Reader Question: Gear for a New Rider


I found your site on Google. I know you usually do motorcycle gear for women but I was wondering if you had any strong suggestions for great for first time riders.

I was very much against my son getting a motorcycle but his father decided to gift him one for graduation. He's graduating from usf this semester. With that, he is signed up to take the motorcycle courses in two weeks. The bike his dad got him is a kawasaki ninja zx6r? I think which is a 600 engine which people don't usually recommend for a first time bike. My son likes to go fast but he's a safe driver if that even makes sense.

I am much more concerned for his safety as San Francisco drivers, Bay Area drivers all together are very dangerous.

So I only agreed if he got all the gear and classes necessary. I also had him sign up for maintenance and motorcycle knowledge classes at motosf and he wasn't very happy but he agreed just to make me feel better.

He lives in San Francisco but from time to time he will be commuting to South Bay for his new job. I've been doing my research and do you recommend him get a one piece suit? Two piece?

He gets hot very easily so he's not a fan of very heavy clothing. What would do the job? His dad bought him an arai rxq helmet as well as dainese gloves. Not sure which. But I wanted to know more about the protection and clothing he would be able to wear in commute vs shorter rides. Is there something he can wear over his work clothes of snacks and a button up shirt without getting sweaty and smelly?

What brands do you recommend. What protection? Also sizing... He likes to wear baggy things. Not super baggy but he likes to have room. Is that not recommended when buying motorcycle jackets? Also what do you recommend in leather vs textile jackets?

Thank you so much for your opinion and time.


Hi Kristen,

I totally understand your hesitation and anxieties concerning your son. I would have to agree that a sportbike such as the Ninja ZX6R is not exactly the perfect first bike for everyone. However, if he's a fairly levelheaded person, he'll probably be okay. I think you've done everything you can by pushing him to get training and educate himself on how to ride and take care of his motorcycle. It's definitely a good idea to know exactly what he's getting into. I'm not sure where he's signed up for classes, but if he hasn't checked out  Bay Area Moto Shop in San Francisco, I highly highly recommend it. It's a fantastic community of riders for him to get comfortable and excited about riding!


As far as gear, he could definitely do a 1 or 2 piece, depending on his lifestyle. It will also depend on his body type and overall fit profile. If he hasn't already, I recommend going to the Dainese Store SF. They are extremely knowledgable and have an incredible selection of 1 piece suits. I also recommend going to Scuderia in SF as well, and ask for big Dan. :D It also sounds like he has

Personally, I'm a fan of 2-piece suits because it allows flexibility when you go places. You can take your jacket off if you need to, or wear your jacket with different pants. If you wear a 1 piece, you always wear the 1 piece. He can definitely find overpants and jackets to wear over work clothes. He can also find vented gear that allows air to flow through the jacket so it's not too warm. There are many options, especially for men!

Everyone has different preferences in how they want to dress, but the one thing that is definitely important about motorcycle gear is Fit. Gear must fit close to the body so the body armor sits on top of the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and back so it doesn't move upon impact. Unfortunately the baggy fit doesn't translate with gear. There's almost no point in wearing any if it isn't fitting you properly, as motorcycle gear's #1 purpose should be to protect the body. Anything can be labeled as motorcycle gear, but if you read my Basics then you know how to tell if it's real motorcycle gear.

As far as leather v. textile, it's definitely a personal choice. Basically you choose leather if you want more durability and a little more protection. However, not all leather is the same. There's everything from lightweight, 0.9mm casual style leather to 1.3-1.4mm high quality, heavy leather. So you definitely have to look at each one individually and see what that jacket offers in terms of protection.


Generally, textile offers a little more functionality like the Revit Tornado Jacket on the left;  it has one removable liner that is waterproof and warm. The outside has mesh panels so he'll stay cool, but when he has to get back up to the City he has a warm liner.  Most people prefer textile at first because it's immediately comfortable, doesn't feel as restrictive as leather and just feels good from the get go.

Leather requires break in time, because it starts out stiffer and less comfortable. Many new riders (including myself when I was new) aren't willing to make this investment until it feels more comfortable. It certainly can offer more protection, but it's all about what feels good to the rider. If it doesn't feel good or comfortable, a rider won't wear it.

