Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Riding Gear

Shopping for gear on a budget

Let's Go Shopping!

Let’s go shopping!

With a plan and budget in place, I enlisted the help of my friend, an experienced rider and an avid reader, Brandon ‘Trip’ McNally, and headed to GPBikes, a local multi-line dealership. GPBikes opened its new 24,000 sq.ft. showroom just west of Toronto this past Valentine’s Day. The dealership specializes in European bikes, offering the latest Ducati, Triumph, KTM and Vespa models, as well as a large catalog of gear and accessories.

Ducati 848 EVO

We visited GPBikes during the first warm and dry weekend of the season, and as expected, the dealership was bustling with customers, many taking their bikes out for the first time since last autumn.

As we entered the showroom, Trip’s eyes immediately lit up at the sight of dozens of 2011 Ducatis including the new 848 EVO parked enticingly by the entrance. His gaze lingered especially on the twin undertail exhausts of a Monster 696, but I had a mission to accomplish.

“Come on Brandon,” I said to him. “You know Lyndsey would kill you if you came home with that.”

“Yeah, she would too,” he agreed, picturing his fiancée. “But it would almost be worth it.”

Icon Overlord Jacket

We made our way past the Italian stallions to a rack of Icon leather jackets. A quick peek at the price tags confirmed these jackets would eat up a majority, if not all, of my budget, but I wanted to get a sense of fit and sizing so I tried some on.

I’m a fairly large fellow, standing an even six feet tall and weighing about 240 pounds (and slowly dropping!), so I immediately reached for an extra large Icon Overlord jacket. The fit was good, snug but not restricting, with the injected plastic protection neatly covering my shoulders and elbows. The jacket was heavy, but not as heavy as I expected it to feel.

“You look good man,” Trip said to me. “It might feel a bit tight, but it will feel better when it’s broken in and we keep hitting the gym a bit more.”

The jacket may fit me, but the $400 price tag sure didn’t.

Scorpion Hat Trick Jacket

A young salesperson, he had to be no older than 19, approached us at that point and offered his assistance. I explained my budget and that I was a new rider looking for gear for riding school. For the sake of authenticity, I did not mention I work for or that my shopping experience would be documented. I wanted him to treat me no differently than any other new customer just getting into riding.

The salesperson led us to another section lined wall-to-wall with various jackets. With his help, I tried on several different jackets, and eventually settled on a Scorpion Hat Trick jacket. The textile jacket was a good fit and offered two removable layers, a waterproof liner for riding in the rain and an insulated thermal vest liner for cooler temperatures. At $245, it also fit within my budget.

Next up was the helmet. I told the helpful young man I wanted a full-faced helmet with decent ventilation. He directed me to another section of the showroom with dozens of helmets neatly lined along several rows of shelves representing all the colors of the rainbow (and more variations of the tribal tattoo motif than a UFC weigh-in).

I’ve got a large egg-shaped head with a broad forehead I inherited from my father. The young salesman took a moment to examine my head before directing me to a selection of Scorpion lids and handing me an extra large to try on. The helmet fit snugly and securely on my head. Having little experience with helmets and no basis for comparison, I asked to try on helmets from a couple of other manufacturers to get a sense of how they feel. I felt that Scorpion and HJC helmets fit my head comfortably while a Bell helmet I tried took considerable effort to squeeze past my ears despite also being an XL. In the end, I decided to go with an HJC since it also manufactures helmets for Joe Rocket so the fit would likely be similar to the one already on its way. I narrowed it down between the HJC CL-16 and the HJC IS-16. The CL-16 was cheaper at $130 but I opted for the $183 IS-16 because it offered an anti-fog shield, HJC’s SilverCool anti-bacterial interior and an integrated tinted sunshield.

HJC IS-16 Helmet Joe Rocket Sonic Glove

A quick calculation in my head determined I had about $85 left in my budget for a pair of gloves. The salesperson offered to set my new helmet and jacket aside by the register while I went to try on various gloves. I didn’t want to spend too much on gloves and decided on a pair of Joe Rocket Sonic gloves on sale for $49. The gloves had an extended cuff and molded knuckle protectors and extra wrapping around the palm.

Hitting the Register

I brought the Joe Rocket gloves to the register aisle where my other items were waiting for me. Whipping out my trusty smartphone’s calculator app, I added up my total bill:

  • Scorpion Hat Trick Jacket - $245
  • HJC IS-16 Helmet - $183
  • Joe Rocket Sonic Gloves - $49
  • Total (Before Tax) - $464

When it was my turn at the register, I received a pleasant surprise: because I was buying a full set of gear, I received a 10% discount on the jacket and the helmet (the gloves were already on sale so they weren’t eligible for the discount). Factoring this discount, my bill came to:

  • Scorpion Hat Trick Jacket - $220
  • HJC IS-16 Helmet - $164
  • Joe Rocket Sonic Gloves - $49
  • Total (Before Tax) - $433

Even after the notoriously high sales tax here in Ontario, the total bill came in well under my $500 budget. Mission accomplished.

Now onto the next task: convincing Lyndsey to let Brandon spend some of their wedding fund on a new Ducati.

Joe Rocket Gear

The package from Joe Rocket arrived a few days after the riding school session, but I don't expect it to be long before I put them to good use. Here is what we received:

Joe Rocket RKT 201 Helmet
MSRP: $244.99

Joe Rocket RKT 201 Helmet

Joe Rocket name drops seven-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin and eight-time AMA Drag Racing Champion Rickey Gadson among other star racers who have worn the RKT 201 helmet. Who am I to argue with them? The RKT201 uses a similar SilverCool anti-bacterial and odor-resistant interior as the HJC I picked up as well as the same Rapid Fire shield release replacement system.

Joe Rocket Atomic 4.0 Jacket
MSRP: $159.99

Joe Rocket Atomic 4.0 Jacket

The Atomic 4.0 jacket is waterproof and uses a Rock Tex 600 outer shell. The jacket offers vents in the chest and arms, each sealed by waterproof zippers. The shoulders and elbows are protected by grade A C.E. rated protectors and the spine pad can be replaced with an optional C.E. spine protector.

Joe Rocket Jeans
MSRP: $119.99

Joe Rocket Jeans

Constructed of heavy duty 14 oz denim and stretch resistant Dupont Kevlar/Teramid reinforcements, the Joe Rocket Jeans feel sturdy and protective, even without the armor in the knees. Built-in pockets allow for additional C.E. rated armor while the cut and stretchy sections just above the knee and on the back below the belt help the jeans feel comfortable in a riding position.

Joe Rocket Phoenix 4.0 Gloves
MSRP: $49.99

Joe Rocket Phoenix 4.0 Gloves

The Phoenix 4.0 gloves are made of mesh with leather reinforcements including palm padding. The knuckles are protected by injection-molded shielding. They don’t cover as much as the wrist and forearm as the Joe Rocket Sonic gloves I picked up but they do feel lighter and more breathable.

Joe Rocket Big Bang Boots
MSRP: $119.99

Joe Rocket Big Bang Boots

The Big Bang Boot is a bit of an awkward name but the boots themselves are not. The military-style design would look like regular street footwear, but for the plastic strap and aluminum buckle. Molded plastic side impact protection, ankle padding and reinforced gearshift area make the boots a lot more functional than my hiking boots for riding.

Let us know about what you think. Whether you're a new rider looking for gear, an experienced motorcyclist with advice to share, or if you have a good story about starting out as a new rider, drop us a message on our forum or send an email to [email protected].

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