India is the biggest two-wheeler market in the world, no surprises there. We overtook China to claim this crown in 2017 and since then, India has seen the two-wheeler sector in a steady growth path. Even the pandemic could not stop this, save for April alone, where every automotive manufacturer sold a grand total of zero vehicles. God forbid that we ever have to see that kind of situation again. I digress. India may be the biggest two-wheeler market and may have the biggest two-wheeler manufacturers in the world, we are a negligent bunch when it comes to investing in riding gear. Two-wheelers sold in India may have a lot of tech and safety features but it is the rider’s responsibility to follow the safety precautions.
Riding gear is undermined
Probably a small percentage of people take riding gear seriously enough to use it every time they swing a leg over the saddle. The rest look at it as an unwanted expense thinking that riding gear is not ‘necessary’ for our conditions. How many times have you heard someone saying this? If I had a penny for every time I heard this, I would have been the owner of a shiny new G 310 GS. So why should you invest in riding gear and what are the essential riding gear that you should buy? The answer to the first question – motorcycle fatalities are high in India. Four people die every hour because they don’t wear a helmet. I am writing this article today because a helmet saved my life 10 years ago. I don’t want to sound morbid but here is another fact – according to an international study, many vehicle crashes happen within 5km-8km of your home. Why? Because people are complacent when it comes to areas near their home and do grocery runs wearing shorts and tees. And if they fall off their vehicle wearing shorts and tees, then what follows is pain – for you and your ride. This brings me to my point– people are not serious about motorcycle gear and people ridicule other people who wear proper gear. This mentality has to change. I have experienced this and I ignore their comments.
Identifying a good lid
Now to address the other important question. What kind of motorcycle gear should you invest in? This is a no-brainer many would say helmet. And they are right. A helmet is one thing; there are others as well, which we will address shortly. Buy a helmet – a good helmet. Not just any helmet. Look for a helmet that is impact tested and comes with high safety. With so many roadside vendors selling helmets with fake ISI markings and the lack of good helmets for the mass market buyer, things can be complicated. Fret not.
There are some easy ways to find out if the manufacturer is fooling you or not. Always choose helmets that conform to ECE 22.05 standards. This is a global standard adopted by more than 50 countries worldwide. Before I get to the terms, it is essential for you to know that a helmet has three major layers to it – the innermost layer is the comfort layer, which keeps your head comfortable with all the layers of padding. Next to the padding is the foam, which is made of EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). The outermost part of the helmet is the shell and it is the most critical part of the helmet. It protects you from impact and keeps your head safe.
Decoding the jargons
Now, let’s check out the keywords. Look out for terms like ‘removable padding’ and ‘dual-density foam’ for the inner comfort layers of the helmet. ‘Dual-density or triple density’ should be the terms when it concerns the foam material inside the helmet, as it offers better safety. Basically the two layers of the EPS foam have a specific job to do – the innermost layers (low density) of the foam is for comfort and the outer layer (high density) is for impact protection. The material of EPS is the key here – lookout for Polycarbonate, fiberglass, and Aramid or Kevlar.
While Polycarbonate is good, fiberglass is better and Kevlar is best because of the increasing impact resistance and can distribute the cracks well in case of impact. Thermoplastic is a strict no-no as it can crack in impact and injure your head. But just because some manufacturers offer Aramid or Kevlar shell, it does not mean that safety is top-notch. Confused? Let me briefly explain. If the helmet manufacturers use the rigid and lighter Aramid or Kevlar shells, it also gives them room to reduce the EPS liners and you do not get enough room to escape the impact.
The global standards
In this case, you have to look out for the standards that the helmets conform to – ECE 22.05, DoT, or Snell. DoT is not trustworthy as it is outdated and gives manufacturers a lot of leeways to do as they please because of the minimum safety criteria. ECE 22.05, on the other hand, ensures that helmet manufacturers impact test the helmet among other destructive tests and this gives peace of mind. Same with Snell standards the only difference being that Snell is for racetrack usage and it is heavier than ECE 22.05 helmets. This leads us to the next keyword – weight. Most ECE 22.05 helmets weigh upwards of 1400 grams up to 1800 grams, depending on the helmet type. Also, make sure that the helmet fits you snugly. It is vital that the helmet does not slap you around when you turn your head left or right inside the helmet.
An important question that I have faced from my friends after telling this information is if it is safe to buy helmets online. If you have a store in your city that sells helmets conforming to ECE 22.05 standards, no better way than to personally visit the store and try different helmets. If not, online buying is safe as well – there are some websites that deliver ECE 22.05 helmets of different brands straight to your doorstep in a day. And they have a return option as well if the helmet doesn’t fit your head size or if it is a notch bigger. There are instructions on how to choose the helmet according to head size, which you can measure using an inch tape. The good news is that ECE 22.05 helmets start from as low as Rs 4500, so you don’t have to rant that international helmets are costly. You can check out different helmets in our Gear section. Avoid ISI standards as it is common knowledge that you get cheap roadside helmets with ISI markings that are highly likely to not conform to safety standards. Your head is very precious so do not put a cheaply priced product on it.
Riding jacket, boots, and gloves
A riding jacket is paramount, as it is the only layer between your skin and the blacktop in dynamic conditions. Don’t be fooled by the various CE stickers on the jackets as they might be only for the armor or the reflective materials in the jacket. Most of them don’t have anything to do with safety per se. If you are serious about safety, then look out of the jacket conforms to EN 13595 prEN 17092. Jackets conforming to these standards are impact tested and abrasion tested as well. Further, EN 1621-1, EN 1621-2, and EN 1621-3 are standards that are used for limb, back and chest protection in a jacket. There are classes as well – AAA (pr EN 17092-2:2017), AA(pr EN 17092 – 3:2017) and A(pr EN 17092-4:2017), where AAA offers the highest level of protection tested to the highest level of risk, AA offers the second-highest level of protection and A is the third safest, more oriented towards comfort, lightness along with a certain degree of safety.
Riding boots are actually very essential for bikers due to a very disturbing statistic – more than 30 per cent of bodily injuries happen in the foot region because when the bike falls over you, your foot is the most vulnerable to impact which can lead to fracture. So how do you choose the best riding boots among a sea of boots that may not be impact tested? Well, you have to check if the boots conform to EN 13634, which is tested for impact resistance.
When you shop for gloves, look if the gloves have sliders in the palm area – this will make your hands slide in the event of a crash and prevent fracture. If a slider is not there, then due to friction the entire weight of your upper body falls on your hands and may cause severe injuries. Gloves conforming to EN 13594:2015 offer the best safety as they are tested for impact, abrasion, tearing, perforation, and sewing.
That’s it for this section of why you should invest in riding gear. Happy shopping and ride safe, with proper gear. Here are some websites for you to check out motorcycle gear: