Counter steering it something you may do naturally when you ‘lean’ your bike, but being able to countersteer intentionally could save your life. Ask your fellow riders, what is countersteering, and see what they say.
In my motorbike training, when I was learning to ride, counter-steering wasn’t formally taught or even really mentioned. It is clear why : because counter steering can be a difficult concept for a new rider. The riding school instructors did not want to confuse students – because when you try to lean your motorcycle to turn, you naturally make the steering inputs needed to counter steer. Did you know this?
The next sentence, is one to commit to memory. It is all you need to know about counter steering. Practice it on the road, every single time you ride. This is my simple definition of what counter steering is:
Push the handlebar grip away from youon the left – the bike will lean left and turn left, push the right grip away – the bike will lean right – and turn right. It is really as simple as pushing away from you on the side you want the motorcycle to lean towards.
Smart MOTORCYCLING guide
So how do many riders naturally counter steer without knowing that they are doing it? It’s simple to explain this; when you shift your body weight to the left and try “make your weight lean your motorbike”, you end up pushing the left grip of your handlebar very slightly away from you! You ARE counter steering, your “body weight” is NOT leaning your motorbike. Getting a bike leaned over requires overcoming the powerful forces keeping the bike upright at speed—including inertia and the gyroscopic forces of spinning wheels. It is counter steering that leans your bike over.
The more power you put into counter steering (pushing that grip away from you) the harder the front tire pushes to lean the bike, and the quicker it will lean. The longer you hold pressure on the grip, the further over the bike will lean during the counter steering input.
You can stop reading here – you do not need to know any more. Thinking about how this all works is why some riding schools do not ‘teach’ counter steering to new riders, because it is “counter intuitive”! If you think about the words in definition above – you are actually turning your front wheel to point away from the direction you want your motorbike to turn and lean towards. This is why is it called ‘counter’ steering, which is why it can be confusing!
It is worth noting that counter steering really only comes into affect when there enough centrifugal forces at work. When you’re riding really really slowly in a car park, then you might just steer normally. While you do not need know the physics, appreciating forces at work when you ride, might help some people.
On my very first ride on the road, I knew something wasn’t right. I was trying to “shift my weight” to “lean” the bike over so that it would turn. It just didn’t feel as if it was an accurate input. On that first ride, on a tight corner, I ran wide towards the outside of the turn. I “leaned”…and while the bike did slowly react (and I made it around the bend) I did not feel in control.
I would urge you , do not just ‘read’ the definition above, go out to your bike and test it, practice it, develop your skills and become a better rider. Without understanding counter steering, you might never be as good a rider, or as safe a rider, as you could be. Speak to any track rider, or any professional motorcyclist – they USE counter steering, as a very intentional steering input – they will push the left grip away – lean the bike left, turn left.
You want to learn about the physics?
I don’t think you need to know the detail, but do check the this Wikipedia Article if you really want to!
In simple terms when you’re turning your motorbike steering, think about how your wheels make contact with the ground, the rotational motion allows them to roll forward , but they don’t rotate side to side across the road too – in fact they are kind of stuck to ground when it comes to lateral side-to-side motion ( unless you’re driving on oil or ice!).
Now remembering that if your tyres are stuck the the ground (laterally), and say you move your steering input to point your front wheel to the right (so pressing on the left grip away from you), the forces in the gripping contact patch are at ground level, and effectively pull the wheels “out from under” the bike to the right
This “out tracking” of the front contact patch un-balances the bike so that it falls into a lean. Imagine kicking the feet out from under someone; their feet go right, but their body falls to the left.
Your whole bike is the same as that body, it is above that contact point with the road, so as the wheels go out from under you in one direction, (say to the right) your bike imbalances and causes it to lean to the left. As the bike leans, the physics connected with of the shape of your tyres and the rotational contact with he road comes into play. (Among other centrifugal forces, friction coefficients & many other complex things)
Leaning and turning go together in part because of the profile of a motorbike tyre. The outer edges of the tyres are smaller in diameter than the center. When you are riding straight up the tires act like a cylinder and so roll straight ahead, like a can rolling straight across a table. When you lean the bike over, the tyre becomes more like a cone and so it starts rolling in a circle, kind of like a funnel rolling across a table top.
Think about when you are driving a car; say you have a tissue box in the middle of back seat. You make a hard right turn. Which direction will the tissue box slide? To the left : these are the same forces that cause your bike to lean to the left when you ‘turn’ your wheels to the right.
In summary – my advice is to forget the physics and remember this:
Look where you want to go. Your head position is the most important guide to a successful corner.
Counter steer. “Push the handlebar grip away from you on the left – the bike will lean and turn left, push the right grip away – the bike will lean right – and turn right. It is really as simple as pushing on the grip on the side you want the motorcycle to lean towards.“
This is first of a series of blog posts in which I am excited to share with you some of the most entertaining motovloggers in the world.
These are a few of the Best Motorbike YouTube channels that bring me the most motorcycling related pleasure & entertainment, even when I am not on two wheels.
We all have favourites, and part of my reason for writing these moto vlogger reviews is to change my fellow riders first response from being, “Who is the Missenden Flyer” to instead being, “I checked out The Missenden Flyer and loved it!”.
Some of these You Tubers are not the biggest names in the business (in fact I am deliberately leaving out the really ‘big names’. (CycleWorld, Motorcyclist Magazine, FortNine, and MCN Motorcyclenews are all excellent sources of information so please do check them out if you’ve never heard of them!)
For me, watching Moto-blogging is a personal experience, you get to accompany someone for a ride, and hear their thoughts and musings as they take you on a journey with them.
It would be fantastic to hear your comments at the bottom of this article, so please do leave your thoughts on the Missenden Flyer, or suggest your favorite small moto vlogger that you would like me to check out!?
Regular readers of my blog will know that I believe part of the journey of being a motorcyclist, is constant learning, coupled with thrill seeking enjoyment but held together with a healthy dose of common sense – and I think each of the YouTube channels that I will review in this series of blogs post, all tick some of these boxes too!
I’ve been watching The Missenden Flyer (Andy / TMF) for around 3 years and would describe his channel as having a gentleman’s passion for everything to do with motorbikes, all wrapped up in a very strong ‘common sense’ approach focused around the on-road rider.
