Motorcycle kit design and performance moves on just as the bikes themselves do. In the past, riders would be protected by thick leather jackets, rigger boots, jeans and welding gloves. Today, those same riders are wearing breathable and waterproof jackets and trousers with better abrasion resistance than ever before; in gloves and boots that offer unheard-of levels of protection and comfort and are protected by personal airbags that deploy in literally a fraction of a heartbeat.
Manufacturers of all forms of motorcycle kit introduce new products annually and these are what we reckon are the top bits of motorcycle kit new for 2021. We’ve got helmets, jackets, boots and gloves as well as tech and safety protection, including airbag jackets and vests. Some might think these are over-the-top but when you consider that the vast majority of fatal motorcycle accidents involve chest injuries, then an inflatable airbag is an excellent way to help protect against injury.
There has been much talk about the ‘new’ standards and safety ratings for motorcycle clothing. It was classified as Personal Protective Equipment some time ago by the European Union and a new set of testing and rating standards were developed; EN17092. This set out new test methods particularly for jackets and trousers and gave a rating based on the garments’ abrasion resistance and construction techniques. These range from B to AAA, the latter being the highest award for the best resistance.
Realistically, most road jackets and trousers will be rated AA at best; some leather jackets will be AAA rated and some riding jeans will too but without going in to the numbers, an AA-rated jacket and trousers, for the road, is pretty much the top level. A rating tends to be a bit more relevant to urban clothing, as it’s resistance is based on lower speeds. Jackets will use armour in the elbows and shoulders and will either include or have provision for back protectors (some may also accept chest armour). There are two levels here – Level-1 and Level-2 – L2 is better than L1.
There are different standards for gloves and boots, the former rated as either a 1 or a 2 with KP denoting Knuckle Protection and boots to a 2017 standard showing a series of four numbers, either 1 or 2. The more 2s, the better.
Up until December 31 2020, all motorcycle clothing for sale in the UK had to carry a CE label to show its rating. Although the UK left the European Union on that day, this is still current regulation (at the time of writing!).
The best new motorcycle kit for 2021
1. HJC RPHA 90S
The latest motorcycle helmet from HJC is a flip-front, or modular, format that has been designed to look and feel like a race-style full-face helmet, with the strength and security that go with it combined with the convenience of a flip. It is dual-homologated, so it is legal to ride with the chin-bar both up and down and is available in a range of sizes and finishes, including this top-of-the-range carbon fibre weave. It has a large aperture with a Pinlock-ready visor and internal sun visor and has interchangeable cheekpads to get the perfect fit.
2. Caberg Avalon
Caberg has an enviable reputation for quality, value for money helmets and the new-for-2021 Avalon is no exception. A sporty full-face helmet, the shell is formed in polycarbonate and it features a removable liner and drop-down sun visor. The shell comes in two sizes with five overall sizes available and there are nine colour schemes, including plain white and black and several race-inspired colourways. It is also prepared for Caberg's Just Speak Evo intercom system to pair with smartphones, sat navs or other riders.
3. RST Paragon 6 airbag jacket
So new it's not actually for sale yet (though expect it to be available from SportsBikeShop as soon as it is), the Paragon 6 is the latest version of British brand RST's Pro Series jacket. It is available with either a Level-1 back protector (non-airbag) or an integrated In&motion airbag insert to offer exceptional protection. Both versions feature Level-1 elbow and shoulder armour and the outer is formed in MaxTec and ballistic fabric to achieve a AA CE rating. It also has a SinAqua breathable and waterproof membrane to let moisture out but keep water from entering.
4. Weise Summit jacket
This latest jacket from Weise offers flexibility in the way it can be worn. The AA-rated outer is constructed in Cordura and nylon and it comes with a removable breathable wind and waterproof liner that, once removed, will allow the huge vents to let cooling air in to the rider. It also has a removable fleece inner jacket for chilly rides but this can be removed when the temperature climbs. It features CE Level-2 armour at the elbows and shoulders and a Level-1 back protector. There is plenty of adjustment for a perfect fit and lots of pockets.
5. Dainese Sport Master boots
The latest boots form Italian brand Dainese blend sporty styling, performance and protection with touring comfort and convenience. They are produced in microfibre textile but with a Gore-Tex membrane, meaning they are breathable yet keep water out for dry, comfortable feet whatever the conditions. But when it comes to protection, the Sport Master excels here too. It uses Dainese's Axial Distortion Control System that allows the foot to pivot forwards and backwards for the gear and brake levers but not rotationally, protecting it in the case of a fall.
6. Sidi Motolux boots
Some people don't like short boots while others swear by them, particularly for short rides or in warm weather. If you like them then these from Sidi are made with a microfibre upper which is both waterproof and breathable for comfort. The liner is coated with Teflon for additional comfort and breathability and it features Sidi's Tecno-4 cable lace system for fast fitting. It doesn't shirk on protection either, with internal ankle bracing and metatarsal strengthening.
7. Keis G701 heated gloves
Cold fingers can be the bane of winter motorcycling and these new gloves form heated kit specialists Keis will help banish that. They are supplied with a lead to connect directly to the bike's battery so they will remain warm throughout even the longest rides though optional batteries are also available. Made from ballistic Spandex with a synthetic leather palm, they feature hard knuckle armour and palm sliders and are both wind and waterproof thanks to a Hipora membrane. Three levels of heating are available to keep hands warm.
8. Richa Arctic GTC
Following the success of the Arctic, Richa has updated the glove for 2021 by adding a Gore-Tex membrane to help prevent water getting in while allowing moisture to get out. The outer remains in leather and textile with the Gore-Tex membrane on the inside, as well as a thermal lining. There's D3O on the knuckles and padding on the palm and outside of the wrist on the long cuff too.
9. Integrated airbag
Without doubt, wearable airbags is the next big safety innovation for motorcycle clothing. Developed initially in racing, there have been several versions available in recent years, notable form Alpinestars and Dainese as well as universal over-jacket examples from Helite. However, French company In&motion has developed its own airbag technology and has millions of kilometres of data that is used to determine whether a crash is happening and the airbag should be deployed. It licences this technology to several manufacturers, including RST, which has integrated it in to a range of clothing. From the flagship V4.1 racing leather suit to the almost-entry level AAA-rated Sabre textile, all have the airbag technology designed and built in from the outset, rather than using additional vests.