It would be easy to lose yourself in the pure gadgetry of motorcycling; choosing smart devices that some non-biker, tells us we can’t live without. Instead though, we’re going right back to basics and looking at the ten, real world accessories for motorcycle riders that we need to make life easier, safer and cooler.
To make things easier let’s split this 50/50; five for the rider and five for the bike. On their own, any one of the 10 can be of real benefit, put a few together and you’re on the road to awesome. Get all 10 though, and you'll need painkilling injections in each cheek from smiling so much.
For the Rider
For the Bike
Jacket: Speed and Strength Off The Chain 2.0.
A motorcycle jacket is the first thing you reach for when you’re heading for the door. Now, the tricky thing about choosing a jacket which adds to your biking experience, is that there are a million and one variations out there.
Back in the day, it was a choice of two; leather or denim. Today, we have leather, textile, mesh Cordura, and denim, to name but a few. Add to this the different styles available for touring, cruising, sports biking and adventure, and it's enough to make your head spin.
However, if you stop and think about what you want from a jacket, it's easier to focus. Over the years I’ve owned every kind of bike you can imagine, from sports bikes to choppers. So personally what I don’t want is a jacket that ties itself to just one style of bike.
It needs to be throw-on and go, give protection from the elements and take the knocks in a slide. Also, I don’t want to look like a Mutant Ninja Turtle.
So, add all this together and what do you get? The Speed and Strength Off The Chain 2.0. This jacket is best described as three seasons, as it’s got zipped cooling vents front and rear for the heat, and a removable hoody liner for the cold.
The outer is a water-resistant textile with hidden CE Approved armor in the shoulders, elbows, and back. There is also a heap of well thought out features including a waist adjuster, shoulder expansion joint, and secured pockets with a concealed inside pocket. All the armor is removable and has storm cuffs on the arms and waist.
The OTC comes in four different colors, although I’m with Henry Ford on this one in choosing the black on black version. With the removable hood, the jacket may look cool and laid back, but underneath, it's all business. Jackets don't get anymore throw-on and go than that.
Gloves: Roland Sands Barfly
Put your feet together and hands by your side. Now get someone to push you over, what’s your very first reaction? Yup, you put your hands out to break your fall, its automatic.
The same happens if you go over on your bike. Riding without gloves or wearing fingerless ones is therefore not the smartest of moves. Obviously, the climate in which you live will determine the type of glove you choose, but believe me, wearing a good pair of gloves will enhance your ride.
For this article, once again I'm going for a general riding type glove, with some essential safety features built in, but with overall ease of use in mind. You need to be able to feel the controls, and be able to bend your fingers. Gloves also need to have a little padding on the palm and offer slide protection, while looking good is a bonus.
With this in mind, let’s look at the Roland Sands Barfly in black (although the brown looks great too). The Barfly is a short riding glove of good quality cowhide. The leather is the right combination of thick yet supple and once again, it's the neat touches that catch the eye.
On the underside, there’s leather reinforcing on the palm that extends down to the little finger, and another extra layer of leather across the width of the glove.
Padding on the knuckles isn’t over the top and the first two fingers have accordion hinges. These are particularly useful, if you always have those fingers covering the brake.
Boots: Stylemartin Rocket Boots
We seem to have gone on a lot about falling off scenarios, but even in the everyday ride to work or the store, your feet are the only point of contact between bike and road.
I asked a guy once why he was riding in flip-flops and he said, oh its ok, I've got running boards, yeah right! Your bike can weigh anything from 300-800lbs, so some form of protective footwear is a must.
For me, it’s got to be boots every time, but that doesn’t mean they have to look like you’ve pulled them off Frankenstein’s feet. The Stylemartin Rocket Boots are the perfect blend of safety and style.
With full grain leather uppers that are waterproof and breathable, the boots will get better looking with age. The sole is Vibram, which means it's about as anti-slip and extra-grippy as you can get.
Under regular circumstances, laces and moving parts do not play nicely together, but the lace-up Rockets have a full-length zip on the inside and an adjustable leg strap. You also get CE standard protection on the ankles shins and toes as well as a gear change toe cover.
Jeans: Dainese Charger Jeans
Cargo pants may have all the pockets, but a good fitting pair of jeans with turn-ups has that old school cool thing going on. It’s one thing looking cool, but regular store-bought denim will last approximately half a second when it comes to abrasion.
Scary huh, but don’t worry several manufacturers have come up with variations of the same safety theme and these include the Dainese Charger Jeans. There are a number of companies making gear like this, but after looking long and hard, the Dainese appeared to tick all the boxes in terms of safety and style.
The important thing to watch out for with any protective riding jeans, is the type of material being used to protect you and the extent of the area it covers. Instead of Kevlar patches at the contact areas, the Charger Jeans have Aramid fibers woven into the denim, so all of the jeans give protection.
You will also find Kevlar reinforcing in the heavy contact areas, plus removable knee and hip protectors. All that built-in safety and they still look just like regular ‘greaser’ jeans.
Helmet: Caberg Ghost
If this were a straight-up tech gadget accessory article, then the Skully Fenix AR helmet would be taking up this slot. However, as this is all about real-world motorcycle accessories, saying a crash helmet costing $1899 is a ‘’must have’’ is stretching it a bit.
So instead, I’m going for the Caberg Ghost. Now I know what you’re going to say, that’s just an open face helmet with a fancy flip front on it, and yes, you’d be right.
Helmets though, amongst all biking gear, are very individual. A lot of riders in the USA and Western Europe find full-face helmets claustrophobic, and the Ghost is a good alternative with some added benefits.