The videos that the channel is mainly known for, are straight forward ‘bike reviews’, in which Andy usually give us his positive “real world” commentary and thoughts of his ride. TMF appears to wrangle loan bikes for a few days (or a few hours) by thanking his local dealership with a simple mention on his video! The review format changes slightly depending on how long he has the bike for, with the long term loans/reviews obviously being the most detailed and informative. These usually include indicative cost of ownership, turning circle test, economy, riding at night, comfort etc etc. Overall I highly rate his reviews because of the common sense (‘every man’) approach giving the viewer the information actually needed to determine how a bike might behave in the real world, under normal riding conditions.
The Missenden Flyer is also fortunate enough to have a stunning collection of machines in his own garage, including a Ducati, two Triumphs, a Royal Enfield and his beloved BMW GS. He uses his own fleet between not having a loan bike to review and when he’s not flying around the world on tours! Having his own personal fleet allows him to publish really interesting long term reviews and ride videos on this broad range of machines, including interesting parts installations/upgrade videos (though fitting the simplest parts usually cause him an inexplicable (but hilarious) challenge).
More recently TMF has used his success to help fund some trips to fantastic destinations across the globe, (helped also by being in some kind of mutual advertising relationship with a motorbike tour firm called ‘Toro Adventures’.) Though for me, the best tour video series he has completed was The Artic Circle by BMW GS . A delight of stunning scenery and good company. Personally I think he should tour England and Ireland more! [The Wild Atlantic Way route would suit him (and his YouTube channel) perfectly, but he would have to include the Giants Causeway!]
Some his most interesting videos has been one to one interviews ; his growing subscriber count has afforded access to the infamous Allen Millyard and most recently the stunning Noraly, of “Itchy Boots” ! )
At the time of writing, Andy’s channel has experienced relatively fast growth in the last year or so; and being a Patreon of his channel has given me some insights into both the challenges and positives that rapid expansion has brought.
Some of his best material, in my opinion, are those videos where he is genuinely enjoying himself (for example he made a short lived series of videos where he took “viewers rides” out for a review, coupled with a really interesting interview in the garage afterwards!) Let’s not also forget his series called ‘Biker Scran with Geoff and Dan’ – where he meets up with his biker friends and samples the finest little biker cafes around mid England.
Worthy of note that Andy also introduced me to Lamp-Chops rides (see further below)!
On top of all the above, TheMissendenFlyer “flyer” derives from the fact he is an amateur pilot – go check his channel and you’ll find a few videos where he takes us up with him in his light aircraft! Overall, incredibly interesting – check him out and tell him SmartMotoryclingGuide.com sent you!
Check back soon (or follow us on Facebook!) – come back and check out my blogs coming soon on:
There are a number proven, mental heath benefits to riding a motorcycle, including a more positive outlook on life and improved cognitive function.
Motorcycling is so popular for range of reasons, but what great news it is to learn there so many proven, mental health benefits! Some benefits are obvious while others are more subtle. The psychological benefits of motorbike riding have been been studied researched, with some amazingly positive results.
The number one mental health benefit of riding a motorcycle – a positive outlook on the world.
1. Positive Outlook There is actually a scientific reason that motorcyclists feel addicted to riding. Why does motorcycling bring happiness, peacefulness, and put us in a better mood?
Dopamine is a so-called messenger substance or neurotransmitter that conveys signals between neurons. It not only controls mental and emotional responses but also motor reactions. Dopamine is particularly known as being the “happy hormone.” It is responsible for our experiencing happiness. Every twist of the wrist releases adrenaline which, in turn, releases endorphins. The fresh air and the sense of freedom, releases dopamine; these ‘feel good’ hormones improve our mood, increase pleasure and minimize pain.
When you are riding , your mind is fully engaged, which is kind of like a mediation! Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
This state of focus we enjoy when riding, is drawing your mind into a naturally meditative state. The clarity of focus required to ride, where you enjoy the ‘little things’ on your journey (the smell of freshly cut grass) all naturally lead to you practice a mindfulness as second nature.
This is why your mind feels refreshed and ‘ironed out’ when you throw your leg off after a long ride.
The second mental benefit of riding a motorcycle – improve cognitive function!
2. Cognitive Function
Riding a motorbike every day can make you smarter and prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, says Dr Ryuta Kawashima, author of the Nintendo game “Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training”.
The 57-year-old self-professed motorcycle fan conducted a study in 2009 at the University of Tokyo that found riders aged 40-50 had improved levels of cognitive function after riding their bikes daily to work for just two months.
The 2009 study by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, looked at the relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind and focused on riders with an average age of 45 some of whom were regular riders and others who had not ridden in 10 years.
The study asked participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities.
He found that current riders and former riders used their brains in different ways, and the current riders had a higher level of concentration because specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated.
He also tested how making a habit of riding affects the brain. The test subjects had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations.
The result? The use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit, according to the study? Participants said their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better.
So why motorcycles? Shouldn’t driving a car should have the same effect as riding a motorcycle?
“There were many studies done on driving cars in the past,” Kawashima said. “A car is a comfortable machine which does not activate our brains. It only happens when going across a railway crossing or when a person jumps in front of us. By using motorcycles more in our life, we can have positive effects on our brains and minds.”
Another a scientific study, conducted by Ryuta Kawashima, who partnered with Yamaha Japan and Tohoku University, is referenced below. He notes that motorcycle requires a high level of alertness and rapid problem-solving. According to Kawashima, “the driver’s brain gets activated by riding motorbikes.”
The below is an extract from the findings of the study in partnership with Yamaha.
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. has been involved in joint research on the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation with Ryuta Kawashima Laboratory of the Department of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University (Address: 2-1-1 Katahira, Aoba Ward, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture) as of May 2008. We are now pleased to announce the findings of this research.
Through this research, the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation has been verified as follows:
When riding a motorcycle, the brain of the rider is stimulated.
Differences in brain use and level of brain stimulation can be observed in motorcyclists who ride regularly and in motorcyclists who have not ridden for extended periods (at least 10 years).
Incorporating motorcycle riding into daily life improves various cognitive functions (particularly prefrontal cortex functions) and has positive effects on mental and emotional health such as stress reduction.
“You see things vacationing by motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is allmoving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.”
The description in italics below is my personal reflections about motorcycling. [The section further below (after the italics) is more of a real world account of what you might experience on your first ride)]. Motorcycling means a lot to me, and I write this blog out of a passion: I hope some of my passion touches you and that your are encouraged to get out there and start riding too.
