The Art of Shopping for motorcycle gear

Dailies, Gear, How To -



A few weeks ago, in the article about Alpinestars’ 2013 Spring Collection, “karlInSanDiego” left a comment about how difficult it was to determine the appropriate model and size for gear he was interested in purchasing. This little “how-to” will hopefully address those questions and open a dialogue for any hints or tips you may have to share also.

The Problem
Motorcycle gear is expensive and specialized. Brick and mortar stores cannot afford to keep $200-$1000 jackets from every brand in every size and colorway to have just the one appropriate for you, especially when you only buy a jacket once every few years. Even in California, where so many people ride, there simply aren’t enough bikers in a concentrated area to make keeping all that stuff in stock worth it for a Cyclegear or whoever. They would end up with too much stock left on their shelves and they wouldn’t make enough money to keep the lights on.

Without being able to try it on, how do you know what gear will fit you?

Motorcycle gear also comes in a wide variety of shapes and cuts and ranges from the extremely technical to extremely budget. Each company has their own fit, so you might be a large in one brand, but a medium in another, you may have an Alpinestars body or an ICON body, an AGV-shaped head or a Bell-shaped head. The only way to find out is to try the stuff on but, as mentioned above, most brick and mortar stores don’t carry most of the stuff you really want.

Step 1: Find your sizes
Get a cloth measuring tape and start taking some measurements and record them on your phone or in an email to yourself that you will have with you should you have the chance to try on some gear. Revzilla has some great size charts for various pieces of clothing and it is a good place to start. Know your body and what is important to you when getting gear. For me, it’s always length and I end up going a little large so that the sleeves are (close to) long enough, for you it may be something different. Once you have your measurements, find a store that carries some of the more well known brands and start trying things on. Try and find a leather jacket, a single layer textile jacket, and a winter textile jacket and record your size in each of them. Do so for as many brands as you can, but try and at least get your sizes in one of the major brands like Dainese, Alpinestars, Rev’it, ICON, or Klim. If you are trying on helmets, try and find an Arai, Shoei, Icon, Bell, Schuberth or AGV to try on. If you can’t find a brick and mortar, ask to try on a friend’s gear or go to a motorcycle tradeshow. You’ll find that you fit some brands better than others and that will help guide the purchases you want to make.

If you absolutely can’t find anything, look at your sizes and make your best guess and then buy from Revzilla. They offer free returns and no restock fee (you will have to pay for the shipping back to them) and they will send you another size if you get it wrong. If you were able to find your size in one of the main brands, don’t hesitate to email them and tell them you fit a certain size in one company and wondered how it would translate to a different piece you were looking at. It isn’t ideal, but it’s your best bet for getting the appropriate size in the gear you want. If you plan on wearing the gear a lot and for years to come, I think it’s worth the time to find the right items for you even if it is a hassle. What’s a month invested for a piece of gear that is going to improve your riding experience for 3-5 years? What’s a little labor to ensure your several hundred dollar investment is worth it?

Step 2: Find the right product
The other problem mentioned was how difficult it was to discern the differences between various pieces of gear. Two items may be identical, but one uses typically-superior Gore-Tex while the other uses that brand’s own waterproof membrane and it may take reading the fine print to find that variation. When I have narrowed my search two 2 or 3 different pieces, I try and compare the features or spec lists from the different products, look at the reviews or comments section from sites like Revzilla, and do a search in any bike related forums. Often times a search like “D-Dry vs Drystar” will lead you to someone else who had the same question and posted it somewhere and you can often find an answer that way.

Consider different materials, the weather where you ride, and how this new piece of gear fits in to the gear you already have. Are you trying for to buy one jacket to wear year round? Do you already have a summer or winter jacket? How will those gloves breathe in summer? Will these winter gloves be warm enough or do I need to look at heated gear? Does that helmet have approrpiate ventilation? Will it fog up during my morning commute?

