Why Is Motorcycling Gear So Expensive?


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Jul 04, 2023

Why Is Motorcycling Gear So Expensive?

We ask about the hows, the whys and the whats that goes behind making protective motorcyling gear In the days of yore, motorcyclists were deemed rebels, renegades, evading the law on their weathered

We ask about the hows, the whys and the whats that goes behind making protective motorcyling gear

In the days of yore, motorcyclists were deemed rebels, renegades, evading the law on their weathered thumpers, adorned in rugged leather jackets and aviator sunglasses, brushing aside safety for “vibes.” As time has marched on, so have our motorcycles, each becoming faster and bolder than the last. What once passed for “safety” back then wouldn’t hold up in today’s uncertain and rather hazardous road conditions.

Yes, motorcycles have become safer. But why is it wise to wait for the other shoe to drop? If, metaphorically, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, prudent investment in motorcycle gear might literally do the same. But here is where the elephant in the room rears its ugly and expensive head. As much as modern-day riders prefer to don protective gear from head to toe, more often than not, this safety comes at the cost of an arm and a leg.

But what contributes to the eyebrow-raising prices of motorcycle gear? To dig deeper, we sat down with the co-founders of Rynox Gears – Khushal Ambe, Rahul Katwa, and Shameen Deshmukh – as well as the Vice President, Aditya Phadke.

First things first, what is going on with these prices? The answer may not seem obvious on the surface. There are three things that need to be considered – A) Unlike your regular jumper, a motorcycle jacket or trousers need to be made of abrasion-resistant material B) Then comes the additional responsibility of protecting the rider from extreme elements, such as rain, cold, and heat C) On top of it, the gear also needs to offer safety from impact, slide, crashes and the of course, unpredictability of the Indian traffic conditions.

Overall, perfect riding gear should be able to balance all three elements equally. And while there are premium international brands who do the same, they often run up a bill of tens of thousands of ruppes. But why? As per the homegrown brand, “Import duties on products, fabrics or parts that can’t be domestically sourced due to the hitherto absence of technology or infrastructure in India; add to the cost.” Additionally, “impact protectors specifically developed and certified for motorcycling further drive up the cost.”

The folks at Rynox also gave a rather fitting metaphor to explain the argument better, comparing how running shoes are designed and cost differently to regular trainers. A similar case can be made for deep-sea diving-capable watches, which tend to be a lot more expensive than a regular timepiece.

Safe riding gear will get you out of most hairy situations, but can it get you out of all of them? The short answer leans towards a no. Just like your linen shirts and cashmere jumpers, motorcycle jackets, trousers and gloves are designed to handle specific conditions. For instance, a mesh jacket provides ventilation from the heat of urban riding. Similarly, an adventure jacket is made from water-resistant material to keep you dry. Can they crossover into each other? Yes. Is it recommended? No. An urban riding gear may trade in a few bits of safety for better comfort and breathability, while ADV gear does the exact opposite, with more impact points, and better material, leading to an overall higher cost.

Does that mean more expensive gear = more safety? Not necessarily. It is always advised to invest in the best safety equipment you can afford, but there are a few caveats one needs to be careful about. European brands design their gear based on their standardized sizing and weather conditions. Their gear may be safer, but it might also lack the necessary ventilation needed for our weather.

For our desi conditions, designers at Rynox have accounted for unique market-specific elements, like humidity. “It is the most important factor of differentiation when it comes to developing motorcycle gear for the British market and abroad. Humidity’s presence across a wide range of temperatures means that the gear needs to be highly ventilated and needs to have a thoroughly designed sweat management and moisture transfer system, without compromising on protection.”

How do they do it? “By spending considerable time, effort, and resources in R&D, with rigorous market analysis, to understand the overall landscape. One of the integral parts of this is getting materials and parts lab-tested to ensure that they exceed the minimum requirements of abrasion resistance, durability, waterproofing, material fatigue etc. Lastly, getting prototypes tested in the real world is crucial. Almost every person in the Rynox team is a motorcyclist and all of us together contribute to testing our products before launch.”

We don’t have to. Currently, India doesn’t have any standardized set of regulations to oversee testing. However, most gear makers, follow the international CE certification (Conformité Européenne), which is seen as the gold standard in safety, quality, and durability.

A CE-1 sticker indicates minimum levels of impact absorption, coverage area, and extreme temperature behaviour that an impact protector has to demonstrate to be certified as safe for use at the shoulder, elbow, or knee in apparel designed for motorcycling. Currently, CE level 1 inserts cost in the range of around Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,500, depending on the brand. CE Level 2, on the other hand, offers to do the same but in a better and safer way, and as expected cost a tad bit higher in the range of Rs 4,000 to more.

This inadvertently begs the question, how do you tell the difference between good riding gear and bad one? As per Rynox, the devil is in the details, “always look for a CE certification label on the impact protectors used in the gear,” adding, “Visit the brand’s website and see how detailed (or not) the product description is.” For instance, the Rynox Cypher GT jacket gets Indian-made Cerros Zero-G CE Level 2 protectors, while the more premium Stealth Evo 3 jacket gets armour inserts from Knox.

Folks at Rynox recommend getting used to this practice, saying ”Look for the material composition label on the product. If a brand has got something to hide, obvious details will be conspicuously absent. The more detailed the product specifications, the more trustworthy the brand usually is. Not to mention, almost every protective motorcycle gear product is a confluence of parts from technology partners and the manufacturer’s resources. Look for the usage of parts from such brands in a product. For example; Cordura, 3M, Knox, Cerros, DuPont, YKK, etc.”

During this journey from past to present, and rebel to responsible, India’s two-wheeler market has grown to an estimated 200 million users. Unfortunately, though, the experience of buying certified protective gear is akin to buying something shady off Silk Road on the dark web. And for a good reason. Most websites rely on importing helmets and gear from countries in Europe and East Asia, leading to higher customs duties and unreliable delivery timelines. While there are Indian brands who offer to sell you the same, they seldom follow safe enough standards,

Amidst a sea of options ranging from budget bargains that compromise on safety to top-of-the-line riding gear that probably costs more than your motorcycle, Rynox is making motorcycle safety more accessible while maintaining stringent standards. What this does, in the long run, is introduce a much-needed step of progression for amateur riders who are willing to make the jump to serious biking but aren’t quite there yet.

Image Courtesy – Rynox Gears, Ducati Motors

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