The motorcycle hobby is like any other hobby in the world - it has its own share of accessories and add-ons to make your ride more enjoyable and individualized. Everything from saddlebags to lightbars are available. Many of these items are geared towards safety. There are also a lot of items that make the bike stand out and make a statement about who you are. In no other industry have I seen such customization of a machine, with possibly the exception of the car industry. Every year in Daytona Beach during Speed Week, the most incredible bikes on the planet are displayed and judged to determine the best designs. Here, we will focus on items that add to your safety and comfort, and will touch on the custom industry.
The Right Helmet
I don't know how many times I have seen riders that own a $15,000 machine using a helmet that will easily break on impact. The helmet should be your top priority and highest expense before you start bolting on the next best thing. The helmet should be Snell approved. Founded in 1957, the Snell Memorial Foundation has independently tested manufacturer's helmets. If the helmet you buy is Snell approved, you can bet that it is top of the line. The Department of Transportation (DOT) also approves helmets, and your helmet at the very minimum should be approved by them. There are several types available - the full face helmet, regular helmet, and the half helmet, which exposes the ears. In rough weather, the full face helmet can't be beat, and it also allows for better communication between other bikers through the use of communications gear.
Let's Look at Protective Clothing
Leather is the preferred choice amongst bikers. Horsehide is even better if you can find it. Look for a jacket that fits well, has many pockets, and a belt. Leather pants are also a great thing to own, especially when touring. They are a necessity when it is cold. Look for pants that are soft and supple, that bend with you, and don't hamper movement when in the saddle. Never ride without a good set of protective gloves. These gloves should have protective layers on the back of the hand, be full fingered, and preferably cover the wrist, much like racing gloves do. Today, there are riding jeans that offer a great deal of protection, and are fashionable at the same time. They have Kevlar pads in high impact areas, and move well with the rider.
Eye Protection at Its Best
Many riders rely on sunglasses to protect their eyes. Sunglasses may keep a bit of wind out of your eyes, but road debris and insects can still get around the frames and damage the eye. A thrown stone can break the lens, and permanent eye damage can result. Use instead a good full face shield, or "bubble" shield for riding. They are high impact and are easily cleaned or replaced. Many riders prefer goggles. They fit securely, offer great eye protection, and many have replaceable lenses for different driving conditions. If you experience vision problems in the rain, use a compound such as RainX for better visibility. There is also a compound available that helps with the shield or goggles fogging in high humidity.
Considering the Windshield
Give a lot of thought to a good windshield. They protect you from the wind stream, which can be very tiring on a long trip. They come in all varieties and sizes. Make sure you don't buy a windshield that is too high. The flow of air over the windshield causes turbulence, which concentrates around the helmet area, buffeting your head. A windshield also gives good protection from the rain.
After Market Goodies
You only need to make one ride before you realize you need saddlebags. Buy ones that attach via frames, not Velcro straps. Consider ones that you can attach and remove with a key if you are thinking of touring. Also available are trunk packs for the larger motorcycles. These sit behind the passenger and are great for storing helmets and rain gear. Consider a good set of crash bars, which protect the legs in a fall down. A good lightbar is a great addition for the person that does a lot of night driving.
Many custom items are available, such as billet mirrors and custom taillights. Many people like to dress up their ride with a lot of lights. While this is okay, remember that your bike is designed to only run the electronics of the bike, not a lot of accessories. Once you have owned your bike for a while, you will see a real need for things listed here. Enjoy your ride, and customize it to your satisfaction.
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Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.