“Riding a motorcycle is a tangible essence of freedom. An addictive, hedonistic experience where your senses are assaulted and brought to life. Every journey is a joy filled juxtaposition of both terror and peace , a thrill of adrenaline fueled excitement coupled perfectly with the blessed serenity of a cleared mind.
When motorcycling, you understand more clearly (whether consciously or subconsciously) that your mortality is an inescapable truth. You appreciate more keenly you have a finite existence on this earth, because you know you must accept a certain ‘risk’. This risk, is that when motorcycling, you are simply more exposed and vulnerable (for a multitude of reasons) versus choosing another form of transport. What sets you apart, is that you can see in the path before you, many joy filled, and thrilling experiences, indefinitely more rewarding than the risk, because my friend, you are a motorcyclist.
As you travel on a motorcycle, your surroundings do not simply hurtle past without meaning. Instead, you feel a sense of belonging – you are somehow actively engaged as part of a living landscape. When riding a motorcycle you feel part of life’s tapestry again, instead of being on the outside looking out as the world passes you by. You are no longer just a spectator.
Acceleration on two wheels can (and will) intoxicate you. This simple Newtonian force is delivered in such a visceral way on a motorcycle, that it is simply nothing like what you might experience in any ordinary sports car or any other form of transport. That instant pull of force on your arms as you grasp onto the handlebars, coupled with your legs clamping onto the fuel tank, straining to remain on-board as you are fighting against the intent of the wind as it batters into your chest. You feel in your core that the wind blast is screaming, it howls like an angry beast, its desire is to rip your body away from your saddle. Welcome fellow rider, you are now engaged in the battle! Throughout this whole experiencing of mind bending acceleration and wind forces, and even with a tempest of violent noise roaring from your exhaust, and the vibration singing from your engine as revs sore higher and higher, you must remain calm. Your heart rate must remain steady, your grip on the throttle must be relaxed and gentle – your life depends on you being in a place of control and having dedicated focus.
This is the key to your survival, you must always be assuredly calm and gentle with your inputs that control your motorcycle. Quite simply, your life depends you achieving a state of focused ‘motorcycling zen’ . It is here, in this place of focus , where I find motorcycling gives us its greatest gift. A place set aside from all the thrills and sensations your body is being subjected to as you ride. A place where the art of motorcycling, by necessity, brings your mind and soul into the present moment. A place where you can neither muse over the past left behind you or worry for the future ahead.Motorcycling can shift your mind to a position of singular purpose, taking you away from the overwhelming blizzard of distractions that modern life throws at us. ” Author SmartMotorcyclingGuide.com (Copywrite)
Things you will experience practically on your first ride:
Vulnerability. For the first time, you experience yourself at a road junction, naked. Surrounded by car drivers, by these cages of steel, but you are free. You are looking at these machines from a vantage point you have never experienced before. You lift your visor and can hear their muffled radios through the closed windows, feel the radiant heat from their hot waft from the engines surrounding you, and smell the acrid exhaust fumes from their tailpipes. It is a sensory overload. You feel like a lithe panther, stalking through a pack of muscular buffalo, you are vulnerable to their bulky mass and size, but you are prepared, alert and ready.
The feel of the wind. You feel the wind like you’ve never felt it before. It moves you and your motorcycle around, strong gusts of wind easily can send you veering offline, but you are constantly correcting, constantly concentrating. Your head is enclosed in your helmet, but is buffeted by the wind, battered and knocked. You turn your head to the side for first time to check blind spot and you are shocked as your neck strains against the force pulling of the gusts which have caught the flat side of your helmeted head.
The feel of the road. You feel the road surface as if tracing it with the tips of your fingers. You notice how the grip changes between different surfaces, how the shiny black tar of ‘crack fillers’ and the freshly painted road markings are scary as hell because they offer such little grip. You see now how some deep cracks in the road can be as wide as your tires and that your life depends avoiding them. As your experience grows, your body becomes adept at adjusting to being thrown around by the wind, your neck becomes stronger and resists that wind buffet. As your body adjusts riding against the wind becomes second nature and you grow into a newfound competence where you enjoy the challenge of reading the road.
The smells of a journey. When you ride a motorcycle, you notice smells in a way that you don’t when you travel by car, or even by bicycle. The smells change frequently, which increases your awareness of them. These smells greatly impact the experience, and help to form lasting memories in a way that are very unique. You will remember the mossy, earthy smell of the riverbank as the road dipped down towards a river in that one section. You will look back fondly at that turn where you passed that open farmland where for two miles you were enveloped in a sweet fresh scent of cut grass. You remember passing that quarry and smelling a dry dustiness of broken stone, something that you did not know you could even smell or sense.
Temperature. Sometimes you will notice that you are close to a river or other body of water before you even see it, because you ‘feel’ the temperature drop. You just don’t notice it on a bicycle because it happens slowly, and in a car there is too much insulation. When a cloud moves over the sun for a few minutes, you feel your hands start get colder on the handlebars as air temperature hitting your knuckles has dropped.
Speed/Acceleration. Motorcycles, especially sportbikes, accelerate like very few cars do. A sportbike can reach 100 mph in a little over 5 seconds (in the right hands!). The acceleration is so fast that it’s almost overwhelming. Now, in terms of speed, when you ride a motorcycle you experience velocitation in a significant way – that is the phenomenon by which your body and reflexes adapt to high rates of speed, which then ‘seem’ slower after extended periods of time. So you can go very fast on a motorcycle, but your body is so connected to your machine you quickly ‘adapt’. The speeds you are travelling at ‘seem’ to become more manageable and normalised. Your body has adapted its sensory perception where you feel, intimately, everything that is going on with you in connection with your bike, even at these high speeds. You must as new rider be aware of this phenomenon, prepare yourself for velociation, because it lulls you into ta false sense of security: your body simply grows acclimated to these incredible speeds you can easy reach on a bike. You must work to pull yourself come away from that world of speed on the public roads, the place for experience is only on the race track, book a track day now and experience a safe (er) time of pure theater and excitement!
Lean Angle. Unlike 4-wheeled vehicles, riding a motorcycle requires you to manage traction, and lean angles and acceleration and braking forces all at once. So it’s significantly more involving than driving a car. To add to the thrill, motorcycles lean over when turning! (While many modern sport-bikes motorcycles can be leaned over to the point of dragging hard parts of the machine (or your knee) on the ground – you’ll not experience this in the normal road riding but you will still feel that sensation of “leaning over” on every ride!) Leaning your bike over in turns adds a huge amount of fun to the experience. There is really nothing like it. (Look out for my article soon to come on explaining counter steering!)
