Modes of Transportation – On a Motorcycle

Helmets and Protective Clothing

Choose your helmet and protective clothing with care, because this is the only protection you can count on.

Before purchasing a helmet and clothing, read the following recommendations carefully.

Helmets

For optimal safety

Your helmet should:

  • at the very least meet the DOT standard, which is mandatory in Québec
  • be equipped with a visor; otherwise, wearing protective goggles is mandatory for the driver
  • ideally cover your entire head (full face helmet) to offer the best protection against impact, poor weather and wind
  • be constructed from glass fibre, carbon fibre or composite materials
  • be perfectly adjusted yet comfortable. It shouldn’t squeeze your head or forehead, and should be able to move only a few millimetres
  • be well ventilated to allow proper airflow and prevent fogging up
  • be lightweight
  • offer an unobstructed view so you can properly see your blind spots
  • ideally be light or brightly coloured, or have reflective strips

Did you know?

  • Buying a used helmet is not recommended.
  • Helmets have a limited lifespan. Although your helmet may be recent, if it sustained an impact it could be damaged, even if the damage isn’t visible. If so, you should replace it.
  • Some models have a retractable internal sun visor.
  • Some models have inside grooves through which you can easily insert the temples of your glasses.
  • Some models have a removable interior lining to make cleaning easier.

Practical advice

  • You should preferably buy a new helmet from a retailer, because the salesperson can assist you and help you choose.
  • However, if you decide to purchase a helmet online, you must make sure you take the correct measurements. To do so, use a tape measure. Place one end on your forehead above your eyebrows and wrap the tape measure all the way around your head.
  • You can also apply reflective strips to your helmet. However, before doing so, you should consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

Jackets

For optimal safety

Your jacket should:

  • be the right size and fit your body snugly
  • be made of leather or anti-abrasive material such as Kevlar or Cordura
  • have armor or high-density foam panels fitted into the elbows, shoulders and back
  • be abrasion-resistant
  • be of good manufacturing quality and well finished—the seams must be resistant
  • allow proper airflow
  • have adjustable straps (Velcro) at the wrists and neck for better adjustment and better airflow
  • be water-repellent and resistant to humidity and cold
  • have a connection zipper for attaching the jacket to the pants
  • ideally be light or brightly coloured, or have reflective strips
  • ideally have removable liners

Did you know?

  • Some synthetic materials (polyester, nylon, etc.) are best avoided, because they can burn the skin in a fall.
  • An additional back protector provides increased protection to your spine.
  • A jacket made up of three layers may be a good option for varying weather conditions. Several models allow you to tighten the larger layers and adjust them to your body.
  • Inflatable jackets minimize injuries to motorcyclists when they are thrown from their motorcycles in a collision by absorbing any impact to the neck, back, hips and chest. If the motorcyclist is thrown from the bike, the jacket inflates instantly.
  • Numerous accessories are available to protect you against rough weather or simply to help you prolong your motorcycling season:
    • heated vests, gloves and handgrips, which can often be connected directly to your motorcycle using different types of systems;
    • cooling vests, worn under the jacket, which ensure maximum comfort without compromising your protection.

Pants

For optimal safety

Your pants should:

  • be the right size and fit your body closely
  • be made of leather or anti-abrasive material such as Kevlar or Cordura
  • have armour or high-density foam panels fitted into the knees and hips
  • be abrasion-resistant
  • be of good manufacturing quality and well finished. The seams must be resistant
  • be adjustable, especially at the ankles
  • be water-repellent and resistant to humidity and cold
  • allow proper airflow
  • have a connection zipper for attaching the pants to the jacket

Did you know?

  • Some synthetic materials (polyester, nylon, etc.) are best avoided, because they can burn the skin in a fall.
  • Some models offer zippered vents on the thighs to ensure better airflow.

A Visor or Goggles

Did you know?

  • A full face motorcycle helmet provides the best protection.
  • Drivers must wear visual protection. If the helmet is not equipped with a visor, the driver must wear protective goggles. This requirement applies when the driver is travelling in a zone where the maximum speed limit is over 50 km/h.
  • Visors and protective eyewear are the only parts of a motorcyclist’s equipment that can prevent accidents. Adequate eye protection helps keep riders from losing control of their motorcycles because they were momentarily blinded by rain, wind, dust, insects or debris.
  • Visors and protective eyewear also protect the eyes against damage and diseases caused by exposure to the sun, and they prevent sun glare from interfering with a rider’s vision.
  • A motorcycle’s windshield is not considered adequate protection, since it does not completely protect the rider from all the elements mentioned above.

