We’ll go out on a limb and say that women motorcyclists—when compared with men—are more critical about how riding gear looks on them. In general, men usually look for function, while women shop for both function and style.
Today, there are lots of choices in women’s riding gear, and it can be a little mind-boggling to know where to start, especially if you’re new to motorcycling. Whether you’re petite, plus-sized or somewhere in between, there are many leading companies that make riding gear specifically for women, and fit is very important—not just for looking good, but for functionality as well.
First, make sure the clothing is made by a reputable manufacturer: Some “motorcycle” jackets may look cute but if they’re not made of high-quality material or hide, they may not offer the protection of a jacket designed for riding.
Since you don’t want to leave any skin exposed, let’s talk head-to-toe coverage. All riding gear is important but a high-quality, DOT-approved helmet should be number one priority. A helmet should fit snug, but not be so tight that it hurts your head. Head shapes are so varied—as are helmet interior shapes—that it is critical for you to try on helmets and not jump at the first graphic you fall in love with. One person’s dream helmet can be another’s headache if it does not fit properly.
When you put the helmet on and shake your head side-to-side, the helmet should not slide around. The cheek pads should fit snugly and prevent the helmet from rocking up and down when you push on the chin bar. Sometimes you can swap out interior pads to “custom fit” your helmet. How do you plan to wear your hair? If you’re going to tuck long hair up inside a helmet, make sure you arrange your hair that way when trying on helmets. Make sure to consult your Honda dealer sales staff to ensure a proper fit.
Some companies such as HJC, Shoei and Scorpion, to name a few, offer helmets with built-in internal sun visors. If you plan to wear an open-face helmet, eye protection is a must, and you should look for eyewear that is impact resistant, and blocks wind.
When it comes to choosing a jacket and pants, decide if you want leather or textile. Usually, leather weighs more and isn’t waterproof, whereas textile (made from synthetic material like Cordura known for its durability and abrasion resistance) is lighter (albeit bulkier) and water-resistant or even waterproof. If you want lots of color choices, there’s more variety in textile. If you like more than just a splash of color, a high-viz jacket can make you standout like a highlighter pen. And being noticed on a motorcycle is a very good thing.
Quality motorcycle clothing is designed and cut to fit comfortably when you’re astride a bike (precurved and rotated sleeves in a jacket, for instance). Make sure to look for CE-approved armor in the garment to absorb the energy of a crash and protect impact points (elbows, shoulders, back, knees, hips). Pick out clothing that matches your style of bike—if your bike positions you leaned forward, you’ll want a jacket long enough that it doesn’t ride up over hips, leaving a gap and allowing wind to blast down the back of your pants. Ride your bike to the dealer where you plan to try on clothing, or maybe sit on a bike that places you in a similar riding position as yours, to get a feel for how the gear will move and conform to your body when riding.
For warm climates, consider a mesh or perforated jacket that allows air to flow through the jacket. Look for one with a long-sleeved windproof/waterproof liner for when temps cool down. Conversely, for cooler climates, four-season, three-quarter-length jackets with liners will help keep you warm. Look for good venting (intake vents on arms or shoulders and exhaust vents on backs of jackets).
Jackets with expansion panels/adjustments at the waist/hips are a plus, especially if you ride where it’s cold and often add layers. Keep layering in mind—you don’t want a jacket that fits so tight you can’t comfortably add a sweatshirt underneath. Your jacket should be somewhat form fitting, but it shouldn’t feel tight across the back and shoulders. If your jacket is going to be an extension of your purse, find a jacket with plenty of pockets.
Wrist closures should cinch up tight enough to keep cold wind from flowing up your arms, and be adjustable to allow a welcome breeze on a hot day. Make sure the collar has soft material so as not to chafe your neck. Jackets with collars that have large strips of hook-and-loop tend to grab at your hair, so steer clear of them.
Some women prefer textile overpants, some like leather pants or chaps—see what works for you. If you’re ordering online, most websites have sizing charts; get a tape measure to help you out. If you prefer denim, stylish Kevlar jeans or jeans with abrasion protection like those from TourMaster, Speed and Strength, AGVSport and Draggin’ Jeans (sizes 2-24!) are designed specifically for women. Some fit better than others, so it’s best to try these on in a store rather than ordering blindly online.
Protect your hands with quality gloves. Gauntlet styles bridge that gap between jacket sleeves and gloves and keep your wrist bones covered. Padding in the palms and reinforrcement on the knuckles is good. Be sure the gloves aren’t so bulky or big that they interfere with your grip on levers, and that they close up tightly to stay securely on your hands. Also, European sizes sometimes run a little smaller. If you are primarily a passenger, you can get away with thinner gloves that allow easier access to storage areas, pockets, etc.
There’s a variety-pack of ladies’ boots available that are a matter of style and comfort. You want a boot that covers ankle bones and will stay on your feet in the event of a get-off. There are plenty of boots that also work and look stylish off the bike: remember, you are likely to stop somewhere, and walking around, taking in the sights shouldn't pain your feet. If you are traveling, steer clear of racing-style boots that are pre-angled at the ankle to make them more comfortable at speed; they are normally not very comfortable for walking. Leather boots are always the best recommendation.
Final tip: Choose gear that fits correctly so that it is not distracting—you don’t want to be fiddling with clothing while riding down the highway. Happy shopping and riding!