Your body is engaged. Both your hands and feet are always busy. This might sound pretty obvious to any rider, but before I started riding, my entire knowledge of motorcycle riding was pretty much based on Excitebike and other video games. (Twist the throttle, make a turn, how hard could it be, right?) So when I realized how much your hands and feet are working while you ride, it kind of took me by surprise. For the most part, there is no such thing as an “automatic” motorcycle; all motorcycles are manual. Your left hand is working the clutch and the indicators (turn signals), your right hand is working the front brake, your right foot is working the rear brake, and your left foot is working the gears up & down. It’s a lot more work than it seems, but this engagement and involvement with your machine adds to the pure joy of riding.
The sense of mortality. When you ride a motorcycle, you’re truly putting yourself at the mercy of the rest of the world. When riding you are, at all times, keenly aware of your own mortality. And quite frankly, you should be. Once you start relaxing or acting carelessly, it could be over. This is why where I talked about that ‘focus’ that is required of you as a motorcyclist. When riding, when concentrating, you find yourself brought into a place of zen like peace and calm, a place of hyper awareness, a state of mind that allows you to access your senses, and control your entire being with a peacefulness that is incomparable. This state of mind translates to a smooth and gentle input on the controls of your machine no matter what you experience on your ride.
You become a better road user, and better car driver. You stop trusting people to act rationally.This is a key part of the motorcycle experience. All those small things that happen on the road which people don’t think much about? Motorcyclists notice them, and are constantly making lots of small decisions accordingly. You notice the big things, the small things, and everything in between. “Is this guy in front of me texting? Is that guy going to pull out of his parking spot? The surface in this lane sucks, is it safe to switch? Is that car going to cross my path to exit? When is this truck moving over, I don’t see his indicator yet? Am I out of his blind spot yet?” You might feel like the king of the road, but you learn quickly that cars & trucks aren’t thinking about you at all. You learn to constantly analyze other people’s agendas & learn to predict their behavior. (My blog on defensive can help you learn more about this – please take time to read it)
As I said above, I am passionate about motorcycles and about motorcycling. I would love to hear your thoughts on what motorcycling has meant to you below. As I said above, I hope some of my passion touches you and that your are encouraged to get out there and start riding too.
Learning how to ride defensively, is the single most important skill that you will learn as a new rider. Appreciating and thinking about defence riding throughout your riding career is the essence of riding a motorbike safely, on the public roads. If you are interested in learning to ride a motorbike safely, please do read on!
Long before James Bond’s Aston Martin, V-12 Vanquish was blessed with its most notorious feature ( a cloaking device, which allowed it to become practically invisible ) all motorcycles have had this feature installed as standard. But when you Even police motorcyclists, with blue lights, flashing and sirens screaming, report that car drivers simply look right through them.
Motorcycles fall into that category of things that drivers don’t always perceive even if they are right in their field of vision. A motorcycle approaching head-on from a distance occupies a very small part of a driver’s vision. If it’s going quickly, it’s possible that the eye simply won’t get around to looking at it enough to make it “stick” in the brain before it arrives in the driver’s immediate vicinity. “Invisibility”
As a first step, you can try to have SOME kind of high visibility gear integrated into your set-up. It doesn’t have to be a bright yellow bib, but consider instead some white florescent helmet markings strips (or a white helmet). Having an element of high visibility gear can be done ‘fashionably’ .. but if fashion is your main concern you’re missing the point a little.
When is the last time you made sure all your lights (brake lights and indicators) are working?
There’s also a ‘school of thought’ that “Loud Pipes Save lives” – while there’s little research to support that loud exhausts are really effective, it must surely make a difference sometimes, like when you can help wake-up the car driver in front of you! (Aside from the ‘safety’ boon of having loud pipes..I admit I do LOVE a loud exhaust just for the sheer thrill of it!)
But even wearing high visibility gear, or having thunder erupt from your exhaust may not help … simply because of this ‘motorcycle blindness’ noted in bold above.
THE BEST way to keep safe while you are invisible, is to practice defense riding.
What is defensive riding?
You need to expect that every road user will kill you unless you take preventative action = DEFENSIVE RIDING. Learning this skill begins by believing that everything on the road posses specific risks (and associated danger) – you need to deliberately train yourself to be a mentally prepared, defensive rider, prepared for the unexpected.
Learn to have your eyes constantly searching for possible danger
Learn to ANTICIPATE (your life literally depends on predicting and riding your bike in a defensive way : you MUST LEARN to ‘defend’ against as many possible risks that you can possibly perceive
Read the road condition, adjust your riding style appropriately (type of tarmac, road markings, gravel, pot holes)
Read the corner type, think about your line and remember you’re not on a closed race circuit (open, closed, line of sight, camber?)
Anticipate all other road users : RIDE “AS IF” THEY DO NOT SEE YOU (The tractor driver towing a trailer into his home lane will have his evening meal on his mind not checking his rear view mirror before he pulls across you.)
Consider all the things that are at the road-side and they might affect your riding (you see that distracted Mum, turning round to calm an angry child. She won’t know you’re there until she hits you. It is your responsibility to see the pressure she is under and avoid the accident.)
Always ride well within your ‘limits’ (and within the speed limits) and do not try to keep up with more experienced friends.
The list is literally endless – keep aware, keep alert and mitigate.
All the time you must have your eyes up, looking ahead the next corner, keep a check in both mirrors, make yourself sit in the epicenter of a safe bubble of distance, protect yourself by using the information you are taking in, to ride defensively.
Riding defensively does not imply that you should ride everywhere at 25mph but rather, that before every ride you should fully engage your defensive riding brain. And I mean it. Say to yourself EVERY TIME you put your leg over that bike, “this is serious”.
Do not ever ride under the influence of alcohol, drugs or if you are very tired.
Finally, gain experience, and enjoy (as safely as is possible) absolutely every second of the best fun on earth.
In this rapidly changing situation, I wanted to write a quick article around motorcycling and COVID-19.
Before we get into things, this article was written 21st March 2020 : so please be aware and check the most up to date guidance and advice from your local authorities and governments. Guidance will be changing on a daily basis; please adhere to whatever the most current guidance is.