Buying motorcycle gear is a flawed process. It’s annoying and a pain in the ass, but worth it to find the right fit and features to keep you on the road and riding as safely and comfortably as possible. They key is to try and record your sizes in as many things as possible or be willing to make some educated guesses and possibly exchange some things when you don’t get it quite right.

For those of you in the Southern California area check out the D Store, Pro Italia, CycleGear, or Bert’s Mega Mall to get you started.

  • Tally Lawing

    FUNNY. You mention how hard it is for brick and mortar to “stay in business”, but then continually push webmongers Revzilla. SUPPORT LOCAL. DO NOT USE LOCAL TO SIMPLY FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, THEN BUY ONLINE. Blasphemy.

    • Kentaro Roy

      It’s not HFL’s fault that Revilla puts out great promotions and content. If local stores did more of this I’m sure HFL would publish it as well. In fact they do publish a lot of articles on small shops doing great things.

      • Tally Lawing

        But the article suggests to “try on at a local store”. Now these potential customers, who may have no intention of buyng in said store, are costing the local stores even more money, time, and utilizing what may be “precious” knowledge (ie manufacturer training from arai, etc..). all for NOTHING at the local stores benefit…. So that Webgorilla can capitalize on end-user sales- often at thinner margins. However, I do agree that the presence and interactive videos are of benefit to all. I think this type of theory- encouraging your readers to do anything but buying local- is most damaging to our industry. Why not encourage them to join an online m/c club as well?

        • Wes Siler

          Consumers vote with their dollars. They just want the best choices at the best prices with the best customer service. If a “local” shop can’t provide that, then they need to figure out a what unique value they can provide. HFL serves its readers, not outmoded business models.

          • Jose

            It’s not only about the best prices, if a local shop offers me good customer service and advice, I’d be willing to pay maybe 10-15% more for gear.

        • TP

          You’re right. But also consider that not everyone lives in a place like SoCal where you even have brick and mortar that caters to our demographic. Over here in Harley Davidson land where that’s what 90% of people ride (and another 9% are the tshirt and no helmet variety) there’s only one Jap/Euro dealership in town, and next to nothing in name brand gear there.

          This is really useful content, thanks HFL.

        • Bruce Steever

          This is a tough line to balance to be sure. I remember how frustrating it was to deal with customers that were obviously web-shopping. A dealership staffer can’t afford to waste time on internet shoppers, but they can’t afford to ignore any customer on their floors, either. Dealers have either had to adapt or lose the sale. This often results in deep discounts that only hurt the dealership and the brand in the long run.

          But there is no doubt that shopping has changed, as well. Some buyers simply don’t want to deal with brick and mortar anymore.

          All we can do as duly-appointed industry representatives is encourage buyers to give their local dealer a chance before they hurry off to the interwebz.

        • the antagonist

          This part bugs me too. I love Revzilla and have bought a lot of gear from there. But it I try on a product in a brick and mortar store, I buy it there. Motorcyclists are a community and local shops support that community. When I need a part today, it’s the local shops that get me on the road. Internet shopping at local shops is sleazy. It’s using their services and giving nothing back. And it’s these same free loaders who bitch and moan when another local shop closes down.

        • stopeject

          Actually, due to the strict price control policies by the vendors online prices are exactly the same as at the store. The onyl difference may be the sales tax

        • Stuki

          As long as “supporting local”, also implies “supporting the Sacramento Mafia”, I have a hard time recommending anyone doing it. If you do try on stuff etc, and end up buying online, you could give helpful store owners/clerks a “tip” later. In cash. I’ve often done this, although not, as far as I recall, with motorcycle gear.

          • stever


    • Strafer

      i’m planning to go to the brick and mortar Revzilla in the next month or so

    • Nathan Wiley

      I gave up on buying gear and parts from brick and mortar dealers years ago. The gear in store is usually several years old, way over priced, and rarely in my size. In fact, I’m waiting for the day when I never have to set foot in a dealer….when I can buy my motorcycles direct from the factory. If “locals” wanted to keep my business and keep the doors open in the process, they would have been trying harder all these years.