Helmet Visors

  • Protection against the sun
    • Iridescent, coloured or tinted visors are not recommended as they can interfere with sharpness of vision. As well, some visors, including some dark visors, don’t filter UV rays and can actually lead to worse sun damage to the eyes because of their magnifying effect.
    • Wearing a tinted visor is especially risky at night, because such visors significantly reduce visibility.  Riders must therefore change visors depending on the time of day.
    • The best option is to wear a clear visor and quality sunglasses.
    • Some manufacturers also offer helmets that come with retractable sun shields.
  • For greater comfort
    • Anti-fog treatments prevent condensation from forming inside helmets.
    • Hydrophobic treatments help repel rain on the visor.
    • Anti-scratch treatments prolong a visor’s life.
  • Cleaning
    • Given that a dirty and scratched visor can hamper vision or increase glare, visors should be cleaned regularly with warm water and soap, using a non-abrasive cloth.
    • Alcohol-based glass cleaners should be avoided as they can damage the visor’s coating.
    • The manufacturer’s recommendations for visor care can provide useful information.
  • Visors of ECE 22.05-certified and Snell-certified helmets must pass impact absorption testing as part of the certification process.

Eyewear

  • It is preferable to choose eyewear (goggles, for example) that has been specifically designed for riding motorcycles.
  • Eyewear must not hamper a rider’s vision when it comes to checking blind spots.
  • Eyewear should fit close to the face and not have thick temples that could hamper side vision.
  • The temples should preferably be straight so that they can easily slide inside a helmet and be easily adjusted.
  • The frames should preferably be made of flexible material. Metal frames should be avoided as they can cause severe damage to the cheeks and skull in the event of a fall.  Organic lenses (made of transparent plastic) are preferable, since mineral lenses can shatter and injure the eyes.
  • Ideally, eyewear should be tried on with a helmet, so as to ensure optimum comfort.
  • The lenses should preferably have received anti-fog and anti-scratch treatments and have an antireflection coating.
  • Tinted lenses that filter UV rays, whether they are prescription lenses or not, help reduce eye fatigue caused by light that is too bright.
  • For long trips, photochromic lenses are a good option, as they automatically adjust to the brightness of the light. Note, however, that these lenses won’t be able to adjust to brightness if the helmet’s visor blocks UV rays.
  • Wearing driving glasses at night can help reduce glare from oncoming vehicles. Some models are also available with prescription lenses.

Practical Advice

  • Wearing eye protection is mandatory in Québec, Saskatchewan and 36 American states. It is a good idea to check whether your vacation destination has such a requirement. Some places specify exactly what kind of eye protection is required.

Gloves

For optimal safety

Your gloves should:

  • be made of leather or anti-abrasive material such as Kevlar
  • completely cover your hands and wrists
  • be reinforced at the joints and palms
  • be supple so they don’t interfere with using the controls
  • have adjustable wrist straps
  • ideally provide additional protection with carbon fibre panels for knuckles and joints
  • be well adjusted and not too big, too small, or too tight

Did you know?

  • Your fingers will be colder if you wear gloves that are too short or too tight.
  • Leather is the material that is the most resistant to abrasion, as long as it is thick and robust.
  • Leather that is at least 0.9 mm thick provides an abrasion resistance of 2.5 seconds during a fall.
  • Textile gloves are increasingly resistant and offer several advantages—they are supple, lightweight, have less sponginess and dry more quickly.

Practical advice

  • To avoid feeling cold and trapping perspiration, choose gloves with a little space at the fingertips.
  • Ideally, have two pairs of gloves—one for warm weather and the other for colder weather.
  • When purchasing gloves, make sure your nails are rather short, as long nails could be misleading when selecting the proper size.

In cold weather

  • Gloves designed for use in colder weather have an outer layer made of leather, textile or both, and a liner made of synthetic fabric. The liner must be warm, not restrict movements and not turn inside out when the gloves are removed. There is often an additional layer between the outer layer and the liner that traps heat, makes the gloves water-resistant and wicks away perspiration.

Footwear

For optimal safety

Your boots should:

  • protect your entire feet and ankles, ideally up to your shins
  • be made of leather or other resistant material and have reinforced tips and soles
  • have grip soles
  • be water-repellent

Did you know?

  • Avoid steel-toed boots—in the event on an impact, the metal could sever your toes.
  • Leather that is at least 2.5 mm thick provides an abrasion resistance of 5 seconds during a fall.

Practical advice

  • Look for boots specially designed for riding a motorcycle.
  • Look for leather that is thick and strong, yet supple.

