Safety gear is an inseparable part of motorcycling. Riding without helmet is akin to climbing hills without ropes, jumping heights without parachute. Sure it will give you thrills till it goes on, but that one mistake will be enough to put a full stop to any activity, or perhaps life itself, if safety is not observed. When one tours long distances, his safety needs are more than just a helmet. The basic safety kit of a tourer should consist of a helmet, a dark tinted pair of goggles, a motorcycling jacket with protectors at elbows, gloves, knee pads, and biking shoes. This gear ensures that the probability of heavy injuries is minimized by a great extent.
But all the above parts cost good amount of money, and I am not that much into riding. Not yet anyway. Then what should I do? What if I invest 10 thousands or more in motorcycle gear, just to find out in a year that motorcycle touring is not for me? So let me ride with just a helmet, after all this fancy gear is only for serious ones, not for casual riders like me. Right?
Firstly, no investment done in safety gear is wasted money, even if it is just worn once. That stuff has the protection that will suffer the damage, which would otherwise be suffered by you. Between a hospital bill of above 30,000 or an investment of 10,000, it is a no brainer.
But I have been in the first camp of riders, because in initial years of riding I simply had neither the money nor the inclination to go for costlier safety gear. This article is to show that safety does not necessarily have to be a function of price only. You can be sufficiently protected in a tight budget, provided you have the will to do so. If one thinks helmets are for pansies and real bikers ride with wind in their hair, may God be with them, because most probably they will soon be with Him. This article is for those, who know the value of safety, and are yet holding back because of either non certainty of following motorcycling, or non availability of funds. This write-up is compiled by various advises gotten from respectable tourers over time, as well as some learnt the hard way myself.
Your helmet should be a clear glass one. Sure the tinted looks great, and in day it cuts off the sunlight. But wait till that one ride in forest roads in night. The small bugs born on a Harakiri mission, will fly at you at full speed, just to crash and burn. The tinted visor is not useful at night, so you have to lift it up. Hope you develop a taste for night bugs! If you are not of oriental origin and would prefer your non-veg food to two and four legged creatures, get a clear glass visor on your helmet. If you must have a tinted visor, the visors can be inter-changed with little to no difficulty. The trouble is worth it.
For eyegear, go for preferably black shaded tints. Other colors look cool, but through a yellow glass, judging and separating the yellow from the red on signals is tricky. Black shaded goggles improve the contrast in day light, and you would love the view through them more than without.
The jacket is an accessory whose importance is felt only in distress. But for starters, get atleast a Jeans jacket. A leather or textile jacket in a hot country like ours is asking for trouble. If you are wearing a leather jacket in Mumbai, you must be having a part time job of a microwave oven! The Jeans jacket, starting from Rs. 300 on fashion street of your town is a good start towards protection. It doesn’t match the safety of a true jacket by a long mile, but yet you are far better off than in a T shirt.
Gloves not only look cool, but really save your hands. When one falls off his bike at slow speed, his head and palms take most of the beating, because most humans put out their arms while falling. If you don’t have gloves, you will have beautiful road tattoos to show and to care for many days. In case of gloves, you can just brush off the dust and ride away. The better gloves start at 1500-2000, but the roadside Rs. 50-100 gloves serve the purpose somehow. There are various styles of gloves, finger-cut, full fingers, gauntlet, take your pick. Make sure the glove you select has a padding on palm on the area under thumb, the soft mushy area that takes most of the beating in case of fall.
For knee guards, the good options start from Rs. 700-800. But if you are just starting on accessories, and don’t want to commit such investment at start, you can go for skating knee guards. Again, your sheens are exposed, but knees will be protected well. A pair of skating knee guards can be obtained in any sports shops, and should set you back by Rs. 100-200.
Shoes selection is very important in biking. I didn’t realize or appreciate this, till I got my foot twisted in a freak accident, because I was wearing office formals. The connection of your foot to your leg is a ball prone to twist suddenly in case of sudden pressure. Even a small thing like slipping off your foot from the ground while standing at the signals can make it twist, and it is very painful. Biking shoes have many functions, saving the toes from collision, offering good grip etc, but the main function is to keep your foot aligned to the leg in a proper angle. Again, riding shoes start at Rs. 3500 and go northwards. For starters, Bata Hunter shoes will provide the same function of keeping the foot-leg angle constant. It won’t protect the toes from any collision, but your leg will not be twisted.
Lastly, the best Rs. 500 you can spend towards your touring is on buying Cramp-buster. You can read its review on xbhp. When you ride long distances, you grip and hold the accelerator for a prolonged duration. This causes cramps and pain in the wrist. Using Cramp-buster, you control the accelerator by pressing your palm, and not by gripping the accelerator. It is snap on, snap off, so you keep it in your pocket when you are away from the bike. It helps greatly, and once you get used to it, it is hard to tour without it. It is not easily available in India, but a pack of 3 shipped from US comes up to be Rs.1500, thus splitting it up with two other bikers will be perfect.
Thus, in a tight budget of Rs. 1000-1500, you can begin touring safely. If you are riding with a pillion, then he/she should be wearing a helmet at the least. Never think that safety only applies to the rider. The pillion is at the same or perhaps greater risk, because in case of accident, he is usually the last person to know what is happening.
…to be continued.