Top 10 Must Have Motorcycle Gear

John Burns
by John Burns

Guess what month it is at MO? It’s geeaar month, sergeant. The kind of motorcycle gear you wear, that is, that makes life on your bike much more pleasant no matter the climatic conditions. No doubt there will be amazing breakthroughs in the future of which our feeble 21st-century minds can’t even conceive: I’m picturing a shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled drone that deploys in 0.001-second to lift you above and away from an imminent left-turning Buick hovercraft. For now, we celebrate the 10 best pieces of gear the human race has come up with so far. Some you wear, some carries the gear you might want to wear later, some just makes the ride way more enjoyable.

10. Leather

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

Descended from the ancient Australopithecus’ wearing of animal skins from which he often did not bother to remove the fur (or some argue from Paul Dean, former Editor of Cycle Guide and Cycle World, who usually did remove the fur), there’s no better use for leather than to serve as motorcycle raiment. Supple, strong, highly abrasion-resistant and most of all just plain haute couture, it’s sort of amazing to think that in spite of how high-tech MotoGP racing has become, the main thing that protects the rider’s body is the well-padded and now airbag-equipped hide from a deceased cow or kangaroo. When it’s hot out, there’s plenty of perforated options that flow quite a bit of air, too.

9. The Cargo Net and the Bungee Hook

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

The greatest inventions since the elastic waistband, before we had these things, you needed to find a piece of rope and know how to tie a real knot to keep things from falling off your bike or your shorts from sliding down. If your motorcycle has no carrying capacity, you’re a fool if you’re not carrying a bungee net stretched over your back seat at all times. You never know when you might come upon a lost pirate chest of gold doubloons or need to transport a sick cat to the vet in an emergency.

8. Locking Saddlebags

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

Saddlebags of some kind are as old as the horse, of course, but there’s nothing like having a pair of hard ones that lock using the same key as the ignition. Better yet, remotely with an electronic fob. So nice not to have to carry a backpack to conduct your daily business. Even in our advanced civilization, there remain a few dishonest characters who’ll take things that don’t belong to them given the chance, but enough politics. And your undies will stay dry inside there.

7. Airhawk and Bead seats

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

Stock seats on all your upscale touring, sport-touring and ADV bikes have come a long way in the last decade or two. But it you’re still riding your old bike and finding yourself not as fresh, you know, down there, as you once were, Bead seats or maybe an Airhawk can make a huge difference in your positive mental attitude after a long day or two. Not only do they eliminate pressure points, they also allow more air circulation around your underpinnings.

6. Earplugs

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

WHAT?! Thirty years ago you had to shout at most older motorcyclists to get your point across. You still do often, but not because they’re deaf anymore; now it’s because they’re thick. Not only do earplugs protect your hearing, their reduction of wind and engine noise (if you’re the loud pipes type) transforms the ride into the serene restorative experience that God intended. From simple foam plugs from the drugstore, to custom-molded to the latest in Bose noise-cancelling technology (do they have those yet?), any earplugs are far better than none.

Best Motorcycle Earplugs

5. Cordura and Gore-Tex

top 10 must have motorcycle gear, Robert W Gore pulling on a piece of polytetrafluoroethylene PTFE on the way to inventing Gore Tex
Robert W. Gore pulling on a piece of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) on the way to inventing Gore-Tex.

Originally developed and registered as a trademark by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) in 1929, Wiki tells us, Cordura is now the property of Invista – a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. Cordura fabrics are usually made of nylon, but may be blended with cotton or other natural fibers. Mr. Gore’s miracle fabric, Gore-Tex, when used as a liner in a whole array of motorcycle gear, keeps the rain out while allowing your own sweat to escape to the atmosphere. When combined in a properly sewn-together garment, the results are excellent. Riding in the rain’s a special kind of fun when your body stays dry and warm. I hate to sound like a shill for the Aerostich Roadcrafter 3, one of many Cordura garments lined with Gore-Tex, but in my in-depth crowdsourcing for this article (a Facebook post), the R-3 is highly endorsed more than any other riding suit.

