So, for whatever reason, you need some bike gear. Maybe you just bought your first motorcycle, or you had a bit of a tumble and you need to replace some bits. It’s easy to get good gear with a fat wallet, but good gear needn’t cost an arm and a leg. Read on:
1) Put a lid on it
Riders are required to wear a helmet in Canada, so this is one piece of gear you need for sure. And since it protects your head, it’s the most important equipment you’ll buy. However, many riders get caught up in the idea that paying less for a helmet means the buyer is stupid – “$50 helmet, $50 head,” and it’s often used to support the idea you need to spend $500 or more on a top of the line skid lid. But carrying that idea through, does that mean a rider who’s spending $500 on a helmet only values their head at $500? Because, that’s still a fool’s bargain.
Fact is, if you’re spending $50 on a half-helmet with a suspicious-looking DOT sticker, you really are making a dumb choice. That helmet won’t even protect you from road debris kicked up from a passing semi, let alone an actual crash.
But there are many affordable helmets which carry high safety ratings at a cost much lower than the premium brands. Brands like Icon and HJC offer great value for your money, and still have pretty flashy graphics, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re not sure how safe the helmet is if compared to a higher-priced model, check it out on the UK government’s helmet safety guide here.
Realistically, you ought to be able to find something for a couple hundred bucks at your local dealer. Speaking of your local dealer – you should buy a helmet you’ve tried on in person, as an ill-fitting lid could be dangerous in a crash. There’s no harm in a little Internet shopping now and then, but you don’t necessarily know the helmet will fit you when it arrives, and you don’t know if the postal workers threw the helmet around in the mailroom.
Realistically the cost of a cheaper lid will be less comfort, more weight and they can be noisier but don’t assume that $$$$ equals better safety. We’re not taking a side in that dogfight, but you can read some back-and-forth here.
Whatever you do, don’t buy a used helmet – you don’t know how it’s been bounced around. Drop a helmet once, the manufacturers say, and it may not be as good at protecting you in a crash.
2) Give ‘em the boot
Don’t take a chance that regular footwear will protect your feet in a crash – they won’t. Riding boots need to offer support, abrasion resistance and ankle protection (a foot trapped between a sliding back and the asphalt will get ground away if not protected).
Even work boots offer only minimal protection, and steel-toed boots that protect your digits so well from impacts from the front or top can cut off your toes if the boot gets twisted around the wrong way in a crash.
Buying used is not ideal, since almost everyone’s bike boots stink pretty bad after a bit of use and there are some unpleasant medical complaints than can be passed along in them too (and they’re not something you can just throw in the washing machine either), but if you search the clearance sections of most online retailers, you’ll find the seasonal turnover of styles means you can find a reasonably priced pair without too much trouble.
Good luck trying to find a cheap pair of waterproof boots though; although many claim waterproofness, in our experience, even the big-name manufacturers have a hard time keeping boots watertight for very long.
3) The pants & jacket racket
Now here’s an area you can really save some dough. It’s pretty easy to tell if a jacket has been crashed in, and most jackets can be thrown in the washing machine, so you should be able to buy a used jacket without any worries.
You can search Kijiji, regional riding forums, or eBay. Global riding forums like ADVRider are worth checking out, if you want higher-end stuff, although you pay more for shipping. I purchased a used Olympia AST jacket on ADVRider in 2008 that I ran for two or three seasons, crashed in, then passed on to my father-in-law, who still uses it, despite a chewed-up sleeve.
Most online retailers have a selection of marked-down jackets as well, and if you pop into your local dealer regularly, you’ll find they usually try to clear them out at the end of the season as well. Your discounts might not be as sweet, but you’ll be sure it fits.
The rules of jacket-buying also apply for riding pants, although there’s not as much turnover with riding pants because many riders don’t bother buying them. Don’t assume your jeans will offer you much protection – they won’t! Consider a pair of riding pants or jeans designed for riding, made with abrasive resistant material and even some armour. You can check out some reviews from a couple years ago here.
From our experience, cheaper pants and jackets can still offer good design and protection but they tend to suffer from lack of longevity. Editor ‘Arris still uses a pair of Aerostich pants that are getting on to 15 years old, but his Icon suit from two years ago has already been retired.
4) Hand in glove
We;’re always amazed at CMG by how many people we see riding sans gloves. Your hands are the first things that you hold out in a crash so don’t expect to have much skin left if you’re not wearing gloves. And besides that, gloves offer warmth and protection against insects too.
You don’t see a lot of adverts for used gloves in forums or Kijiji, but there is some turnover. This is another area where you can find discounts on discontinued styles, though. If you aren’t concerned about whether your gloves have knuckle armour, you can also go with some heavy leather work gloves from a place like Marks Work Wearhouse. Stay away from wimpy deerskin driving gloves, or those floppy canvas gloves – you want something that will actually stay together in a crash.
5) The other bits
Good gear combines both waterproofing and protective qualities (see: Aerostich, Rev’It!, Dainese, etc. ), but cheap gear likely won’t – at least, it won’t for long. Plan on spending money on a rain suit. You don’t need to spend a fortune here – Frogg Toggs and the like offer affordable waterproofing and have some other advantages over zip-in liners, too. There are other bits of kit you’ll likely accumulate over time, such as a balaclava or neck warmer, or visor squeegee – just keep an eye out on online retailers’ sales, and you should be able to pick this stuff up on the cheap.
Of course, the cheapest way to get stuff is for free. Chances are, if you ask, you’ll find your riding buddies or friends have an old jacket, or gloves, or something, they can lend you if you’re starting out. I’ve given away plenty of gear to friends starting out, and my longtime riding buddies have done the same. You could save a lot of money if you just find out if anyone has spare gear kicking around – money that could be better spent on gas.
Got any money-saving tips for riders buying gear? Comment below.