As the chill of winter settles in, it’s the perfect time for us Harley riders to take stock of our gear. We’re a unique breed, valuing tradition and style as much as the rumble of our bikes. Leather, denim, and the open road is all good, but looking “good” can really suck if you lay your bike down. Riding gear can be ‘safe’ and still have a great traditional look.
…And let’s talk about the gorilla in the corner: the holidays are here and you’ve either got A.) a list of stuff you want or B.) a bunch of gift cards because your family doesn’t know what to get you. You got it – check out replacement gear for everything we’re talking about in this article right here.
A Harley rider’s leather jacket isn’t just a piece of clothing; it’s a second skin. Sure, in the fair weather, maybe it’s a vest, but whatever you wear, you’re expecting it to be the first line of defense and a statement of style. Look for thick, high-quality leather. It should be heavy enough to protect against abrasions but flexible enough for comfort.
So what about that tired, nasty thing you’ve been wearing for four years? Check the seams and zippers; these should be sturdy and reliable. Remember, a good leather jacket not only gets better with age but also forms to your body over time. Go ahead and spend the money on getting it professionally cleaned. Yeah, it might cost you a hundred bucks (or a lot less, but you get the idea), but there’s no reason it has to smell bad and feel “crunchy” every time you put it on. If your jacket is showing signs of excessive wear or the leather has become brittle, it’s time for an upgrade, and yes, Bikers Den has the goods…
There’s something about denim that just feels right when you’re on a Harley. But not all denim is created equal. Reinforced motorcycle jeans are a great choice, offering a classic look with hidden protection. Look for jeans with Kevlar or other abrasion-resistant linings. If your denim has become thin or torn in critical areas (like the knees or seat), consider this your cue for a new pair.
Personally? It seems like I wear out the seats of jeans faster than anything else, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve torn (or worn out) pockets. But I get it: we’ve got a connection to our gear, and if you’re drawers are still keeping everything where they’re supposed to (or keeping you from being charged with indecent exposure), then prevail upon some nice lady with a sewing machine to fix any little issues before they become bigger ones. If you’re into the whole “D.I.Y.” thing, here’s a hint: use dental floss for thread. It’s never going to break.
A sturdy pair of boots is essential. They should be tough enough to protect your feet and ankles, with a sole that grips the road and the pegs. Good leather is key here, as well. Check for wear in the soles and ensure the boot still offers adequate ankle support. Loose fitting or overly worn boots can compromise your safety and control when riding.
Do you need steel toes? I can take them or leave them, but you can’t ignore they do the job – but at the price of being far warmer and heavier. Of course, we’re not hiking, we’re riding, and most of the time? Warm feet aren’t an issue.
Leather gloves are a must for any serious rider. They protect your hands not just in case of a spill, but also from the vibration of the bike and the elements. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with gloves, as I’ve lost them all over the country while riding. Inevitably, when I do lose one, that hand is the one that catches a wasp or a world-record bug on the knuckle.
So, frankly, as much as I like good gloves, affordable gloves are also a sticking point for me. And I always look for gloves that offer a good balance of protection and flexibility. I hate having to shuck off a damp glove to try to check my GPS, or restart a playlist, and some of the supposedly “better” riding gloves make me think I’m welding rather than riding. If you manage to keep a pair of gloves to the point the leather is stiffening or the stitching is coming undone, it’s time to invest in a new pair, or, like me, two new pairs, because one of them is going to disappear.
No subject is more polarizing to riders than helmets, between styles and safety. If you live in a state that doesn’t require them, the choice is yours, but facts are facts: if you lay down your bike, it’s going to suck. If your head is bouncing around, it’s going to suck more.
My point is, even the most traditional rider shouldn’t compromise on helmet safety, and the first step is having a helmet. While many prefer the classic “beanie” and would rather die than wear a full-face helmet, it is a trade-off. If you’re looking for the bets way to survive a crash? You’re better off in a car, but if you’re trying to at least level the odds in your favor, check the helmet’s certification and look for any signs of wear or damage. Remember, a helmet’s life expectancy is about five years. If your lid has been dropped, even only a couple feet, data suggests it’s safety is now suspect. ANY impact on your helmet should be a reason to replace it. Period.
Just how lucky do you feel?
Whether it’s sunglasses or goggles, eye protection is crucial, especially running with no windshield or fairings. I like plain old (high quality) wraparound shades, and again, I keep an extra pair with me when I ride. Years ago, I took a small bird to the face at about 60 mph, and if I’d have been wearing crappy sunglasses instead of Oakleys, it very well could have shattered the lenses and driven those into my eyes. At it was, all I got was a lot of scratches and a shiner.
Don’t skimp here, and be damned clear on how your glasses or goggles handle impacts. They need to be high quality to protect against UV rays, wind, and debris. One more thing to consider is how you’ll keep them clean on the road. Most of the better coated lenses really don’t hold up to vigorous cleaning with the tails of t-shirts or fast food napkins, so when you’ve worn off the coatings or gotten a few scratches, it’s time for a replacement.
High-Visibility Striping, Reflectors, and Piping?
Leave it to the ricers: they love some bright colors, while those of us out cruising opt for the darker stuff. It’s no lie that traditional gear often favors darker colors, it might be time to consider incorporating some high-visibility accessories for safety. Reflective patches, bands, or even subtle accents on your jacket or helmet can make a huge difference in low-light conditions, and some of that will depend on where you ride.
Where I live, it’s still mostly rural, but when I go “to town” I see a lot more traffic (and thus, idiots) than I used to. Now, I’ve even begun to consider some gear with reflective or high-vis stuff on it – and I’ve never done that before. But more and more distracted drivers, and more and more crowded roads, is making me revisit my old opinions.
The Importance of Regular Gear Maintenance
Regular maintenance can extend the life of your gear. Now, in the midst of winter and awfully little time on the road, take an afternoon to go through all your gear. What fits? What’s worn out? What – honestly – doesn’t fit? Most of the gear we ride with is expensive and well made, giving us a lot of years of use with minimal maintenance. Take some time to go through it, clean it, and be honest about it. Treat your leather with conditioners, check the integrity of your helmet, and put a little shine on those boots.
Of course, when you decide that this or that piece won’t make it another season, everything I’ve talked about can be found at Bikers Den, and you already know it’s high quality and built to last. Check it out and keep the shiny side up.