The financial cost of motorcycle safety

New motorcyclists tend to spend most, or all, of their pennies on their new bike without considering, or perhaps realizing, just how much it’s going to cost to protect themselves on the bike. Of course, having just bought the bike, there’s no way they’re not going to ride it…. While I covered the items you’ll want to keep you safe in “So you want to ride a motorcycle… and not die” I didn’t cover what it would cost. Afterwards I figured it would be useful to put together a list of your basic safety items, and what you can expect to pay for them, so that new riders can plan accordingly. I’m mostly just going to be using low end prices, the cheapest you can get away with and still be safe. You can easily pay many times more for most of these items from different manufacturers.

  • Helmet: $100+

    • You can easily spend $700 on a helmet but, in general, price has no impact on safety. Make sure it’s snug and comfortable and full face (you do want to keep your nose and chin right?). More money tends to buy you nice-to-have features, like inner slide-down sun-shields, or integrated rear-view mirrors.
  • Riding suit: $250+

    • One piece, two piece, it really doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s good material and has CE rated armor. If you shop around you can find a pants and a jacket for about $150 each. But these will rarely have hip or back armor at that price. The most affordable solution I’ve found is the Fieldsheer Highland II , but it should be combined with…
  • High Visibility Vest: ~$70

    • If your riding gear doesn’t have a high-viz top you should add in a high vis vest. This is also required if you’re riding on a US military base.
    • Yes, a normal lightweight mesh construction worker’s visibility vest will increase your visibility, but they don’t generally hold up well under highway speed winds.
  • Back / Chest armor: $60-$300

    • If your jacket / suit is lacking and you want to improve your protection in this dept. you want to go with something by Knox.
    • If your jacket / suit has back armor you can get away with just the chest piece which will cost you about $60. Large busted women are out of luck when it comes to chest armor. However, the back armor that comes in most jackets / one-pieces is rarely as good as a full back pieces from Knox.
    • If you just want back armor Knox has a couple solutions ranging in price from $160-$240
    • If you want back and chest armor you’re looking at $250-$300 for one of their Gilets (vests).
    • They’ve also got shirts that would go under your current jacket and have shoulder, elbow, chest, and back armor for about $270
  • Gloves: $30+

    • It’s not uncommon to find closeout sales on good gloves. What’s tricky is finding a closeout that’s in your size. As with most things you can pay much, much more. If you’re planning on riding in cold weather too you’ll probably need two pairs and it’s likely that one of them is going to cost you at least $80.
  • Boots: $100+

    • You can sometimes find good closeouts on these but in general expect to pay $150-$200. These really aren’t optional. A friend of mine, who is a good driver, struck a motorcyclist who ran a stop-sign and totally tore up the riders foot (which was unprotected). Unless you get boots that are specifically designed to be waterproof you’ll need some waterproof booties for them. It’s amazing just how fast your feet can get soaked in a downpour.
  • Tires: $400+ (if you need them)

    • Good tires tend to cost roughly $150 each. But, getting that rear wheel off the bike to change it is going to add in an hour or more worth of labor. So call it $400. If you’ve just gotten a brand new bike you’re probably fine sticking with what it came with.

Grand total (minus tires) is roughly $850 + shipping or sales tax. If you’re buying a used bike you’ll probably need to add new tires to the mix. Since you’re probably going to buy from a bunch of online retailers we’re talking over $1k with shipping and without the tires. There are, of course, many more things that you can add but these are, IMNSHO, the basics we all should have.

There’s a saying that boats are just holes in the water that you throw money in to. I find that if you’re really into motorcycles they can be too because everything is about 5x more expensive than it is for an average car. What’s worse is that while most of the mods you’d make to a car make no practical day-to-day difference, there are a ton of mods you can make to a bike that do make a huge difference in performance, handling, safety, or all of the above.