What to wear on a motorcycle?

What to wear on a motorcycle

First of all wear a big smile, if you’re on a motorcycle you’ll be doing that anyway 🙂 so read on to explore a few recommendations.  Even if you intend to bring all your own gear, or want to hire some of ours, you’ll still find a few tips about what might suit the conditions.


What should I wear on a motorcycle?

If you’ve read our article Roads, Weather & Distances you’ll know that New Zealand conditions can vary considerably, even hour to hour, making it important to have the correct clothing available.  So, starting next to your skin and working out from there…

Bottom layer

Long underwear, long johns, thermal underwear, pinky suit, call it what you will, a two-piece undergarment with long legs and long sleeves will go a long way towards keeping you warm and comfortable. It is usually made from a cotton or cotton-polyester-blend fabric with a box-weave texture, although some varieties are also made from flannel, while many newer varieties are made from polyester. European manufacturers use wool blends or even 100% wool, usually New Zealand Merino or other high-quality wool. Some models might include a thin layer of polyester to transport moisture away from the skin.  Whichever you choose be it doesn’t irritate your skin when worn for several hours and cut off any labels which rub where they shouldn’t (the back of your neck for example).


Middle layer

Layers, layers, layers is the way to go. Fill up the space between your pinky suit and your outer suit with layers of insulation. The more layers of insulation you have the warmer you’ll be since layers tend to trap warm air. If you get too warm, you can always take a layer or two off to achieve maximum comfort. Synthetic materials often come highly recommended but before you buy synthetic be aware that wool will keep you warm even when it is wet and tends to breathe more than synthetics.


Outer layer

You’ll need something comfortable, windproof and waterproof, even better if it also includes sort of body protection along the elbows, knees, shoulders and spine. Almost any commercially available motorcycling jacket and pants will do the trick, some people prefer leather, which will certainly offers great protection from ‘road rash’ in the event of an off, but may not be as waterproof as modern synthetic materials.

 These modern materials also have the advantage of being lighter on the shoulders, this can be a factor on long rides when a heavy jacket becomes a pita.  A good jacket and pants should have ‘liners’ which can be removed on warmer days, plus some sort of ventilation flaps which open to keep the ventilation going.  Kevlar trousers are increasingly popular, again good resistance to abrasion and surprisingly warm. The other option is a one piece suit in either leather or synthetic. If you’re riding for 2 or 3 hours at a time then the one piece will be fine but, on longer days when you want to stop. shed a layer, eat some lunch before carrying on, you may find it’s not the best option. It’s much simpler to just take off a jacket if you want to sit and enjoy the sun for an hour.
We have a variety of suitable motorcycle jackets and trousers available for hire but bring your own if you have them.


Opinion varies on this. Some prefer the single piece suits which slip on over everything. They are usually inexpensive and roll up pretty small but I’ve yet to find one which is truly waterproof – if this is your choice try to at least get one which zips up at the side rather than from the groin ’cause the zip will leak. Others (myself included) prefer the two piece ‘bib’ design which is easier to put on in the rain (and take off for the inevitable call of nature) plus they can be truly waterproof. They are not the most stylish but will keep you dry when you get caught in a day of West Coast rain. After many years of research (read ‘getting wet’) I’ve found that the best buys are from either farming or sailing outlets, both of these should sell high quality gear plus have an option to customise the design by adding longer arms, removing pockets etc at no extra cost. Kaiwaka, a NZ company are worth a look as they also include alterations into the purchase price.

Tip – whatever sort of oversuit you go for it’s essential that you put your riding gear on and crouch into your normal riding position before purchase. This makes sure the legs are long enough, you have enough room across the shoulders, and the arms don’t ride halfway up your arm.

Oversuit 2


Again, warm, waterproof and comfortable are the main requirements. Leather boots should be at least calve length, have a breathable waterproof lining (though it’s often to tell the difference between synthetic and leather) and a zip/Velcro combination of fastener. If you’re riding dirt/enduro something to just below the knee is better with strong buckles or ‘clickover’ type fasteners. Keep looking and buy the best you can afford.



Again leather preferred but this is up to the individual. Comfy yes, waterproof if possible but you can always use waterproof over mitts. A second pair of lighter ‘summer’ gloves is also a great thing to carry for when the temperatures rise. The really snazzy gloves can have armoured sections but you’ll have to decide if this is really necessary.


There are two basic types to choose from, open face or full face (plus a sort of hybrid of the two called a Modular helmet) and about a million manufacturers to choose from. The cheaper end of the scale will have limited options available (you might not be able to purchase extra cheek pieces or tinted visors) while the top of the range can offer customized fitting and decal jobs. Your helmet should be a good ‘snug’ fit but remember it will loosen off slightly with wear, an internal separate sun visor is a great addition when riding into the setting sun. HelmetCheck.Org is a great source of information, see their link below. 

CircleNZ has a wide selection of motorbike helmets to hire with your rental motorcycle but we recommend you bring your own if you have one.



A simple neck roll is also an great idea for keeping the warmth in and the bugs out – ask your Mum to make you one. Sunglasses, yep you’ll need sunglasses, maybe not when you’re riding but certainly when you stop to admire the stunning scenery, a sun hat is also pretty useful. Shouting now -SUNSCREEN!!! You will need sunscreen ’cause if you don’t you’ll finish up sitting in the bar a night looking like a lobster on tour, not cool. So sunscreen it is then.

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