Just to be clear, the Ghost is not a flip-front lid, it’s an open face, with a flip-up visor and mouth guard. It’s important to make the distinction because both types of the helmet have different safety standards.
The Ghost has ECE safety rating and comes with a host of nicely thought out features. Unlike the Shark Drak, which uses goggles and an elasticised strap, the Ghost has a visor that secures to the side of the helmet. If you push it forward and up, the visor and mouth guard lift as one.
This process makes the operation very simple and feels secure both up and down. The visor also comes with a Pinlock anti-fog device, which is a great addition. The mouth guard or bug-catcher is made from soft rubber and comes with an internal breath guard.
Handlebars: Renthal Fatbar
When you ride a motorcycle, you are coming in contact with the bike via three points, namely; the handlebars, seat, and footrests. When you buy a new motorcycle, these three components are a one size fits all deal, except they don’t.
You may be lucky enough to find the stock arrangement ok, but for those who don’t, why put up with it? Unless you've got ride by wire, changing your handlebars isn't a big deal, and even if you do have RbW, you can now get custom wiring looms to do the job.
The aftermarket bar I’m going to go with is the Renthal Fatbar. Although some people consider the whole ‘fat bar' thing a mere trend, it's very practical. Aluminum thick wall diameter tubing gives much more strength than stock, and the ends are tapered down to fit standard 7/8" fittings.
The reason for Renthal, in particular, is that the Fatbar comes in 7010 T6 grade aluminum, which is light yet incredibly strong. It is also available in a number of colors and almost 20 size variations so you can find one with the rise and pullback to suit you.
As the name suggests they are fat (1-1/8th diameter) which means larger handlebar clamps to suit. If your clamps are cast into the triple tree, you could also consider Mika Hybrid Bars. The 1-1/8th bars are 7075 aluminum, which is even stronger, have size and color options, but also have a 7/8th clamp size.
Stock seats are better than they used to be in terms of padding and shape. It’s still surprising though the number of new bike seats that let you slide into the gas tank or give you a pain in the ass after a few miles.
Thankfully, the remedy is an easy one. There are a number of fine seat makers out there, but taking into account the sheer number of makes and models they cater for, Corbin is an easy winner.
Choice is one thing, but are they any good? Having put many thousands of miles sitting on one throughout Europe, I'm here to tell you that they most definitely are. The deep scoop on my Gunfighter gave excellent back support and with new bars to suit the altered seating position, turned a bar hopper into a tourer.
If an entirely new seat is a step too far, because let's be honest, they aren't exactly cheap, consider a seat pad. Once again, there's plenty of choice from gel to memory foam and sheepskin.
You have to genuinely feel sorry for motorcycle manufacturers when it comes to exhausts. Not only do they have to make a system that ekes out every last drop of power and fuel mileage, but the system also has to be quieter than a flatulent dolphin.
During my biking career I've probably owned over 30 bikes, and I can categorically state that every single one had an exhaust mod, from mild to erm, wild. While ‘’loud pipes save lives’’ they can also make you public enemy number one in the early hours of the morning, or give you tinnitus after a long day’s ride.
The answer therefore, is to get an aftermarket exhaust that makes the bike feel like its breathing freely, sounds awesome, and adds a couple of extra horses. Sound aside, the potential weight saving of an aftermarket exhaust is one of the most important factors often overlooked.
A full Akrapovic system for Suzuki GSX-S1000 is for example around 10lb lighter than the stocker and adds just over 10 horsepower. Shedding sprung-weight helps with the handling, braking and gas mileage as well as providing a glorious soundtrack to your ride, which has to be a win-win.
Windshield: National Cycle Gladiator
This choice may at first seem odd, but in terms of practicality in the real world, windshields earn their keep many times over. For regular day-to-day riding, mine stays on the bench. The moment it’s time to put on some decent miles though, it’s right there with the throw-over panniers and here’s why.
Depending on the season and your geographical location, you are guaranteed to encounter two things; weather and bugs. Hailstones and road crap thrown up by strong winds are no fun in an open face helmet. Even a full-face helmet can be a liability, fogging up in humid, driving rain.
Bug splat is certainly not a problem, and you can even reduce rider fatigue considerably by deflecting the airflow off your chest. If you’ve got a reasonably low seat height, even something like National Cycle’s fully adjustable Gladiator, will do the job nicely.
Tool: Leatherman Crunch
There's an old saying that goes, ‘'chrome won't get you home.'' That goes for all the comfy seats, aftermarket bars, and cool exhausts too, if a part of your bike takes a nosedive when you're out riding.
Some bikes come with a basic complimentary tool kit under the seat, but those are getting as rare as an honest politician. What most modern bikes do come with though, is a small stash space under the seat or inside the increasingly popular dummy gas tank.
Take advantage of this handy feature and fill it with a Leatherman Crunch, you will not regret the decision. There are bigger, and in some respects, better multi-tools out there, but this is one of the very few with a folding vice grip.
If a nut or bolt comes loose, you can do it up far tighter than with regular multi-tool pliers. Snap a bracket, and you can use the Crunch to clamp on to both sides of it enough to get you home. The Crunch comes with 15 other tools, and a million and one uses.
So there we are, 10 everyday items that can make riding a great deal more pleasurable. If you’re looking for the best 10 must have real-world accessories for motorcycle riders, anyone one on our list fits the bill.
However, if you think we've missed anything or you have any cool suggestions of your own, we welcome your comments.
(Images courtesy of: Speed and Strength, RSD, Stylemartin, Dainese, Renthal, Corbin, Akrapovic, National Cycle and Leatherman)