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Adventure Riding Gear: The Basics You Need to Get Out There

Essential ADV gear to safely and comfortably venture off the beaten path.

Published on 10.09.2018

3. Riding Suit

There is adventure riding gear that looks the part and then there is gear that can stand up to the day-in and day-out rigors of long-distance off-road travel. Nowhere is this truer than with Adventure jackets and pants. Like helmets, generally there is a big difference in comfort, fit, protection and versatility on the upper end of the price spectrum. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of good options at all price points just that quality goes deeper than brand names.

Adventure Motorcycle Riding Gear Guide for New Riders

A riding suit is another item that is highly dependent on where you live, what terrain you ride and where you plan to go (i.e. don’t buy a fully-vented mesh jacket if you plan on riding to Alaska next year). Think of the climate you will be riding in and the temperature extremes you regularly encounter.


What You Need to Know About ADV Suits

Technical shell or layering system: ADV jackets and pants are typically either technical shells with a waterproof membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex) or breathable non-waterproof shells with thermal/waterproof liners. Variations include fully-vented mesh and non-waterproof pieces with weatherproof covers (Over Jackets/Over Pants). Each has distinct pros and cons but a waterproof technical shell with layering pieces underneath to dial in comfort, tends to be the most versatile.

Venting: Venting is extremely important and often overlooked until you are overheating on a ride. Scrutinize vent quantity, size and placement. At a minimum, you’ll want vents on the back, thighs and arms. In hotter climates you’ll want vents around the shoulders, chest or armpit area.

Adventure Riding Gear - Jacket and Pants

Abrasion Protection: Abrasion protection is huge for on-road slides, don’t skimp in this regard. A good adventure suit should have additional heavy-duty material around high-wear areas like the knees and shoulders.

Armor: Impact protection is also important for off-road tumbles. Some companies have proprietary armor while others use outside brands like D3O. Armor is rated by a CE certification number. The higher the CE-Rating, the bigger the impact it can handle. Placement of the armor is also important. Velcro adjusters and additional straps can help ensure the armor is placed where you need it and stays effectively in place during a fall.

Warranty: Jackets and Pants are usually high-ticket items, and it is worth noting if the brand has a good warranty. Broken zippers and tears in fabric don’t have to be the signal to start shopping for new gear if the brand you bought from stands behind their products.

Adventure Riding Gear - suit

Versatility: Harking back to the price point of most suits, the more versatile a piece can be, the better. Removable liners and proper venting can make for a year-round suit, saving the need for multiple options.

4. Gloves

Gloves play a big part in both comfort and protection when adventure riding. Frozen fingers or sweaty palms can be dangerously distracting. In an ideal world, you would have multiple pairs of gloves for varying situations: A street pair with robust protection and an off-road pair with proper venting and grip feel. If only one pair is in the cards, then we suggest prioritizing safety with a hybrid street/dirt, mid-cuff glove.

Adventure Motorcycle Riding Gear Guide for New Riders - Gloves

What to Look for in Gloves:

Fit: Fitment across brands is not universal and will vary drastically. Like helmets, it is best to try gloves on before you make a purchase or find a brand that fits you well and stick with them.

Protection: Your hands are vulnerable on- and off-road. It is crucial to find gloves with good abrasion resistance and potentially armor.

Weather Resistance/Climate Control: Look for Gore-Tex or waterproof materials on road and proper ventilation off-road. If you plan on riding in colder weather, you should consider an insulated glove and/or heated hand grips.

5. Hydration Pack

Staying hydrated while adventure riding is vital, having water on your back with a drinking tube encourages regular replenishment during exertion. There are motorcycle specific hydration packs with useful features like goggle storage and built-in tool pouches, but this is one area where any outdoor brand will do.

Adventure Riding Gear - Hydration Pack

Storage is another bonus of a backpack offering a convenient place for tools, cameras, and snacks. With smart logistics, hydration packs can sometimes take the place of other luggage leaving your motorcycle less inhibited. If backpacks drive you crazy, then there are other options like tank bag hydration storage and jackets that are designed to hold water bladders. We suggest carrying at least 2L at all times.

6. Base and Mid Layers

Comfort in adventure riding gear begins and ends with base and mid layers. A little forethought into layering can mean the difference between having an enjoyable ride and being miserable. Layering allows you to add or remove clothing based on the current temperature or cardio output. Synthetic fabrics like Polyester, Nylon and Merino Wool are your friend, they wick sweat away from your skin and evaporate it quickly. Cotton is an enemy to be avoided at all costs because it holds onto moisture and can cause irritation of the skin. Synthetics take up very little room as well and are much more resilient to odors than traditional fabrics.

Adventure Riding Gear Guide for New Riders

Get Layered

Riding Socks: Motorcycle specific or hiking socks will do with the thickness being determined by temperature.

Thermal or Cooling Undergarments: Long underwear with insulation or cooling properties depending on outside temps but also on how aggressively you ride.

Compression Shorts/Leggings: Athletic brand compression shorts or motorcycle specific riding pants with padding will promote a better blood circulation and comfort on the seat. Longer leggings also help prevent chafing from knee pads or braces.

Lightweight Jacket: Down, Fleece or the like depending on conditions; something that packs-down small with a wind-blocking shell can be beneficial on and off the bike.

Buff/Balaclava: In cold weather, this will keep your neck from freezing, and in warm weather, it will keep your neck from burning. It also protects against wind chafing, bugs, roost and errant tree branches.

The most important thing when shopping for new gear is to avoid impulse buys and do a little bit of homework. Look for feedback from other riders, check professional reviews, and don’t lose sight of your real needs. If you can, try everything on at your local motorcycle shop or make sure the online retailer has a ‘no shipping cost’ return policy if it doesn’t fit.

Photos: Stephen Gregory

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.

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Author: Spencer Hill

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Adventure Motorcycle Clothing
January 3, 2022 8:34 pm

[…] of bike you want, you can start shopping for the accessories you need. When you’re shopping for adventure bike clothes, you’ll probably notice that there are two main types of products available. One is made […]


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