Essential Riding Gear For Commuters

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Essential Riding Gear For Commuters

Mid-Range Gear

HJC RPHA Max
HJC RPHA Max

Helmet: HJC RPHA Max ($420)

A comfy, well-made, lightweight and quiet flip-front from an unexpected brand. You’ll be shocked at how nice this helmet is and the included Pinlock visor insert will keep it fog free while the flip-down sun visor will aid those early morning and late afternoon commutes.

Alpinestars Scout WP
Alpinestars Scout WP

Boots: Alpinestars Scout WP ($250)

These ADV-style boots punch above their mid-range price tag with excellent comfort, support and safety. They’ll keep your feet dry, your feet safe and your bike upright.

Alpinestars 365
Alpinestars 365

Gloves: Alpinestars 365 ($195)

An un-insulated pair of waterproof riding gloves that use Gore-Tex “XTrafit” which bonds the membrane to the shell so it doesn’t get tangled up when you take them on and off. These are incredibly versatile, working in reasonably hot and reasonably cold conditions and keep your hands dry throughout.

Alpinestars Long Range Two-Piece
Alpinestars Long Range Two-Piece

Suit: Alpinestars Long Range Two-Piece (Jacket and Pants) ($757)

Spending more money on a riding suit nets you higher quality and greater versatility. This Long Range will work no matter how hot or cold or wet it gets and will survive years of even the most grueling commute.

Sena SMH5
Sena SMH5

Comms: Sena SMH5 ($145)

This basic helmet communications system syncs with your phone via BlueTooth, enabling you to take or make phone calls and listen to navigation or music. More expensive options feature a greater range with which you can communicate with other riders, but for commuting purposes, you don’t really need that, so save the money.

Kriega R25 Backpack and US-20 Tailpack
Kriega R25 Backpack and US-20 Tailpack

Luggage: Kriega R25 Backpack ($180) and US-20 Tailpack ($140)

The best soft luggage available comes with a 10-year warranty and is comfortable and easy to use. Whether you go for backpack, tailpack or some other arrangement, Kriega luggage will keep your stuff secure and dry.

Continue Reading: High-End Gear on Page 3 >>

  • Steve

    I don’t get the headphones…. If your helmet fits right how do you get the helmet on without being uncomfortable? I’ve never been able to use them. I ended up buying a sena bluetooth setup that works great with ear plugs in.

    • Piglet2010

      The in-ear phones only have a thin wire sticking out (if they fit properly).

      • Steve

        Yeah, it’s not the wires that get snagged it’s the earphone piece itself. Putting the helmet on is painful and usually dislodged them out of my ears. Same as jgrosko mentioned.

    • NOCHnoch

      I love my Shure SE-215 for this reason. They go over the ears, fit like a glove, and you can’t feel them with a helmet.

    • jgroszko

      I have this problem with ear-plugs… I have to gingerly put on my Icon Alliance helmet or the earbuds just fly out as it slides on!

      • Alex

        I wear ear-plugs with the Alliance, and have no issues. What type of plug are you using?

  • michaelse

    Do you know of any quality modular helmets under $200?

    • Piglet2010

      My regular commuter lid is a solid yellow Bell Revolver EVO which has a MSRP of $199.95. Nice thing about the Bell lid’s is that you can deal with fogging by getting a double layer snowmobile visor, or even a heated snowmobile visor, and visor changes take about 5 seconds with some practice.

      • michaelse

        Thanks for your recommendation!

    • Eric

      I personally recommend the Nolan N90S. As well as the N90 or N91. I’ve had other Nolans in the past and I can say they work (got t-boned by a Cadillac). It’s compatible with fogfree pinlock inserts, removable air dam on the chinbar, internal integrated sun visor, easy to operate the visor and the lock for the chinbar with gloves on, removable liners for washing, N-Com support if you wanna add in their communication hardware. But the feature I love the most on Nolan helmets is the retention system on the chinstraps. No D-rings, but rather a ratcheting clip. Makes for taking the helmet on and off easy and fast, even with the thickest of gloves on.

