Why do they look like that?

I was recently in Chatanooga, Tennessee for an officers meeting and it was suggested to me that I write about the appearance of a biker. People often comment on the “tough guy” image, with the leather, bandanas and wallet chains, but there is a reason for everything that we wear that runs beyond the image.
Helmets are a pretty clear necessity, so all I will say is that many of us wear them because they are required by law, others because we want to keep out brains in our head in case of a crash.
So, with that said, let’s begin with the leather: jacket, chaps, gloves and vest. There is an tremendous sense of freedom when riding. Even in the hot summer weather, there is a windchill, espcially at night. Leather keeps bikers warm. The bugs and stones don’t sting as much. Leather can be warm when not moving, but once on a run it keeps biker comfortable. Remember too, that cruising along at 100 km/hr is invigorating and freeing, but crashing is another story.
When a biker hits that ground and slides around the asphalt, the leather helps to protect from road rash. It helps keep stones and road scrap out of our bodies. Leather is a good protective measure that all bikers have in the back of their mind.
Vests specifically are worn primarly by bikers who are part of a club, group or association. Called “colours” or “cuts”, they serve as identification. Bikers wear them with pride because there is a brotherhood and they are a part of it. The vest also provides a measure of protection, but it is better identified as a means of recognition in the biker world.
Boots are worn for safety as well. Riding in running shoes or shoes with little traction is not safe. When riding it’s not a big deal, but when stopping and sitting at lights, there are several hundred pounds of metal that need balancing and a solid foundation is needed. If you don’t have good footing, there is a risk of sliding and no biker wants to drop their bike…especially when other people will see it happen.
Bandanas on the head of a biker are usually a specially cut and sewn style of bandana called a doo-rag (or do-rag, du-rag). If you ever smell the inside of a baseball hat you know that it doesn’t take too long before it smells pretty foul. Wearing a doo-rag helps absord the sweat and keep as much as possible out of our helmet, this keeps us from having to buy a new helmet once it smells beyond normal. There is also another common reason for wearing a doo-rag. Many bikers are bald or have shaved heads. Doo-rags help fend of the effects of UV rays that cause sunburns. It’s just a preventative measure. For bikers who have longer hair it keeps hair out of their face which can be a safety risk when riding.
Bandanas on the face is another practical measure. Longer beards tend to slap a bikers face when riding, and it can be surprisingly painful and annoying. Wearing the bandana keeps wiskers where they are not in the way and helps keep bugs out of a bikers mouth.
Why a chain on our wallet? If you have ridden for any length of time, you know that eventually your wallet will work it’s way out of your back pocket. Chaining it to our belt is just a means of keeping it safe and sound. Some bikers also hang their other keys on the chain, and this is just for the same reason – keeping track of things.
Sunglasses are pretty straight forward; we wear them because it’s bright out there. Riding a motorcycle, you soon realize that it is brighter than the inside of a car. There is no shelter for the sun’s rays so bikers need to protect their eyes from the sun. Glasses also help protect a biker’s eyes from pebbles, bugs and other road debris that is common on roads.
Sunglasses at night are often worn as well, but they are either clear or tinted with a yellow or amber colour. This is to protect from bugs and debris as well, but with the tinted lenses it also helps to brighten the road. Bikers who wear contacts also wear glasses to prevent their lenses from drying out in the wind.
That’s pretty much it. Style isn’t the priority, safety is. The next time you see a scary biker covered in leather you’ll understand why he or she looks that way. Also, next time you see a guy riding a sport bike in shorts and running shoes, you’ll wonder why he isn’t wearing the right gear to be safe.
Stay safe out there because everyone has a story. You need to be around to tell yours.


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