It is no secret that as we get older, our bodies change. And in most cases, we do not get better with age. That only happens in the movies and with fine wine.

As motorcycle riders, we need to be aware that the changes that we are facing certainly do not mean that we need to give up our passion for riding, but as mature riders, we do need to understand these potential changes and address them in a manner which will keep us safe and on our bikes as long as possible. Taking a few extra precautions and add a few more key pieces of gear is a small price to pay to keep enjoying bikes and the freedom that they offer.

Low Light & Darkness

As described in the March 2006 issue of the Harvard Health Letter, your eyes slowly change as you age. To adapt to low light or darkness, your pupils widen to let in more light and improve your ability to see. But that adjustment is made by the tiny muscles in the colored part of your eye, the iris, which surrounds the pupil.

As anyone who is getting up there in years knows, older muscles just don’t respond as quickly or a well as they once did. So as we age, we just need to accept the fact that it can be more difficult to see in low light such as on a ride at dusk or in the early morning before sunrise.

Riding Visibility

One option is to limit the time of day that you choose to ride, but to me, that seems like giving in to old age and letting it control my ability to enjoy my bike. A better solution is to use an amber visor or shield in your helmet. This helps to intensify the minimal amount of light and provides a crisper, clearer view in low light. If you do not have the capability of dual visors in your helmet, then amber glasses are an option if you do not wear prescription glasses.

Decreasing Reaction Times & the Consequences

According to a study of 3,305 people ages 16 to 44 conducted by PBS for the show NewsHour, the human brain’s reaction time peaks at age 24. After 24 the decline in reaction time is slow but constant.

As mature motorcycle riders, we need to also embrace this bit of information and learn to extend our vision. This larger scope of vision is going to allow that short extra instant that we need to react to something around us. It could mean the difference between dodging a car backing out into traffic and high siding over a trunk and landing on hard asphalt.

And that brings me to the next fact that we, as older riders need to grasp. And that is the fact that we just don’t heal as quickly as we did in our 20’s or even our 40’s. Again, I am not advocating hanging up the helmet and gloves, I am just saying that mature riders need to take advantage of all of the amazing protective gear that is now available.

Time To Gear Up

Not too many years ago, a leather jacket was all the protection that you could get. But today’s jackets offer things like:

  • Integrated PE padding on the chest, torso, and back
  • Removable CE protectors in the chest, back, elbows and shoulders
  • Exterior friction protectors on the shoulders and elbows
  • Kevlar panels for abrasion protection
  • Mesh or perforated leather for ventilation and added comfort and safety in warm weather
  • Accordion stretch inserts and gussets to allow full range of motion and superior protection
  • Optional lumbar protection
  • Waist connection zipper to attach to riding pants to eliminate a back full of road rash

And that connection zipper is the perfect segue to the next piece of gear that has made some huge strides in providing protection. Riding pants used to be a very constricting, stiff leather garment that only belonged in MotoGP. But that is no longer the case.

Riders can select from textile, leather or even denim pants that offer almost as many safety options as today’s jackets such as:

  • Internal hips pads and knee pads
  • External knee pucks if you are really going to push some curves
  • Kevlar panels for abrasion protection
  • Mesh or perforated leather for ventilation and added comfort and safety in warm weather
  • Accordion stretch inserts and gussets to allow full range of motion and superior protection
  • Optional lumbar protection
  • Waist connection zipper to attach to a jacket to eliminate a back full of road rash

But if you are not ready to give up the gear that you already own to invest in a new jacket and pants with extra safety features, consider just adding some armor under your existing gear. There are several reputable companies who are selling back protectors that fit under a jacket or shirt, elbow and knee armor and even base layers with pockets for soft or rigid armor.

Rider Concerns

As an over 50 rider, I completely understand that many riders my age do not want to feel like they have just suited up in an Ironman costume to go out for a ride. I must confess, I was right there with you thinking that same thing until I tried out a few new pieces of gear thanks to the great folks at webBikeWorld and some awesome manufacturers who offered up some gear.

I had always ridden in jeans, some type of sneaker or gym shoe and a jacket. And in the heat of a Phoenix summer, I was not religious about the jacket on occasion. The only thing that I was a little bit smart about was wearing a helmet, but that was due to the endless supply of rock flying through the air out here.

First the Jacket

The jackets are the first piece of gear to really win me over. I have tried a lot of different brands including Joe Rocket, Icon, Motonation, Dainese and Alpinestars. And what I discovered is that as long as I get the correct size, most of the newer style jackets are very comfortable. Again, it will come down to personal preference and fit, but even with all of the added safety features and armor, these jackets are flexible and move with you rather than restricting your motion.

Anyone who had one of the older leather race jackets knows that you felt protected but only because it was like having a nutshell around you. Your movement and flexibility were severely limited. That is no longer the case.

Then the Pants

This year I also discovered that motorcycle specific pants are not as bad as I imagined them to be. In fact, they can be more comfortable than the jeans that I spent a lifetime wearing. As I mentioned before, I live in Phoenix and the summers can be pretty unbearable with temps hitting 115 and sometimes higher. So after a ride, my jeans looked like I had just gotten out of the pool and not off of my bike.

I tried out a pair of textile pants that offered some great ventilation and even better armor and padding. While wearing the pants this summer, I had a rather unfortunate incident on a corner with a gravel spill. Fortunately, the hip and knee protection did its job as did the textile. I escaped with no burns or cuts and just a little bruising.

But I would hate to imagine the outcome if my hip had hit the asphalt with nothing but a layer of denim to protect it. I consider myself fortunate to have discovered the importance of good riding gear without getting a ride in an ambulance to go along with my epiphany.

A Little Consolation

First of all, I hope that you are still with me here and did not see this as all doom and gloom and click away. My point is to provide mature riders, like myself, with some real information that we all need to hear and understand. Getting older is not all bad. I consider myself to be much smarter than the little smart ass I was in my 20’s and I plan to use that added insight to stay safe and stay on my bike for a few more decades.

The fact is that there were more motorcycle accidents in 2016 than there were in 2007 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it is not just because riders were getting older.

There are a lot of other factors that increase the potential for motorcycle accidents today including more vehicles on the road, more road rage incidents and maybe the worst of all is the number of distracted drivers. Cell phones, navigation systems and all of the other gadgets in today’s cars give drivers way too many things that can demand their attention when they need to be watching the road.

As an older and wiser rider, it only makes sense to take advantage of the safety gear that is out there to help avoid an injury that could make riding nothing more than a memory. There are a lot of great manufacturers and types of gear out there. Invest some time to research and even test fitting to find the best gear to give you the added protection you need to be safe and keep riding.

3 Comments

  1. Frank
    November 28, 2018
    Reply

    Older and wiser is right.
    2 and 1/2 years ago I found myself back into motorcycling after a 20 year absence. Having always used a leather jacket and helmet, I now have new equipment with lots of protection.
    There were days I didn’t ride this Summer because of the heat and I wasn’t going to suit up.
    As I tell the local under taker (who has a sick sense of humor)
    “you’ll never take me alive”.

    • Jim Pruner
      November 29, 2018
      Reply

      I’m with you Frank. I’ve only recently started taking my choice of riding gear more seriously and it’s made it so much more enjoyable.

      Hahaha. I like that line and I’m stealing it. It reminds me of one I heard before:

      “There once was a man whose wife wouldn’t let him buy a bike because it was too dangerous.
      He still eventually died.”

  2. Vince
    November 29, 2018
    Reply

    Use this product for both dirt & street.
    Never have to worry about armor placement. Stays where it’s supposed to.
    -Bohn Body Armor-

    Women sizing also

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