10 Things You Will Hear Or Be Asked While Working In A Motorcycle Gear Store

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams
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10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

While working moto-retail, you start noticing a trend in questions asked, as I did in my previous job. You also start picking up on common cases of misinformation. Any good employee should notice these things and do their research diligently to be fully armed with true information to help their customers make the best possible decisions for their specific needs.

In the store that I worked at, employees provide a very thorough and hands-on approach to guarantee customers: A) understand their own wants and needs, and B) get the equipment that will best fill those needs. This will ensure the customer is happy in the long run with their purchase and that the equipment is being used the way the manufacturer intended. Everyone ends up happy.

What follows is a list of the 10 most common questions or things you may overhear in a motorcycle gear shop that usually need a little bit of educating.

1. “What is does perforation mean?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

I was always surprised by this question. I have been a gear nerd since before I even purchased my first motorcycle so maybe I didn’t realize the obscurity of the term. Perforation is used in leather motorcycle gear by putting holes in the leather allowing users to have the abrasion resistance of leather while still getting some airflow through to stay cool in hot temperatures. Many manufacturers use localized perforation to keep said holes out of the impact zones. Common sense tells us, if you put a hole in something, it becomes weaker and more likely to rip. Keeping perforation away from major impact or potential sliding areas is key to ensuring a garment’s protective qualities. Most manufactures offer leather jackets and pants in perforated or nonperforated depending on the rider’s needs. Another point to note, perforation is not mesh. Mesh is used in textile jackets.

2. “Which helmet is the best?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

The best for what? What kind of riding are you doing? What kind of motorcycle are you doing it on? What is your budget? All of these questions will help you narrow down your search. There is no best helmet for every situation. All too often people assume the most expensive, highest-grade helmet is the best. Those expensive helmets are expensive because of the R&D that has gone into making them extremely aerodynamic, extremely light, and extremely protective. Protection everyone wants but a new rider on his Versys-X 300 perhaps doesn’t need a carbon fiber race helmet even if he can afford it. Fit is as important as anything else. Decide on your main use for the helmet and go from there.

3. “What is CE rating?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

I’ll just skim the surface here to give you a brief overview. CE stands for the French phrase Conformité Européene, which literally translates to European Conformity. Just because the armor is CE rated doesn’t mean it’s for motorcycling. You’ll want to look for EN 1621 which designates the item is intended for motorcycling. EN 1621-1 is for limbs (shoulder, elbows, knees) and means no more than 35 kilonewtons of energy was transferred through the pad when tested for impact. For back protectors you will see EN 1621-2. Furthermore, with back protectors, you can look for the addition of Level 1 which means the pad has allowed no more than 18 kilonewtons of energy through when tested and Level 2 which only allows 9 kilonewtons to be passed through the pad. You may also see A or B, with B meaning the protector offers more coverage.

4. “Snell vs ECE vs DOT”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Another big topic with plenty of opinions and and misinformation. Again, we will just brush the surface here. DOT stands for Department of Transportation and is the U.S. mandatory helmet certification to be used on public roads. With a DOT certification, helmets are tested by the manufacturer to meet DOT standards, but there is no reporting or third-party testing/verification required even though the government does do infrequent random checks to help ensure standards are being met. DOT testing involves three tests. First, an impact-attenuation test in which the helmet is dropped onto a rounded anvil and hard surface. Second, a penetration test where an object is dropped onto a stationary helmet. Third, a retention system test, stressing the retention strap and closure system stay in place.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization which helmet manufacturers apply to in order to receive certification. The Snell rating uses higher impacts and examples of all helmet models carrying a Snell rating must have passed rigorous testing in a Snell laboratory. One of the controversies surrounding Snell testing is their requirement of impacting a helmet twice in the exact same spot. A scenario that is highly unlikely in the real world. Snell also buys actual production helmets at random to check that standards are being upheld. ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and is the most popular certification around the world. ECE is similar to DOT in that it is a government-regulated certification. Manufacturers must apply for ECE ratings in a manner similar to the Snell arrangement. ECE uses somewhat comparable impact tests as the others with varying heights and speeds. Without getting into any more detail here, the main take-away is that there are regulatory agencies ensuring helmets meet standards to keep customers safe. It’s a nice way to keep manufacturers honest and to give consumers that piece-of-mind.