On the 20th March the UK Government announced that all bars, pubs, clubs restaurants, and gyms are to close, as well as many other small and large businesses across the UK : a serious step up in the response to combating the spread of COVID-19.
At the moment, there is no UK Government enforced lock down or restrictions on UK domestic travel by car or motorcycle, so right now, you have the right to go out for a motorcycle for pleasure. The question you need to ask yourself is, should you?
The argument in support of going for a solo ride (for pleasure) is that (if you do not need to self isolate) it is an activity you can enjoy yourself, alone, without posing much unnecessary risk to others. (And obviously, if you are required to continue to work (and cannot work from home) then if your motorcycle is your transport, you’ll still be motorcycling as part of your commute.)
Some counter arguments against going for (a ‘pleasure ride’) might include:
You might be putting yourself (and others) at risk as your journey is not really a necessity, if you need fuel for example, you’ll be touching a fuel nozzle, then as you take your helmet on and off you will likely be touching parts of your face.
Let us also be real, motorcycling is inherently dangerous: having even a light tumble would be putting unnecessary & needless burden our already strained healthcare staff and systems.
In my opinion group rides are not adhering to the ‘spirit’ of social distancing. [Yes, while you are on the bikes, it is maybe ‘OK’. BUT, your ride automatically becomes an unnecessary social gathering as soon as you stop for food or coffee or for fuel together. (My riding buddies and I are cancelling our planned tour to the Lake District (England) in May 2020, even though we’ve been looking forward to this for most of the past year – but we have had no hesitation in doing so).
If you are showing any signs of infection, the UK government advice (currently) is you should be self-isolating : this means you should be staying at home.
The below guidance from NHS UK (21st March 2020)
You’ll need to stay at home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does.
Staying at home means you should:
not go to work, school or public areas
not use public transport or taxis
not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home
You can use your garden, if you have one. You can also leave the house to exercise – but stay at least 2 metres away from other people.
[This last piece of advice (that you can leave the house for exercise even when self isolating) might mean we can still adhere to self isolating AND still get out for a ride. But again, if you stop for fuel, you could spreading the virus when you are handling the pumps.
For me, motorcycling has been good for my soul and has helped my mental health enormously on many occasions, but if I am required to officially self isolate – I will be staying at home and will not be riding my motorbike.]
Everyone, including motorcyclists should get to know the government’s guidance on social distancing (available here) and take every precaution when leaving the house.
If I am not required to self isolate (IE when I am healthy) – I may still go for limited solo rides but I am restricting how far I go, and will be very careful at fuel stations, avoiding close contact with other people. (I will continue to ride (solo) only as long as the UK Government does not impose a more strict travel ban).
What you do, is up to do you, but your decisions may impact others.
Trail braking is a motorcycle an advanced motorbike riding technique where the brakes are used beyond the entrance to a turn, the rider gradually releases brake pressure between turn-in and the apex of the turn.
Why is it called trail braking?
The term trail braking refers to the practice of “trailingoff” front-brake pressure gradually as you progress into the corner.
Many riders feel trail braking is an advanced technique & that new riders, and roads riders should not worry about. I absolutely do not agree.
As you see in the image above – trail braking could be described as part of a cornering transition.
As a new rider, without being taught trail braking, my ability to control my machine was impaired. I starting trail-braking myself naturally and I would go so far as to say that it improved my riding so much that it has probably saved my life.
Trail braking is an ESSENTIAL part of having full control over your motorcycle. I feel that fact that the CBT course (UK – Compulsory Basic Training) and the MFS course (USA – Motorcycle Safety Foundation) do not even discuss this is a shocking oversight.
[Another shocking omission from the UK CBT course is that I was given no real explanation of counter steering. I had no instruction on how to deliberately counter steer around a tight corner, I can testify that learning how to purposefully counter steer has almost certainly saved my life through a number of turns – I’ll discuss that in my next article]
Is it any wonder that it the new, low-mileage riders that are crashing the most, when they are not even aware of techniques to control their machine at the corner entrance; the brakes are a control, and riders that crash rush into the corner without full knowledge and competence of this control.
Whatever experience you have a street rider (most track riders at least have had some guidance around trail braking), please do read the rest of this article.
Is trail braking dangerous?
Riding well is difficult, riding poorly is easy and painful because mistakes can be catastrophic.
Abrupt braking mid-corner WILL collapse the geometry of the forks and make the bike ‘stand up’ potentially ending in a high-side crash OR it will cause a lock up and your front tyre, which will tuck under possibly leaving you in a low-side crash.
Remember, trail braking requires a light touch, a gentle release of the brakes, NOT another grab of the brakes mid corner. Think of trail braking as fine-tuning your entrance speed. The majority of your entry speed is STILL knocked off while straight-line braking in same you are told in training courses.
The trail braking force must used even more judiciously when traction is limited (in the rain).
Why should I be using this trail braking technique?
Trail braking will help you survive on the street and fully enjoy the sport of motorcycling on the track.
Trailbraking puts more load onto the front tire for increased traction to handle steering inputs. Trail braking can actually improve your bike’s steering geometry, helping it turn better. A slightly compressed front fork tightens the bike’s rake and trail numbers and allows it to turn in less time and distance.
Trail braking is enhances stability and control. Trail braking helps minimize forward and rearward chassis pitch (the rocking back forward motion) that occurs when applying and then releasing the brakes. When you trail brake (instead of just releasing the brake entirely) your suspension stays compressed as the bike leans and then rebounds gradually as the brakes are released slowly.
Trail braking with both brakes helps slow, but also increases stability even more. The rear brake also increases stability by “pulling” the rear contact patch in line with the front contact patch, controlling any side-to-side fishtailing effect.
How can I practice trail braking, it trail braking too dangerous to try on the road?
Hop on your motorcycle, with it switched off and begin to slowly squeeze the front brake. After just a little bit of squeeze you should hear a click sound. That is the sound of the switch that activates the tail light. Now with the brake lever squeezed to that position see if you can roll the motorcycle forward and backwards. What you want to do is ‘feel’ the pressure that needs applied to allow you to roll the motorcycle back and forth but still feel the slight resistance of the brake pads. That is an indication how much (how little) pressure is needed to trail the brakes into the corner. Too much pressure and you may cause the tire to tuck or lose traction in the corner causing an accident.
So how do I practice trail braking on the street?