      The folks at Revzilla seem to know their stuff. This can’t be said for the majority of dealers out there. How often have you been in a dealership and it’s painfully obvious that you know more about the item you’re looking at than the guy selling it.?

      • JC Maldonado

        The largest dealer in my area doesn’t stock any worthwhile gear. A couple of random Alpinestars pieces, no Icon helmets, no Dainese, etc. It’s usually a waste of time. And when I do order, most recently a smoke visor for my Alliance helmet (they only had the silver mirror finish), it took 2 weeks for them to get the order straight and call me. I live in Milwaukee, which is 90 miles from a Parts Unlimited warehouse…unless they’re using a horse I don’t get why it takes so long.

        I can order online at Revzilla or Motorcycle Superstore and get what I need right away. No questions asked. I’d love to buy locally, but usually it’s just a wasted trip.

    • sean macdonald

      No part of this article is an attempt to influence where you buy your gear from. My point was that if you can try on one brand in a store, you can use that to figure out your sizes for brands that you can’t find in stores that you would have to buy online.

      That said, one of my pet peeves is when a sales staff doesn’t know anything about the products they sell which is common in large powersports gear stores and I usually prefer revzilla because their staff is knowledgable enough to answer any questions I have.

      • the antagonist

        “No part of this article is an attempt to influence where you buy your gear from.”

        “…then buy from Revzilla. ”

        Come again? For the record, I fucking love Revzilla and don’t dispute the advice. But if that isn’t a blatant “attempt to influence where you buy your gear from”, I don’t know what is.

        • Ryan A. Deckard

          Exactly, has an even better return policy; they pay for your shipping back, and refund you money upon receipt of the product.

        • sean macdonald

          Again, that sentence starts with “if you absolutely can’t find anything, THEN.” The point being that they are a great option if you can’t find what you’re looking for elsewhere.

      • Filly-fuzz

        Ever thought that maybe the guys at online stores know what their talking ’bout because they have Internet in front of them?

        Kinda tough to pull that off if your talking face to face with someone

        • swarf

          I bought a helmet from Revzilla’s Philly store last year and almost every question I had was answered right there to my face…no internet breaks needed.

          I’m not saying that’s how it always is with the online retailers, but she definitely knew her stuff.

        • sean macdonald

          When I have questions, they’re usually something that require more first hand experience than just fact finding, I can do that myself. The staff at revzilla aren’t 20 years old like your typical brick and mortar in that they a) care more b) actually have all the products to be able to speak about c) know what they’re talking about.

          The only store I found who really knows there product is the D Store in Costa Mesa. Those dudes really know the gear and how each piece fits in the lineup and they have really competitive pricing.

    • Mr Paynter

      Buying Local works when it works, but it definitely doesn’t when it doesn’t.

      I’d say give local a chance, I pay far less for my gear (locally) than most, why?

      Because I go in and support the same guy for every purchase I have made locally for the last 3 years, that’s three helmets, a leather jacket, a few pairs of gloves and the odd tyres, by now I am paying R2300 for R4000 helmets etc. etc. as he offers me the friends and family discount.

      He knows I always will support him first if I can, and that I will always refer people to him when I can, without mention of his special prices, and if they become good customers, they will find that out on their own.

      I also have a human face to face conversation when I am unhappy with anything and a life-time of real-world motorcycle experience across the counter, he knows my name and will order parts or gear I want from suppliers without a deposit and will put them in the shop if for some reason I don’t want them at no charge to myself.

      That’s how local should work.

      • Peter Twiggs

        Based on the R’s I presume you’re in SA… I had a very similar situation with my Cape Town based company before I left SA(TracMac) that said they didn’t stock lots of high end stuff that fits me well – namely Dainese which I ended up ordering on Ebay UK and getting someone to bring back for me being careful with measurements as mentioned in the article.

        Here in the UK it’s a completely different ballgame the biggest chain here actually has tons of stuff in stock due to how big biker culture is in London… Your mileage may vary.

  • Seabushed2

    Revzilla is my local store, 3 miles away.