These are definitely options that each rider has to explore on his/her own and possibly make the wrong decision(s) to make the right one. It sucks but sadly that's how most people realize they need better gear, or gear in general.

I hope this helps, good luck to your son in making great riding choices!

New Rider Tip

Taking the MSF Class? Just getting started? 

Here's a really great quote from an email that I received from a student last week who picked up a full riding outfit from me at Scuderia.

"Having real, protective gear during the class gave me a lot more confidence, and I don't know if I would have leaned that motorcycle over nearly as far if I hadn't had it."

I think it's telling how important wearing gear is. You don't have to all the way with street leathers like this person did, but gearing up with more than jeans and sneakers really makes a difference! 

So You're Taking an MSF Class. What To Wear?

Me on my first ride, a 2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250. Woo woo!

Me on my first ride, a 2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250. Woo woo!

Before the Ninja there was me and my 50cc Aprilia Scarabeo for 3,599 miles in 1 year

Before the Ninja there was me and my 50cc Aprilia Scarabeo for 3,599 miles in 1 year

Maybe you've decided to move up from your 50cc scooter like I did. Or maybe you're going to take the class on one? Congratulations!! You've made a smart decision on your lifelong learning adventure in motorcycling. One thing you'll hear over and over again from seasoned riders is that you always learn something new every time you go out for a ride.

Once you sign up for the class you might be asking yourself "What Should I Wear ?" Well, here are my recommendations, based on what I've seen students wear that can make a real difference in the outcome of the class. On your first day of class you're going to be nervous, maybe a little scared and anxious. Adding to that by not wearing the right gear can really hamper your ability to learn and keep up with what we're trying to show you. When small details like the wrong footwear and improperly fitting gloves get in the way, it can slow down the rate at which you are learning and achieving the objectives we're putting in front of you. We want 100% of your focus to be on learning the skills, the bike and having fun.

Here's a really great quote from a student that emailed me after she shopped for gear with me:

"Having real, protective gear during the class gave me a lot more confidence, and I don't know if I would have leaned that motorcycle over nearly as far if I hadn't had it."

A couple of general rules to remember when gearing up for your class.

  • Anything you'd wear to an office job will NOT be suitable for riding. Neither will your workout clothes, sweatpants or shorts. You're going to ride a motorcycle! Not sit down at a desk and work on a computer or go to the gym. Everything you wear is going to affect your ability to ride. Your intention is to be comfortable riding, given the weather conditions and everything we're going to ask you to do. That means no slacks, dress clothes, wing tips, loafers, high heeled boots, basketball sneakers or Uggs (Yes, I had someone show up in those once. She said her feet were cold. I had to send her home). You get the idea. A coach will not hesitate to send you home if you haven't followed the requirements that you were given.

  • Read the confirmation letter and/or the guidelines that the school gives you. It's YOUR responsibility to be proactive and make sure you know what they expect of you before you get there. If you have any questions on what you should be wearing, bring it up to your teacher in the classroom portion and even bring some items to class for them to look at if you're not sure your gear is suitable.

  • If you're interested in a sport like Motorcycling, it's time to take it serious as a sport and be prepared to risk everything from injuries to failing to meet the objectives. If you were going to go skiing, would you wear sweats, flip flops and a tshirt? Probably not. You'd go out and get snow pants, an insulated, waterproof jacket, ski gloves (not mittens) and a beanie to keep your head warm. Why does a sport like motorcycling demand any less?

My first time ever, riding my Ninja in the parking lot (before I swapped the fairings for yellow)

My first time ever, riding my Ninja in the parking lot (before I swapped the fairings for yellow)

Now it's most likely that the school will have a full face (yes!) or 3/4 helmet for you to use. What they probably won't have are leather, full fingered gloves, eye protection or a footwear. If you can, I'd highly recommend buying a helmet for the class if you have any fit issues (ie you have a very small or very large head measurement). The school will probably have average sizes between Small and XLarge. But if you have any issues that might affect the possibility of the school having a helmet that fits you, you may want to get one beforehand. Otherwise, it's perfectly fine to just use the helmets that the school supplies. If you have your own already, make sure it's Full Face or 3/4, and DOT Certified. You cannot use a half helmet in the class (nor should you ride with one. Yes, even if you're *just* buying a scooter).