5. “How do you think this fits?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Chances are any knowledgeable employee is going to tell you whatever it is, it’s too big. Whether you’re trying on a helmet, race suit, or jacket, customers tend to initially gravitate toward larger sizes because they feel comfortable immediately. Helmets can have a break-in period of their inner liner which can compact up to 30% in some areas so it is important to buy a helmet that fits a bit on the snug side when new After leaving a new helmet on your head for approximately 30 seconds you should have an idea as to whether you are noticing any pressure points bothering you. If so, perhaps the helmet is not the right fit for you. Most Americans are intermediate oval in their head shape head shape which can be found in a variety of models offered by most helmet manufacturers. In terms of fit with race suits, you want them tight, you shouldn’t be able to stand up easily, and yes, I will help you get out of it if needed. Really, though, a race suit is designed to be worn on a sportbike. It is not designed to be comfortable walking around your favorite motorcycling hangout. With jackets, you primarily want to be sure the armor isn’t rolling off of your elbows or shoulders. If it isn’t snug enough to stay in place while standing in the store, it’s not going to stay in place during a crash scenario. (Photo by: Daxiao Productions/Bigstock.com)

6. “How much abrasion resistance do these Kevlar jeans give me?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Kevlar is a wonderful abrasion-resistant and heat-resistant product that is used in all types of applications. In regard to motorcycling, we see it used in denim jeans that give a rider a more casual look while offering better protection than your standard Levis. Many customers want an exact time of how long they can slide on Kevlar or leather or Cordura. The problem is that there are too many variables to give an easy answer. Is the ground wet? Is it asphalt? Is it concrete? Is it cold? Is it hot? You tell me how and where you’re going to crash and maybe I can narrow it down. Companies will give timed ratings to their products sliding time in marketing material and while they may very well be real claims, in what conditions were the tests performed? We don’t know. Will they be safer than your Wranglers? Yes, but as of 2017 leather still offers the best abrasion resistance, as far as we know. Jeans with Kevlar also tend to offer CE-rated knee armor as well. See #3.

7. “Should I buy Leather or Textile?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Similar to helmet choice, it really comes down to what you want to do with it, where you’ll wear it, and what’s your budget. Leather is still regarded as offering the best protection from abrasion in widely available product. Sure, leather is more of an investment but it should last a long time if it is taken care of (clean it, and condition it). Textiles can generally be found cheaper, they are lighter weight, and offer more breathable options. They can also be more technical in their uses as is found in touring jackets with multiple layers.

8. “ That race suit is the same price as a jacket and pants. Should I just buy that?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Probably not. Unless your specific use includes track days only, a race suit is not the most practical piece of motorcycling apparel. You may be sensing a theme here, but it is something I have dealt with in the past on a regular basis. Buy what makes the most sense for what you want to do with it. A race suit is fine when you’re on your motorcycle, but if you would like to run around town, grab groceries, or maybe stop for lunch on your ride, it can be a huge PITA. A jacket and pants will offer similar protection when fitted correctly and connected (if applicable) and be the most versatile option for most scenarios. It is even enough to get you onto a track for a trackday should you have a hankering to do so as long as it’s leather and the jacket connects to the pant.

9. “My helmet just got a little scraped in a crash, so I can still use it, right?”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Wrong. Sorry to break it to you, but that helmet is probably trashed. Helmets are designed to take impacts similar to a crumple zone in a car. The helmet sacrifices itself in a crash, to keep that brain of yours safe. Although, a get-off might have left little evidence on the outside of an impact, the EPS on the inside could be significantly compromised. So use your brain since you still can and get yourself a new helmet.

10. “Oh, I don’t need all of that protection. I’m not racing or anything.” or “I’m just a passenger.”

10 things you will hear or be asked while working in a motorcycle gear store

Well, a passenger needs just as much protection as the person piloting the machine and as far as racing goes, many of those guys don’t even ride on the street citing how dangerous it is. The road doesn’t care if you are a passenger or a racer – it will tear into you indiscriminately. Do yourself a favor and get the most protection you can afford and/or are comfortable with.

Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

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Join the conversation
  • Jon Jones Jon Jones on Aug 26, 2017

    One page, please?

  • Walter Walter on Aug 29, 2017

    Here's a question that should be asked more often:

    "How close can you get to the online price of $whatever it is?"

    Give your local dealers/retailers a chance to price match- most will get pretty close to the online prices- and if they do, give them your business if you want local places to keep inventory for you to check out.

    The other thing is that online outlets often (not always) have tires & helmets that are close to their "sell by" date whereas brick & mortar stores usually have fresher stock.