Again, as I’ve said above, you must understand that the majority of your braking should be done before you tip your bike into the corner. Don’t get confused and believe that you are going to add brake pressure as you add lean angle. Just the opposite: you want to give away (release) brake pressure as you add lean angle because your front tire can only handle so much combined braking and lean angle.
Brake feel is a learned skill that includes understanding the dynamics of load transfer on traction as well as developing a feel for how your motorcycle’s brakes respond to subtle inputs.
Trail braking is the art of learning the importance of how to release the brakes progressively to prevent abrupt rebound of the suspension, which can cause the tires to lose traction.
By mastering trail braking, and gaining experience, it is possible to slow the bike down even when leaned, in some instances this skill might give you the tools to salvage a corner. If you think this skill will magically appear when you need it, you are wrong!
Start in a dry car parking lot, progress from there to slow speed corners on streets where there are no surface hazards. Then refine and solidify the technique, even consider to a novice track day and asking an instructor to help you work on this technique.
Mastery of your brakes, is equally (if not more) important as your mastery of throttle control , both go hand in hand. Regularly practice emergency braking and refine your corner trail braking technique to remain sharp.
There a few things you should check on your motorcycle on a regular basis. Smart Motorcycling Guide is about real world, honest motorcycling. I absolutely admit, I do not run through an entire pre-ride check list every time I ride : but there are some ‘primary safety checks’ that form part of my routine every single time I ride.
I encourage you to at least read the lists below as quick reminder of the things that you should be checking, every time you get a chance! My advice is to start doing at least the primary safety checks first, so that you build a routine. The plan should be for every journey:
1. Check your bike
2. then put on your helmet on
3. throw your the leg over it, and ride.
Motorcycle maintenance check lists are good at getting your mindset in the right place, especially if you do not have your own routine already established. Do make your own basic motorbike pre-ride checklist, and stick it on the wall of your garage, or use the one below!
Look out for where I mark some of the checks as “PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK” : these are the most important from a safety perspective.
Failure to prepare, is preparing to fail!
You should have a handbook with the specs for your bike, if not, go get one. It is fairly easy to pick up workshop manuals for various models on eBay in PDF or CD form for little money. (You may be able to find some data for your particular motorcycle on the net, or YouTube!)
Whereas with a four wheeled vehicle you may get away with being lax with things like tire pressures etc, this is not the case with a motorcycle. Motorcyclists pay the for the thrill, for the feeling of motorcycling freedom, with risk.
In essence, this exposure & freedom requires the acceptance of increased danger versus being caged and protected inside a car. (There’s no doubt the increased risk, is also part of the thrill). It is smart motorcycling to be as prepared as possible : make your ride as safe as possible so that you can continue to enjoy the thrill of two wheels.
One of the best things about motorcycling is learning Basic Motorcycle Maintenance.
It is ‘smart motorcycling’ not to compromise the safety and stability of your motorcycle, for the sake of a bit of routine maintenance.
Pre-ride check list
•Tires – check condition and for foreign objects in the tread. It is also vitally important to keep your motorcycles tire pressures either on spec for you specific bike, for the riding conditions, or very close to it. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]
•Oil level – always check with the bike on level ground, hold it upright off the stand if you can so that the oil settles level in the sump.
•Coolant level – only if your bike’s liquid cooled, obviously.
•Chain – check the tension and make sure it’s well lubed. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]
•Brakes – check they work and that they feel good. [PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]
•Lights – check all your lights, especially the brake light, you don’t want to get rear ended, do you?
•Visual inspection – self explanatory.
•All ok? – hit the road.
•Check battery – see that the connections are tight. Also check the electrolyte level on some batteries, a lot of newer batteries are gel filled, sealed for life types, so no need with these. Have you got a trickle charger?
•Ignition timing – only necessary on some bikes, most newer models have electronic ignition which does not need touching, normally.
•Valve clearances – unless you’re a good home mechanic, take it to a dealer.
•Wheel bearings – you’ll need a stand for this. The one below is not wildly expensive. grab each wheel with it off the ground and see if there is any sideways play. There should be none or maybe a trace at most.[PRIMARY SAFETY CHECK]
So what really are the Top 10 motorcycles for 2020? The way I see it, the list will simply not be the same for any two people!
This list includes some motorcycles that may not be classed as the ‘best’ or the ‘fastest’ in their class – but these are the motorcycles that would make me feel good, and that is what motorcycling is all about.
I had to come up with a few guidelines ‘..or this would have turned into a Top 100 motorcycles list for 2020.
Only two motorcycles from each broad ‘class’ I wanted to get the perfect MIX not just 10 sports bikes.
All motorcycles must available to buy new for 2020
All these motorcycles must be standard production models, not customs, or concepts that will never be made.
1. Top 2020 Sports bikes
2020 HONDA CBR1000RR-R SP
What can I say – I am a Honda fan. There’s just something about the word FireBlade that screams ‘motorcycling’ to me. Read our first look article on the new 2020 Honda Fireblade here. It is pretty clear I would almost kill to have this machine. I think it looks stunning, it’s fully loaded for 2020, and I want it to tear my tear face off with that power.
If the FireBlade is going to be my primary partner for obliteration of track days , then the Panigale V2 will be my bit on the side. Also a weapon like the Honda, but this is a dagger instead of a machine gun. This dagger has such a beautiful design that I might want to frame it and display it on my wall.
This twin-cylinder Panigale has a completely new look, and, thanks to a comfortable seat and its suspension set-up, it offers sports performance while making road riding more enjoyable and user-friendly. It is powered by a 995 cm³ Superquadro engine with a maximum power of 155 hp at 10,750 rpm and a maximum torque of 104 Nm at 9,000 rpm.
What is not to love here – this machine has the stunning , jaw dropping sexiness of the Panigale heritage, without the insanity of the top line V4 models. I can go to the shops on this, I can go the track, I can have fun in the twists and turns without thinking I’m going to kill myself if I twist that throttle a little more than I should have. Stunning, rid-able, sex on two wheels.
The new Ducati V2 Panigale will retail at £14,995 – which comes in at £5,000 cheaper than the V4.
2. Top 2020 Naked Motorcycles
2020 MV Augusta DRAGSTER 800 RR SCS
If if I’ve described the V2 as sex on wheels – well this is the definition of ‘bling’. This machine has more bling that Jay Z’s gold chains. I’m not cool enough to ride this, but that’s the point – no-one is.