At the school I work in, here are the items that we require students to wear for the range portion of the class:

Over-the-ankle sturdy footwear. A couple of examples:

Notice that all of these boots have a substantial rubber sole and really good traction! You're going to be putting your feet up and down over and over again, to hold up a 200lb+ bike. If you don't feel stable when your feet are down, how's that going to affect your ability to maneuver it? Especially if you're vertically challenged like me. They also cover your ankle bone. There's a chance you may drop the bike or tip over and if your ankles are caught between, you need something in between to minimize any injury.


And contrary to what you might think, steel toe boots are NOT a good idea for riding. The steel toe can actually make it harder for you to feel the shift lever. You'll need to get your toe in and under the lever so you can shift. Having a steel toe can get in the way of your ability to feel that. Some riding boots do have reinforced toes so that you don't wear down that part of the boot, but steel toes make it harder to feel the lever. The other thing you don't want is a high heel. The heel of your boot needs to rest on the foot peg when you're riding. Having more than 3/4" heel will make it difficult to rest your foot comfortably and go back and forth between shifting or braking. Don't worry, there will be bikes of varied seat heights so if you're worried about the bikes fitting you, the school should have plenty of options. Feel free to call the school and see what kind of bikes they have in their fleet and then go online and check their seat heights.

  • Long non-flare denim pants or material of equivalent durability. Denim jeans, or heavy cargo pants would be a good option. Make sure the legs are long enough for your legs to be fully covered when in a seated position. Remember to check your backside as well, as we shouldn't see any skin while you're on that bike. Ladies, this means you can't wear your low hip slung jeans which will probably expose your lower back while riding. Gentlemen, it might be time to throw away the pair of 10 year old jeans you have that have shrunk so much they're too short to cover your legs anymore. Leathers are not necessary for this class. But if you can go to your local motorcycle apparel shop and get some overpants or riding jeans, of course those will work well.

  • Long-sleeved shirt or jacket to below the waist. You need to be long sleeved when on the bike. It's best to at least wear a jacket or something non abrasive. A cotton long sleeve shirt really isn't the best thing to wear. Bring a jacket (waist length only, No trenchcoats) something sturdy. And again, sit in a chair or assumed a seated position and make sure your sleeves are long enough and the length is adequate to cover your back too. A couple of good examples would be a ski jacket, leather or denim jacket.

  • Full-fingered gloves, preferably leather, but at least with leather palms. Street motorcycle gloves range in price from $25 - $300. Your hands are going to be manipulating the clutch, the front brake and the throttle. You want decent gloves that are going to help you manipulate everything without any problems. If you can get some real motorcycle gloves for your class, they will help tremendously. Being able to grip the throttle and the front brake will make such a big difference in your performance. There are hundreds of styles, types and brands to choose from, so if you can purchase at least one new thing for the class, buy good gloves. Especially if you're going to be riding in wet or cold weather. Keeping your hands dry and warm are really go to make a difference.

  • Your eyes must be protected at all times. This means that when you're on the bike, you must have your visor down or if you have an open face helmet, you need to wear eye protection. Preferably with shatterproof lenses, such as safety glasses. Most schools will accept regular sunglasses or eyeglasses. Visors are shatterproof, so that's why they're considered eye protection. Here’s a pair of cool photochromic sunglasses that would work well.

So now that you know what to wear for the class, get a GOOD night's sleep, have a solid breakfast and bring some water/snacks to the range! Try not to 'study' for the class, as all you need to know is what you were taught in the classroom.

These gear preparations are simply my opinions as to what will really help you on the range and set you up for success in the future. More often than not, people put less thought into their gear and too much thought into studying more than they're taught in classroom. Everything you need to know is in the Rider Handbook. If you're going to study anything, just stick to that and you're golden.

Remember, the MSF Basic Rider Course is only your FIRST step into the world of motorcycling! You have your whole life ahead of you to keep learning. Why overload yourself with more information than you need? Keep it simple and remember that this class is designed for the true novice in mind (never seen, sat on or ridden a motorcycle).

And most importantly, Have FUN!

Useful information from the MSF

Here are some useful bits of information from my friends at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation:

You can even download the coursebook before you take the class! There's some information about helmets and protective gear too. Of course, nothing as insightful or interesting as what I'm going to tell you in a bit! :)