      Visor is easy to remove and install too, much greatly improved over the N102 and N103 I’ve had in the past… those were a PITA.

      • michaelse

        Just checked it out, looks great for the price point. Thanks!

  • BryonCLewis

    Nice article, I like the different levels of recommendations. If I lived in a place where I could ride year round the higher end gear would be my priority. Sadly, I need to pay for a cage and winter tires for a few months a year.

  • Campisi

    “Our favorite sport helmet of the moment — full stop — works equally well in the day-to-day rush, where its fog-free visor, excellent ventilation and extraordinary comfort pay dividends, even while you’re doing 25 mph.”

    For the most part, I like my Airmada (I’m on my second one, and the fifth Icon Optics shield), but it has to be said that the fog-free visor doesn’t stay that way for long. The anti-fog coating works less and less as the inside of the visor gets dirty. No matter how gingerly one adheres to the cleaning instructions it simply never works quite right again after the first cleaning. Those in hot or dry environments probably won’t ever experience difficulties with it, but in cold and wet environments like Seattle you’ll only have three to six weeks before you find yourself riding with the shield cracked.

    It’s better than nothing, but spring for a Pinlock if you can.

  • Mykola

    I would add the Givi and/or Shad topcases to the mid-range luggage. It’ll take five dozen eggs or a case of beer easily with room to spare.
    I practically stole my 45 liter Givi case w/ universal mount for $200 shipped on eBay, but the larger ones are easy to find regularly for ~$350.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      No joke, the Givi e45 on the back turns my sportbike into my favorite way to commute.

      • E Brown

        Where does it mount? It seems as if I’d have to remove the rear seat on my CBR…

        • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

          The GIVI mounting kit attaches by two points on both sides on my 98 Honda F3. They make some great hardware, and I can strip off the external mounting arms and plate in about five minutes for the days I’d rather not have the top box on. It sits behind the passenger, and gives them something of a back rest, if needed.

          Check http://www.giviusa.com/my-motorcycle/honda for your application, or fleabay for used variants.

          http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5120/6947657910_b6ea49828d_o.jpg

        • Mykola

          Similar to Jesse’s Givi, SW-Motech is another company that makes luggage mount for most standard/sport/sport-touring bikes, and theirs replaced the passenger grab handles on my bike.

        • JimMac

          If you’ve got a CBR250, you pop the rear seat off, pop the pillion handles off, install the Givi mounting bracket, reinstall the rear seat and voila!

    • Khali

      A cheap tip:

      If your bike has a removable rear seat (like most sportbikes for example), you can buy a 2nd hand rear seat, and a 2nd hand top case (or pelican, or whatever). Just the case.

      Then, bolt the case to the seat.

      Remove your seat with the bike’s key, attach the 2nd seat with the top case, and voila! Instant removable luggage :)

      Great for commuting or travelling.

  • Brian

    I personally ride with a Shark Sauer helmet with a Sena bluetooth module. The built-in sun visor is a big plus for commuting. I no longer have to wear sunglasses in my helmet. For a jacket, I switch it out depending on weather, but once I get my Aerostich Roadcrafter suit repaired, I’ll be using that again. I also sometimes ride with an Ogio no-drag backpack when I have to haul my laptop and work gear. As for boots, I wear TCX X-Street boots that are water-proof and are so comfy that I can wear them all day. For gloves, I sport Held Evo Thrux gloves and some glove liners in my tank bag for when it gets cold at night. I also carry a Forcefield Windproof balaclava for those really chilly days. For hearing protection, I wear Alpine Hearing Protection MusicSafe Classic Earplugs. They come with two different filters to suit preference. And last but not least, I use a Nelson Rigg Mini Tank Bag (CL-1010) to stuff an emergency tire repair kit, tire pressure gauge, my balaclava and ear plugs.

