Without the benefit of seatbelts a roll cage, airbags, and crumple zones, motorcyclists are left completely exposed to impacts and abrasions on the road, which is why the lion’s share of responsible riders religiously gear up with protective equipment every time they put ass to saddle. Traditionally, safety gear has valued function far more than it has form, and as a result, riding garments with genuinely robust protective capabilities have typically sported a less-than-fashion-forward appearance that’s more in line with awkward stormtrooper cosplay outfits than they do anything you’d see in a streetwear lookbook.
Within the last few years, however, this has all changed. A growing number of reputable moto gear purveyors have started introducing more style-conscious offerings that keep you both thoroughly protected from injuries and the elements, as well as having you looking your best whether on or off of the bike. This has been made possible thanks to the use of cutting-edge materials and constructions like CORDURA and Dyneema, along with markedly more subtle, and discreetly-integrated protective elements. And while there’s admittedly no shortage of stellar offerings in this space, we thought we’d take some time out to highlight some of the most noteworthy products in this space with this guide to the best urban commuter motorcycle gear.
On top of being devoid of the protective features of a car, bikes also largely lack storage, making a quality backpack an absolute must-have for any rider commuting on two-wheels. The bags below all offer ideal moto storage and transportation solutions for clothing, laptops, notebooks, and other everyday essentials for your job or the daily grind.
Part tail (or sissy bar) bag, part backpack, and just about as rugged as they come, Biltwell’s EXFIL-60 is a thoroughly calculated roll-top bag that offers ample storage space and versatility with 60-liters of internal real-estate, removable and adjustable padded nylon shoulder straps, and five 1.5” built-in compression straps supplemented by four additional tie-down points for mounting down the pack or attaching items. Made from an ultra-hardwearing UV and PVC-treated 1,680D ballistic-grade nylon, the bag also features three rows of MOLLE webbing, and SBS synthetic, weather-resistant zippers outfitted with knotted nylon cord pulls.
Velomacchi 28L Speedway Backpack
Engineered from the ground up to be the ultimate motorcycle pack, Velomacchi’s Speedway Backpack boasts a wide array of rider-specific amenities such as a forward-facing action camera mounting plate, an aluminum helmet clip, a tire pressure gauge elastic sleeve, tie-down anchor points, a quick-access tool roll-up, a hydration sleeve compartment, an emergency contact info card slot, and a proprietary three-point rotating harness system with a magnetic coupling that keeps weight evenly distributed, even in amidst the most spirited of riding. Backed by a lifetime warranty, the bag also sports an abrasion and water-resistant ACQUAFORTE 500D high-tenacity nylon exterior with a ballistic nylon quilted back panel and aluminum hardware throughout.
Thrive x LBBJKT Peloton ASPHALT
Born out of a collaboration between Life Behind Bars and fellow Jakarta-based custom bike shop, Thrive Motorcycles, the Peloton ASPHALT is an understated yet immensely practical moto commuter pack, with 30-liters of space for regular everyday duties supplemented via an additional 15-liters of expandable room for when taking trips or carrying extra gear. The bag’s 1,000D CORDURA exterior is mated to a semi-rigid polyethylene back-plate and a waterproof TPU tarp liner and has also been outfitted with EVA foam-padded shoulder straps, YKK Aquaguard zippers, YKK acetal hardware, Woojin Duraflex acetal buckles, 6061 Aluminium hooks, vegetable-tanned leather zipper pulls and accents, and mil-spec nylon webbing.
Considering that your hands will typically be the first part of your body to meet with the pavement in the event of a wreck, gloves are another hugely important element to add to your arsenal of protective gear. This trio of moto mitt options affords ample palm, knuckle, and finger fortification without limiting dexterity or overly-clashing with other more fashionable pieces of riding gear.