  • Jake

    Don’t be a crap-weasel! By your stuff locally if the price is in the ballpark and you wish to have a store near you in the future.

  • LongTravel

    This article used to be very applicable to me. Then I moved to a city 45 minutes from Iron Pony in Columbus, OH. That place is like a Wal-Mart for powersports. Prices are good enough that I rarely have to cross shop. Downside is that I live in the middle of F’n Ohio.

    • Mitchel Durnell

      Oddly, Competition Accessories in my hometown of Springfield, Ohio is also awesome.

      • NativesMC

        The one in Rock Hill, SC never has anything on hand.

  • Scottie Ray Smith

    Something that needs to be mentioned in articles such as this is how guys my size can go about finding good gear that is not only protective, but actually fits well. There is a Cycle Gear here in Little Rock that I do frequent often for gloves/tires, ect. But there is just no where else in the State to buy good gear from…you HAVE to order online if you want something besides ‘Built’ branded gear. Myself, I am 5’11″ and 235lbs. Not a fat guy, just, well, built (ha!). So, any suggestions on made-to-order gear? Oh, and come to Arkansas to ride guys. We have some amazing roads.

    • sean macdonald

      That was kinda the point of the entire article….

      If you want made to order, place an order with Aerostitch.

      • HoldenL

        The people at Aerostich are excellent at fitting customers over the phone. So if anyone hesitates to buy a Roadcrafter because of worries about fit, fear not.

      • Scottie Ray Smith

        I still have my original Aerostich from 1993. Easily the best and most versatile gear I have ever purchased.

  • ClassB4Ass

    Another option works well for me they carry Rev-it, Dainese, SIDI, Roland Sand bunch other is BEACHMOTO … its in Culver city

    • sean macdonald

      Thanks. I knew there was one I was forgetting but couldn’t remember the name. I’ve a really heard great things about the staff there.

    • Mitchel Durnell

      Was just about to post this, I’ve talked to the owner a couple of times, super nice guy and I love Rev’It gear, seriously Rev’it serves almost every aspect of riding protection and sits alongside Dainese as far as quality and features go. Check it out.

  • DaveDawsonAlaska

    I’ve been in and shopped at local stores that actually took the time and care to carry a large selection of good quality, or at least big brand budget but decent, gear who did really really well on selling gear to riders, especially when they just bought a new bike. In most places, those dealers are few and far between so shopping online becomes a must.

    Living in Alaska, I’m really really happy Revzilla realizes we’re part of the US now and includes us in their shipping deals. Not surprisingly I can find way more snowmachine gear than good motorcycle gear up here so it helps having a great place in the lower 48 to order from. Now if only they’d ship tires up…

  • karlInSanDiego

    Sean, thanks for the article. I agree with the buy local if at all possible sentiment, and it’s a good excuse to visit all the bike dealers in you town too. Proper gear selection should require a trial fit of min. two sizes for any single piece of gear, which is why I avoid mail order, for the most part. Like the features of those overpants? Arrive on bike, take off you old overpants, remove the winter liner from the pair you think will fit you and pull them over your jeans. Refit boots, jump on bike to see if knees are too snug and bind, then jump off and repeat with one size bigger or smaller. Then go back again with the first. It’s more work than selecting a wedding dress, but also more critical. If the shop doesn’t have the next size, there’s a very good chance you’re settling for ill fitting gear that could locate armour incorrectly in a fall. It takes a few years and lots of gear to know the difference between breaking in, and you bought one size too small. My current Sidi Vertigi boots were purchased mail order knowing my B2 size fit like a…um glove. But alas the whole foot box is larger on the Vertigo, so the simple act of shifting is proving to be dangerously clumsy in mt 2nd month of breaking in the stiffer boots. Wish I’d had a local shop that had these in all sizes so I could have nailed a $300 boot purchase. I’ll try venturing to some of the larger stores in LA and if that doesn’t work, I’ll usemy local Cycle gear the way others use Revzilla, by special ordering size A, reordering in size B, and then test fitting both side by side before I put any miles on them. That’s how my wife nailed her Vertigos.

