this cheap gear will work fine, but when you’re cold and wet and you need all your wits about you, you may well regret not paying the extra few quid!
Those brands that you come across in every dealership you go into and which you find on permanent discount on the internet don’t tend to be the names that offer the quality gear.
If something is discounted heavily, that’s normally because it wouldn’t sell at the manufacturer’s recommended price, most probably because the quality wasn’t there and bikers didn’t think it represented good value. Chopping the price by 10% or 20% doesn’t make the gear any better.
In truth, however, your opportunity to really look good and establish your own style is easier at weekends when you are not travelling too far and when you can be reasonably confident of the conditions.
To us, this is the most fun kind of biking. Breakfast down at Goodwood. A Sunday morning ride out with a few mates. A day at Brands Hatch, perhaps. Or a sunny weekend riding through Dorset and Devon.
This is when you can have a bit of fun with what you wear.
If it’s style at all costs, you can’t go wrong with almost any textile or wax cotton jacket from Belstaff.
A Mojave for that off-road or dirt-tracker look. Or a Trialmaster for more of a touring feel, or if you’re after the traditional post-war British biker vibe.
A Belstaff jacket that is particularly hot this year is one called the Riding Jersey. It looks like a leather jacket but it’s not real leather. It’s so comfortable, you could wear it all day, yet it comes complete with all the armour you need for protection on the bike.
When it comes to a leather jacket, the modern motorcyclist really is spoilt for choice. Spidi, Halvarssons, Roland Sands, Belstaff and Furygan. They all make really stylish leather jackets in a wide array of styles, finishes, weights and colours .
For that worn and aged effect, you can’t beat Roland Sands and Halvarssons. And Furygan does some cool looking styles too.
But our own particular favourite leather jackets come from Spidi. Their leather is the softest most supple and most luxurious you’ll find in the biking world.
These are jackets that are as comfortable to wear as anything you’ll find at Gucci or Prada. They are so nice that you’ll want to wear them off of the bike every bit as much as you’ll want to on the bike.
We’re talking about the JK, the Bonneville and the Top Gun. You wouldn’t do a track day in one of these and you wouldn’t want to commute in one on cold, dark, wintery mornings, but on a sunny Saturday or Sunday they’re unbeatbale.
For an authentic classic look, a brand new jacket from an unknown German maker called Germot certainly takes some beating.
Now, personally, I’m a traditional Barbour International fan, but Barbour simply hasn’t moved with the times and if you want even a minimum level of protection, you can’t really wear a Barbour. Unless, like me, you wear it over something like Spidi’s Defender armour set, or the equivalent from, say, Forcefield.
Well, the Germot International Trials jacket is basically Barbour’s International with Forcefield armour in it. Really, that’s no trade secret. That’s what it is. A four pocket, wax cotton, belted jacket with armour. And a zip-out thermal liner. All for the price of a basic Barbour. It’s a great jacket. And a veritable bargain.
So how about pants?
For the weekend, provided you think it’s not going to tip it down, we’d usually go for leather or protective denim jeans.
All the usual suspects make leather jeans, although we prefer those backed with further protection in the vulnerable area. And, for comfort, we have a penchant for leather jeans with stretch panels like the Zorro pant from Halvarssons or the Tekkers from Spidi.
But these days you can also consider reinforced denim jeans.
Protective jeans are developing fast and, in the not too distant future, we will see denim jeans with the protective qualities of leather, but already styles like the Wrap from Halvarssons or the JK and Furious from Spidi are light years ahead of a pair of Levi’s or Wranglers.
The problem with jeans is that they’re not waterproof. Well most jeans aren’t, but Halvarssons Yago wax denim trousers are, so they’re worth a look.
To complete the picture, you’re going to need a helmet, a pair of gloves and some boots.
Helmet-wise, for weekends we like a full-jet, open-face helmet. Think Bell or the Premier Jet. Or AGV’s RP60.
Now an open face is certainly a compromise, so they’re not for everybody, and if you want more protection, there are thousands of full-face lids to choose from.
But don’t go too lairy. Solid colours are safe, and some bands or colour stripes are fine, but the more intricate the design, the more the number of colours, the lower the cool factor.
Our favourite full face helmets come from Shark, Bell and Schuberth. And if you want to cut out the noise, go for a flip-up helmet. Because of the way they slide around you neck, they fit better and are quieter.
Roof’s Boxers are pretty tricky, as are AGV’s Diesel helmets, if you like that helicopter pilot look.
Gloves are important, but remember we’re talking weekend wear, and not a trip to the Outer Hebrides. So leather is what we’re talking about and the softer the better.
For leisure riding, avoid titanium inserts, hard plastic knuckle protectors, scaphoid sliders and race team colourways.
What you want is a short glove, maybe even perforated, and probably something more imaginative than standard-issue black.
The number one glove maker in the world is Spidi. Always has been. My own personal favourite is the Class glove in brown, but the Urban glove, the Logik and the T-Road are all beautifully put together.
Roland Sands, the new boys in town, also do some great summer gloves, like the Mission and the Diesel.
From Halvarssons, there’s the Briad, the Safety Group and the Origo.
For something more aggressive, we like Furygan’s AF56. But for outright, cool style, the Apex gloves from Troy Lee are right up there.
For sheer understatement, you might want to try deerskin. We do a great deerskin glove that we bring in from the US that’s got both a thermal and a waterproof lining. You’d never know they were biking gloves and they cost less than £40.
If money’s no object, Rukka’s Atlas glove will do everything you want and will never let you down. No change from £170, but they’re a terrific glove.
Which brings us to feet.
Of course, if you’re riding somewhere to get a quick bite or want to be able to walk around a little, when you get there you don’t want a full-on race boot with sliders and all the gubbins. You might not even want a full-height boot at all.
For this kind of riding we like what Stylmartin has to offer. Many of their boots look like an ordinary walking boot, but the technology and the protection is on the inside. They’re subtle and stylish. They don’t shout biking, but you can rely on them. The particular styles we have in mind are the Indian and the Spitfire.
Spidi’s boot company, XPD, also does a nice waterproof short boot called the XJ H2Out.
Of course, the best boots in the world are made by Daytona and they’re all pretty understated, even their military spec. Travel Star GTX Pro but, for weekend work, their short boot called the Arrow Sport GTX is very nice indeed.
So, there you have it; the art of looking cool on a bike.
Keep it simple. Don’t just stick with black; it’s a bit of a cliché. Make sure that you don’t look too much like a biker. No race numbers or sponsor logos. Wear something you’ll be comfortable walking around in, and don’t be afraid to mix it up. It doesn’t all have to be leather. A wax cotton jacket goes well with your leather trousers and a leather pant works fine when matched with a textile jacket. And don’t feel that you need to match your brands either. It’s best to pick and choose the individual garments you like, whoever makes them, and then just wear them.