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From Budget to High-End Motorcycle Gear – Was It Worth It?

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When I first started riding a motorcycle five years ago, I had no clue about gear. In Peru, where I was at the time, local people didn’t wear any protective motorcycle gear save for tatty Chinese and Taiwanese helmets. As for a few Westerners I’d seen riding South America, I figured perhaps they were professional motorcyclists – racers or rally riders – and it wasn’t until much later that I realized motorcycle gear was, well, for everyone.

Having no idea about protective gear, I started out with an ill-fitting Chinese helmet and the clothes I wore as a backpacker, hoping it would be enough. Currently, I’m wearing a Klim Artemis riding suit, Gaerne motocross boots and a Klim Krios helmet. What was my gear evolution like – and was it worth it?

Blue Jeans and Construction Boots

Having learned to ride and bought my first motorcycle in Nazca, Peru, I never even thought about getting appropriate gear. For one thing, it simply wasn’t available: in Peru, adventure motorcycling hasn’t arrived just yet and quality motorcycle gear and bikes are only available in the capital city of Lima. Everywhere else, people ride whatever they have (mostly Chinese motorcycles) and wear whatever they wear (mostly their everyday clothes).


Adventure Motorcycle Gear

Finally, even if there had been high-end adventure riding gear shops around, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. At the time, my monthly travel budget was less than $800 a month and my expenses went primarily towards fuel, food and accommodation – not gear or equipment.

With all of this in mind, I first set off in a pair of blue jeans, a water-resistant parka jacket, a pair of llama wool gloves and a knockoff copy of Caterpillar construction boots I’d found in a local market, plus my Chinese helmet that came with the bike.

The Pros: extremely low cost and low maintenance. All I had to do was just put my regular clothes and a helmet on, and off I went.

The Cons: after experiencing my first crash and skinning the length of my left leg, I realized blue jeans wouldn’t quite do the job and invested $30 in a pair of pants I found in a small construction supplies shop in Chivay, Peru. These pants had a sturdier fabric and slightly padded hips. I rode all the way from Peru to Ushuaia, Argentina, in those. However, weather was still a very big issue – I struggled to keep warm and dry, especially at higher altitudes. The llama wool gloves were great when the weather was dry, but in the rain, they’d get soaked within seconds.

Insights: There is absolutely no way I’d go back to wearing regular apparel while riding. It might be OK if you’re just riding to get some bread to your local grocer, but for a 30,000-mile journey across South America, you’ll want at least some basic adventure riding gear to protect you from injury and weather.

No-Name Textiles

Adventure Motorcycle Gear

After experiencing a frightening episode of hypothermia on the Garibaldi Pass in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, I decided to get some proper gear. At this point, I’d learned gear wasn’t just for professional riders and, planning to ride all the way up to the Caribbean sea, I figured I needed something a little more reliable. In the port town of Punta Arenas, Chile, I found some generic brand textiles which were men’s, but fit me well enough. I also bought a pair of generic motorcycle gloves.

The Pros: This was a massive improvement to my situation. My newly purchased textiles weren’t waterproof, merely water resistant, but they provided a significantly bigger protection from the elements and crashes.

The Cons: I was still riding in construction boots, and my new gear, while a lot better at keeping me safe and warm, wasn’t a perfect fit and kept getting soaked in the rain. The gloves were an upgrade from my woolly mitts but didn’t provide much more warmth or comfort.

Insights: Basic gear isn’t perfect, but it does the job considerably well. For me, the biggest issue was bad weather – the generic textiles just weren’t up to the task when it rained.

Second-Hand Motorcycle Gear

Adventure Motorcycle Gear

After coming back to Europe and buying a different, bigger bike, I decided to upgrade my gear and get something a little better. Having researched options and concluded that I couldn’t afford brand new motorcycle gear, I decided to buy second-hand. My reasoning was that it was better to buy good-quality gear second-hand than low-quality gear brand new.

I purchased a second-hand Reusch riding suit for $250. This wasn’t waterproof, either, but I had stopped traveling at that point and only went for commutes and weekend rides, so weather wasn’t a big issue any longer. Getting used to my new 900cc bike, I had a few offs and my Reusch suit held together remarkably well. I also bought a pair of street riding gloves with leather-padded palms; they were men’s so a little too big for me, but they felt much nicer.