This machine is 140hp with 87Nm of torque from a 3 cylinder, 798cc engine.
MV August owners love talking about how their bikes ‘are works of art’. There’s reason for this : they are works of art.
£16,600 for these stunning piece of jewelry – and you can be sure I’d rather have this bike, over a fancy watch any day : easily on my top 10 Motorcycles for 2020.
2020 CCM STEALTH FOGGY
I’ve a got a CCM calendar in my kitchen. These bikes are pure. For me, the definition of naked. This kind of stripped down mechanical grittiness makes me feel like punching something in a manly fit of testosterone. I think I became pregnant thinking about this bike, and I’m a man.
The engine is a thumper – a big single cylinder , 600cc, with Power @ 62 bhp and Torque 66 Nm @ 5,500 RPM. BASE PRICE: £12,495.00
3.Top 2020 Touring / Adventure Motorcycles
Husqvarna Norden 901
The looks of this new machine is a what we call Marmite. Some love it , some hate it. I love it. I love modern looks of the the VITPILEN and SVARTPILEN 701, and this Norden has also shares that very new and fresh look. Here’s my thinking – if I’m riding a adventure-touring motorcycle – it is not going to look as sexy as a sports bike. What I love about this, is that the machine just screams – “I am capable and built for this”. Estimated cost £13k.
2020 Harley-Davidson Pan America
Another marmite choice! Again for exactly the same reasons as for the Norden above – this machine tells me – I have a job to do, and I’ve been built for it. Look at me! I’m a tank jeep motorcycle thing!
Harley describe this as ‘TOURING BECOMES DETOURING’ they say the Pan America equals “parts campfire, wanderlust, and grit. This is our two-wheel multi-tool built to endure, designed to explore, and engineered for full-send. H-D ADV; find your way home.”
Estimate cost £15k.
4. Top 2020 Cruiser & Bobbers (Including Power Cruisers)
Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
This is a different kind of bling versus the MV Augusta Dragster, but it certainly a type of ‘bling’. The Speedmaster is the perfect mix of chrome, combined with an ageless, refined elegance. It straight up, looks and feels like an expensive piece of kit, but delivers a true cruising experience with a punch.
Central to the Bonneville Speedmaster’s premium performance is the critically-acclaimed Bonneville 1200cc HT engine and the ‘Bobber’ tune. Its category-leading torque figure of 106Nm at a low 4,000rpm from a charismatic 270° firing interval provides smooth, linear power delivery from the slick six-speed gearbox.
Starts from £11,650.
New 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 S
The Diavel always leaves the world wondering – is this really a Cruiser?
The Ducati Diavel changed the face of the motorcycling world, by producing this insane ‘performance cruiser’…that handles.
Ducati own words describes the machine as having “thrilling performance, sporty power, advanced electronics, but with cruiser world features of long, low, forward positioned footpegs, powerful torque even at low speeds, no compromise in terms of materials and finishes.”
Ducati say for 2020 the unconventional, unmistakable Diavel 1260 will be sporting two new color schemes, namely Dark Stealth (a total black look, available for the standard version like in the picture above) and an all-new Ducati Red with white trims and red seat tail (on the S version).
The new Diavel is built around the Testastretta DVT 1262 engine, with a massive 157hp twin cylinder, 1262 cm³. The new Diavel 1260 S comes standard with Ducati Quick Shift up&down (DQS)
From around £18k
5. Top 2020 Duel Sport / Off Road
2020 KTM 500 XCF-W
This is ‘spicy’ – I can taste this bike – like a Komodo Fire Dragon Chili Pepper. At the time of writing KTM claim this is the most powerful offroad bike on the market.
This new for 2020 model, the KTM 500 XCF-W packs a 4-stroke punch from an awesome 510 cc SOHC single cylinder bombshell, with an incredible power-to-weight ratio and is described as providing nothing less than the most dynamic offroad experiences available.
From around £8500.
2020 Zero FXS
Converseral. Yes.. right now most electric motorcycles are still too expensive, yes.. we do not have the proper infrastructure for recharging yet, yes.. the time taken to recharge all electric vehicles is still just too long.
So why is this on a top 10 list? In my opening paragraphs of this list, I made it clear I would put bikes on here that would make me happy. I love experiencing something different, and there are some really good points too!
“Imagine savage performance delivered without tedious and greasy servicing regimes. Forget oil changes, spark plugs, clutches, filters, chain adjustments or expensive tune-ups. Instead, a carbon fiber belt cleanly connects the rear wheel to an air-cooled Z-Force® motor that uses a single moving part. Swap threadbare tires. Replace used-up brake pads. “ Zero
Zero’s blurb on their machine actually makes sense, and resonates with me! Why? Simply because with fewer things to go wrong out there on a trail and with less mechanical maintenance to do at home (like having to check value clearances at intervals of 10 ‘hours’.. like on some other enduro type machines)…instead, I can get on with actually riding the thing!
When it comes to range..an optional accessory, the Power Tank can be added with travel up to 223 miles in the city or 112 miles on the higher speed motorway (highway) riding.
The Zero FX’s Z-Force® 75-5 motor produces a thumping 78 lb-ft of torque, that is properly powerful.
Thank you for reading the list above – I know your personal list will be different – but I really hoped you enjoyed this one! (I enjoyed making it!)
As individual bikers, we all get passionate about the manufactures we love, the class of bikes we love & the specific motorbike models we love..but let us all agree the important thing is that we’re all on two wheels together.
Why do SWAT teams all wear body armor? Maybe because they know there is a chance they will get shot? Maybe wearing that armor pushes their chance of survival WAY up? No guarantees, mind you, but definitely better to be shot with it, than without it.
Riding a motorcycle is the definition of fast, fun, freedom right? So taking time putting on all that safety gear can feel like a real nuisance.
ATGATT – how to look uncool?
We all want to look cool, not like some safety gear nerd with balls the size of peanuts! Putting on all that gear can be a cumbersome buzz kill – there is no doubt about it, 5 minutes of faffing around to get kitted up is not as much fun as actually riding a motorcycle..who would have knew.
I know the struggle, but I’m now an ATGATT rider 99.9% of the time. You can make up your own mind, but good medicine does not always taste nice, but it is good for you in the long run ( and you’ll quickly get used to the taste) !
What marks a really great rider, is having that awareness, that appreciation, for just how dangerous the sport / hobby can be, for those who are unprepared.
What’s the worst that could happen?
