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Motorcycle Touring Gear: Making the Right Purchases

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Introduction


If you’re reading this article, you should have already chosen both a touring motorcycle and a touring helmet to purchase – if not, it’s best to read the following articles on this site before proceeding:

  1. “The Touring Motorcycle: A Guide to Aid Your Search & Purchase”

  2. “Touring Motorcycle Helmets – How to Properly Evaluate”

So, you’ve obtained your motorcycle license, motorcycle, helmet, and you’ve refined your riding skills to the point where you are ready to adventure out on a full-fledged, multi-hour tour. Now you need to make some additional key purchases (safety and otherwise) to ensure that your first touring experience isn’t so negative that it becomes your last.


In this article, we are going to focus on the following key pieces of motorcycle accessories/equipment (mostly related to safety and comfort); and how to customize your purchase to fit the needs of the modern-day tourer:

  1. Motorcycle Jacket

  2. Motorcycle Gloves

  3. Motorcycle Pants

  4. Motorcycle Boots

  5. Electronic Device Mounts

  6. Communication Systems



Motorcycle Jacket














The motorcycle jacket is a touring necessity, as it offers the rider an added layer of safety (i.e. a barrier between the ground and the body during a crash) as well as protection from environmental elements (weather, debris, etc.). The best touring motorcycle jackets will offer the following 3 attributes:

  1. Impact Protection

  2. Abrasion Resistance (resistance to road rash)

  3. Protection from extreme weather (both hot and cold)

Textile or Leather?


A Textile jacket is going to be best for touring, as it adheres to the 3 aforementioned attributes.


Modern-day textile materials are engineered to offer the same amount of protection as leather, against potential abrasion hazards (a fact that is often misconstrued). Also, regarding impact protection, textile jackets are outfitted with the same type of armor padding as leather jackets. Specifically, they contain both reactive armor (soft at rest/rigid upon impact) and hard armor (rigid armor used in high impact areas such as elbows and shoulders).


The advantage that textile jackets have over leather jackets pertains mostly to their weather-protective features. Textile jackets are made of material that is much more breathable than leather, and most are equipped with zippered vents, to combat extreme heat. Textile material is also waterproof and can be equipped with liners, for protection from rain and extreme cold.


The only disadvantage textile jackets have, versus leather, is durability – i.e. they will most-likely need to be replaced after one crash/accident. Textile fibers, while able to protect as well as leather during the first crash, will melt when subjected to high amounts of friction (during a slide), causing the structural integrity to dissipate. Leather, however, is much more durable, and able to withstand many crashes, and can also be repaired. Textile, however, being able to offer a more universal type of protection, will still be the touring rider’s best choice.


Fit

A proper fit is an important safety component with motorcycle jackets; as it will ensure that the jacket will not slide and all armor/padding stays in place, in the event of a crash. To determine a proper fit, take the following measurements:


Chest – measure circumference across nipples and evenly across the back


Arms – two types of possible measurements:

  • If the comparing measuring chart lists measurements in the 20s – measure from the top of the shoulder to the wrist














  • If the comparing measuring chart lists measurements in the 30s – measure from the center of where the collar meets the spine to the wrist

















Waist – measure the circumference, one inch above the belly button


While the recommended type of material for a touring jacket is textile, the touring rider might still prefer the look and added protection of a leather jacket. In such situations, look for jackets that adhere to the “American Fit” style – which is designed to be looser around the waist and arms (as opposed to the “European Fit”, which is more tapered around the waist and arms). Also, many contemporary leather jackets are equipped with zippered vents, for added comfort on hot days – make sure this feature is included.


If and when you are ready to make a touring jacket purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Jacket Reviews: Touring Booster Top Picks.



 


Motorcycle Gloves




Motorcycle gloves are the second most important safety accessory every touring rider should purchase (after the helmet). We use our hands to not only access the majority of the motorcycle’s controls, but also to control its steering; so it’s imperative we keep our hands protected from hazards and extreme weather elements. As we evaluate a touring glove’s functionality, we will want to pay attention to the same safety/protection attributes: impact, abrasion, and extreme weather. With that in mind, let’s explore how to choose a proper pair of touring gloves.


Touring Glove Attributes


Material: Textile or Textile-Leather Hybrid

As touring gloves need to able to withstand all potential hazards and weather conditions that a rider may encounter on a multi-hour/multi-day ride, the best material option will either be full textile or a textile-leather hybrid. The full textile option, as noted above, adds functionality such as waterproofing, breathability in hotter weather, and insulation in cooler weather (not found in the pure leather options). The textile-leather hybrid combines leather’s abrasion resistance with textile’s waterproof and multi-season durability attributes (while not quite as durable as full leather, it’s more durable than a pure textile).


Full Gauntlet

Most touring gloves will be full gauntlet (extending below the wrist, 1/3 of the way down the forearm), for added insulation and protection – ensuring all skin is protective. Short-cuff gloves (extending to the wrist) are more common in either street or dual sport/adventure gloves.


Impact Protection

Touring gloves will be equipped with impact protection padding or armor in the areas most associated with impact injury: knuckles, palms, pinky finger.


Fit

A proper fit is an important safety component with motorcycle gloves; as it will ensure that the gloves will not slide and all armor/padding stays in place, in the event of a crash. To determine a proper fit, take the following measurements:

  • Measure the circumference of the dominant hand, with a closed fist, around the knuckles (excluding the thumb), or

  • Measure the width of the widest part of the hand











Other

Modern day touring gloves will be compatible with smart phone usage and will generally be equipped with fingertips that allow the rider to operate touch screens. Also, the price point will generally be mid-high, given the labor and engineering involved with having the aforementioned functionality.

If and when you are ready to make a touring gloves purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Gloves Reviews: Touring Booster Top Picks.


Motorcycle Pants




While some street-only riders may consider motorcycle pants optional (or in some cases, cumbersome and unnecessary), the touring rider, being exposed to more hours on the road and therefore more potential hazards, should consider it mandatory. Personally, I always like to be as protected as possible while riding. As with jackets and gloves, the same safety evaluative attributes will apply with pants: impact, abrasion, and extreme weather protection.


Touring Pants Attributes


Material: Textile

Textile, again, will be the preferred material for pants, for the touring rider, in that it provides protection against the extreme weather elements (waterproofing as well), as well as abrasion and impact protection. Also, please note that comfort should be a key evaluative component when selecting a pair of touring pants, and textile materials offer a higher level of comfort (not as stiff as leather, and do not need to be broken in). Some examples of common textile materials used in motorcycle pants are as follows:

  1. Aramid – heat and abrasion resistant

  2. Kevlar – heat and abrasion resistant, and high tensile strength (6x stronger than steel)

  3. Ballistic Nylon

  4. Keprotec – synthetic replica of leather, offering similar abrasion resistance, but much more breathable

Note: Ensure the stitching has the same strength as the rest of the pants; if not, there is a higher probably pants will come apart in a crash and slide.


Impact Protection

Touring pants should be equipped with impact protective padding and armor around the following highly probably impact areas: hips, knees, and butt.


Fit

As with the jacket and the gloves, a proper fit is an important safety component with motorcycle pants; as it will ensure that the pants will not slide and all armor/padding stays in place, in the event of a crash. To determine a proper fit, take the following measurements:

  • Waist – measure the circumference just underneath the belly button

  • Inseam – measure the length from the heel to the highest point of the crotch
















If and when you are ready to make a touring pants purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Pants Reviews: Touring Booster Top Picks.


Boots



Motorcycle boots are also considered luxuries by many riders, but touring riders will most likely consider them necessities. If you’ve ever laid your motorcycle down, you know that a proper boot could mean the difference between being able to get up and walk away or spending the next 6-8 weeks on crutches (or worse). While there are various styles of motorcycle boots, with a wide variety of safety features, the touring boot (designed for long hours on the road) will seek to balance protection features with multi-seasonal comfort.


Touring Boot Attributes


Materials: Textile and Leather Hybrid

A good touring boot will contain a mixture of leather and textile materials – leather in the areas most associated with a low-side fall (e.g. ankles, outward-facing side of the lower leg), and some form of breathable (i.e. mesh) textile material for the flexing areas of the foot and leg. The touring boot will also contain breathable internal liners (providing temperature regulation), and a waterproofing membrane (note: GoreTex is a popular brand of waterproofing membrane, used in all-weather motorcycle gear).