  • The Truffle Shuffle

    I’ve given up completely on mail order for the majority of motorbike clothing. Perhaps it’s my unique body shape, but no two garments are alike, even if they are from the same brand, and often different sizes work better, or they just don’t work at all. Case in point – I was interested in a particular Dainese jacket, went to my local Dainese shop (who are brilliant, and competitively priced, by the way), and the jacket I wanted just didn’t fit me right, no matter which size I tried on. I ended up with a jacket I would have never considered – it looks much better in real life than online and the jacket I wanted actually looks worse! So, for me it’s local all the way.

  • KeithB

    Tried to buy a Schberth helmet at my local BMW store. They want $769 + taxes.
    They didn’t call back with pricing on what I was looking for and was able to buy one from Germany, shipped to my door for $555 ALL IN!
    Support my local retailer…I don’t think so!

  • Clint Keener

    The guys at the D Store were very helpful, and they have a ton in stock.

    • sean macdonald

      Very true. The guys there are super knowledgeable and I have gone in to size stuff before Dainese has sent us gear and they are always super helpful at guiding us towards the items you guys will like best.

  • Guest

    I just bought a new bike, and the dealer gave me a 10% discount on Rizoma grips. Ended up being about $100 bucks with tax. I saw them online for $55. Ughhh.

  • Guest

    Craigslist- 50% off like-new gear that somebody bought last season before they scared themselves into not riding anymore.

  • HoldenL

    I live in South Florida, and you’d think that there would be good local shops, but there aren’t (unless you own a Harley and want their branded gear — the Harley dealership in Stuart is really cool). A couple of years ago I was riding down the Blue Ridge Parkway while on vacation, and I needed emergency work on the bike and I stumbled into MR Motorcycle in Asheville, N.C. Best dealer I’ve ever seen, with a huge selection of gear of a wide variety of brands and sizes.

    That “local” shop (700 miles from home) is so good that, the next spring, our family went a couple of hundred miles out of our way during spring break (in a car) to stop by the shop and look for gear for my wife. We spent a lot. And not only because of the selection of gear, but also because the sales staff was knowledgeable and they achieved a nice balance between being helpful and leaving us alone. Also, the salespeople treat women seriously. When my wife had questions, the salesmen and saleswoman directed their answers to her, not to me. That, by itself, increases the chance of making a sale immeasurably.

    Bottom line: If a dealership is run properly and employs the right people, it can be a destination store and it will compete against web retailers.

  • Stuki

    An additional complication with MC gear, is that what works on one bike, works much less well on another. A pair of pants that fit perfectly on a GS, needs to have their kneepads removed to allow for the kneebend on a s1000, for example. Rendering them a bit useless. Ditto for the way the arms are attached. “Too big” solve some of this, but then it flaps around (and looks uncool :))……. Problems, problems..

    It would be cool if someone based in a bike “mecca” (relatively), like Roland Sands, got together with a genuine bespoke tailor, and offered (idiotically priced, undoubtedly) truly bespoke leather and/or textile suits. “Saville Row Cyclewear” or something….. Perhaps with London’s bike friendly (more like car unfriendly) congestion pricing scheme…

  • socalutilityrider

    It gets challenging to find good gear locally, even in socal. It has been about four months for me to find the right fit for the pants that match my Held jacket doing it by mail order. I ordered through Revzilla, who had to deal with Held messing up shipping from Germany which they only do once a month.

    Still worth the time investment on my end to own great gear that will last for years and Revzilla went above and beyond normal customer service in handling the delay by offering credits/discounts.

    I’ve rode to the Dainese store from SD, picked up kevlar jeans, gloves and a mesh jacket and a few months later rode to the Kushitani store and picked up a pair of zylon jeans. Both stores are excellent resources and Kushitani has a lot of cool stuff in that little store that isn’t even advertised online anywhere.

