Motorcycle riding has come a long way in the last couple decades. Bikes are bigger, faster, lighter and more maneuverable then they were even five to 10 years ago. To meet the added risks associated with operating more powerful machines, motorcycle safety gear has undergone several evolutionary leaps. Let’s take a look at how gear can help keep you safe on the road:
For most of us, the classic biker attire conjures up an image of a young Marlon Brando in “The Wild One”—pull-over cap, white T-shirt and a leather jacket. While leather does help protect human skin from abrasions and road rash, it does little to help protect the body from impact force. Modern designers are making jackets even more injury-preventative by incorporating Kevlar or ballistic nylon in them, as well as carbon fiber armor in the most common impact areas (shoulders, elbows and back). Some high-end jackets even come equipped with a built-in air bag system that inflates in an accident to help protect the neck and torso. For a more in-depth look at jackets and their role in riding safety, visit CarlaKing.com.
Even more vital than a jacket is the motorcycle helmet. The first patents for helmets were seen in the early ’50s, when the popularity of motorcycle riding skyrocketed (in large part due to the number of GIs returning from war who now favored the motorbike as a method of transportation). These initial patents were little more than leather socks that fit on your head. Like riding jackets, these helmets would keep your skin from being ripped off by the road, but did little to dampen the force of any impact.
In the ’60s, coinciding with new federal regulations regarding the necessity to wear helmets, the industry shifted away from leather helmets toward those constructed from fiberglass. By the ’70s, the Department of Transportation had established guidelines for minimum standards in material and fabrication for all helmets. For a detailed timeline on the evolution of motorcycle safety, visit LILawyer.com.
Modern helmets are lighter, stronger and more puncture-resistant than any time in history. They are made from Kevlar, plastic or carbon fiber and specifically designed to be impact-resistant. By the end of this year, some helmets will be equipped with fully functioning GPS systems and heads-up displays (or HUDs). These HUDs will not only handle functions like conveniently picking a hands-free radio station to blare in your head phones, but they will come equipped with several safety features as well. The HUDs will have a navigation interface built right into the visor, so the rider will be able to get real-time driving directions without taking his or her eyes from the road.
Additionally, some helmets have rear-camera displays, so riders can see what’s behind them in an instant, without turning their heads. For a comprehensive look at the helmets available today and to read helmet reviews, visit MotoSport.com.
In the near future, computer systems will be commonly integrated into rider safety gear. These systems will automatically warn riders of impending collisions, inflate protective clothing and even call for assistance when necessary. As digital technology becomes lighter and more affordable, it will continue to show up in rider safety gear in innovative and exciting new ways that might have been inconceivable even a few short years ago.