Section 3: Before You Ride
3.1 – Selecting and Wearing Protective Gear
Anytime you ride a motorcycle you should wear:
- A helmet compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
- Face and eye protection.
- Motorcycle protective riding gear (gloves, long pants, jacket, sturdy footwear).
Crash data shows that head injuries account for a majority of serious and fatal injuries to motorcyclists. Research also shows that riders wearing helmets have fewer and less severe head injuries in a crash.
Here are some facts to consider:
- Georgia requires a DOT compliant helmet.
- Helmets make your riding experience more enjoyable.
- Helmets protect you from the elements (wind, bugs, debris, etc.).
- A DOT compliant helmet does not restrict vision or mask important sounds.
- Crashes are unpredictable and may happen at any time, even on short rides or within minutes of starting the ride.
- Regardless of speed, a helmet will reduce the severity of head injuries.
Protection should be the first consideration when buying your motorcycle helmet. There are three primary types of helmets: full face, three-quarter, and half. A full face helmet gives the most protection since it covers all of the head and face. This design has a flip-up face shield that protects the eyes. A three-quarter helmet affords riders good head protection and is constructed with the same basic components, but doesn’t offer the face and chin protection of full-face helmets. If you wear a three-quarter helmet, you should use an approved snap-on face shield or goggles. Half helmets provide the least amount of protection.
Whichever style you choose, make sure that the helmet:
- is DOT compliant. A DOT compliant helmet has a label attached to the helmet that states the manufacturer’s name and/or brand, model, and says DOT, FMVSS No. 218, CERTIFIED.
- has no obvious defects such as cracks, loose padding or frayed straps.
- fastens securely.
A helmet should fit comfortably, but snugly. A helmet that is too loose can lift in the wind or come off your head in a fall. One that is too tight can create sore areas or cause headaches. When choosing a helmet, try on several brands and sizes to get an idea of fit and comfort.
Here are a few tips for the best fit:
- Cheek pads should touch your cheeks without pressing uncomfortably.
- There should be no gaps between your temples and brow pads.
- If the helmet has a neck roll, it should not push the helmet away from the back of your neck.
- On full face helmets, press on the chin piece. The helmet or face shield should not touch your nose or chin.
Whatever helmet you decide on, keep it securely fastened on your head when you ride. Otherwise, if you are involved in a crash, it’s likely to come off your head before it gets a chance to protect you.
DOT Certification Label for Helmets
Eye protection is required in Georgia. Without face protection, an object could hit you in the eye, face, or mouth. A full face helmet provides the maximum face and eye protection while riding and in the event of a crash. A plastic shatter-resistant face shield can help protect your eyes and face from wind, dust, dirt, rain, insects, and pebbles thrown up from cars ahead. These distractions can be painful and can take your full attention from the road. Whatever happens, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the handlebars.
Face shields come in a variety of designs to fit most any helmet. Make sure that the face shield you choose is designed for your helmet and does not interfere with eyeglasses or sunglasses.
To be effective, eye or face shield protection must:
- Be free of scratches.
- Be resistant to penetration.
- Give a clear view to either side.
- Fasten securely, so it does not blow off.
- Permit air to pass through, to reduce fogging.
- Permit enough room for eyeglasses or sunglasses, if needed.
Windshields will not protect your eyes from the wind and debris; neither will eyeglasses or sunglasses. A windshield is not a substitute for a face shield. Glasses will not keep your eyes from watering, and they might blow off when you turn your head while riding. Goggles protect your eyes, though they won’t protect the rest of your face like a face shield does. Goggles can also reduce peripheral vision. Tinted eye protection or shields should not be worn at night or any other time when little light is available.
Long-term exposure to wind noise can cause irreversible hearing damage. Properly worn hearing protection can reduce wind noise and make your ride more enjoyable, while still allowing you to hear important sounds like car horns and sirens. You can choose from a variety of styles, from disposable foam plugs to reusable custom-molded devices.
Protective Riding Gear
Riding gear designed for motorcycle riders provides protection in the event of a crash, as well as from heat, cold, rain, debris, and hot or moving parts of the motorcycle. Sturdy synthetic or leather materials provide the best protection. Wearing brightly colored clothing with reflective material will make you more visible to other roadway users.
- Jackets and pants should cover arms and legs completely and be made of durable material. Jeans do not provide adequate protection. Wear a jacket even in warm weather to prevent dehydration. Many motorcycle riding jackets are designed to protect without getting you overheated, even on summer days.
- Protective footwear provides protection for the feet, ankles, and lower parts of the legs. Leather boots are best. They should be high and sturdy enough to cover your ankles and give them support. Soles should be made of durable slip resistant material. Sandals, sneakers, and similar footwear should not be used since they provide little protection and may interfere with controls. Keep heels short so they do not catch on rough surfaces. Tuck laces in so they won’t catch on your motorcycle.
- Gloves allow a better grip and help protect your hands. Your gloves should be full-fingered and made of leather or similar durable material.
- Rain suits designed for motorcycle riding resist tearing apart or ballooning up at high speeds. You will be much more comfortable and alert than a rider who is wet and cold. One or two piece styles are available. A rain suit with reflective strips or high visibility orange or yellow colors are good choices.
Whatever the weather conditions, always wear protective gear that will keep you comfortable, enabling you to concentrate on your riding.
3.2 – Getting to Know Your Motorcycle
You should get to know your motorcycle. Learning how things work and what parts need the most attention could reduce your chances of being in a crash and extend the life of your motorcycle. To make sure that your motorcycle will not let you down:
- Handlebar height may not exceed twenty five inches (25”) above operator seat height.
- All motorcycles must have a functioning exhaust system which includes a muffler and tailpipe(s).
- Passenger footrests must be fitted if carrying a passenger.
- Headlight and taillight must be illuminated at all times.
- Read the owner’s manual first and get to know it.
- Be familiar with the motorcycle controls.
- Turn signals are required.
- Adjust mirrors for best rearward view.
- Conduct a pre-ride check of the motorcycle before every ride.
- Keep it serviced and maintained.
- Make sure your motorcycle fits you. Your feet should reach the ground while you are seated on the motorcycle.
3.3 – Motorcycle Controls
It is important to read your motorcycle owner’s manual to learn where your motorcycle controls are and how to operate them. You should be able to operate them while riding without having to look for them.