The Pros: This Reusch suit was also men’s, so the fit wasn’t ideal but at that point, looking good was not a priority. I liked the incorporated leather details, the suit was sturdy and durable, and although it wasn’t waterproof, I was very happy with it. The street bike gloves felt like a nice upgrade.

The Cons: Because the suit wasn’t a perfect fit, the protection pads weren’t sitting in the right places. This didn’t impact my safety on lower speed crashes, but I do wonder whether it would make a difference during a more serious accident. Much like my Chilean riding suit, the Reusch wasn’t waterproof; neither were the gloves.

Insights: Mid-range gear, or better-quality gear bought second hand, can be a great option if your budget is tight and if you’re more of a weekend or holiday adventurer. If it wasn’t for pure luck and support, I would probably still be riding in my Reusch suit now.

Off-Road Wear

Adventure Motorcycle Gear

After the short break in Europe, my partner and I decided to ride the Americas again, this time on as much dirt as possible. Paul had convinced me to try riding in off-road rather than adventure riding gear: we were planning to do some of the Back Country Discovery Routes, parts of the Trans America Trail, and parts of the Trans Canada Trail. We were hoping for some hot weather and desert riding along the way, so switching to off-road gear made sense.

Having spent ridiculous hours online looking for best deals, I assembled a “mix and match” version of off-road gear: a no-name body armor suit from Australia, my old TCX X-Desert boots, Klim motocross pants found on an online flea market, generic motocross gloves and a discounted Klim snowmobile jacket as an outer waterproof layer. For waterproof pants, I carried an old pair of men’s cycling overalls and the only reasonably priced helmet that fit my mane was an MSR.

This set up worked great for hot riding conditions – but whenever we’d hit colder regions or bad weather, I was miserable. While very lightweight and breathable, I didn’t feel the off-road gear would work for me long-term.

Adventure Motorcycle Gear

The Pros: Light weight and breathability were amazing in the heat. Off-road gear also offered a lot more flexibility which was great on gnarly off-road tracks that required a little more action and skill. Motocross gloves felt weightless and offered a excellent feel on the grips.

The Cons: Off-road gear simply didn’t offer enough protection from cold and bad weather. While it was great short-term, I would struggle in it on a long overland journey.

Insights: Off road gear works well if you’re planning to ride a lot of technical trails in warm or hot weather, but for longer trips, it may not offer enough protection.

High-End Adventure Riding Gear

Before leaving for Central and South America, I was lucky to receive some support from Klim. I currently ride in a Klim Artemis suit and Dakar Pro gloves, and have traveled through Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, and Ecuador, hoping to do many more miles around the world in this set up.

Since the Artemis is a women’s adventure suit, the fit is perfect which means I’m well protected both from injury and the elements. The suit is Gore Tex, which keeps me bone-dry, even in torrential rain. The quality and durability of the fabric ensures that the suit will last which is incredibly important to me as I don’t have a return date from my RTW trip. I love my Dakar Pro gloves – although they aren’t waterproof, the fit is fantastic and the leather details offer a nice grip and soft feel.

Adventure Motorcycle Gear

The Pros: Durability, waterproofing and level of protection are head and shoulders above what I’ve used before. This is the gear I practically live in, so all of these factors matter a lot. I love how soft and comfortable the gloves are.

The Cons: The price tag. High-end adventure riding gear is very expensive, which might make it inaccessible for a lot of riders out there. The only leveraging point is durability: good quality gear will last 5 to 8 years, so you won’t have to make another big purchase for a long time.

Insights: On a round-the-world trip or a long overland journey, high-end gear can be a game changer. Constantly changing seasons and climates, altitude and weather fronts, treacherous roads and varying terrain can all take a toll while on a long haul. Good quality motorcycle gear can be a big help in keeping you safe, dry, warm, and protected if you ride long distances daily for months.

The Bottom Line

In light of all of this, do you need high-end adventure riding gear if you love adventure motorcycling? Not necessarily. Second-hand, or mid-range gear can do a great job if you are mostly riding your bike on weekends or holidays or do shorter trips. However, it’s worth thinking about investing in higher-end gear if you are planning to ride around the world or go on a long journey: your gear becomes your second skin, and with all the challenges a journey like this will throw at you, having high-end gear can prevent a lot of discomfort and minimize your risk of injury.

Photos by Egle Gerulaityte & Paul Stewart


Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

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