Alpinestars Oscar Rayburn Gloves
Drawing visual inspiration from the Italian gear maker’s vintage 1970s offerings, Alpinestars’ Rayburn Leather Gloves offer an unmistakably retro appearance backed by thoroughly modern materials and safety standards. The primary leather construction is joined by synthetic reinforcement panels on the palms and over-molded PU knuckle armor adorned in a second layer of perforated leather. Next to the Rayburn’s zippered wrist closure is also a bespoke metal Oscar badge, giving the gloves some added old school flavor and an overall more premium feel.
Velomacchi Speedway Gloves
Putting a contemporary spin on traditional leather work gloves, Velomacchi’s Speedway Gloves offer a unique appearance thanks to the TPR rubber guards protecting the knuckles, thumb, and fingers and the nine gel-backed brass rivet sliders on the palms. Boasting a leather construction with deerskin palms and Highland goat backs, these flat track-inspired gloves also have elasticized wrists with Velcro closures, and extended leather pulls tabs decorated with embossed Velomacchi logos.
Dainese 4 Stroke 2 Gloves
Brining MotoGP-levels of protection to the average street rider, Dainese’s second-generation 4 Stroke gloves are undoubtedly some of the finest motorcycle mitts that money can buy. These Italian-made, CE-rated gloves feature a drum-dyed goatskin leather exterior with micro-injection reinforced palms, the brand’s DCP system, TPU palm and cuff sliders, and stainless steel inserts set over thermoplastic resin on the knuckles and back of the hands. Unique to Dainese, these gloves also sport what is commonly referred to as “Rossi Ticklers,” textured TPU pieces where the fingers meet the hand, providing additional grip and feel on a bike’s throttle.
Not only a legal requirement, but motorcycle helmets are also unequivocally the most life-saving pieces of gear in existence, and just like with the rest of the moto gear industry, the brain bucket space has been treated to an array of recently released models that put a major premium on style and aesthetics without skimping on safety. Helmets also might seem expensive, though the MSRPs become much easier to justify when you ask yourself what monetary value you’d place on your brain. Suddenly a $1,000 helmet doesn’t sound so steep, does it?
Bell Moto-3 Helmet
First debuting in 1971 — and widely considered to be the first production full-face motorcycle helmet — the Bell Moto-3 is one of the most iconic pieces of riding gear ever. In late 2016 the legendary helmet company revived the famed Moto-3, recreating an exact visual replica that replaces the original 1970s lid’s shell construction with a fiberglass tri-composite item and bestowed it with an anti-microbial terrycloth liner, an EPS-lined chin-bar, and both DOT and ECE certifications.
Shoei GT-Air II Helmet
Shoei’s GT Air was already one of the most popular full-face commuter bike helmets, though after getting ample feedback from the motorcycling public, the Japanese brand was prompted to deliver an improved version in 2019 with the GT Air II. Something of the perfect all-arounder lid, the GT Air II comes with a built-in drop-down sun visor and a new ratchet system instead of the standard double D-ring closure setup. The helmet’s most noteworthy upgrade is the recessed ports that exist to accommodate an SRL 2 comm system that was developed by Sena in conjunction with Shoei specifically for the GT Air II. This comm system sits flush in the helmet and can be purchased for an additional $300.
HEDON Heroine Racer
Offering the best of both worlds in terms of genuine vintage aesthetics and thoroughly modern protection, HEDON’s Heroine Racer helmet is a ridiculously top-shelf cafe racer brain bucket that boasts premium touches throughout. On top of a fiberglass and carbon composite shell coated in a hand-applied gloss black finish, the helmet sports natural calf leather trim and a Merlin anti-bacterial fabric with ultra-plush He’d Armor 360″ cushioning, as well as visor pivots covered with polished metal side pods, double D-rings, a HEDON plate, and hardware throughout that are all crafted from brass.
Across the entire urban moto gear genre, jackets have objectively seen more innovation than any other type of garment. Gone are the days when your options were limited to Marlon Brando-style leather jackets or hunched over race items, with the market now offering a wide range of men’s wardrobe staples that have been subtly transformed into highly efficient pieces of protective gear.
