Thursday, August 15, 2013

Biker Fashions For You (But not for you)

I now consider myself an expert on motorcycle fashions, having just completed my motorcycle fashion wardrobe.  (Or at least Mary Ann hopes I have completed it.)  Now is the time for me to dispense my valuable advice free of charge to the general motorcycling public.

If you have a Harley Davidson, a sportbike, a Honda GoldWing, or a BMW GS Adventure bike, and no other motorcycle, you are excused.  Not because you know everything about motorcycle fashions, but because those four types of bikes already have a complete and unique fashion wardrobe, and I cannot be of any further help to you.

This blog is for the rest of you motorcyclists, who do not have any particular style carved in stone for you and your bike.

For my non motorcycling life,  my wardrobe is minimal to sketchy.  I have one thing to wear to weddings and funerals (including my own).  Everything else is covered by one "look", basically t-shirt or sweat shirt, jeans or shorts, with some heavier outer clothing for going outside when it's colder.

For motorcycling, things get complicated. For one thing, your clothes need to perform more functions, such as crash protection, severe weather protection (basically like being in a hurricane all the time), visibility to increase chances of survival on the road, and have some resistance to road grime and oil.  Furthermore, these clothes need to match the look of your motorcycle, and look right in various social situations.

Let's start with the jacket.  The iconic black leather motorcycle jacket used have a very distinct tough guy image, which it has kept, but diminished over the years as it was adopted by high school girls and non-motorcycling people of alternate sexual preferences.  In modern language, the black leather jacket has been "nerfed" or rendered less threatening than it used to be in the early sixties.

What does a motorcyclist do if they want to recapture that "tough guy" image in the 21st century?  I suggest a black hoodie. It can be worn with a black leather jacket, or any other kind of jacket.  And nothing says "just shoot me Mr. Vigilante" like a black hoodie.  Oddly, the hoodie also has a nerd-like quality, as you can see on "The Big Bang Theory" where Leonard wear one all the time.  I think the connection between the hoodie, the geeks and the bad guys is through the Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars, who always wears a black hood, and is very evil, and throws lightning bolts from his fingers.

The hoodie is a great motorcycle accessory for all bikers who need fashion advice, and even for Harley riders, as it is also available with the Harley Logo on it.  It works with old bikes, and new.  With metric cruisers, dirt bikes, even scooters.  The only situation where it may not work is in a heavy rainstorm, where it will capture cold water and funnel it down your neck.

Now that I have taken care of the all important "bad boy" image, lets look at survival.  A reflective safety vest will effectively cancel out any bad boy image you may have, so is it worth wearing from a fashion viewpoint?  I would say yes, if you are riding a vintage motorcycle, or a scooter, or if you are not going to a hard core biker rally like Friday 13th in Port Dover.  Actually even in Port Dover, the reflective vest would not be a fashion faux pas, compared to the nude guy with the bunny ears.

Next in the survival category is the helmet, but it may be even more important than a reflective vest.  For a big bike, or a bike that goes on the freeway, a full face helmet is the standard.  For trips around town, or for looking tough, a half helmet may look best.  Unfortunately, it is not as safe, but here we are talking about image.  It's up to you whether image is worth it, but apparently some helmets are now sold in Ontario that only meet DOT standards (not Canadian Standards), and some of them are clearly not safe, because apparently DOT does not test helmets.  But it really seems like some lawmakers don't care much about actual safety, because they have also allowed exceptions to the helmet law for religious purposes in BC and Manitoba, and maybe one day in Ontario.  So of you are a practicing member of a recognized religion that forbids wearing motorcycle helmets, you can really look tough wearing anything your gods will allow.

Now for footwear.  Black leather boots are best, but try to avoid over junkified boots with redundant straps and shiny buckles. Other colors such as yellow/tan workboots are OK, but if you have an old leaky bike they are going to end up black anyway from oil gushing from every gasket.  Stay with a simple Doc Martin style or military style, and you'll look OK no matter what type of bike you ride except for motocross.  Back in the seventies, I used to think cowboy boots were acceptable as motorcycle boots, but now I think lace-up styles are better because they are easier to get on and off and stay on better in a crash.  You just have to make sure to tuck in the laces so they don't get hooked up an any part of the bike.

Picture: Kitten with a hoodie.  When wearing this on the motorcycle, the jacket goes over the hoodie, but the hood itself is folded down outside the jacket.  It must be folded down, as it should not be worn under the helmet.


  1. You write, 'some helmets are now sold in Ontario that only meet DOT standards (not Canadian Standards).'

    A murky morass, motorcycle helmet regulations ;-)

    Technically, the 'Canadian' standard is CSA D30-M85 - but no one seems to know about that one - never see that on a lid ... LOL!

    The U.S. standard is set by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) which happens to be part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and, as such, garners the DOT acronym.

    In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act requires that motorcyclist wear a helmet meeting the D30-M85 (CSA) or DOT (NHTSA) standard. Or that of the Snell Memorial Foundation (which actually tests helmets against their M2010 standard before granting approvals). Or that of the British Standards Institute (BSI) standard BSI-6658.

    Or, to further muddy the waters, since last year, that of ECE 22.05, the European standard for motorcycle helmets.

    And, since earlier this year, the DOT standard (technically FMVSS 218) requires a more complex 'DOT sticker' - momentarily obsoleting bootleg stickers so readily available (really? try eBay!).

    The 'ideal' helmet would, of course, be labelled (i.e. by the manufacturer, not eBay) as DOT/Snell/CSA/ECE22.05/BSI approved ... indicating that it has met all the standards ... LOL!

    On the other hand, there seems to be considerable controversy about which standard is 'best' and whether there really are actually any significant differences, in practice, between all those various standards.

    So ... 'meeting Canadian standards'? We have to go on the basis of provincial regulations ... which in Ontario seem quite catholic.

    1. Well, since you brought up catholic, and I mentioned religious exemptions, my mother (who has always been catholic) has an interesting expression "more Protestant-like", meaning something that is strictly according to standards, or with all the i's dotted and t's crossed. It seems right that it is the opposite of what you mean by catholic.

    2. Nope ... I used 'catholic' in its strict denotation, not in its religious connotation ;-)

      'cath·o·lic (kth-lk, kthlk) adj.
      1. Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive: