Women Riders

Girl, Put Your Pants On!

Written by  July 31, 2008

By now we’ve all gotten that funny email with the photo of a couple on a motorcycle being pulled over and getting a ticket. The ticket was for the woman passenger not wearing a helmet, but the photo shows she’s not wearing any pants either.

On a recent outing, we had stopped at a gas station when three sport bikes pulled up and two of them had women passengers. These young women were in flip flops, shorts and tank tops, their helmets seemingly out of place compared to the rest of their attire. I shook my head in disbelief as they raced their way out of the lot, the last person actually standing up as he rode. Of all the statements motorcycling should make, fashion should not be one of them.

An article has been making the rounds on the internet relating the story of a young woman who somehow got thrown off a sport bike and suffered severe injuries that have left her disabled. Her primary reason for these injuries was the lack of proper gear. She suffered debilitating road burn that destroyed her leg, arm and cost her the loss of a breast. The photos that accompany her story are stomach churning, and looking at her beautiful face, the reader is even more dismayed at what happened to her.

Way back in the 20th century, there was no such thing as summer riding gear. We had leather. If we were lucky, we found vented leather jackets or vests and if we were really lucky, we found them in women’s sizes. Now, with the swiftly rising number of women riders in the past few years, there is now an entire industry devoted to our comfort and safety.

Let’s start at the toes and work our way up. Ladies, leave the flip flops, the sandals, even the Chuck Connors, home. This may sound obvious, but sometimes we have lapses of common sense and think just a quick trip to the convenience store does not warrant a full gear preparation. Most biking gear sites and larger motorcycle retailers carry a good selection of ankle boots, many with steel toe inserts and lug soles. If you are anything like me, your feet tend to swell when they get hot, which makes a lace-up boot the better choice. Always go for leather as synthetics can make your feet sweat more and then not allow for wicking. Also, synthetics don’t mold their shape to your foot as well as leather. They never get that comfortable, broken in feeling.

Covered legs can be a good thing. I could never wear shorts on a bike! Ever get hit by a large beetle while going 60mph? With jeans on, those things hurt enough. But jeans are certainly preferable to shorts. If you look, you can find jeans made for the road, usually of a heavier weight denim than those you might find in your local department store. A few decades ago, denim was listed by weight, ie; 16oz, 14 oz, etc. A 16oz denim is thick in its weave and holds its shape. If you find a place that lists its denim by weight, go for the largest number. Stay clear of the thinner cloths and most importantly, make sure they fit you everywhere. Jeans that are too tight make it harder to mount the bike and get very uncomfortable for the long haul. They also trap heat and can contain your perspiration instead of letting it evaporate.

If you want more protection, mesh weave pants with protection points (body armor) are available. There is a company, Bohn
, that makes a undergarment body armor that, according to the site, is comfortable even in the hot summer months and is virtually invisible under clothes. You also have the option of Kevlar lined jeans, like those at Draggin Jeans and Sliders Kevlar.

As we move up to our torso, our choices become even more numerous. Next to our heads, our torsos are the most important area in need of protection. While 53% of fatal injuries are a result of head trauma, that leaves 47% below the neck. I readily admit that I do not have any body armor, presently. If it’s over 70 degrees outside, I forego the leather jacket and chaps. This is more a financial problem than anything else, plus I had always thought that body armor jackets were something not made for the warmer months. I have found out differently, of course, and am looking at what is available that won’t further strain the household budget.

This is your brain. This is your brain on asphalt. Only twenty states now have helmet laws, including New Jersey. Kansas, along with 19 other states, has helmet laws only pertaining to minors and Missouri, like New Jersey, has full helmet laws in place. Of course, riders mock these laws by wearing novelty helmets that only sit on the head and offer no protection at all. The opponents to helmet laws are certainly within their rights to do as they please, but for me, helmet all the way. I like my brains right where they are.

After suffering through last summer with a full helmet with shield, I decided this year to get a second lid for the warmer days.
I settled on a Scorpion, a rather new entry in the helmet industry, and it’s a terrific headpiece. It’s their model EXO-100, a 1/2 helmet with removable ear pads. The half-shield disappears into the shell of the helmet and the visor is detachable. I am undecided about keeping the visor off; when it’s on it drags at higher speeds, making my head feel like it’s being yanked back, but when it’s off, air rushes behind the shield. Some women love the feeling of bare face to wind and there are others that want to be completely protected. I fall somewhere in the middle and a summer helmet like this one fits the bill.

As the number of women riders rises steadily, the choices women can make to protect themselves increases as well. It pays to shop around, get what is most comfortable and still not break the bank. Beauty may be only skin deep, but skin can break. And, Guys, show your partners just how much you care about them. Forget the flowers and candy for her next birthday and take her shopping for some new riding gear to get her through the dog days of summer. I can think of no better way to say “I love you and I care about you”.

As always, if you like what you see, feel free to e-mail me. I would love hearing from you with suggestions, comments, rants or raves.
By Louise Reeves