  • Eric Shay

    I have the Andes and there is a limited amount of adjustment for perfect fit. The jacket for sure is beautiful that is perfect.

  • Paolo

    “thanks to grippy soles, strong HEAL and toe boxes”

    I believe the word is *heel…

    Nevertheless, great article, I’ve been thinking of the Airmada helmet, but the teenage “look at me version”, the Chain Brain…

  • atomicalex

    RPHA MAX – for those whose heads refuse to pack into the Schubert – is fantastic. I’m highly interested in the Scout boots. Got any specialied tips for us ladies, though?

    • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

      Heads refusing to pack in… Are you looking at the C3 or C3 Pro? I know what you mean, the C3 just didn’t work for my head shape at all, but the Pro is wonderful. Could be you have a similar (or opposite) experience?

      • atomicalex

        hmmm, will have to look into the Pro. The regular C3 here in Germany was an absolute no-go. But the RPHA Max is such a treat for me that I will bechard-pressed to give it up.

        • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

          Agreed on the regular C3. It was painful on the front and back of my head, with empty space on the sides. Just awful, awful, awful. The Pro is so much different it’s incredible. But if you’re happy with the RPHA Max, I can see how it would be hard to justify spending so much more on the Schuberth! The only reason I did was because my R1200R causes a fair amount of wind noise (gas tank shape behind the telelever) and I wanted the absolute quietest helmet available. Reading owner reviews on RevZilla, I have a hard time believing many of them would find the difference in cost to be worth it.

    • Piglet2010

      Alpinestars sizing is goofy, so if you mail order the Scout boots, go up one size from your normal. And take a few walks in the boots before you ride, as shifting is a pain and you may drag the rear brake due to the excess stiffness, which soon goes away.

  • octodad

    very informative article. how about a comparison/ contrast piece on several brands of Kevlar jeans? would they be effective used as overpants? do lace up construction boots provide enough shin/ Achilles protection? always questioning…

    • Lourens Smak

      Kevlar jeans are for using *instead* of normal jeans, the idea is you just wear them off the bike as well, and nobody notices. ;-) they also aren’t very water- and windproof, which overpants usually are. Construction-boots with laces… I used to ride in them too (on my cafe-racer) but after my lace grabbed a footpeg when I was putting my foot down at a traffic light, I’m not so sure anymore. (I could quickly put down my other foot, but it was a very scary moment) Yes, I always tuck away my laces before riding off, but this happened anyway, and just think of what happens when your shoe gets untied and the lace is grabbed by the chain, while riding… Instead of the work-boots I use Alpinestars Ridge boots now (similar to the Roam above, but a lower design. Might go for the Roam next time.)

    • James Jamerson

      Construction boots are better than no boots, but they don’t really provide the same level of protection as riding boots. I’ve done both, and the riding boots protect in situations the construction boots wouldn’t. (I had a nasty wreck karting where my foot ended up underneath and sideways that convinced me to invest in proper riding boots)

      • octodad

        damn good advice. I will take heed…

    • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

      That is on our list – look for it in Feb

      • octodad

        this site is the “go to” source for reliable information. makes me aware of issues had not thought of. the format with peer contributions is helpful. how about a “Tire Change 101″? heard it is not that difficult…

        • http://www.RideApart.com/ Jen Degtjarewsky

          We can certainly do that

  • William Connor

    I wear the Olympia AST2 Jacket, Ranger Over Pants, Icon Variant Construct Helmet, Icon Elsinore Boots (Black), Triumph Sympatex Neck Gaiter, and a combination of Tourmaster and Cortech gloves depending on the temperature. These have served me well into the mid 20′s. There has been too much rain lately to safely ride below freezing. The only issue I have had is the face shield on the helmet freezing in the morning, when the temp dips below 30.

