This post is about safety gear for riders. For fashion, check out my post on vegan motorcycle jackets.
In a previous life (well, circa 2006), I was very much a sportbike rider. For five years, a motorcycle was my main form of transportation. I commuted (in the HOV lane) on my bike, did weekend trips with hubby and friends, and took my bike to the racetrack. What a fun hobby–and an efficient way to travel!
Jacket: Fieldsheer (I think)
Gloves: Tourmaster (I think)
Back protector (not shown): Dainese
Helmet (not shown): HJC
It wasn’t until I adopted Frankie, my dog, that I started to use a car more and spent time at the dog park instead of on the twisties (that’s motospeak for curvy roads for you non-riders out there).
My handle (name) on motorcycle forums was vegbiker so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about vegan motorcycle gear. I outfitted myself with head to toe non-leather gear. Safety is paramount so I wore it all, rain or shine, summer or winter. I’ve racked up over 40,000 miles on sportbikes and I’ve been in two accidents (caused by someone else).
I believe non-leather gear is best for a few reasons. Mainly because I don’t want to wear an entire cow. But also because leather is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It absorbs sweat and other smells. If it gets wet it stinks, and more importantly, it loses its strength after being wet. With cordura, lorica, and kevlar as options, I wouldn’t choose leather. The Cadillac of motorcycle suits, the Aerostitch Roadcrafter is cordura, a non-leather material.
Jackets – Fieldsheer, Joe Rocket, Dainese, Tourmaster, Icon, and similar brands all offer jackets made of cordura, a tough, tear-resistant fabric that helps keep out the rain and wind. The jackets often have zippered flaps to let air through if it gets warm outside, and they usually have removable linings, making them great all-season jackets. There are even mesh summer jackets available that are still strong in a crash. When you buy a jacket, get one with armored elbows and shoulders–and make sure the sleeves are long enough when you reach forward.
Pants – The same companies that make jackets make pants. Again, get a pair with armor. If you buy cordura pants from the same manufacturer as your jacket, you can zip them together at the waist for a snug fit. I always wore riding pants over my jeans because denim will last about five feet on the cement before it rips to shreds. The goal is not to crash, but if you do find yourself sliding across asphalt at 50 miles an hour (as I once did), you’re going to want more between your skin and the road than cotton. Trust me!
Gloves – A lot of gloves are made of leather–but some aren’t. I wore armored gloves with Clarino and Kevlar with carbon fiber knuckles to protect my hands. Even a bug bouncing off your finger will hurt when you’re at highway speeds. You can find warm winter gloves as well as airy summer ones from companies like Spidi, Alpinestars, Aerostitch and Scorpion.
Boots – This might be the toughest category to shop vegan but it’s not impossible. I wore lorica boots by Sidi that kept out the rain and protected my foot. The main things to look for is a boot that is sturdy, covers the ankle, and has a slim toe profile (so you can get your foot under the shifter. Try to get a pair without laces. If yours are lace-up, always tuck the laces into your boots so they don’t get caught on anything. Don’t wear steel-toe boots. They’re usually too bulky to shift smoothly and I’ve heard bad things about how the steel can cut if your boot is bent back (as could happen in a collision).
Helmets, unless the chin strap is leather, are vegan, as was the back protector I always wore under my jacket. Like I said, safety first!
I wore my vegan gear to track days, which is a track environment for race enthusiasts but isn’t an actual race. I’m not sure what the official rules are for races. Tracks might require leather. You could always scour Craigslist and eBay for used gear if you need leather as a track requirement. There are a lot of Rossi-wannabes who quit riding and sell their almost-new gear.
For the 98% of riders who don’t race, the vegan route is completely possible–even for fun on the track. Check out online stores like Motorcycle Superstore and Motosport.com to get started. Your local bike shops probably carry popular brands as well (or can order them).
I always wore all my gear–even on a quick run to the grocery store. The saying, “better sweat than bleed” is true. Motorcycle gear isn’t cheap, but walking away from a crash is priceless.