As a coping mechanism, it is healthy human nature not to continually think about the worst that could happen, otherwise, we might never leave the house! But, we should take some time to appreciate and consider the consequences of what might happen if things go wrong, it helps us prepare intelligently. (Smart Motorcycling!)
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Learning to acknowledge potential issues in life, helps us make informed decisions and prepare better to deal with them when they come along.
One of the things you might like to avoid is road rash. Instead of that little red tingly rash on your elbow that its name implies…instead, the accounts of riders who have experienced this say it’s not ‘rash’. Instead, think of the pain of your skin being ripped and shredded. How would it feel to have a cheese grater rubbed on your buttock, but not just an ordinary a cheese grater, but one moving at 30mph?
Hundreds of our biker brothers die on our roads ever year, BUT hundreds are SAVED by helmets. Research by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that around 1860 lives are saved in a single year, by motorcycle helmets.
A study by the University of Michigan looked at 15,000 motorcycle crashes over 4 years, and calculated that the risk of fatality as ALMOST 300% higher for riders not wearing a helmet.
Talk to your biking buddies, even talk your other less cool ‘non biker’ friends, heavens, even talk to your parents. You WILL hear lots of stories about someone getting killed or seriously injured on a motorcycle, so let us be smart about this : if someone told you there is some way to avoid the chances of death by a factor of 300%, would you ignore them?
Maybe you hate wearing armored gloves because because it reduces the intimate feeling you have between man and machine…how could you ride like Rossi if you cannot truly ‘feel’ those controls? On the other hand, what about when you loose the skin on your fingers and hands…you’ll never again be able to feel what is like to ‘touch’ the skin of someone you love again..is that worth feeling the rubber of the handlebars?
What about those times when having to put on full boots with ankle protection is too much of chore? Would it be worth that struggle if it meant you will be able to play football again in the future, or does having the tendons in your ankles torn off sound like more fun?
If you’re riding a bike, you’re a grown up. It is up to you decide on the risk you take, but the above examples are something to think about.
It really is up to you…
Going ATGATT is about being always prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. At the end of day, the choice is up to the individual rider, you you must be prepared to live with the consequences of your choice of protection. For me, ATGATT provides me with the best ‘chance’ to ride another day, if things go seriously wrong. For that reason, for me, ATGATT will always be worth the hassle, always worth the cost.
The notes on the gear below are just some summary notes to think about – we will publish more detail guides around these individual parts of your gear in the future!
Properly fitting, full face helmet
If you can, go into the your local motorcycle dealership and get them to help you with helmet fitment. If your dealer is worth their salt, then they’ll know exactly how to size you up. Expect them to twist your helmet to check for movement on your head – they will maybe press their fingers in around your cheeks and forehead – they will ask you lots questions. The helmet will feel very tight if you’ve not had one on before. Over time the foam pads does soften, but it needs to be REALLY snug. (You can still buy your helmet online – as long you’re confident in the fitment and that the online is reputable – do not buy from ebay second hand.) Make sure the helmet you buy has the appropriate safety makings. If must have at LEAST ONE of the three safety markings DOT , ECE , SNELL , if not walk away.
Full Gauntlet Gloves
Gloves are important – getting a stone chip on your knuckle at 60mph is going to feel like a bullet, and frozen hands can really impede your ability to control your motorcycle.
Good gloves will still leave you with enough flexibility and feeling to have excellent dexterity and mobility to best control your motorcycle.
Pay for good, motorcycle, armored /reinforced gloves. Those mittens your Granny knitted are good for playing in the snow, not for your motorcycle.
A gauntlet glove is one that has extended coverage that comes right down over your wrists. The idea of this is that your wrist is a weak point – vulnerable to injury; gauntlet gloves are the best gloved protection you can get – NB often a requirement to Track days.
Be sure the material in your gloves is an appropriate leather, reinforced stitching. Armored gloves can have CE rated plastics and armors around fingers and knuckles, with Kevlar panels, & always try get a pair additional palm protection sliders.
Trousers & Jackets
The best projection is usually the kit that required for the track, like a one piece leather race suit ( airbags became mandatory in MotoGP since the beginning of the 2018 World Championship season!) but for road riding there are more practical and affordable solutions.
Beyond the full race suit, you can have a slightly more practical split 2 piece leather kit, which usually connects at the waist, but there are lots of options and combinations of leather, textiles that blends of different materials, all designed specifically to protect you if you hit the tarmac ! (NB even Leather race suits (and 2 piece leathers) are also often blended with textiles for flexibility and air flow)
It’s important to remember you can build up your kit as you progress : mix and match! For example, you could add a premium piece of protection like an air bag vest (or an armored vest) to a relatively inexpensive textile textile kevlar reinforced jacket (which might have it’s own armor too) to ‘double up’ allowing you to seriously ‘upgrade’ your protection level.
If not going for leather, trousers/pants and jackets are usually made from a ‘Kevlar type’ of reinforced textile material to designed with abrasion resistance to protect from slides (be sure the details in the product description has information about the materials, look out for some mention of abrasion resistance grade!). Textile jackets and trousers/pants will often be blended with other composite/natural fibers and textiles to allow breath ability and additional flexibility.
Additionally, many trousers and jackets should have composite amour and padding in areas that need the most protection in a fall or crash. (Be sure if the product has ‘pockets’ for amour (rather than it being built in) – do not forget to actually buy the armor to fill those pockets!) It is best to make sure your jacket has some kind back / spine protection as a minimum.
With all of your kit – you need to consider the type of riding you will be doing (mostly) and your climate! (Air flow, breathability versus weather protection & warmth!)
There are two temptations when it comes to footwear. The first option is to to go for your running shoes, lots of grip on the pegs, light, breathable, and great feel, but you zero protection if foot suddenly gets caught on something in the road. The other temptation is your work construction boots (Dr Martin’s or something) – this is definitely better but not designed for the job.
Even wearing the best motorcycle armored full boot, if your foot gets caught in the chain when you have fall – you could still in some trouble, but you will be in better shape with a CE armored race boot, versus wearing trainers.
Again, review materials of the footwear you are considering versus one another : while obviously the best protection is a full race boot (as I noted above, the most protective kit is usually race/track orientated gear) but there are lots of alternatives with varying degrees of practicality, each designed with specific uses (and budgets) in mind – again as above, you need to consider the type of riding you will be doing (mostly) and your climate!