  • Justin McClintock

    Thankfully, I have a very short commute and don’t have to carry anything other than my lunch. I nice little shoestring backpack works great for that. Or my topcase if I’m on my DRZ (the other bikes don’t have one). Keeping a shoestring backpack wadded up in the bottom of your tail section is a great idea for just about any rider though. Unexpectedly need to carry something? It’s there. And it takes up almost no room at all when rolled/folded/crammed into the tail.

    As for cold weather riding, I’ve found the HJC helmets work particularly well as most of them are available with a breath box. Put that in and it’s not fogging, period. Even if you’re sitting at a light in 15 degree weather. Shield stays clear. And I have a Frank Thomas jacket that I love for cooler weather, but you either can’t get them in the US anymore or maybe they’re out of business. Either way, its a shame.

  • MichaelEhrgott

    Aerostitch Roadcrafter or Roadcrafter light. The best one piece on the market IMO, made in USA, and once you get the hang of it the quickest changing thing too. Side effect: You’ll feel like Superman changing out of it at work every morning. I love mine.

    • Piglet2010

      I must be doing it wrong, since I miss the Superman feeling.

      “Both zippers open and close the same direction.”

      • MichaelEhrgott

        So you can just shrug it off/on with your boots on. I love that feature! I mean it’s not like ripping open a business shirt or anything but I’ll take it.

  • HoldenL

    The Sena SMH-5 is fantastic for listening to music or talking on the phone. Pay attention to which version of a mic you get.

    The Sena setup pictured here has the flat mic that sticks to the inside of the chin bar of a full-face helmet. Sena also sells a boom mic for modular helmets. I got the boom mic when, instead, I should have got the other one (had it been available on short notice). I bought mine the day before a two-week trip and ended up using it, so I didn’t exchange it. If I’d had more time, I would have gotten the version pictured here. (Actually, mine is an SMH-10; not much difference.)

  • http://ericrshelton.com/ Eric R. Shelton

    I’ve got a Schuberth C3 Pro, and can vouch for how awesome RideApart keeps saying it is. I’ve always been a helmet wearer, but mostly out of obligation. The C3 Pro is the first helmet I can say creates an environment I like to be in. It’s just amazing quality, and while the price was difficult to swallow I’m glad now that I did. Previous helmets I remember were a KBC with a retro WWII graphic scheme, and an Arai XD-3. The Schuberth is the first one to inspire feelings of brand loyalty in me.

  • Alex

    http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/icon-alliance-hi-viz-helmet

    http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/icon-overlord-leather-jacket in white

    http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/icon-compound-overpants also white

    … no I didn’t get everything Icon on purpose.

    http://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/oxford-hi-viz-bright-vest

    Some less than stellar boots, standard sportbike gloves, and a military/tactical style backpack my brother gave me. Also, I don’t ride while it’s raining (no rain gear yet).

  • TP

    How much of a bitch is it hitting ice patches though?

    • ZedThou

      True, a backup plan is needed for when the snow is flying.

      • TP

        Ah, gotcha.

        I’m from FL, I was curious if crazies like you kept on going in those conditions or not.

        Also do you do anything to protect your bike from salt? What kind of damage does salt do to motorcycles, just corrosion?

        • ZedThou

          Corrosion isn’t a big problem. Just wash the bike after riding through the salt solution, apply ACF-50 liberally, a Scottoiler helps as well.

  • Kevin Broce

    I’d add a bungee net to the budget list, cheaper and more comfortable that a backpack.

  • Khali

    Gear I bought specifically for commuting:

    - Dainese Cafe Anfibio boots: Lacing and unlacing them is a bit slow but they are really confortable and very discrete. Used them daily since september.

    - Kappa Winter hand protectors ( http://www.kappamoto.com/Various-accessories/Accessories/KS603 ) This things are both the worst looking thing you can attach to your motorcycle and at around 40$ the best value Winter accessory you can ever think of. Youll fall in love with them instantly. Combine with heated grips for maximum hand confort.

  • octodad

    hey Justin, check the new Shoei RF1200, very light and great dynamics…

    • http://turnerart.la/ Justin Turner

      Thanks, I’ll do that.