By AMANDA BEAM
— To the casual observer, what a biker wears can seem just as important as the type of motorcycle they drive. Look at the movies. Peter Fonda’s iconic American flag leather jacket in Easy Rider or the crooked cap Marlon Brando wore in The Wild Ones both helped to define “biker cool” for many Americans.
Yet beneath all the leather and logos, biker apparel serves a protective purpose. Sharon Fink, the owner of Finks Motorcycle Parts, Accessories and Leathers in New Albany, walked us through some of the gear a new rider might need.
To wear a helmet or not to wear a helmet, that is the question
Of course, a helmet’s main purpose is to protect your head in case of an accident. Indiana, however, does not mandate their use. Fink still asks this question above all others when a new rider comes in. Many varieties exist with or without shields if the customer chooses to wear one.
“The first thing I ask them is do you plan to wear a helmet,” Fink said. “And of course, that is in Indiana a personal choice. Personally, I don’t ride across the parking lot without a helmet on. But I respect the fact that that is each person’s choice.”
Cool jackets to keep you warm
Sure, a leather jacket looks cool but did you know it also protects against the cold? Riding can get downright chilly even when the outside temperatures seem warm. Leather jackets and chaps help to shield the rider from the whipping wind.
“If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle, it doesn’t have to get very cool outside for it to be cold,” Fink said. “My typical customers wear them for warmth.”
The wind hurts your sight, so you’ve got to wear shades
Just like with wearing leather jackets and chaps, Fink normally suggests a motorcyclist purchase a pair of specialty glasses or goggles especially to combat the elements. Wind can dry out eyes and make them water. The appropriate eyewear can help with this.
“Generally, just a pair of sunglasses that you bought at a retail store that weren’t made to be more form fitting around your face, if you’ve never ridden before you’re going to find out rather quickly that, especially for people wearing contacts, that just isn’t going to be good enough,” she said.
These boots are made for biking
Bikers can wear any type of footwear and still ride, but the best type to avoid injury is the good old-fashioned leather boot. Fink recommends one that at least comes up over the ankle in case of flying debris or you go down with the bike.
A worthwhile investment
Leather vests are items that don’t necessarily provide that much protection. Yet most motorcycle clubs require their members to purchase one.
What do you place on the vests? Why patches, of course. Bikers will also wear their vests over their leather jackets.
For whom the bell tolls
Have you ever heard of evil road spirits? Well according to legend, the little gremlins stalk motorcyclists, ready to pounce and cause chaos. That’s why, according to Fink, every biker needs a Guardian Bell.
The little bells attach to the bike and trap the pesky spirits inside. After the ringing drives them insane, the troublemakers are flung back out onto the blacktop. Oh, and don’t go out and buy one yourself. The story goes someone else needs to give a rider one so that the good luck continues.
— Contributing Writer Amanda Beam