Leg Coverage

At a minimum, touring motorcycle boots should extend over the ankles and up to the shin. Personally, I prefer boots that extend to cover much of the calf muscle (i.e. the Adventure Touring style of boot), as these often have a torsion control safety element (protection the leg against excessive twisting, during an accident); but with this option, the touring rider will be sacrificing comfort for extended protection.


Impact Protection

As mentioned before, touring boots seek to balance safety features with comfort and ergonomics. Safety features normally included are as follows:

  • Removable Footbeds

  • Toe sliders (armor by the toe)

  • Ankle armor

  • Shin armor

  • Shifter pads

  • Buckle and zipper closures (no laces – preventing tangling)

Racing and motocross boots tend to have more safety features included, such as enhanced torsion control systems. Touring riders may prefer to use these types of boots, for the extra safety features, but due to the stiffness and rigidity, they are not designed for all-day comfort.

Fit

Again, achieving a proper fit enhances the safety functionality of the touring boot, preventing the boot from sliding or falling off during a crash. A rider can attain his/her size by using a Brannock device (silver foot measuring device at shoe stores). Boot sizes tend to coincide with shoe sizes.










If and when you are ready to make a touring boots purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Boots Reviews: Touring Booster Top Picks.



Device Mounts & Communication Systems



The final two pieces of equipment discussed in this article are not attributed to safety, but we do view them as being essential to adding comfort and convenience on a touring ride. Device mounts allow the rider quick and easy access to some of the devices used to enhance travel functionality, such as smart phones, navigation systems, and even cup holders. Rider may also wish to maintain a way to communicate via the use of a mobile phone or two-way intercom system, and will equip their helmets with hands-free communication devices. Below, we’ll discuss the attributes to look for when shopping for these items:


Device Mount Attributes


Device mounts usually have two main components:

  • Mount – the part that attaches to the motorcycle via the handle bar or the fork stem






  • Cradle – the attachment that holds the device in a convenient location (e.g. smart phone, GPS navigation system, still or video camera, etc.)










The most functional mounting systems will have the following features:

  • Durable and weather resistant material

  • Shock Absorbent

  • Easily rotational

  • Snug fitting cradle

  • Gyroscopic cradle – holding the device constantly upright, regardless of lean angle (mostly for cup holders)

If and when you are ready to make a device mounts purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Accessory Mounts & Cradles: Touring Booster Top Picks.


Communication System Attributes


Most modern-day communication systems consist of an electronic device (communication controls), mounted to the side helmet, and in-helmet speakers and microphone. When shopping for a communication system, here are some of the popular functional features to look for:


Basic Features

  • Bluetooth 4.1 compatibility

  • 4-way multi-user intercom – 1 mile range

  • Stereo quality in-helmet speakers

  • Noise-cancellation microphone

  • Battery Life: 17 hours talk time; 10-day standby time

  • Weather (water) resistant

Some higher end models will have the following advanced features:

  • Voice activated controls

  • Wifi-enabled firmware update

  • Smartphone application that allows user to setup user groups for quick connection and activation

  • Universal intercom system – ability to connect to multiple brands

  • FM radio tuner

  • HD sound

  • Simultaneous communication of multiple devices (e.g. phone, two-way, music, etc.)

  • Audio multi-tasking

  • Mesh network Bluetooth communication – allows two-way communication with up to 16 riders

If and when you are ready to make a device mounts purchase, please see the review article -- Touring Motorcycle Communication Device Reviews: Touring Booster Top Picks.

Wrapping It Up


While there are countless varieties of motorcycle gear available to enhance any type of tour, we recommend 6 pieces of equipment to attain before your first distance ride: jacket, gloves, pants, boots, electronic device cradle, and communication system. At a minimum, each piece of equipment should include the following features, (see table below):



Please see the Product Review section for a list of recommended items to help guide your purchasing decisions.


Also, feel free to leave a question or comment in the section below.


Good luck on your travels – stay safe – have fun – rubber-side down!!


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