4. Heated Gear, Grips and Seats

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

Damned if I can remember the name of the famed BMW racer who described to me how they routed engine oil through his handlebars to keep his hands warm at the Isle of Man many moons ago, but he seemed to grow all warm again just talking about it. Maybe that was the first way people kept their fingers warm. Genius. I’m on record as saying heated grips should be mandatory equipment on all motorcycles, so you don’t crash from half-frozen fingers no longer able to operate the controls. Then came the electric vest, then the electric everything… and there’s nothing nicer than remembering your bike has a heated seat when you’re freezing your assets off.

3. Cruise control or simple throttle lock

top 10 must have motorcycle gear, Kawi H2 SX if the company s first sportbike to have cc
Kawi H2 SX if the company’s first sportbike to have cc.

First came the simple mechanical throttle lock, followed by more sophisticated ones like the Throttlemeister, followed by the current electronic CC systems that are coming on more and more new bikes. While CC isn’t really riding gear, it sort of is in the sense that not having to hold on the gas and constantly pay attention to your speed, greatly increases your relaxation and enjoyment over the course of a long ride. Even a not-so-long one when there’s not much traffic around.

2. GPS/Communicators/GoPro

top 10 must have motorcycle gear

Well, I still haven’t taken the communicator plunge, but having Siri whisper turn-by-turn directions into your ear is definitely a nice thing to have in your automobile in the middle of the night, so it’s got to be even better on a motorcycle in the rain. Some of us avoid phone calls in general, especially when riding in traffic; personally I don’t trust my multitasking skills all that much. I don’t ride with a GoPro either, but tons of people in SoCal do.

In our kind of traffic, it makes all the sense in the world to have “bodycam” footage just in case the worst happens – like the kid in Texas whose video put William Sam Crum in jail.

Full-Face/Modular helmets, Transitions shield

top 10 must have motorcycle gear, Now you see me
Now you see me…

I still sport the open-face for local rides that don’t take me on the freeway, but I’ve seen too many gory images of what can happen in an unintended trip to face-plant city. Not to mention bees and other foreign objects flying through the air. I don’t know who invented the modular helmet, but now that it’s here you can really have the best of both worlds: bugs in teeth when you want them, full-face protection when you don’t. The Shoei Neotec II seems to be the Cadillac, though HJC, Scorpion, Bell and others make perfectly nice modulars too.

Shoei Neotec II Modular Review

MO Tested: Bell SRT-M Helmet Review

Best reasons to buy a Shoei or Bell, though, is that they’re the only ones to offer Transitions faceshields, which magically lighten and darken as needed. You’ll never have to squint home through the dark again behind a tinted shield. Crazily, neither Shoei or Bell offers a Transitions shield for their modular helmet. Maybe because they both have a pull-down inner sun visor like the one in my Schuberth E1? Something to look forward to I guess…

MO Tested: Shoei CWR–1 Transitions Shield Review

We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews and other articles. Learn more about how this works.

Join the conversation
5 of 10 comments
  • Davak Davak on Nov 12, 2018

    There can be no doubt that a modular helmet is a serious compromise to the ultimate protection provided by a full face helmet. A one piece shell is so vastly superior in terms of structural integrity that I would suggest that a modular helmet should be considered to provide almost insignificant safety levels over that of an open face helmet. Similarly, the retractable sun shade that drops down from a cavity in the forehead area of a helmet also represents a serious structural compromise to what may be the most critical area of the helmet with regard to impact protection. This is undoubtably why Arai offers only externally mounted sun shields, and does not manufacture any modular helmets. Most Arai retailers have a sample naked shell to demonstrate the level of protection their helmets provide. Regardless of the brand name, I would never wear any modular helmet or one with an internal sun shade.

    • See 2 previous
    • Chambers Chambers on Oct 05, 2019


  • CruisingTroll CruisingTroll on Nov 13, 2018

    Just an FYI:

    Invista was spun off by Du Pont.

    I don't know if that's the order I would have put them in, and methinks I would put the tankbag in place of the GPS/Communicators/Action cameras (I know, y'all have to shill occasionally to advertisers who have real money), but a pretty good list, especially considering how lousy most web lists are.