Jackets or Vests Equipped with a Safety Airbag System

FOR OPTIMAL SAFETY

A safety airbag system, worn as a vest over the jacket or directly integrated into the jacket, is a trustworthy way to effectively protect the upper body, especially the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, as well as the rib cage and abdomen. Although it does not protect from everything, it will save the life of a motorcyclist in most falls or low- to medium-speed impacts.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The safety airbag system is incorporated into a motorcycle jacket or vest and is equipped with a compressed gas cartridge and a trigger. Once inflated, the airbag absorbs the energy from the impact, similar to airbags in vehicles. The layer of gas absorbs and reduces the impact. Contrary to airbags in vehicles, the motorcycle vest’s airbag remains inflated for around ten seconds and gradually deflates, thereby protecting the motorcyclist in case he or she slides down the road, which may take several seconds.
  • After a fall or an impact, you must first make sure that your jacket or vest has not been damaged. Afterwards, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions and the type of airbag used, you may replace the gas cartridge yourself or you can send your gear to the manufacturer for the airbag to be checked and the gas generator replaced. If your jacket or vest is damaged, it cannot be used again, and must be replaced.
  • There are currently three types of airbag systems on the market:

    Wire airbag system
    The jacket or vest is connected by a wire to the motorcycle. The wire is adjustable and must be attached to a fixed part of the motorcycle. In case of a fall or an impact, when the motorcyclist is ejected from the motorcycle, the tension on the wire activates a mechanism that inflates the airbag. The advantage of these models is that they are low-cost and mechanically reliable.

    Radio-controlled wireless technology
    This technology requires the installation of sensors on the motorcycle. The system is connected to the motorcycle through radio waves rather than a cable or wire. The sensors installed on the motorcycle trigger the inflation of the airbag. When the system detects that an accident has occurred, due to an unusual tilt or a sharp deceleration, it sends a command through radio waves to inflate the airbag.

    Autonomous wireless technology
    With this technology, sensors are directly integrated into the jacket or vest. Gyroscopes and accelerometers analyze the position and the behaviour of the motorcyclist in real time. When the sensors detect an accident situation, the system inflates the airbag. The airbag system used with this technology is different from the others, as it is a pyrotechnic system identical to the one used in vehicles. This technology allows for a much faster inflation time than that of a compressed gas cartridge system. Thus, the time necessary for the protective system to activate, from the start of the fall to full inflation, is reduced, whether it is due to a loss of control or a collision with a vehicle or fixed object. This technology is effective, but more expensive.

PRACTICAL ADVICE

  • Before purchasing a jacket or vest equipped with a safety airbag system, take the time to inform yourself and choose the gear and technology that is best for you.
  • Make sure that the inflatable jacket or vest offers optimal protection for your spine.
  • Choose a brightly-coloured inflatable jacket or vest that is equipped with reflective material, so that you are more visible to other road users.
  • Since gear equipped with safety airbag systems only protects the trunk, you must always wear such gear in addition to the usual equipment. Gear that is equipped with protective armour over the joints provides additional protection for your elbows, knees, shoulders and hips.
  • Inflatable jackets and vests protect against blunt impact, but do not protect you from impact with a pointed or sharp object that could pierce through the airbag. In that case, the airbag is useless. Back and chest protectors are therefore still effective.
  • You should not wear a backpack over an inflatable jacket or vest, as it can stop the system from inflating normally and render your level of protection ineffective.
  • Avoid placing any hard or sharp objects between your body and the inflatable vest or jacket. These objects, such as a cell phone or keys placed in an interior pocket, could injure you when the jacket inflates.

Back and Chest Protectors

FOR OPTIMAL SAFETY

  • During collisions or falls, protective motorcycle gear protects riders from lacerations and abrasions during a fall but may not necessarily prevent fractures. Safety accessories, such as back and chest protectors and protective armour, can ensure additional, optimal protection.
  • Back and chest protectors worn together effectively protect the thoracic and lumbar spine, rib cage and abdomen.
  • Back and chest protectors effectively protect riders against impact with a sharp or pointed object that could pierce through protective gear or an inflatable vest.
  • Back protectors are the best protection against spine injuries, and therefore the best way to avoid complete or partial paralysis.

DID YOU KNOW?

There are two types of back protectors: those that are integrated into the gear (or armour “plates” inserted into the jacket) and those that are worn in addition to gear (directly in contact with the back, underneath the jacket).

PRACTICAL ADVICE

  • The foam protection that comes with your gear is often ineffective. However, more and more equipment manufacturers are incorporating quality back protection in their high-end gear. If your gear came with foam back protection, you should replace it with a higher-quality protective material.
  • Since back and chest protectors only protect the trunk, you must always wear such gear in addition to the usual equipment. Gear that is equipped with protective armour over the joints provides additional protection for your elbows, knees, shoulders and hips.