Pando Moto Bomber Jacket
Originally created by the US Army’s Aviation Clothing Board in 1917, the bomber jacket has gone on to become a bonafide men’s fashion staple that very much remains in style today. Wanting to deliver a rider-friendly version of a bomber that doesn’t compromise the garment’s classic appearance, Pando Moto has created this 12oz stretch CORDURA denim jacket with moisture-wicking COOLMAX technology and quilted padding that provides thermal insulation. Good for standing up to slides on the tarmac of more than 50’, the jacket also has zippered pockets inside and out, a reflective back print, included armor at the elbows and shoulders, and optional back armor.
REV’IT! Stealth Hoody 2
Without a doubt one of our favorite riding jackets we’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing, the REV’IT! Stealth 2 Hoody offers the casual look of your classic hoodie while concealing a full suite of protection from impacts and abrasions with its Seesmart armor at the elbows, shoulder, and spine and its full stretch CORDURA denim construction and polyamide reinforced elbows. Sold in black or blue color options, the versatile and fashion-forward jacket also sports a fully waterproof Hydratex 3L Pro liner and a removable urban camo-print thermal vest liner.
SPIDI Beta Evo Primaloft
SPIDI’s Beta Evo Primaloft was developed in Sarego, Italy to meet the needs of those that commute on a motorcycle, every single day, rain or shine. As such, this Class A CE-certified garment boasts a high-tenacity polyester shell that is mated to a triple-layer breathable, windproof, and waterproof laminated membrane, and features an extended length, a whopping ten waterproof pockets, a removable hood, reflective exterior areas, and a heavy-duty removable 100-gram Primaloft-insulated liner. This item also comes with elbow and shoulder armor as standard, as well as a sleeve for optional back armor.
While not quite to the same extent, the motorcycle pant space has also pretty hugely benefitted from a number of advancements and designs that have allowed for the creation of thoroughly protective pairs that resemble a typical pair of jeans or khakis and can be comfortably and proudly worn all day when not in the saddle. This is also an element of riding gear that is far too often overlooked by new riders when acquiring gear.
REV’IT! Alpha RF Chinos
Just like the brand has done with its absolutely stellar Stealth Hoody 2, the REV’IT! Alpha RF pants were designed to look like your average pair of versatile chinos while still affording robust levels of protection while in the saddle. Sold in black or khaki, the chinos feature a 10.5oz CORDURA main construction with COOLMAX moisture-wicking tech and a full protective layer of polyamide, cotton twill and poly combo liner, pockets for hip and knee armor, safety stitching at the inseam, and double layerings further reinforced with PWR|shield at seat and knees of the pants.
The Bike Shed Protective Jeans
Rather than employing Dyneema or Kevlar, The Bike Shed has turned to COVEC — a liquid crystal polymer — yarn to deliver ample abrasion resistance with minimal heat transfer by bestowing the denim’s 88% cotton and 2% elastane blend with 10% of the wildly advanced liquid crystal polymer. Furthermore, the use of removable D30 Ghost armor allows the riding jean’s slim, tapered fit to remain unaffected. A few extra style points also come from the jean’s contrast stitching and BSMC leather patch.
SAINT Unbreakable Slim Jeans
The undisputed king of the moto denim, SAINT was the first company ever to achieve a CE-rated single-layer pair of riding jeans and has only continued to innovate since then. Now employing its seventh generation of proprietary Dyneema-infused stretch denim, SAINT’s latest Unbreakable jeans look and feel like a pair of high-end denim, but provide ample slide protection, while also shielding their wearer from impacts thanks to D30 Ghost armor at the knees and hips. And, reinforced stitching, bespoke buttons, and an unmistakably top-shelf feel make this already phenomenal pair of riding jeans all the more attractive.
Providing robust foot and ankle protection in a legitimately attractive package has long been a struggle for gear manufacturers, though within the last year or two there have been some pretty enormous breakthroughs that have given way to highly-protective pieces of footwear that wouldn’t look out of place, even when pulling up to the hippest of San Francisco or Brooklyn coffee shops.