    Paid full retail for a shoei at san diego bmw, but I tried on several helmets there and even test rode a schuberth-I wasn’t about to screw them over and order online after all their help. The extra cost was worth getting a great fitting helmet.

    I’m also getting an aerostich roadcrafter in person to nail the sizing the first time around. Worth the extra effort.

  • stever

    gotta check the pant seat for stains doe

  • vic06

    Oh, come on. Not having enough with linking Revzilla at the end of every original article, now you write one just to post a link to their site.

    HFL grows similar to the magazines you strongly criticize with every compliment to specific and recurrent vendors like Revzilla, Kriega and Icon.

  • Dusty

    There are literally hundreds of online motorcycle gear retailers; to only mention one might appear like you’re in bed with them.

    • sean macdonald

      if it appears that way, it’s honestly because we think they’re the best. it’s true that we now know the guys at revzilla but thats only because we contacted them after being customers of theirs for years. I purchased everything through them years before working here at HFL. it’s the same as saying we’re in bed with aerostitch or kriega, we recommend to you the same we would to our friends because it’s what we would do.

      that said, i haven’t had the need or desire to look farther than their site for my gear needs. if you have alternative you like better, i would love to hear about them. i care far more about being able to use and then recommend the best than i do my preference for any company. i used to hate ICON and they’ve completely changed my mind, find me an ontine retailer that can convince me they’re better for me than Revzilla and that’s who I’ll be recommending.

  • HammerheadFistpunch

    Oh, the mere mention of Cyclegear has me bent over with laughter. All they push these days is their 2nd-rate BILT brand.

    Yes, it’s ridiculously cheap, and yes, its better than nothing for the newbie, but beyond that, they sell garbage that falls apart if you look at it sideways.

    Actually, that newbie would be better off buying 2nd hand Daytona, A*, or whatever brand, but that sort of insight might not sink in for a year or two..

    Anyway.. Cycle Gear: Ptooey.

    I live in the SF Bay Area & for the most part, my local shops are either nonexistent or mostly useless for gear. 50 miles may as well be across the country, and so mailorder it is. In the time it’d take me to getting around to visiting the closest local shop 20mi away that ‘could order it’, wait for it to arrive, and picking it up, I now have a sweet pair of gloves from Aerostich that if they didnt fit right, I could then exchange with no problems.. My tires & other consumables tend to come from MotorcycleSuperstore.

    Unless you happen to live next door to an excellent shop, or really like driving around, it’s hard to beat the online retailers.

    It’s hard to blame them, considering that motorcycling is a fringe activity, and if youre not selling Harley pirate gear, there goes an easy 50-75% of your market. Then you’re looking at a mishmash of dirt/sport/ADV/hipster riders. Good luck stocking enough gear that suits each demographic & keeping current product on the shelf..

    It’s still an especially bleak time for MC shops, in this post-Economic Apocalypse-era. In the last 5 years, our city of 60k lost Harley, Big4Japanese, BMW, and Ducati dealers..all separate shops. So its hard to complain about a lack of local gear when you can’t buy a new bike locally. Hopefully things will rebound somewhat as the economy continues to improve.

    • sean macdonald

      you’re right with the exception that they actually (usually) carry the major helmet brands so if you need to size a shoei or arai, they are usually your best bet.

  • dav k

    buying gear and parts from brick and mortar dealers stop being worth it
    long ago to me. With 4 online dealer offering me up to 75% off there
    pricing why bother? Most of these online stores know there stuff. If
    I walked into a local shop I would pay far to much. Any shop that thinks I ll pay there price just because it s local is out to lunch. Most of the shop couldnt be bother to even help you if you broke down in front of them 30 min before closing and all you need is a cable to get you going. The honda shop in langely bc did that to me.

  • Gabe Lee

    I get all Alpinestars, its pricey but so much more technical unlike Joe Rocket, Dainese also on the same level with Astars. I recommend black gear

  • Generic42

    I’m considering riding out to SoCall just so I can find a wide selection of gear. I’ve been shopping the stores herein the Denver area but they simply don’t have what I’m looking for.