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Why Do Bikers Dress The Way They Do?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


Why Do Bikers Dress The Way They Do?

Tyler Powers
November 15, 2006

Most motorcycle riders wear leather � lots of leather. Boots, chaps, vests, gloves, chain wallets, and leather jackets. The reason behind all this leather is not for looks, and it's not to appear threatening. It's all about protection!

There is protection from weather provided by leather. Riding in cool weather gets very cold when you are moving at 55 miles per hour. Even the gentle Florida winter requires protection from winter weather. In fact, I would never know that was Becki getting ready to ride the Toy Run if I didn't recognize the motorcycle! Weather isn't the only issue, however.

True bikers dress to protect themselves in a fall rather than dressing just for the ride. Accidents do happen. You may have to drop a bike to avoid being hit by a car. You may experience a front blow out and lose control. It is possible that even the most experienced rider can drop a bike. I've had to CHOOSE to drop a bike to avoid being run over by a car. The bike and I both survived. I didn't even get road rash since I was wearing leather! I also chose where to drop the bike so it wasn't damaged except for a paint ding.

Bikers learn from experience, both theirs and others. When you see someone who chose to ride in shorts and tee-shirt come in covered with road rash, you know that riding that way is not wise. They dressed for the summer ride and failed to dress for the fall which happened.

That explains the leather jackets and chaps. But why the chain wallets? Motorcycles vibrate somewhat. You climb on and off them. This places stress on the back pocket where a wallet would be carried. Over time, the wallet can drop out unnoticed and not only is money lost, but ID, proof of insurance, credit cards lots of valuable things that take time and trouble to replace. With the chain wallet, this cannot happen. You also do not expose yourself to having a pick-pocket hit you during a crowded motorcycle event!

The leather gloves � often fingerless for summer wear -- make holding handlebars for hours more comfortable. There isn't a cruise control on a motorcycle, although some people rig them up. The throttle is in your hand and you have it turned to the speed you want to go for the entire ride. That wears on the palm and tires the hand. The gloves provide comfort. Mesh and leather are normally used for summer riding, full leather for winter rides. Also, the hands are provided protection from the road in case of a skid, fall, or drop. Road rash on the palms HURTS!

Goggles or eye protection is often the law, but it also makes sense. Think what happens if a bug hits you in the eye at 55 mph! Of course, the goggles or eye protection needs to look cool, but that just because no one wants to wear funny looking glasses. Helmet visors provide the protection in states where helmets are required. A benefit of visors, if you use a full-face visor, bugs don't get in your mouth either! ICK!

Speaking of bugs: leather protects the rider from insect impacts as well. Do you realize how hard a bug is when it hits your body at high speed?? It's painful!! And no one would want that angry insect to sting if it were capable.

Boots are a necessity. If you "almost" drop a bike, often that sturdy boot placed on the ground prevents the potential drop becoming a real accident. Think how your foot would look if you had to steady yourself and your bike wearing thin bottom sneakers? If you ruin a pair of boots because you saved yourself from a fall, it's an investment that paid off! Boots also provide protection from hot exhaust pipes and support the ankles better for mounting and dismounting your ride.

Where helmets are not required, leather skull caps are popular. Sometimes called a "do-rag", these leather bandana-like objects are shaped for the head and tie in the back. This hold hear in place but also provides some protection should you scrape your head during a fall. Of course, if you HIT your head during a fall, only a helmet will provide protection. However, we should let those who ride decide, but most states feel otherwise!

There is a reason for every thing the biker wears. Sure, it looks cool in their opinion, and there is some really beautiful riding gear available. But it's not all about looks. What you wear when you ride can save your life or at least your skin!

Tyler Powers is an exciting writer for http://www.custom-choppers-guide.com . Updates on many of hiss articles on choppers and chopper building can be found at the Chopper Blog: http://www.custom-choppers-guide.com/custom-choppers-blog.html

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