Dainese Dover GTX
Blatantly drawing aesthetic influence from the streetwear sector, the Dainese Dover Gore-Tex Shoes — or “Daine-Yeezys,” as we like to call them — are a fashion-forward pair of riding sneakers that benefit from a breathable and fully-waterproof GORE-TEX membrane, ankle armor, a gear shifter toe guard, and reflective inserts — all of which make these kicks incredibly conducive to riding duties. Produced in a trio of color options, these CE-certified shoes also feature suede uppers paired with a speed-lacing system that’s shrouded beneath a weatherproof leather strap closure.
Roame Zero Shoes
Though they may look like your average pair of sneakers or skate shoes, Roame’s Zeros provide more than adequate protection thanks to embedded D30 armor. What makes this product even more unique, however, is the fact that these shoes contain red and yellow LED lights set on the exterior of the soles that pair and connect to a motorcycle’s brake lights and indicators, increasing your visibility to other drivers on the road, especially after nightfall. The MSRP also includes the equipment and sensors needed to pair your motorcycle’s turn and brake lights with the shoes.
White’s x RSD Foreman Boots
Debuting over the Summer of 2020, these heirloom-quality riding boots are the product of a collaborative effort between custom motorcycles and parts outfit, Roland Sands Design, and legendary Spokane-based heritage boot maker, White’s. Starting with White’s tried and true Foreman model, this American-made boot’s been bestowed with stitched toe shifter pads, Ortholite padded insoles, stitched-down leather shanks and mid-soles, waterproof 6” full grain, oxblood Chrome-Excel leather uppers, and Vibram Cristy Crepe soles that were selected for their ability to let the wearer’s foot move freely around on a bike’s foot-pegs or rear-sets.
Though not as crucial as a helmet or riding jacket, these items are nonetheless incredibly handy for riders that commute in urban settings. And while none of these motorcycle gadgets come cheap, they’re all more than worthwhile investments that have the ability to save you a lot of money — and headache and hassle — over time.
ABUS Granit DETECTO SmartX 8078
Sadly, part of living with a motorcycle in a major metropolitan area means dealing with thieves. This smart lock from German brand ABUS packs hardened steel locking mechanisms and a 13.5mm steel bolt, making it exceedingly difficult for even the most effective thieves to remove the item from a bike’s front rotor. In the event the bike or lock is tampered with, this WiFi-connected gadget can send automatic alerts to your smartphone via an app. What’s more, the thing also boasts a 100dB alarm that’s sure to scare off thieves (and probably wake up any surrounding neighbors, too).
Sena 10C EVO
If you commute every day on a motorcycle, you very well may want to consider investing in a helmet or action cam to record your trips, as having a video record is ridiculously useful, especially in the event of a crash. This cutting-edge unit from Sena combines a QHD camera — with the ability to shoot video at 4K/30fps — with a four-way Bluetooth intercom system that has a one-mile range. Good for still photography, time-lapses, video tagging, and dual mobile phone pairing, this WiFi-linked device also includes a special audio integration feature for adding narration or a soundtrack to your videos.
Dainese Smart Jacket
At the moment, wireless smart airbags represent the absolute pinnacle of motorcycle safety and are worn by every rider that competes in MotoGP. And while this state-of-the-art tech was once only available to top-level racers, that’s no longer the case, as several leading brands have introduced production airbag systems. Dainese’s Smart Jacket distinguishes itself from other competitors’ offerings because it can be worn under any existing garment and adds a (very robust) additional layer of protection. Using a wildly advanced algorithm being fed info from an array of seven onboard gyroscopes, accelerometers, and other sensors, this cutting-edge garment monitors real-time conditions 1,000 times every second in order to detect a vehicle collision or a high-side and deploy its airbag units before impact.
The 8 Best Urban Motorcycles
If you’ve got your gear all picked out but still don’t have a proper set of wheels for riding around your city, then be sure to cruise over to our guide to the best urban motorcycles for eight incredibly sleek yet practical models that excel at life in the city.
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